“Oh, Arq,” Lynae batters me with her smile. “I’ve missed you. I am glad – so glad – that I didn’t have to kill you.”
“I’m fairly glad myself,” I reply snidely. “Although I am a bit surprised to hear that you are. One would expect one’s friends to offer a more spirited defense of one’s life. I never thought I’d say this, but thank the goddess for Enturi. At least he stepped up.”
“He shines for you.” She smirks. Damn her perceptiveness. I’ll have to tell him to be more careful. But no sense in admitting that I’m aware of his shine.
I laugh dismissively. “Who wouldn’t? But I’m guessing you didn’t come here to discuss my hordes of admirers.”
“Are there hordes?” Her lips puff in a fake pout. “And here I was hoping that when this is all over, when we are free, you and I might have a chance to get to know one another better.” She lightly runs her fingers down my chest, rubbing my skin through the woven cloth of the tunic. I exhale with a slight moan.
Her eyes hold me more securely than an egg stalker’s paralytic poison.
My chest is heaving. Damn, but she has a powerful effect on me. My whole body is tingling with flashes of desire and warnings of danger, and I’m not sure whether I want to grab her, wrap her up in my arms and kiss her, or slide my sickle blade across her neck. I don’t trust my senses. Is the tingling passion, or magic? Is she trying to enchant me? Or is it that I have shut myself away from the possibility of attraction for so long I don’t even recognize it?
“Maybe we can . . . get to know each other better,” I say thickly. Her hand slides up my chest to my neck, pulling me closer.
“I hope so.”
Her lips touch mine, soft and wet, as seductive as fire and vengeance. For a moment, I let go and kiss her back. Damn it.
“I always fall for the bad boys,” she whispers as she pulls away. “I can’t seem to help myself. But you – you are special.” Her eyes grow distant, as though she is looking elsewhere. “Maybe you can sing a song just for me someday, when this is all over. When we are home.” She comes back to the now and looks at me searchingly. “Will you help us, Arq? We can end this. We can save everyone. You can be a part of it. Will you? For me?”
“I will help,” I say. I cut off her forming smile. “Not for you. But because it’s the right thing to do.”
Lynae stares, surprised and thoughtful.
“You’re an ethical elf,” she says. “Who would have guessed?”
“No,” I say. “I am a brutal killer.”
The light in her eyes winks out, her pupils blacker than an unlit room full of drow. She turns and walks a few steps back toward the door.
“Actually, that’s why I’m here.”
She turns back toward me.
“Yes. I think we trust you enough. Your time in this cell is done. You will spend the next few days helping Mýldir prepare and place bombs. The night of the escape, you will accompany Rien and Enturi to the gatherings of the people arranged by the ward bosses and sing them into courage.”
“But when you’re done with that, I have another task, if you are willing. A few of us, Raichon and myself and our few archers, will be holding the tower gate at the south end of the bridge across the river Rur – on the city side. We expect there to be some sort of response to our escape efforts. Our job will be to hold off the human counterattack, if there is one, long enough to give our people time to move far enough north to get out of immediate danger. Will you fight with us, Arq?”
I don’t know why, but I want to be there. With her. To wield my blades for a noble cause, like the warriors in the songs, for once in my life. To make the hero move. To find redemption for the meanness of the life I have lived here.
“I will fight with you.” I answer. “I don’t have a bow or know how to use one. But I will stay there, and fight hand-to-hand if necessary. If I get to kill a few humans, it will be a good night.”
“Excellent,” Lynae says, pleased. “Come with me. I will take you to a more comfortable chamber. And we’ll see about getting you a bow and some lessons.”
I follow her, leaving behind an empty cell. Empty except for the faint acrid smell of magic lingering bitterly in the air.