Home > Silver Shadows (Bloodlines #5)(2)

Silver Shadows (Bloodlines #5)(2)
Richelle Mead

“You’re saying this hasn’t been part of it?”

“This has been part of the effort to help you cleanse your soul.”

“Right,” I said. “Helping me through starvation and humiliation.”

“Do you want to see your family or not? Wouldn’t it be nice to sit down and talk to them?”

I made no answer and instead tried to puzzle out what game was afoot. The voice had offered me many things in captivity, most of them creature comforts—warmth, a soft bed, real clothes. I’d been offered other rewards too, like the cross necklace Adrian had made for me and food far more substantial and appetizing than the gruel they currently kept me alive on. They’d even tried to tempt with that last one by piping in the aroma of coffee. Someone—possibly that family that cared so much about me—had tipped them off to my preferences.

But this . . . the chance to see and talk to people was a whole new thing altogether. Admittedly, Zoe and my dad weren’t exactly at the top of the list of whom I’d want to see right now, but it was the larger scope of what the Alchemists were offering that interested me: a life outside of this cell.

“What would I have to do?” I asked.

“What you’ve always known you had to do,” responded the voice. “Admit your guilt. Confess your sins, and say you’re ready to redeem yourself.”

I nearly said, I have nothing to confess. It was what I’d told them a hundred times before this. Maybe even a thousand times. But I was still intrigued. Meeting with other people meant that surely they’d have to turn off that poison in the air . . . right? And if I could escape that, I could dream. . . .

“I just say those words, and I get to see my family?”

The voice was irritatingly condescending. “Not right away, of course. It has to be earned. But you would be able to move on to the next stage of your healing.”

“Re-education,” I said.

“Your tone makes it sound like a bad thing,” said the voice. “We do it to help you.”

“No thanks,” I said. “I’m getting used to this place. Shame to leave it.”

That, and I knew re-education was where the real torture would begin. Sure, it might not be as physically challenging as this, but that was where they really honed in on the mind control. These harsh conditions were a setup, to make me feel weak and helpless so that I’d be susceptible to when they tried to alter my mind in re-education. So that I’d be grateful and thank them for it.

And yet, I couldn’t shake that thought again, that if I did leave here, I might be in a position to sleep and dream normally again. If I could make that contact with Adrian, everything might change. At the very least, I would know he was okay . . . if I survived re-education itself. I could make guesses at the kind of psychological manipulation they’d try on me but didn’t know for sure. Would I endure it? Could I keep my mind intact, or would they turn me against all my principles and loved ones? That was the risk of leaving this cell. I knew also that the Alchemists had drugs and tricks to make their commands “stick,” so to speak, and although I was probably protected against them, thanks to regular magic use before I’d been imprisoned, the fear that I might still be vulnerable nagged at me. The only certain way I knew to protect against their compulsion was through a potion I’d once made and successfully used on a friend—but not on myself.

Further ruminations were put on hold as I felt fatigue wash over me. Apparently, this conversation was over. I knew enough now not to fight and stretched out on the floor, letting thick, dreamless sleep wash over me, burying thoughts of freedom. But before the drug took me down, I said his name in my mind, using it as a touchstone to keep me strong.

Adrian . . .

• • •

I woke at an unspecified time later and found food in my cell. It was the usual gruel, some kind of boxed hot cereal that was probably fortified with vitamins and minerals to keep my health up, such as it was. Calling it “hot cereal” might have been generous, however. “Lukewarm” was more adequate. They had to make it as unappetizing as possible. Tasteless or not, I ate automatically, knowing I needed to keep my strength up for when I got out of here.

If I get out of here.

The traitorous thought reared up before I could stop it. It was a longtime fear that had nagged at my edges, the terrifying possibility that they might keep me here forever, that I would never see any of the people I loved again—not Adrian, not Eddie, not Jill, not any of them. I would never practice magic again. I would never read a book again. That last thought hit me particularly hard today because as much as daydreaming about Adrian carried me through these dark hours, I would’ve killed to have something as mundane as a trashy novel to read. I would’ve settled for a magazine or pamphlet. Anything that wasn’t darkness and that voice.

Be strong, I told myself. Be strong for yourself. Be strong for Adrian. Would he do any less for you?

No, he wouldn’t. Wherever he was, whether he was still in Palm Springs or had moved on, I knew Adrian would never give up on me, and I had to match that. I had to be ready for when we were together. I had to be ready for when we were reunited.

Centrum permanebit. The Latin words played through my mind, strengthening me. Translated, they meant “The center will hold” and were a play off a poem Adrian and I had read. We are the center now, I thought. And he and I will hold, no matter what.

I finished my meager meal and then attempted a cursory washing at the small sink in the cell’s corner, feeling my way in the dark to where it sat by a small toilet. A real bath or shower was out of the question (though they’d used that as bait before, too), and I had to clean myself daily (or what I thought was daily) with a rough washcloth and cold water that smelled of rust. It was humiliating, knowing they were watching with their night vision cameras, but it was still more dignified than staying dirty. I wouldn’t give them that satisfaction. I would stay human, even if that was the very charge they were questioning me on.

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