It was early afternoon and we'd all begun the cleaning and prep for the party that would follow the battles the following day before I saw Ró again. I was helping prep the pastries for breakfast in the kitchen when Veetrala pushed through the doors. She glanced around, her eyes staring down her long, pointed nose before landing on me. Her eyes filled with contempt.
"You. You've been summoned," she said.
I wanted to sink into the floor and disappear. I could not be alone with Juleen again, I did not think I would survive it.
"Quickly!" she snapped. "You know better than to keep a laere waiting."
I could have cried I was so relieved as I followed her out of the kitchen. I kept my eyes trained to the floor walking quickly behind her down the steps and into the grand entrance of the paestra. When I saw him, I didn't want to look up, didn't want to reveal my face. I wasn't sure how Ró would take it. He'd been protective in the past, but that could have all been a part of his act. I kept my eyes cast down so that he wouldn't see my swollen, bruised face as he spoke with Veetrala, thanking her for being so prompt.
"I have better girls," she said in her own language to him. "This one is more trouble than she's worth."
Eliró laughed. "I can handle a bit of trouble," he told her. "Let's go," he said to me all the humor gone from his voice. Once again I found myself questioning which was the act and which was real. Eliro didn't wait for me, he spun around and I followed, two steps behind as we'd always been taught. We continued this until we were a block away from the paestra when Eliro fell back in line with me.
"I had to return to Sieraul for a couple of days," he explained why he hadn't caught up with me sooner. I didn't like that I was relieved, but I was. Part of me had been concerned that he was still so angry he didn't want to see me.
"It's fine," I said and then added in a lighter tone, "I've managed without you."
Next to me he chuckled and the sound made my gut tighten, because I knew when he saw my face he would regret the laugh. I didn't blame him though.
"I take it you've kept up with the exercises Tau gave you."
"Every night." I looked around, we hadn't met in the day and I doubted the garden that worked so nicely to conceal us in the night would offer as good a spot to hide in broad daylight. "Where are we going?"
"The market," he said. "I need to pick up a few things."
After the week I had, it was nice to see him and do something simple and stress free, but there were things that we needed to speak about. Tau made it sound like there was an explanation worth listening to and I had given him the benefit of the doubt. I hadn't pressed for an explanation the morning after our argument. But everything I'd said... I still wanted the answers. Eliro may have been hoping I'd have forgotten, but that wasn't going to happen.
"Eliro," I started. "I think—"
"I know, Lena," he said. "We will talk."
"What business did you have in Sieraul?" I asked in attempt to have a normal conversation.
"Just meeting with my family."
That sounded innocent enough, but his father was a king and judging by the strain in his voice I didn't think it was just a nice family dinner.
"Don't want to share the details?" I pressed. I knew it was a touchy subject and a smarter girl may have bitten her tongue, but I wanted to know I could trust him. I wanted to be sure that he wasn't hiding more from me.
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"Human beings are vile, nasty creatures. Blood thirsty. Evil by their very nature. That is was we were told. By them. Humans relished for millennia in systematically destroying one another. Our innate yearning for violence lead to not only the de...