Black Heart Page 12

“Is he your kid?” I asked, jerking my head toward Sakarian. This gesturing-with-my-head thing was getting old. My neck was sore.

“I do not understand ‘kid,’” Batarian said, his brow furrowing.

“Your son,” I said. “Is he your son?”

The two of them exchanged glances with the third man, who had thus far remained silent and still.

“How did you know that?” Batarian asked.

“Are you some kind of witch?” Sakarian asked suspiciously.

I shrugged—or, at least, tried to. I could barely move my shoulders a millimeter with the way I was tied up. “It’s just the way you act with each other. There’s a familiarity, despite all of the ‘my lord’–ing.”

Batarian looked troubled. “It appears we have revealed far more than we have concealed. Perhaps Sakarian is right. We are not practiced in the ways of duplicity.”

His face darkened. It seemed he was dwelling on some bad memory. I didn’t want to get persecuted just because he was remembering someone who had tricked him before. Someone like, say, Lucifer.

“Listen,” I said. “You want to talk, let’s talk. But I need to eat. It won’t do you any good if your prisoner passes out in the middle of the interrogation.”

Sakarian shook his head. “We cannot trust her. She will flee as soon as we loose her bonds.”

“What do you want to keep me for, anyway?” I asked. “You don’t trust me, but I didn’t attack you. You attacked me. Twice. You’re acting pretty self-righteous for a people who initiated the conflict.”

Sakarian started to speak again, but Batarian held up his hand. I could see him weighing his options, trying to determine the best tack to take with me.

“Release the bonds on her arms and legs but keep her wings tied,” Batarian said.

“You know,” I said conversationally. “Once my hands are free it’s nothing for me to get my wings unbound. So you might as well save me the trouble and take care of that as well.”

Batarian gave a short laugh. “You would not be able to release yourself. These cords can be undone only by the voice of our people.”

I remembered the guard holding his hand over the knots tied around my ankles, how he had spoken words in his own language before they had released.

“Okay,” I said. “But it would still be polite to untie my wings. They’re not just accessories, you know. It hurts when they’re bound up like this.”

“I think it is not a bad thing for you to suffer some discomfort,” Batarian said. “It will remind you of your place.”

Sakarian came forward to release my ankles and wrists. He unknotted the cords that had been wrapped around my body until all that remained were, as promised, the bindings around my wings.

His eyes dared me to try anything as I sat up, rubbing my limbs to get feeling back into them.

If I wanted to, I could have done a lot of damage now that my hands were free. I could have killed all three of them and escaped on foot before anyone realized what was going on. Three things stopped me from doing just that.

One, I didn’t really have a grievance with them despite the fact that they had captured me for no apparent reason. No one here was my enemy, and my life was not in immediate danger. So it didn’t seem very sporting to kill them just because they were holding me up.

Two, I was never going to reach the portal on foot. I needed my wings to fly over the ocean, and according to Batarian, only one of his kind could release them. I needed to ingratiate myself to my hosts so that they would trust me enough to unbind my wings.

Three, I was hungry. Really, really, really hungry. And I’d had no luck finding anything edible on this world so far. So I might as well let them refuel me before I went tripping through the wilderness again.

I stood up carefully, wanting to get the blood flowing again, but my knees buckled. All three of the faerie started at my sudden movement and three knives appeared from nowhere.

The third man, whose name I still did not know, brandished a dagger in one hand and my sword in the other. It was more than a little insulting to be threatened with my own blade. I wanted to rip it from his hands and knock him in the head with the hilt, just to show that I could.

But it didn’t seem like a productive way to achieve my ends, and I would probably wind up wrapped in knots again so I held my temper. Beezle would be proud of me. If I ever saw Beezle again.

I held up my hands to indicate that I meant no harm. The three faerie relaxed, the knives disappearing into the secret pockets from which they had emerged. Batarian spoke to Sakarian for a moment. The younger man went to the door and called to someone. There was a brief conference, and then Sakarian returned. I hoped he was arranging for food to be brought; otherwise I was going to start chewing on the furniture.

Batarian indicated that I should sit on one of the tree-branch chairs. I eyed the seat dubiously, but it didn’t seem wise to refuse. When I settled in one, I realized I was right. It was like sitting on wicker furniture, only two thousand times less comfortable.

The lashed branches were bumpy and round and didn’t evenly remotely conform to the shape of the human body. My bound wings made it impossible to lean comfortably against the backrest. The other three settled easily into the other chairs and appeared perfectly at ease, so it must have been comfortable to them. Me, I could have gone for a nice down-stuffed cushion and some synthetic fabric.

I also realized my injured leg was puffy and tender. I needed to heal it, but revealing such a power in front of Batarian seemed the height of stupidity.

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