Home > The Heart of Betrayal (The Remnant Chronicles #2)(3)

The Heart of Betrayal (The Remnant Chronicles #2)(3)
Mary E. Pearson

Heat rushed through my stomach.

Him.

He stepped out past the pillar into the middle of the room, and with his first steps, I knew. This was the Komizar.

“Welcome home, comrades!” he called out. The room was instantly silent. Everyone turned toward the voice, including Kaden. The Komizar walked slowly across the expanse and anyone in his path moved back. I stepped out from the shadows to stand by Kaden’s side, and a low rumble ran through the room.

The Komizar stopped a few feet from us, ignoring me and staring at Kaden, then finally came forward to embrace him with a genuine welcome.

When he released Kaden and took a step back, he looked at me with a cool, blank gaze. I couldn’t quite believe that this was the Komizar. His face was smooth and unwrinkled, a man just a few years older than Walther, more like an older brother to Kaden than a fearsome leader. He wasn’t exactly the formidable Dragon of the Song of Venda—the one who drank blood and stole dreams. His stature was only average, nothing daunting about him at all except for his unwavering stare.

“What’s this?” he asked in Morrighese almost as flawless as Kaden’s, nodding his head toward me. A game player. He knew exactly who I was and wanted to be sure I understood every word.

“Princess Arabella, First Daughter of the House of Morrighan,” Kaden answered.

Another restrained hush ran through the room. The Komizar chuckled. “Her? A princess?”

He slowly circled around me, viewing my rags and filth as if in disbelief. He paused at my side, where the fabric was torn from my shoulder and the kavah was exposed. He uttered a quiet hmm as if mildly amused, then ran the back of his finger down the length of my arm. My skin crawled, but I lifted my chin, as if he were merely an annoying fly buzzing about the room. He completed his circle until he faced me again. He grunted. “Not very impressive, is she? But then, most royals aren’t. About as entrancing as a bowl of week-old mush.”

Only a month ago, I would have jumped at the baited remark, tearing him to shreds with a few hot words, but now I wanted to do far more than insult him. I returned his gaze with one of my own, matching his empty expression blink for blink. He rubbed the back of his hand along the line of his thin, carefully sculpted beard, studying me.

“It’s been a long journey,” Kaden explained. “A hard one for her.”

The Komizar raised his brows, feigning surprise. “It needn’t have been,” he said. He raised his voice so the whole hall would be sure to hear, though his words were still directed at Kaden. “I seem to remember I ordered you to slice her throat, not bring her back as a pet.”

Tension sparked in the air. No one lifted a tankard to their lips. No one moved. Perhaps they waited for the Komizar to walk over to the carts, draw a sword, and send my head rolling down the middle of the room, which certainly in their eyes was his right. Kaden had defied him.

But there was something between Kaden and the Komizar, something I still didn’t quite understand. A hold of some sort.

“She has the gift,” Kaden explained. “I thought she’d be more useful to Venda alive than dead.”

At the mention of the word gift, I saw glances exchanged among the servants and governors, but still, no one said a word. The Komizar smiled, at once chilling and magnetic. My neck prickled. This was a man who knew how to control a room with the lightest touch. He was showing his hand. Once I knew his strengths, I might discover his weaknesses too. Everyone had them. Even the feared Komizar.

“The gift!” He laughed and turned to everyone else, expecting them to laugh in kind. They did.

He looked back to me, the smile gone, then reached out and took my hand in his. He examined my injuries, his thumb gently skimming the back of my hand. “Does she have a tongue?”

This time it was Malich who laughed, stepping over to the table in the center of the room and slamming down his mug. “Like a cackling hyena. And her bite is just as nasty.” The chievdar spoke up, concurring. Murmurs rose from the soldiers.

“And yet,” the Komizar said, turning back to me, “she remains silent.”

“Lia,” Kaden whispered, nudging me with his arm, “you can speak.”

I looked at Kaden. He thought I didn’t know that? Did he really think it was his warning that had silenced me? I had been silenced far too many times by those who exerted power over me. Not here. My voice would be heard, but I’d speak when it served my purposes. I betrayed neither word nor expression. The Komizar and his governors were no different from the throngs I had passed on my way here. They were curious. A real princess of Morrighan. I was on display. The Komizar wanted me to perform before him and his Legion of Governors. Did they expect jewels to spill from my mouth? More likely, whatever I said would find ridicule, just as my appearance already had. Or the back of his hand. There were only two things a man in the Komizar’s position expected, defiance or groveling, and I was certain that neither would improve my lot.

Though my pulse raced, I didn’t break his gaze. I blinked slowly, as if I were bored. Yes, Komizar, I’ve already learned your tics.

“Not to worry, my friends,” he said, waving his hand in the air and dismissing my silence. “There’s so much more to talk about. Like all of this!” His hand swept the room from one end to the other at the display of carts. He laughed like he was delighted with the haul. “What do we have?” He started at one end, going from cart to cart, digging through the plunder. I noticed that though the governors had searched it, nothing appeared to have been taken yet. Perhaps they knew to wait until the Komizar chose first. He lifted a hatchet, running a finger along the blade, nodding as if impressed, and then moved on to the next cart, drawing out a falchion and swinging it in front of him. Its sching cut through the air and drew approving comments. He smiled. “You did well, Chievdar.”

Hot Novels
  • Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Chris
  • Fifty Shades Freed (Fifty Shades #3)
  • Never Too Far (Too Far Trilogy #2)
  • Fifty Shades Darker (Fifty Shades #2)
  • Library of Souls (Miss Peregrine’s Peculi
  • Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades #1)
  • Fallen Too Far (Too Far Trilogy #1)
  • Forever Too Far (Too Far Trilogy #3)
  • Ugly Love
  • Allegiant (Divergent #3)
  • Hold on Tight (Sea Breeze #8)
  • Bared to You (Crossfire #1)
  • The Destiny of Violet & Luke (The Coinc
  • Captivated by You (Crossfire #4)
  • Uprooted