Chapter Forty

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Aidan took in a thick breath between their teeth. The air in the catacombs smelled of mildew and damp stone. There was no light, save for the distant dim glow of a torch. The voices of the two guards assigned to their watch reverberated against the pillars and archways in a muddle cacophony. Aidan sighed, and pressed the back of their head against the cool wall behind them. Their wrists still hurt where they had been held by two of the Alt Clut, dragged unceremoniously from the tourney grounds between walls of an angry mob and thrown into this dank dungeon. The sound of Riona's protests still lingered in Aidan's mind. With a sick groan, they tangled their fists in their hair and pulled in frustration.

As if on cue, the two voices of the guards rose suddenly in protest.

"We cannot let you through—"

"My Lady, please—"

"By order of the king—"

The voices grew louder as the torch bobbed into view. Aidan inched closer to the iron bars of their cage, peering through the dark. Without warning, they were bathed in light. Aidan shielded their eyes from the flame.

"Aidan."

Aidan's heart rose and their throat clenched shut. Slowly, they lowered their hands. Riona stood before them. Her small frame looked out of place where she stood between the hulking forms of the two guards.

"Are you alright?" she asked quickly. Her eyes flickered across Aidan's features.

"Why are you here?" Aidan murmured.

Riona knelt before the bars and reached through, taking their face in her warm hands. "I did not know where they had taken you. I was so worried. Lamorak brought me here."

Aidan had not even noticed the Hedge Knight. He moved so lithely and silently they had simply overlooked his presence.

"How is Luc?" Aidan asked softly.

"He survived the night, but remains unconscious. Which," she hesitated, "is probably a blessing."

"I did not want this, Ríoghnach. I did not want his blood on my hands," said Aidan, lowering their eyes to the floor.

"I know," reassured Riona. Her fingers gently traced their jaw, and then dropped to her sides as she sighed. "Aidan...who is Cynbel?"

Aidan's stomach twisted. "Myrddin will tell you."

Riona's eyes flashed in the dim light and her voice was icy. "I amn't asking Myrddin."

"Lady Riona, we cannot linger," Lamorak said gently. 

Riona did not turn, her eyes fixed Aidan in a hard but concerned gaze. Lamorak placed a gentle, bidding hand upon her shoulder but Riona would not budge.

"What will Myrddin tell me?" she asked more insistently.

Aidan hesitated; they found they could not meet her eyes. The other two guards tried to bully her into leaving with their brutish presence. Riona's eyes were filled with frustration and anger as she turned to leave. When she had disappeared into shadow, taking the torch with her Aidan's voice leapt out.

"The truth!"

The sound echoed against the walls leaving behind an eerie silence.

"Myrddin will tell you the truth..." Aidan whispered to the dark.

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