Black Heart Page 14

I cleared the plate of greens and berries and pulled something toward me that looked like a potato. It might have been a giant bug, though, so I asked first.

“Is this a vegetable?”

Sakarian looked confused. “Vegetable?”

“Is it a plant? Something that grows out of the ground?” There were some interesting gaps in their language. I could understand them not knowing modern American vernacular, but “vegetable”?

He nodded. “That is the root of the halalia plant.”

“Like a potato, then,” I said, digging in. It actually tasted more like a turnip, but at least it wasn’t a giant mealworm.

“You do not eat the flesh of animals?” Batarian asked, tilting his head to one side. It was like he was trying to assemble the puzzle of me in his head.

“I do. But I prefer when it’s cut and wrapped at the grocery store. Never mind.” All three of them had the same confused look. “Ask your questions.”

“Will you answer honestly?” Batarian said, his gaze piercing me. He had disconcertingly blue eyes—very light, like the way Nathaniel’s used to be before he’d been changed by Puck’s legacy. I felt a little pang like homesickness.

I chewed and swallowed a bite of the turnip-thing before answering Batarian. I wanted to get out of here, and practicing duplicity was not the best way to get them to trust me so I could achieve that. However, there was no reason to agree to answer every single thing they wanted to know. Certain information could and would be misinterpreted, especially by Sakarian, who seemed particularly suspicious of me.

“I’ll answer as honestly as I can,” I finally said.

“You will reveal your intentions to my lord, or else you will pay the price,” Sakarian said.

“I would be a fool if I told you everything about me,” I said. “As you would be if you were in my position and you did so.”

“You—” Sakarian began, but Batarian cut him off.

“She is correct. Were I in her place, I would not reveal all. Omission is not necessarily a sin. But I expect the courtesy of truth,” Batarian said.

“I can work with that,” I said.

“You have admitted you are an associate of Lucifer’s,” Batarian said.

“I told you, I’m not an associate,” I said.

“That is difficult to believe. You carry his mark upon your body.”

I could tell them a little, if I was careful. I wasn’t about to explain that I was a blood relative of Lucifer’s. Part of me was amazed that he’d managed to piss off a bunch of creatures in an entirely different dimension. Another part of me was not shocked in the least. Making enemies seemed to be what Lucifer did best.

“The sword gave me the mark,” I said, pointing to the blade that still rested against the chair.

I had a very strong impulse to snatch up the sword and swing it at somebody’s head. That was a worrisome thought. I’d had these dark impulses before, but they usually emerged in the heat of battle, when I was under stress.

At the moment I was sitting peacefully, having a somewhat civilized conversation with three faerie. I wasn’t under any particular stress, but I was feeling frustrated. I didn’t have to tolerate these creatures. They were beneath me. I could destroy their whole village as I had destroyed the plague of vampires upon Chicago.

I realized what I was thinking and made a conscious decision to rein it in.

This must be the way Lucifer feels all the time, I thought with sudden insight. What must it be like to be a creature of such immense power, always under tightly wrapped control?

I became aware that the room was silent, and that I had not been interrogated further after I’d admitted to being marked by the sword. The other three were staring at me.

Litarian looked stoic. He seemed to be the best at concealing his thoughts. Batarian appeared intrigued. Sakarian looked like he couldn’t decide whether to be amazed or furious.

“What?” I asked.

“You were . . . glowing,” Batarian said.

“And there was a crackling in the air,” Sakarian said. “Like the wind before lightning strikes.”

Not good. All I’d been doing was thinking about destroying everything in sight and my power had risen up without my consent. If I wasn’t careful, I would turn into the monster that Beezle feared I was becoming.



“I’m human,” I said.

“No human has ever had wings,” Sakarian said.

“I haven’t seen very many humans around here, so you’ll forgive me if I consider you an unqualified observer,” I said.

“I have seen humans before,” Sakarian answered. “No human has ever looked like you.”

I wondered whether there were people in this place, or if he was speaking of a time that had already passed.

“Whatever you might have seen before, I am human,” I repeated.

“One of your parents was. I suspect your father was Lucifer,” Batarian said.

“Wouldn’t he love that?” I muttered. “Nope, you’re off base there. I’m not Lucifer’s daughter.”

“Then who was your father?” Batarian persisted.

“What do you care?” I said. “I don’t see what my parentage has to do with anything.”

“I wish to determine what you are so that I can decide if you are a threat to us. If you are of Lucifer’s kind, then Lucifer is in violation of the treaty, and you are a threat,” Batarian said.

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