Black Heart Page 11

There were a few pieces of furniture—some chairs, a low table—all of which looked as if they’d been formed from the branches of trees. There were no paintings or photographs on the wall, but a large shrine was given pride of place on one side of the room.

The top of the shrine was decorated with several carved figures. Candles were set at five separate points around the top. I wondered who these faerie worshiped. They were like no fae I had seen before.

Two doorways covered in leaf curtains stood at either end of the room. I suspected that I was about to meet some kind of leader, and I was right.

A tall man who could have been anywhere from thirty to fifty years old entered. Faeries age differently than humans do, at least in my time and place, so he was probably well older than he appeared. The man’s face was grim, his eyes were blue, and he had the lean, sinewy look of someone who spent a lot of time outdoors. He was flanked by two younger men who walked a step or two behind him in obvious deference to his status.

He strode in with the air of a person about to lay down the law. I figured I’d better throw him off balance before he went all “Off with her head” on me.

“I’m hungry,” I announced.

The three men stopped at the sound of my voice. The leader spoke to the man on his left. This faerie was also tall, with caramel-brown hair streaked with yellow, and very golden brown eyes. The third man had blond hair and green eyes, and a strange quality that seemed to make him fade into the background.

All of the faerie wore a sleeveless brown tunic with leggings, which made them look like escapees from Middle Earth. The man on the right, the disappearing blond, held my sword in his hand. I breathed an inward sigh. I thought I’d lost it.

The leader and the brown-haired man had a short exchange in their own language before the second man spoke. In English. That was a surprise.

“My lord Batarian requires information of you. If you answer honest and true, your bonds will be released and you will be given nourishment.”

“If not, then death and/or dismemberment will follow, et cetera, et cetera?” I asked, watching Batarian carefully as I said this. His face did not move a muscle, but his eyes flickered.

The second man spoke again. “I do not know what this ‘et cetera’ is, but I assure you that you will suffer if you do not cooperate.”

“I’m suffering now,” I said, making my voice as whiny and annoying as possible. “I’m hungry. I’m thirsty. My hands are going numb. I was dragged out of a tree when I wasn’t bothering anyone.”

“I think you misunderstand your position,” the man said icily. “You are a prisoner, not a guest.”

“Well, at least that clarifies my status,” I said. “I thought this was the way you invited people over for dinner.”

“My lord has—” the man began again, but I cut him off.

“In my country, prisoners have certain rights,” I said. I was going to make this guy snap if it was the last thing I did. I didn’t have a lot of power while tied up and lying on the floor, but as long as I wasn’t gagged, I could drive somebody crazy.

“You are not in your country,” the translator said through gritted teeth.

“Yeah, and speaking of that, just where in the hell am I?” Because when I get back home I want to thank Nathaniel for sending me here—before I smack him in the head several times.

“I will be the one to ask the questions!” the man thundered.

“No,” I said, gesturing toward Batarian. “He will.”

The translator looked uncertain for a moment, then gathered his dignity. “Of course, Lord Batarian is the ultimate authority here, but he will ask his questions through me.”

I shook my head. “I don’t think so.”

“Are you saying you refuse to cooperate?”

“No,” I said. “I’m saying Batarian can stop pretending he doesn’t speak my language.”

I had to give Batarian credit. His expression never changed.

“Lord Batarian has entrusted me to . . .”

I glared at Batarian. “Stop. Pretending.”

The translator made a move like he was going to strike me.

“Stop!” Batarian said in English.

I raised an eyebrow at him. He gave me a slight nod of acknowledgment. “How did you know?”

“All the time that I was going back and forth with this guy, you never asked what I was saying,” I said. “In my experience, a ruler likes to know everything, especially when a conversation is occurring in his presence. You weren’t interrupting constantly to ask what I was saying, and he wasn’t translating everything I said as a matter of course. He’s a failure, too, actually. Neither of you played your parts very well.”

“Perhaps that is because duplicity does not come as easily to us as to one of your kind,” the translator said.

“And what do you know of my kind?” I said. “We seem to be thin on the ground around here.”

“Enough to know that one of Lucifer’s cannot be trusted,” he shot back.

I stilled. What did they know of Lucifer here, and how did they know about me?

“Sakarian!” Batarian snapped. He looked furious. The younger man had given away information that his lord was not yet ready to share.

Sakarian, looking chastened, bent his head toward Batarian and said something in their native language, sounding apologetic.

Batarian responded, his tone clipped. I looked from one to the other. They did not physically resemble each other except for their height, but still . . .

Prev Next