Chapter 61

"I've condemned us. Fully and utterly. That woman is going to kill us and there is nothing I can do to get us out of it." Ardis spat each word out as if they burned her tongue or her very parched, cracked lips. She knew she sounded self pitying but she didn't care.

They were dead. She was never more sure of a thing in her life.

Capron was silent, though, sitting with his back against the post that held up the center of the tent like a canopy. The tan sides of the tent fluttered in the ever present breeze. Even that irritated her, distracted her, but Capron didn't seem to notice any of it. His eyes were blank.

"Capron."

His fingers began to play with the gold on his neck.

She immediately knelt down beside him.

"Hirette, I wish I could do something about that too."

But did she really? Now that she was so close to him, Torin's words rung in her head.

It was he who led each and every battle, never once flinching away from the task.

He suddenly met her eyes, his own a stone wall. "Why was he with you?"

"He?"

"That man, if I should even dare call him a man. Why was he with you?"

Ardis paused. "He's your brother."

"Of course he is my brother. What I want to know is why he was with you." His eyes didn't hold hatred toward her as she expected. He didn't seem betrayed, only stunned. But his tone masked that. His voice shook as though he were trying to convince himself of something.

"The King isn't your brother," she said slowly. "Your real brother was hidden away with the Belgrava all this time."

He dropped his hand. "How did you find him?"

"Callana."

That was when his irritation finally showed. "That woman is full of lies and deceit. Why would the Belgrava have been keeping him?"

"They are neutral. That's what your aunt said."

"Of course," he said. "They seemed quite neutral when they captured us in the Wood and then proceeded to torture us and tie us to trees for the wolves."

"He's going to help us, you know. He cares about you."

"Who is the King then, if not him?" Capron still didn't seem convinced.

"Osra. You know him?"

He looked blank for a second before shaking his head. "No."

"Well your brother is free of charges, if you can see it that way. He was not the one who kill my mother or Imara."

But for some reason that did not make her feel any better toward the man.

"And you are certain this is true?"

She nodded. "I believe it." But she didn't meet his eyes. Instead, she stood.

It was a long, nervous moment before either of them spoke.

"What did she ask you?"

Ardis swallowed. "It doesn't matter. It only matter that she plans on killing us to start that horrible ritual."

She could feel his coldness slowly creeping back. It was strange how she could feel it, and how she had missed it in the time they were apart. "Why not use your magic?"

"I'm not strong. She nearly killed me out there," she said. "And she would have had she not needed the both of us."

"I don't believe that."

"She does need the both of us. Sacrifice. She doesn't want anyone else. I believe it would be too much trouble for her to search for others. And she hates me. It would be wonderful for her to seek revenge in using me to accomplish the one thing I am fighting her on."

He stood, but she didn't watch.

A single finger touched her chin and tilted it up. She met his eyes as she had so many times. But this time it felt different. They were so close and his coolness, the fresh, tingling breeze seemed not to come from around her, but from him, his very being. It calmed her so, even when he was always so guarded, so unfeeling.

She glimpsed him then, what he held beneath all of that, and it held her, suspended in that moment, only a breath away from him.

He didn't say a word for an eternity. But he was good at that. At not speaking.

"You can defend us," he said it simply, not deeply, not emotionally. It was just a statement. "It's in you, whatever we need, it's there. I trust you."

Her fingers tingled, yet at the same time, something deep within her sank, plummeted to the ground, far away from her reach. Her gut clenched painfully and she forced herself to look away from him. She pushed his hand away and stepped back.

Wasn't it strange? It seemed as though she had spent all her time trying to accomplish what was now done, and now it was her, the one who always placed trust faith in him, that now doubted him.

"What is it?"

"It nothing important." She shook her head.

He looked at her for a long while. She could feel his gaze, but she didn't bother to look. There it was, the pulsing pain in her gut, not from magic or physical attack, but from something else.

Every time she thought of Torin, his condescending glare, his quirked lips and emotive brows, she couldn't help but recall what he had told her. She didn't want to believe him. After all, they had only just met, but such words easily carved away her confidence in Capron.

Could he really kill innocent people like that? Had he changed? Had she put her trust, her faith, in a murderer?

It didn't matter now, though. They were in a mess, and she was the only one to get them both out, him having a murderous past or not.

"Do you have a plan? Because I don't know what to do."

He hesitated. "I know for certain that you aren't telling me everything. What else did she say?"

"It was nothing."

"It's never nothing with that woman. What did she say?"

The more he pushed, the less she wanted to tell him. "It's how she's going to bring them back."

He waited for her to continue.

Honesty. It was something she was trying her hardest to give him, because lately it seemed that keeping secrets would only pull them apart. And she could feel the pull now, with something she knew she couldn't ask him. Maybe she could never ask him, simply out of fear of what the answer would be.

"She plans on releasing them into anyone surrounding the area in which the ritual will be performed. They will possess any living body, but not harm it."

His eyes flickered. "And you honestly believe that?"

"Why would she harm the people she wishes to conquer and lord over? She told me so herself."

"Don't be so foolish," he snapped. "Even after all she has done, you still believe anything that comes from her mouth?"

"She said that instead of killing us both she would spare us."

"Ardis, she isn't going to spare us no matter what we do. We already know that she hates humanity, and she will go against any who stand with us."

"If I go over to her side and you serve as the first vessel in the ritual, she will not kill us," Ardis realized how foolish it sounded coming out of her own mouth. She knew as well as anyone that the woman's words were never to be trusted, but she couldn't help but begin to think that it was their only option remaining.

She saw the ice forming in his glare and held up a hand. "No. You come up with a better plan than her slitting our throats. This is the only way we have unless you can get us out of this."

He kept his cold gaze trained on her. "You honestly surprise me sometimes." He walked over to the end of the tent and lifted the flap. "Come over here."

She followed and looked out into the camp. The sky was a growing dark cloud, making the torches around light even bright, tongues licking into the false night-like air.

But that wasn't what he was focused on. He put his hand forward, until his outstretched palm stopped, flattening against an invisible surface. She did the same, but connected with nothing. Her hand passed through easily.

It was another barrier.

"You see? There's no way I'm getting out of here with you unless you know a spell."

"There's a barrier around the entire camp. I managed to get all four of us in here with no trouble. This shouldn't be much different."

"Felix is here?"

She nodded and dropped the flap. "As is Katrin. And your brother." She paused as realization struck her. "Oh, Hirette. No."

Whatever patience and trust he had shown earlier had disappeared. He moved toward her. "What was your plan? Use that invisibility spell and attack them that way?"

"No!" She said quickly. "I planned on poisoning their wine, their abilities would be uncontrollable. It might be dangerous, but it will weaken them and distract them so Ferrabry's men can attack." Her mouth was dry as she thought of Felix exposed to the rest of the magicians. "But their exposed now. My spell was connected with them."

"If Torin is my true brother, the one I grew up with, then he would not easily be taken over by an enemy such as this."

"He thinks the same about you." She wished she could bit off her tongue.

He raised a single eyebrow, but a sudden noise stopped him from speaking.

Ardis herself ran back over to the entrance.

"Bring them to the circle."

She watched as three figures were pushed along by three robed magicians. Two blondes and a raven haired man.

"She found them."

Ardis spun back around and nearly ran into Capron. Her hands were shaking now and she numbly pushed him to the side and sat back down, burying her face in her hands. She was a fool, an idiot.

"What do we do now?"

"We wait," he said simply. He sat down next to her and began tracing his finger in the dirt. "I know where she plans on completing the ritual. It's a clearing at the top of the hill westward. We're at the eastern end."

The calm seemed unnatural when they were in such a state.

"If you said that their magic will be out of control because of that poison, then you should be able to create some sort of diversion, a vision or hallucination perhaps. Something that will confuse them."

"That should give us enough time to get your brother and all of them and then leave," she finished. She pointed to the hill that was drawn as a circle. "Is this in the camp?"

"No," he said it hesitantly before making another mark. "It's a little outside of it, away from the majority of her magicians. We don't exactly need the diversion for escaping, although that is part of it. What we need is a way to get that flower back. She will have it out during the ritual and only then can we take it from her. It's then or never."

Ardis stopped and looked at him curiously. "We can always escape, stun her or something like it."

"If we don't distract her when she takes the flower out, and she continues on with the ritual, there's nothing else we can do. For such a powerful spell it doesn't take long, and the flower is the final part."

I really hate school. A lot.

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