Chapter Eight

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The cell was small, square, and made of seamless marble. It was also empty. There wasn't even a bed. A grate in the metal door allowed air and five slivers of light into the room.

Lorn sat cross-legged in the dark with his back against the wall and stared at the patch of light. He'd vomited once, in the bucket that occupied one corner. It was beginning to smell. There was water in a metal cup by the door. He hadn't touched it.

Lorn took several long, slow breaths and let them out through his nose.

In. Out.

In. Out.

The initial surge of panic-fueled adrenaline experienced in his waking had long since drained away. He now felt almost numb. Now he simply sat and waited as the hours slipped by. He'd lost count of how many.

Another breath.

In. Out.

Lorn had been stripped down to his undershirt and breeches. He was left with nothing but a bucket of sick, a goblet of suspect water and a savagely pounding headache.

In the false calm of his aching brain, fear lurked like a predator waiting to spring. But he kept the fear at bay. Because there was something else there, prowling his thoughts-something even fear dared not challenge.

Anger.

Lorn was furious. It coursed through his every nerve and muscle. A smoldering fire of blood and bone. His anger was limitless. It burned for the Alavardians, whom he knew were now his jailers; for Orven Ardov, who had betrayed them; and, not least of all, it burned for himself.

I was a fool. A blind, hapless fool. Chasing my own rear end about like a mindless doggerel, ignoring Guin, ignoring my own instincts... and all the while, he was laughing at us.

His hands clenched into fists on his knees. He took another deep breath.

In. Out.

In. Out.

If ever I see Orven Ardov again I will cut out his lying tongue and feed it to him.

But of course, to do that, he'd need to escape. And escape was something which simply did not happen when you were captured and held in an Alavardian prison. Once you were in, there was only one way out.

Lorn closed his eyes. Yes, Alavard had him. Had them all, most likely, though he'd seen no sign of the others since his waking. But, perhaps, there was a chance of escape. Because if he was here, then so was Guin. Mad, impossible, courageous Guin. If there was any hope at all of them getting out of this alive, it rested in her hands.

Lorn forced himself to relax, fingers unclenching. Guin. Stars, I am sorry. This is all my doing.

She'd looked so exhausted when he'd seen her last, before stumbling to his bed and falling into a drugged stupor. Pale-faced and tearful in the moonlight, she's still tried to smile. Guin did that, so readily. So quick to be brave when she clearly felt anything but. Lorn had never really thought about it before--he'd been so distracted, focused on the quest, the imminent destruction Ther and his own responsibilities...

But she was brave, and kind, and more intelligent than she allowed herself to realize. She never laughed at others' weakness; never wielded the power she possessed with intent to harm, only defend. In so many ways, Guin had proven herself worthy while he continued to fail. The fate of this world was not her burden to bear, and instead of carrying it with her he'd only heaped more on the load.

Lorn groaned and thumped the back of his head against the wall. Idiot. If she'd been able to talk to me, she wouldn't have gone to Orven for validation. But oh no, I had to be strong, I had to be in control and, and courtly. He honed in on the gap between us like a hunting hound. Dammit!

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