Chapter Three

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Igren crouched in the corner of her room. Her eyes were wide and unblinking, hands clenched against her chest. She rocked, slowly, to and fro, like a boat on a gentle tide.

She'd smothered the fire in its grate. Covered the window. Pulled the blind across the skylight. Slid cloth in the crack beneath her door—yet still, the darkness was not complete.

They would see her. They would see her and they would find her and they would hurt, hurt, hurt her again and again and again...

Because she didn't scream. Not like the others. The ones who died. She wouldn't.

And Father wanted her to scream.

Was that a foot on the stair? Had they come looking at last?

Of course. They always did. She was their favorite plaything.

Igren moved deeper into the corner, breath coming harsh and quick between her dry lips, hands cold and trembling. If they came, she would fight. Yes. She would fight. Tear out their laughing tongues. Bite off their reaching fingers. Rip out their lying throats. Then, she would run.

Perhaps this time they wouldn't catch her.

The soft knock made her heart leap against her ribs like a caged animal. A low hiss escaped between her teeth.

The knock came again.

Again.

Silence.

"Emissary?"

A man's voice. Not Father. One of his friends. One of his friends come to fetch her.

Igren's hands curved into claws.

Another knock. Then, slowly, the door began to open.

She hadn't locked it. There was no lock. No. Father had all the keys. Only he held the privilege of locked doors.

Igren's crouch shifted slightly. One hand rested on the stone. She waited.

The door bunched against the cloth she'd pressed under it. After a moment of struggled, a hand reached down around the door and moved it aside.

"Emissary?" A shape, tall and broad, moved into the darkness of her room. "Emissary, are y—"

With a snarl and a curse older than speech, Igren lunged. She had intended to wrap her long fingers around his throat, but an instant before she could he turned and lifted an armored forearm to block her. Igren crashed into his bulk, sending him staggering back against the wall. She howled, tried to tear past leather, plate and chainmail to the flesh beneath.

With a cry, he thrust out an elbow and set her stumbling backward. There was a snap, and a whirring sound as the blind that covered the skylight folded open. Igren realized she'd pushed him against the rope and its hook on the wall. Pale sunlight flooded down into the tower room.

Sunlight was bad. It showed where you were hidden.

Igren snarled again and leapt.

The intruder stepped swiftly forward and seized her wrists. "Emissary, stop this!"

He held her fast and stared into her eyes. His were blue. Blue and clear and pained, as if she'd plunged a blade through him. And, finally, Igren saw who he was. And where she was. And when.

All at once, the present flooded into her past and began to drown her from the inside.

She shook her head. "No."

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