“Lynae!” I call down as I descend the ladder. “Raichon’s been hit.” She runs back up the stairs to the second floor where I wait. She looks genuinely concerned.
“Is it bad?”
“I don’t know,” I lie.
“Raichon!” she calls up and begins climbing the ladder back up to the tower. She stops when she sees his face. My sickle is already in my hand.
I feel the song of my vengeance singing within me. It isn’t love or lust that has aroused me when I am in Lynae’s presence, giving rise to conflicting feelings of desire and the wish to hurt. It is the magic of my vow, alerting me to the presence of Alvar’s killer.
Like the breadseller who viciously chopped off the finger of the starving street rat as he tried to steal one of her bread rolls, I have business that I need to complete before I can be free of Elftown. But while the breadseller had to save a life to redeem herself, I have to take one.
Above me, Lynae lifts her hand from the ladder rung. It is sticky with Raichon’s blood, which has gushed from his neck and down through the trapdoor.
“This isn’t-” she starts to say.
I swing with wicked force, hamstringing her, and leap back. She screams and falls.
Amazingly, Lynae manages to retrieve and fling a throwing knife at me as she falls. I see the flash of metal but have no time to react. The blade punctures the skin on the side of my neck, just above my cuirass, where the neck joins the shoulder, pinning me to a wooden beam in the tower wall behind me by a thin flap of flesh. I feel warm wet blood pour out over my skin.
Lynae lands on her feet, but her legs immediately collapse underneath her. She falls back hard against the wall and slides to the floor, unsheathing her rapier and holding it defensively in front of her, her face simultaneously drenched in pain and burning in fury.
“Arq?!” she screams. “What the hell are you doing?”
“I’m killing you,” I reply evenly, switching my sickle back to my off hand and reaching up to grasp the handle of the throwing knife.
“What? Just because you’re jealous of the Captain?” she hisses. “Don’t be an idiot!”
I yank out the knife and more blood pours out of my shoulder. I feel a flash of dizziness, but then the anger returns, reinforcing me. I am tempted to throw the knife back at her, but that would be unwise. Why give her back her weapon? I slip it into my belt and hold my hand over my neck wound.
“I’m not jealous of your human toy,” I reply through gritted teeth. “If he’s stupid enough to fall for your little charm routine so you can use him like you use everyone else, that’s his problem.”
“Then why?” she asks. “Why are you doing this?”
“Because I know.”
“You know – what?”
“I know everything,” I say. “I may not be the smartest elf in the room, but I can put two and two together. I know that the humans didn’t hire Jeamo and his sick little hunting dog Calmorien. You did. You needed the help of the ward bosses to get all the elves out of Elftown. Your attempts to infiltrate their organizations failed, except in Jet’s case, and he was only willing to keep you around for sex. You needed something to hold over their head, something to force them to go along with you. So you hired Jeamo to conduct the divinations to get you complete information on the ward bosses’ operations. You hired Calmorien to procure the elven victims whose blood would power the rituals. And you arranged for your pirate lover to sell the herbal poisons to Mýldir to brew the twilight sleep Jeamo needed to keep his victims quiet while he bled them.”
“That’s a lie!” she protests. But we both know it’s true.
Red pools spread out beneath Lynae’s thighs. She’s losing blood rapidly. As I talk, she unclasps her cloak with one hand and begins to work it around her legs, to bind the wounds. Even now, she’s not giving up.
“But Calmorien screwed up. He sought to ensnare Norien, to punish her for her rejection of his advances. And when she became nervous, he broke protocol and brought Jeamo to the Bouncy Tart where her murder could not be concealed. He thought no one would care about a dead whore. But Jet did care.”
“When Calmorien and Jeamo murdered Norien in the Bouncy Tart,” I continue, “you knew they were making bad choices and had to be eliminated. When Jet asked me and Enturi and Bolin to investigate and get revenge, you convinced him to let you go along. But you had your own agenda. You wanted to silence Jeamo and Calmorien."