Chapter Nine

Bailey awoke with a start as she gasped. The face! The scar! It's Jacoby! She cringed as she thought the name. But somewhere deep inside, she felt a twinge of shame. It puzzled her. But before she could delve deeper into thinking, the door in the parlor opened and Qoci stepped in, carrying a tray. The Curor hummed as she stepped into the bedroom and set the tray on the table.

Without a word, she measured the potion into a cup and handed it to Bailey, who drank it thirstily. Qoci smiled and took the cup and replaced it with a large glass of water. Bailey drank it down in three gulps. Panting slightly, she looked at Qoci.

"That really dries the throat," she commented, handing the Curer the glass.

Qoci smiled. "Yes, it does, highness. I shall leave the pitcher of water here," she said, taking the pitcher and glass off the tray and setting them on the bedside table. "Dinner will be here shortly. Tomorrow, you may go to the Dining Hall for your meals. We just have to make sure you are healthy enough first."

Bailey nodded. "Have you seen Ranaf?" she asked.

"As a matter of fact, I believe I saw him just a few minutes ago. He seemed to be distracted. Something about a gut feeling," Qoci said, frowning.

Bailey raised an eyebrow but didn't say anything. Without another word, Qoci left the room, tray in hand. Bailey settled back onto the pillows and sighed. She looked around the room with disgust. She hated sitting still. She flung back the covers and gently swung her feet off the bed, pulling herself into a sitting position. With this little movement, she felt drained.

Grunting, she pushed herself to her feet and slowly made her way to the bookshelves beside the bed. Grasping the shelves with her hands, she steadied herself as she looked at the books. She pulled one off the shelf and thumbed through it. It was a thick book, bound in black leather. Stamped across the front in gold were the words: 'Radiant Bloodline'. Frowning, Bailey gingerly shuffled back to the bed and practically collapsed onto it.

Gasping for breath, she slowly got herself sat back against the pillows and the blankets thrown over her. A knock on the door echoed through the quiet rooms.

"Come in!" she called, breathlessly, stuffing the book under the covers.

The door opened and Ranaf stepped in. He smiled warmly as he crossed the two rooms and knelt beside the bed. He gently caressed her cheek. She closed her eyes and leaned into his touch. Her heart fluttered.

"That's my girl," he breathed.

Bailey's eyes flickered open. She looked at him curiously. "Ranaf, dear. Can I ask you a question?" she asked, unsure.

His eyes hardened slightly. But he smiled warmly. "Of course, m'lady," he said, brightly.

"What do you know of Jacoby from the Radiance?" she asked.

Ranaf's eyes widened. "M'lady, why would you want to hear about that...creature?" he asked, airily.

Bailey cocked her head. "I'm only asking because I have a mixed memory of him. I remember the torment and the pain the Radiance caused me, but in my dreams I see a softer and kinder Radiance. And that one feels more real," she said, grimly.

Something flickered across Ranaf's face, but before she could react, he composed it and shook his head. "My dear, Pretiosa. You need not worry about that horrid place. You are where you belong," he said, patting her hand.

Bailey sighed. "I know I am. I am merely wondering about him. If he has deluded himself to thinking I am his lifemate, then he might come after you, and I don't want to see you hurt," she said, crossly.

Ranaf stroked his chin before sighing. "So be it. What would m'lady like to know?" he asked.

"He is the best fighter in the Radiance. Does the Shadows have a best fighter?" she asked.

Ranaf smiled broadly. "Yes we do, my dear. I am the best fighter in all of Merentith. Jacoby is nowhere near as good as I am," he said, smugly.

Bailey smiled. "Ranaf, do you ever have doubts?"

Ranaf raised an eyebrow. "What kind of doubts, highness?"

Bailey bit her lip and didn't answer. Ranaf raised his hand and gently caressed her cheek.

"Don't worry. It stays between us," he offered.

She sighed again. "Alright. Do you ever have doubts...about us? About the Shadows?" she asked.

Ranaf stroked his chin thoughtfully. "I do not doubt us. I know deep in my heart we are meant to be. As far as the Shadows is concerned, with me in their corner, they will get what they have coming to them...what they deserve," he said, defiantly.

Bailey frowned at him. There was an edge in his voice that she didn't understand. She groaned as her stomach grumbled. Ranaf started, but she placed a hand on his arm.

"I'm just hungry. I have had nothing but mush since I woke up. I have to eat slow otherwise I could get sick," she explained, panting slightly.

He merely glared at her. She wiped the hair from her face and looked up at him. She gasped.

"Ranaf! Your face. Are you alright?!" she cried.

Ranaf stood up and looked in the mirror beside the bookcase. His face was bubbling and shifting. "I'll be fine, highness. Nyx must have given me a bad potion for my headache earlier. I'll be fine," he said, rushing from the room.

Bailey stared after him. "Nyx. Why does that name ring a bell?" she muttered.

Ranaf stormed into the dungeon, his hands over his face. Wock shook his head as he turned around.

"When will learn to have an extra flask on you for times like this?!" he snarled, setting a small vial into Ranaf's shaking hand.

Ranaf removed his other hand and pulled the stopper out. Wock looked at him. A thin scar was barely visible along his face, and his vivid red hair grew longer and darker. He drank the potion in one gulp and almost immediately, the scar vanished and the hair shortened, like it was being pulled into his head and reddened. He sighed as he sank on a stool. Wock watched him with interest.

"She almost caught you, didn't she?" he hissed.

Ranaf nodded. "And I made another slip," he said, quietly.

Wock's watery eyes narrowed. "What kind of slip?" he asked.

"I accidentally said Nyx. He's the Potions Master in the Radiance," Ranaf explained.

Wock groaned. "How could you?!" he snarled.

"It was an honest mistake!" Ranaf said, throwing his hands up in the air.

"You'd better hope it doesn't backfire. Our lives are at stake! As well as those at home!" Wock snapped.

Ranaf glared at him. "I know what is at stake. My life mate is at stake. I couldn't care less about my own. But if I lose her, then I will take my own life," he growled.

"Then you had better keep up your appearance. Polaris sacrificed his freedom for this plan! Can you sacrifice your taste buds for it?!" Wock said, as he filled a large flask with the potion.

He handed it to the man, who took it with a glare.

"Polaris is a brave creature. I'd be glad to change places with him. But he doesn't want to be on two feet. I'd rather be locked up in the dungeon than have to prance around like I love it here," he spat. He strode to the door and turned the knob. He stopped as he pulled it open. "She found the book," he said.

"How can you be sure?" Wock asked, turning to face the door.

"It's under her blanket. I sat on it," Ranaf said, shaking his head.

"That's always helpful. Hopefully, now she'll get some real answers," Wock said.

"What's in the book anyway?"

Wock frowned. "Umbriel's memories of before she was taken to the Outer World. Your reports of when you followed her. The dreams I extracted during the Swiping," he explained.

"Extracted?" Ranaf said, his face pale.

"She talked in her sleep. Even after the first bad story. Plus every night, I gave her a small potion that would make her remember and tell me things that would be important: the first time she met you, the first time she saw Umbriel, Polaris. When she first saw Radiance. Things like that," Wock said, with a sigh.

Ranaf nodded. "Let's hope it works," he said.

Without another word, he left the dungeon, leaving Wock alone and frowning after him.

"Yes, Master. For your sake, and hers, let us hope," he muttered, with a low bow.