Chapter 6

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"I'm going to go out on a limb and say you didn't know he was a laere," Mia said catching up to me as soon as the meal was over. I glared at her but after so many cycles together, she only rolled her eyes completely unbothered. She was making light of a situation that was otherwise very dark, but I knew she understood the magnitude of it all. It was just easier to poke fun at it the situation and pretend like it wasn't going to end terribly when Veetrala caught wind of what I had done.

"He told me his name was Ró," I muttered, feeling foolish.

She thought about that for a moment. "Well that's probably what he goes by, don't you think? Though Eliró does roll off the tongue nicely."

"Yes, probably," I said shortly.

Mia ignored my sour attitude. "He probably thought if he introduced himself as Laere Eliró that it would have scared you off."

"It would have."

"Exactly." She grinned skipping down the steps behind me. "He didn't really lie, he just left out a little bit of information."

"Important information," I added and stopped in the stairwell whirling to face Mia who had been a couple steps behind me. "Why are you defending him?"

Mia looked at me hard for a moment then checked the stairwell, verifying that no one else was moving up or down the stairs in ear shot, she grabbed my arm and dragged me down several more steps to the nearest landing. Checking to be sure it was clear one more time, she grabbed my shoulders and looked me square in the eye.

"I love you, sister, but sometimes you let your prejudice cloud your better judgment," she said. "You caught the attention of someone who matters. You don't have to like him, you only have to tolerate him. Make him think of you as a pet or something. I know you hate playing these games, but Lena, if you play it right, he could be your ticket out. He could be our ticket out."

"You're speaking insane. Trading one prison for another is not an upgrade."

She shook her head, a frustrated expression morphing her expression.

"What would have happened if you spilled that water on Zashar Juleen?" She whispered, gripping my shoulders tightly. "I can tell you he would not have taken the blame and everyones attention off of it. Because I saw it, Lena, you spilled the water. He was not even close to you."

Mia knew how to play the game better than I did. Better than anyone did. She was easily the most well-liked person in the paestra and not just by the humans. Even Morri were more fond of her than they were of most others. Mia played it smart. She knew how to be amiable with even the most volatile of beings and she wasn't in the business of stabbing others in the back. So it did not surprise me in the least that instead of being afraid she was jumping on ways to work this in our favor. And she had a point.

"Does he want to see you again?"

"I think so," I admitted. "But after breakfast, maybe not."

A smile pulled at her lips. "He wants to see you again," she assured me. "He tried more than once to catch your attention."

"Come on," I said. "I have to get changed and to the bagrai."

Mia and I walked together back to our quarters. I didn't speak and Mia was mostly silent except for every few steps when she would sigh and make a little comment like, "It is strange though." Or "Who would have thought a laere into human girls." She was attempting to goad me, and it nearly worked with that last comment, but I bit my tongue.

When we pushed open the door to my room, Analiese was already in the room changing her shoes.

"Everything alright, Analiese?" I asked, it wasn't common to see any of us in our rooms so late in the day. If Mia hadn't been so insistent on speaking to me about Laere Eliró, she would have gone immediately from breakfast to another task. And if I had not needed to change out of my paestra clothes and into boots and one of my older, more worn dresses to work in the bagrai I wouldn't have been there either.

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