This is kind of dark, sorry. But it's setting up a few things, so I needed it. I really miss writing Asher and Lia in the same scene, so (slight spoiler) they'll be back in the next chapter. Enjoy, and please please please review!

Thanks! March

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Lia groggily opened her eyes, unsure of where she was or what was going on. She rolled over onto her back and realized that she was lying on a small bed, generously covered in many warm blankets. Everything was quiet. Blinking, she turned her head and saw a window. A blind had been pulled down, but a crack of sunlight was streaming through the side. It must be daytime. She closed her eyes briefly, thinking she might go back to sleep. Her mind was empty; she was content. She took in some more deep breaths, and then rolled over to her other side to get more comfortable.

There was a figure sitting on a chair so close to her bed that the person could have reached out and touched her arm.

Lia jerked up, blinking rapidly as she tried to figure out what was going on. The events of the past few days flooded back to her, and she had to bite her lip to keep back tears.

Lirvic Osless was sitting back in the chair, carefully scrutinizing the emotion on Lia's face.

Lia was motionless, too tense to move. She was so tired; everything in her body ached—she did not want to deal with this right now.

"Care to cut back on the dramatics, Lia?" Lirvic asked. Her eyes met his. He wasn't missing anything. Lia desperately wished she could make him disappear so that she could pull herself together. She did not feel like battling Lirvic when she felt so ill. There was nothing left in her, no sarcastic wit or brash confidence.

"I'm dramatic? You're the one sitting up at a secret headquarters plotting to overthrow the empire."

Lirvic rewarded her with his cold smile. She couldn't tell what he was thinking. She didn't want to know.

"You have quite a bit of explaining to do," Lirvic said lightly.

Lia swung herself around to the other side of the bed and got up. Ignoring Lirvic, she surveyed the room. It was small and bare, with a chest of drawers on one side and a small table and two chairs near the window. There was a plain screen on the far side of the room with some clothing draped over it. She noticed her boots lay near the bottom.

"Lia?" he said lightly. "This is serious. You must enlighten me as to your actions."

Lia turned and looked at him again. The hate she felt for him was rushing through her veins, making her agitated.

"I won't talk to you," she spat out. "You think you can read me so well? I can read you, too. I know you got everything out of Halldon and Asher. There's nothing left to say."

Lia grabbed the clothes that were hanging on the dividing screen and realized they were hers, but freshly washed. She moved to the other side of the screen so she could change from the long cotton nightshirt she was wearing.

"Your loyalties surprise me, Lia," said Lirvic. Lia changed quickly, tossing the nightshirt aside and pulling up her breeches. Had Lirvic even moved from that chair? Why was he so confident?

Other thoughts crossed her mind too—mainly of Asher. She wondered where he was, and realized desperately that the reason she was so hesitant with Lirvic was because she wanted to speak to Asher first.

Shirt and tunic firmly in place, Lia reappeared from behind the screen, grabbed her boots, and sat down at one of the chairs next to the small table to get them on. Lirvic was watching her every move, eyes unwavering. He made her feel so uncomfortable.

Unlike other former relationships, there was no warmth, no soft feelings left between the pair. She could tell that he saw her as a tool, not a person, not a former lover. And certainly the man who sat in the chair was not anything like the boyish young mage Lia had fallen for so long ago.

Lia got up from the chair only to grab a brush from the chest of drawers and drive it through her hair. She then turned to Lirvic, hands on her hips.

"What? What do you want? Why are you sitting there like a lump, huh? I'm not going to give you anything, I'm certainly not going to help you, so why are you still here?"

She couldn't tell whether Lirvic's expression changed—maybe his mouth twitched a little. He stood up, eyes hard. She noticed the scar on his eyebrow more than ever. She tried to imagine what could have caused it.

"Why don't I take you to have some lunch, hmm? You must be starving. Asher has been up for some time, I'm sure he'd like to see you."

Lia forced herself not to react to Asher's name—it was another manipulative trick of Lirvic's.

"I am hungry," she admitted. She needed to get out of this strange, dark little room and into the company of others. There was a nervous knot in her stomach and it wasn't going away. It had taken her the entire conversation with Lirvic to realize what it was—she was terrified of him.

"We can talk there," Lirvic said simply.

He moved away from Lia and went to open the door, and she took a few steps to follow, eager to be out of the darkness.

But Lirvic's hand never reached the doorknob. He took advantage of Lia's movement and caught her off-guard. His hand slammed onto her mouth and pushed her backward into the wall. She slammed her head hard, and lights flashed in her eyes.

She started gesticulating wildly with her hands, trying to make a spell happen. Nothing worked. It was a short struggle, and Lirvic quickly overpowered her, his heavy body pressing her into the wall, his hands controlling her arms and covering her mouth.

Lia was frantically making stifled noises, hoping someone would hear her or the scuffling noises and come to her aid. What was Lirvic doing? She was frightened out of her mind, but what was more alarming was that she hadn't been able to use her Magic. Perhaps there was a dampening spell on the premises—she hadn't seen Lirvic use any either.

"Be quiet." Lirvic commanded. His voice was ice. He didn't care that he was hurting her. Lia acquiesced. The room became silent once more.

She could not see his face, as it was covered by shadow. He removed his hand from her mouth. She licked her lips; her skin was clammy and sticky. Lirvic slowly lowered his head until his lips were next to her ear. She had to suppress a shudder as she felt his breath on her neck.

"We are no longer children, and whatever you think you know about me—or think that you can get away with because of our history—is wrong. You will swallow that attitude and do whatever I request. How high and mighty you must feel, working for the royal family, betraying your magical kindred so you can flounce around the palace and blind yourself to their troubles. I advise you to stay on my good side, because once I have no use for you, I will have no problem killing you like the worthless slut you are."

He moved away from her in a swift move and opened the door. Air and light flooded into the room.

Lia slid slowly to the floor, hot tears running down her face. She made no move to cover it. She felt violated, dirty, and sick.

Lia wanted Asher's arms around her, she wanted to feel like she did back in the village, when they had kissed in the inn and he held her so close. She closed her eyes and could almost feel his warmth around her. The tears stopped. She could tell that Lirvic was still standing in the doorway, waiting for her to move.

She wouldn't give him the satisfaction. Lia stood up as gracefully as possible, ran a hand through her crumpled hair, and followed him out the door.

The thought settled over her and filled her with grim determination. She had to get out of the Alliance and away from Lirvic. She needed to get back to the capital and warn the royal family.

Lirvic had something big planned, she could instinctually feel it.

And it was up to her to stop it.

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Thanks to everyone who reviewed! It makes me feel so glad to know people are reading!

Princess Eilonwy- Glad I could add to your crush collection! I really like Asher too—and really hate Lirvic. Especially after this chapter.

Lego Lorien- I had no idea how to end such a chapter, so I tried that, and it didn't look as trite as I'd expected. Yay humor!

RoseMcCann- Wow, thanks for reviewing so many chapters! You're the best! So you see, the Allianceevil because Lirvicevil and he's in charge of the Alliance. Thanks for your kind words!

Raina Ookami- Yay, one of my old reviewers came back! So nice to hear from you. Lirvic is the scariest, huh? I had to go back and read the story to remember what happened, too (and to remember people's eye color—I need to make a list).