Chapter 31

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Beyond the archway is a massive courtyard filled with large garden beds and ornate fountains. A few vines and ivies cling for survival on the colonnade surrounding the court, stubbornly resisting the autumn frost. The remaining plants are already dead or dying, brown husks of their summer magnificence.

Yagher leads us over a twisting path of cobblestone to a set of stairs under the colonnade. They lead down to a heavy, metal door. When he reaches the bottom step the door swings inward and we are permitted to enter.

The room inside is comfortably dim and the air is significantly warmer than outside. A young man holds the door for us and I note his vague resemblance to Yagher. Further inside are all the makings of a typical den – a wooden bar set into one corner, a billiards table to the right, and a long, rich-looking dining table dressed in red cloth at the centre. About half a dozen people wait for us, but there is only one face I recognize.

The man seated at the head of the table is heavy set with greying hair. He leans on a cane, clutched in his right hand, as he watches us enter. His smile is one of wisdom and self-confidence. Last time I saw him he was covered in his son's blood and was begging me to save his life.

"Harvey, you should have warned me we'd be having company," he shifts his focus to me and I can feel a weight to it, like that gaze holds great expectations for the person it falls on, "Miss Selene, it has been a long time. I never had a chance to thank you for what you did or even to introduce myself. I am Harvey's father, Marle. Forgive me for not standing to greet you, my health has not been... ideal... since we last met."

Yagher must have told him that I regained my memories. I nod towards him, unsure of how to respond. I notice that he doesn't mention or inquire about Mirena's presence. I get the impression that any admission of ignorance would be beneath him and therefore avoided at all costs.

Yagher shoves Mirena toward the table. She remains silent but I can see her lower lip trembling. "This snake kidnapped Selene. She interrogated her. It seems we're not the only ones looking for Hunter."

"So then, she knows the manner of your relationship with Miss Selene." It's not a question. Harvey nods but I shake my head.

"No," I correct them, "She only knows what she's heard in this room and on the ride here."

Marle smiles and tilts his head at me, as if I'm a child who has said something so incorrect as to be funny. "She would have taken the information from your mind. That is how she retrieves the answers she seeks."

"I didn't let her," I say indignantly. I have no idea why Yagher has dragged me here, but I'm not letting this man – the one who took my memories from me – treat me like an idiot.

There's a hint of laughter in his voice when he speaks next, and it only serves to heighten my frustration. "You would require a great amount of mental control to resist the proddings of a witch like her. It is unlikely someone as inexperienced as you could manage it."

"And yet she did," Mirena purrs, and it makes me nauseous to realize that we are both taking pleasure in the same challenge – proving this arrogant man wrong.

"She would require intense mental training," he raises his voice but then stops, his expression one of realization, "Ah... yes. You have had many years of counselling and cognitive therapy. That may have been enough to assist you."

His expression is one of pity and he smiles at my obvious discomfort; this epiphany was intended to undermine me. To demonstrate that he knows much more about me than he should.

"Cognitive therapy?" Yagher asks and I can feel my face growing red.

"She suffers from severe depression," Marle answers for me. He turns towards Mirena, "Regardless of Miss Selene's mental fortitude, I think this one has already heard more than enough to puzzle out the details for herself. It would be unwise to set her free."

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