Black Heart Page 22

I didn’t rub his face in it, although I was sorely tempted. I had been raised by Beezle, after all.

“Look,” I said. “I can’t let the Cimice attack Chicago. And your people are going to be wiped out sooner or later if you don’t take serious action.”

“Serious action?” Batarian repeated. “You mean attack the colony. No. I will not risk my people.”

“You don’t have to,” I said. “You can risk me.”

“You will eliminate the entirety of the Cimice alone?” Batarian looked incredulous. “Even with powers such as yours, you could not do such a thing.”

I remembered rising above Soldier Field, filled to bursting with the feeling of vampires who had come at my call. I remembered the power of the Morningstar moving through me, exploding outward, eliminating the vampires so thoroughly that nothing remained, not even ash.

“Yes, I can.”

Sakarian and Batarian continued to look doubtful. Litarian, as always, appeared thoughtful.

Sakarian better watch his back, I thought. Litarian was smart, way smarter than his brother. For now Litarian seemed content in the role he had, but I doubted it would stay that way. Fae lived a long time, and there was a limit to what a smart person would tolerate from a stupid one.

“Why not allow her to go?” Litarian said. “We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”

“Because if we allow her to leave this place, she will try to escape,” Batarian said. “She will not continue to aid her captors. It is only logical.”

“Except that I told you that I, too, need to defeat the Cimice,” I said.

“I am not certain I believe this tale of the creatures in your world,” Sakarian announced. “It all seems too convenient. And impossible. Our borders are closed.”

“For the love of the Morningstar,” I swore. “You are being deliberately obstinate. The fact that I am here is proof positive that your borders are not as secure as they seem.”

Batarian’s face took on that brooding look again. “I must think on this. Litarian, return her to the platform and guard the ladder until I make my decision.”

“No,” I said. “I’m not going back up there.”

“You are still a prisoner here,” Batarian said.

“Let’s be real for a second,” I said. “As of this moment I’m only a prisoner because I don’t feel like destroying your whole village. So don’t act like you have some kind of dominion over me.”

“I am the ruler in my own kingdom,” Batarian said through gritted teeth.

“Sure you are,” I said. “But I am not a member of your kingdom. I’ll go in some other room, and you don’t need to waste a man guarding me. I’m not going to run away. My proposal is this—you let me kill the Cimice. And then you release my wings and I go home.”

“You will return to the platform. That is where the prisoners go,” Batarian said.

I could tell he was trying to reestablish his sense of authority when his world had been turned upside down. But I wasn’t going to spend another minute on that platform. I sighed.

“Don’t make me prove a point,” I said. It would be nothing for me to set this place on fire. But I didn’t want to burn down the whole tree house unless I had to.

“You are a prisoner,” Batarian said.

“Father, I don’t think that—” Litarian began.

I shot nightfire at Sakarian. I didn’t like him anyway.

The bolt deliberately missed any vital organs. The blue flame struck the fae’s upper arm, then danced along his limb and down to his wrist, stripping away the flesh as it went.

Sakarian screeched in pain and fell to his knees. Batarian and Litarian stared at me in shock. Neither of them made any move to help Sakarian, who was whimpering.

“Quit that noise,” I said. “I didn’t even give you the benefit of my full strength.”

Batarian moved toward me. I don’t know what he intended to do. Litarian grabbed him by the shoulder, pulling the king away from me.

“I am not going to the platform,” I repeated. “Think all you want on my offer. I’m going to wait in another room.”

Litarian stepped forward, his hands up to show that he was no threat. “I will show you,” he said.

We left the room without another word from anyone.

It was possible, even probable, that I’d misplayed this. I’d bruised Batarian’s pride by demonstrating I did not have to do as he wished. I’d quite literally harmed Sakarian by using him as a demonstration. He hadn’t liked me to begin with, and he doubtless hated me now.

On the positive side of the balance book, maybe Batarian would conclude that I was more of a threat to him as a prisoner and would just let me go, which was all I’d wanted in the first place.

Litarian led me to a much smaller room across the hall that looked like a little parlor. He nodded and then left me there—unguarded.

Regardless of the outcome of their meeting, I was going to find a way to get to the Cimice and destroy them. If I had to sneak away in the middle of the night, then I would.

At this point killing the creatures before they arrived in Chicago was my priority. If Batarian never released my wings, then I could probably find another way to do so. Surely Lucifer—or one of his brothers—could overcome the magic binding the ropes.

It would be annoyingly inconvenient in the meantime, but I couldn’t wait here much longer for Batarian to get his head on straight. I’d already been more than polite.

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