Chapter 76

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It was early in the afternoon when Nix finally left his home.

Leithan had started to believe that Nix would never fucking leave. They hadn't spoken at all since last night. Nix had slept a ridiculously long time, then had taken his sweet time with breakfast – some of which he gave to Leithan without a word – and had sorted out some things in his hut.

All the while Leithan sat in a corner, bored out of his mind. He wasn't tied up anymore. And he'd been allowed out in the forest once, to take a leak but it had been really annoying, both Nix and Beilin accompanying him to make sure he didn't try to escape. Today, Beilin wasn't wielding her spear. Instead, she had three knives at her belt, their sizes in a perfect increasing gradation.

Seriously, who needs three knives?

At least, with Nix finally gone, Leithan didn't have to endure the awkwardness of his presence any longer.

While the clan recovered from a general state of hangover, Beilin patrolled faithfully around Nix's hut. She seemed to really enjoy the gaoler gig, like she got a kick out of it. Leithan made the prediction that she would end up becoming Kresh's yaklizi someday. They'd go well together.

Or kill each other. Leith wasn't sure which.

Bored and frustrated, Leithan snooped. Mostly to give himself something to do, he decided to hunt for Nix's klar stash.

He looked everywhere, opening all the drawers, rummaging inside, making a mess. Leithan ended up finding them, neatly organized in a rectangular box, at the bottom of a clothes drawer. The last place he checked, naturally.

Leithan closed the drawers again and sat on the wooden floor, leaned against the dresser with the box open in his lap. On the far wall, the window was letting in a steady beam of daylight. Beilin wasn't beside it at the moment.

The stash was complete. Voss sticks, crins pills, lux vials, cubes of shrix root, and amrin, which looked like dried yellow berries. Leithan's heart leapt and raced along with his thoughts at the possibilities.

Would it be so terrible to take amrin right now?

He was supposed to talk to the clan leader in a moment. Leithan could certainly use the self-confidence boost. He planned on trying to convince Pranv to let him go by explaining that he wouldn't betray the Yoxai. On the contrary, Leithan was working toward a solution that would save everyone.

But without amrin, he wasn't very sure he could pull it off.

The truth was, he hadn't slept much. He'd tossed and turned on his blanket for what felt like forever, while Nix slept and snored. You'd think, from the snoring, that Nix was a heavy sleeper.


Leithan had tried to lift the bed several times, to free himself, but every single time, his efforts had caused Nix to wake up. Then, also every time, Nix fell back to sleep again, fast and easy.

Brooding as he lay on the floor, Leithan had felt renewed hatred for Nix; shooting Mikai with that revolver apparently didn't hinder Nix's ability to sleep like a log.

Then, when finally Leithan had fallen into short bouts of sleep, they'd been filled with feverish nightmares he couldn't, upon waking, grasp the details of. Except that Teshin had been in all of them, they'd all been awful and made him gasp as he woke up shaking.

And through it all, both drowsy wakefulness and troubled sleep, the unbearable, acute discomfort of being tied up, of his movements being restrained. The absolute worst had been the itches he couldn't scratch. The reddened irritation around the skin of his wrists had been pretty awful, too.

It made him think of a scene in Shay's book where the heroine was tied up but didn't seem to experience any of these problems. Leithan would need to tell Shay that it wasn't realistic.

She'd better include me in the dedication next time, instead of just her parents. I don't see them providing invaluable insight.

Basically, Leithan was pretty sure he'd just had the worst night of his life.

The thing was, today was important. The amrin wouldn't just be to convince Pranv of letting him go. It would also help for later, at the temple. For his lecture. Leithan had thought about it, and he'd decided he wanted to go through with it.

If people were excited about him defying the Elder, there was no way in hell he would let them down.

Besides, the timing was perfect.

If Frista's article came out as planned, the elder's reign of corruption and overall shittiness would be over. Leithan didn't know, exactly, what was going on with Rilien, Frista and Shivan right now, but he had faith that they were doing the best they could.

And Leithan wanted to play his part.

After a glance at the door, then at the window, to make sure he was alone and unwatched, Leithan plucked an amrin fruit from its compartment in the box.

His last thought before making up his mind went to Teshin.

You'd disapprove, wouldn't you? You'd tell me not to.

But Teshin wasn't here. And that was the fucking problem. Well, one of many problems.

It'll just be this one time, Tesh, I promise. I need this today. 

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