CHAPTER FOURTEEN: SOVEREIGN (2/4)

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"What am I supposed to do?" Sol asked for the umpteenth time. He was pacing up and down his quarters as he'd done since Farkel escorted him back and abandoned him there. "I gotta do something."

Junba, who was sitting atop one of the beams overlooking the quarters, stroked his beard but offered no response. Sol continued.

"Goone and Harg exiled... Kito locked away... and that Wendigo thing is still in New York. You just know that Emperor guy was the one who put it there, too. Goone was right; the Emperor killed Pan Magal so he could get this." Sol stopped pacing for a moment to look at the purple stone on his hand. It glinted, almost like it was winking at him. "I wonder if I could—"

He was startled when the entrance to his quarters swung open and Ifrita and Ofana stepped through. They stopped on either side of the door as the Emperor strolled in.

"Hello, Solomon," said the Emperor, smiling warmly. "I had hoped to speak to you after the trial, but you were whisked away before I had the chance. How are you?"

"I'm fine," Sol said, a little too sharply. "Better than Goone, anyway."

"Yes... not a choice I wanted to make."

"Then why did you? Why not just lock him up with Kito?"

"Goone is too dangerous to imprison. One hundred years is a death sentence to a Warlock; he would most certainly have tried to escape, sooner or later. Either that or someone would have tried to rescue him. There is no knowing how many allies he has in the Order—which is the reason I am here. I would like for you to return with me to the Palace where I can ensure your safety."

Sol wasn't surprised. He pretended to think about it for a moment before giving a small shrug. "I like it here."

"In this prison? You do not even have a window. At the Palace, you will have your pick of rooms with views as far as your sight can reach. There are no locked doors; you can roam wherever you wish."

"And can I roam alone?"

"As alone as is safe. We must still keep you guarded."

"I don't like being watched."

"Then I will arrange for somewhere private where you can retreat as often as you wish. How does that sound?"

"It sounds like you really want me to go with you. But is it my safety you're worried about, or this?" He raised his hand to display the ring.

The Emperor glanced at it, though his expression did not betray his thoughts, as much as Sol tried to read them. "I am concerned for both you and the ring, of course. So long as you wear it, you are at risk."

"So long as I wear it. I see. So if I gave it away, what would you do with me then?"

The Emperor's voice softened. "If you gave it away? And to whom would you give it?"

"I don't know. You, maybe." Sol didn't know what reaction he expected; he just wanted to catch the Emperor off guard and see if his reaction gave anything away. The only one who was caught off-guard, however, was himself.

"You think I'm the one behind Pan Magal's death, don't you?" said the Emperor.

Sol's eyebrows shot up. It took him a few seconds to pull them back down. "What?"

"That's what you think, isn't it? That I orchestrated Pan Magal's death to get the ring. Perhaps you even think I released the Wendigo into your world to kill him, and then I sent you back there so it could kill you, too, and I could somehow claim the ring for myself. Isn't that what you believe?"

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