Home > Dryad-Born (Whispers from Mirrowen #2)(17)

Dryad-Born (Whispers from Mirrowen #2)(17)
Jeff Wheeler

“Why would you be ordered to go there?” he demanded. He twisted slightly, easing himself up on his arm. His eyes began darting throughout the room, gazing at Khiara and the old Shaliah healer and then at Erasmus in the corner.

He looked at Annon suddenly, his gaze intense. “Who are you?”

“You wouldn’t know my name. I’m from Wayland originally,” he answered, his stomach twisting uncomfortably. He was losing the man’s trust by the mere mention of Basilides. He cursed himself for asking about it so soon.

“Where did you say you were from?” he asked, his expression suddenly perplexed. His eyebrows twisted with confusion and his face grimaced as if he were experiencing great pain. He tried to lean closer to Annon.

“Are you sick?” Annon asked. “If you need to rest a moment…”

“Help me,” he said, shaking his head. “My legs still don’t work.” He reached down and tried to pull his leg up a little. Annon was not sure what to do.

Then the Rike grabbed a fistful of Annon’s shirt and dragged him on the table. He stumbled, losing his footing, and planted his hands on the table. A silver knife swung around and pressed against his throat.

“Your carotid artery is right here, alongside the slope of your neck. If you or any of your friends attempt anything foolish, I swear I will cut it open and you will bleed to death in moments. Your ring confirms I speak the truth. Now you will answer my questions, boy!”

“The very essence of instinct is that it’s followed independently of reason. Sometimes it is those instincts that serve us best.”

—Possidius Adeodat, Archivist of Kenatos

The edge of the table cut into Annon’s stomach. He reflexively grabbed the Rike’s wrist, to pull away the dagger, but the man’s strength was increasing and he felt the blade nick his throat.

“Struggle and I’ll kill you,” he seethed. “Now answer my questions. What is your name? Say it!”

“Annon of Wayland,” he answered, his heart hammering.

“The Druidecht. Tyrus’s nephew. Visited the city very recently and was foolish enough to tell the Rike at the gate who you were. Lad, I pity you. The Arch-Rike will not excuse your treason easily, but if you surrender to me…”

Pyricanthas. Sericanthas. Thas.

Blue flames appeared at Annon’s fingertips, still clenched around the Rike’s wrist. The sudden sting of scorching heat made the man start with pain and jerk his hand away, dropping the blade. He scooted away from Annon, his eyes wide with fear but his legs were still not working.

Annon struggled to control his fury. “You were dead for two days,” he said in a low, threatening voice. “You were only brought back because I thought you might have useful information. Whether you live or die makes little difference to me.”

The Rike stroked his burned wrist, which was bright red from the burn and blisters were already appearing on the skin. “I can be useful to you, Druidecht.”

“I doubt it,” Annon replied. It was a battle controlling his anger. “I seek the location of Basilides. As you just said, you are forbidden to speak of it.”

“I did not say that,” the man replied with a calculating grin. “What were my words? You bear the ring. I could not lie to you.”

Annon’s memory was perfect. He could remember every word that anyone had ever spoken to him in his life. A Dryad’s kiss had unlocked his mind completely. “Clever. Few dare to even speak of it.”

“You remembered. Well done. I’ve heard the Druidecht have good memories. I know the location of Basilides. If that knowledge will save my life, then we can discuss terms. I cannot tell you where it is—that is forbidden—but I will take you there if you spare my life.”

Annon glanced at Khiara. She stared at the Rike with disgust and wariness, her hands clenching the tapered oak staff. She was ready to use it against him. Erasmus moved from the shadows, approaching.

“It costs a great deal to revive someone from the dead,” the Rike said. “I can also guarantee you that no other man who came with our force has the information you seek. You chose wisely to seek me out.”

Erasmus rubbed his mouth thoughtfully. “You would only give us the information we seek if it would benefit you in some way. You would benefit most from our capture. Leading us into a trap.”

The Rike turned around to look at him. “Ah, Erasmus of Havenrook. Well met. You bet foolishly throwing in your lot with Tyrus.”

“Not if we succeed,” he answered blandly.

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