The bubbling of water greeted her when her senses returned. There was the pungent aroma of rotting fish perfuming the air and the stale taste of salt on her lips. She smacked her lips, but there wasn’t enough saliva in the desert that was her mouth to remove the taste. Siobhan propped herself up by her elbows when she opened her eyes. Goddess her head hurt. It was like repeated blows pounding against the back of her skull. She touched one hand to her head as if that would somehow stop the pain.
Naturally, it didn’t.
Light entered the tunnel from the wide curved opening. Scratches and painted marks decorated the rough stone, somewhere mixed in those markings were her initials, carved when she was seventeen during her first visit to Scanla. This tunnel had hidden her many a time when she fled for various reasons. Of course Elias would choose it to hide in now. At least he wasn’t a complete moron, unlike Wren.
Each bone of her vertebra cracked, the stiffness searing through her, when she slid to the edge of the cart. Wren sat near the edge, twirling one of her daggers. She frowned.
He shrugged. “You were passed out and I needed a weapon in case someone tried to ambush us.”
“Do you even know how to use it?”
“I’m not a complete invalid! I do know how to fight. I just don’t have any weapons of my own for reasons I won’t go into.”
“Meaning they were stolen from you.”
His lips twitched in a brief smile and she knew she’d guessed correctly. Of course, now she wondered exactly how he’d had his weapons stolen. Thankfully, she didn’t care enough to ask him.
Her boots ground the hay and dirt into the wood when she adjusted herself to prepare to climb out of the cart. The sound sent a shiver along her spine. As she tried to step down, her legs buckled. Wren was fast, she had to give him that. He was off the side of the cart and catching her before she hit the ground.
“I don’t need your help.” Which was a lie. She knew that. But if there was one thing Siobhan knew with unquestionable certainty, it was that ‘stubborn’ would be etched on her headstone. She sure as hell wasn’t going to give the moron the satisfaction of knowing she was weak.
“Of course you don’t. Next time I’ll let you face plant into the dirt. I’ve heard sand and rocks make a wonderful impression on a person’s skin.”
Her lips twitched before she realized she didn’t want to smile at him. With one hand, she pushed him away and closed her eyes. Goddess her legs ached and her muscles felt useless. Of all the guards she thought that Vanguard General might have, she didn’t once think they might include an internal use of crystillium. It was foolish of her to act so carelessly and it could’ve cost her life.
“So are you going to tell me what happened? Elias wouldn’t. Your skin had this weird marble thing going on and your eyes, I swear they were turning from brown to a white-ish blue before Elias closed them.”
“It’s none of your business,” Siobhan snapped.
“Well, considering you’ve foiled my plans twice now, I think that makes it my business.” Wren crossed his arms and leaned against the filthy stone wall of the tunnel.
Siobhan looked to the exit. Bright light pierced through the darkness and faded as it reached their horses deep inside. There was still enough light to see by, but anyone walking past would have to look for a long time to notice them. Her eyes turned back to Wren. Siobhan leaned against the cart, trying to pretend like it wasn’t for support before her legs collapsed on her again.
“Where’s Elias? And what do you mean I foiled your plans?”
“He went to see if he could find you something called an Emerald Tea. Maybe my plans aren’t any of your business, seeing as how you won’t tell me anything.”
Moron was feisty. It intrigued her. She smirked and brushed one of her braids off her shoulder. They stood across from each other, silent. Sounds of the river flowing outside the tunnel echoed through the hallow stone. Part of her wanted to run to the river and cleanse herself of any possible remains of the blood from the crimson-cloak, but she was sure Elias had already washed every part of her, including the private areas. There were no secrets between them. He would always do what he needed to do to ensure her survival.
Wren and she were still having a staring contest when Elias returned. He stopped between them, glancing from Wren to Siobhan before shaking his head.
“A pissing match I see,” he said. He handed a small bag to Siobhan. “I’m afraid if it becomes a measuring contest, he will win M’lady. Food and an Emerald Tea. I gave you your. . .” He glanced to Wren subtle enough the fool didn’t notice. “. . .medicine earlier. We will need to obtain more as we have only two vials left. The tea should help with the remaining effects.”
“Thank you, Elias.”
Wren gasped. “She does know how to say thank you!”
She resisted the urge to lash out at him. Her body was far too run down to truly tangle with the moron. Even the little standing and speaking she’d done was weighing on her. Beads of sweat trickled down her back, soaking into the fabric of her shirt. Her trembling hand dug through the bag, ignoring the rolls in spite of the growl in her stomach, until it found the small jar filled with the glittering green liquid.
“That doesn’t look like tea,” Wren said.
Which was because it wasn’t tea. Not in the sense he was looking for. It was a magical mixture of emeralds mixed with various herbs mashed to a liquid. She twisted off the top of the jar and took a drink. Her lips and tongue burned at the contact, followed by her throat and stomach. Emerald Tea was worse than the time she was forced to drink urine by Master as a form of punishment for going against his rules. She took another drink and replaced the lid, saving the rest for later if needed. Her eyes closed as she tilted her head back and allowed the bitter taste and burn to spiral through her.
She bit on her lip to keep from screaming. Both hands closed around the jar, squeezing it, until someone yanked it free of her grip. Then her hands fisted, her fingernails dug into her skin but not enough to draw blood. All muscles in her back tightened, pulling like ropes to her bones. Though the effects were sudden, they vanished just as fast. Siobhan opened her eyes and released a breath. Remains of her exhaustion were gone and she no longer needed the cart to remain upright.
“Okay,” Wren said, frowning from where he still leaned against the wall. “What the hell are you? Are you a mage?”
“I’m not a mage.” She held a hand out to him and wiggled her fingers. “My dagger.”
“Are you going to slit my throat with it?”
“Maybe.” She smiled. “But don’t worry, I’ll be gentle.”
Wren glanced to Elias. The Aquantian shrugged and laughed. The only way Elias would go against Siobhan was if she actually were to try to kill Wren. As much as she wanted to, nothing he’d done deserved an actual death. That didn’t mean she wasn’t going to toy with him until it bored her.