Spy Glass Page 110

We untangled to dress, which, in the small cavern, was harder than getting undressed. After one last kiss, Devlen’s smile faded into a sad determination.

“We’ll get through this,” he said, squeezing my hand.

“I’ll drain your magic and then you run away. I don’t want to be forced to hurt you.”

“I’m not leaving.” He poked his head outside, checking for guards. “All clear. Come on.”

We climbed out on the rocks and headed toward the buildings. When one of the searchers spotted us, Devlen grabbed my arm as if he dragged me along.

“Remember you hate me,” he whispered as a bunch of Walsh’s guards rushed over.

I struggled to break his hold, glaring at him. The men escorted us to Galen. He had been given an office in Walsh’s building. His fury over my game of hide-and-seek rolled off him.

“Where was she?” he asked Devlen.

“Hiding in the rocks out on the point.” Devlen released his hold. “Her clothes blended in with them, but she can’t hide from me.” He sneered. “I know all her tricks.”

I shot him a nasty look and cocked a foot to kick him.

“Stop,” Galen said. His anger eased toward amusement. “Opal, you will not hide from us again. That’s an order.” Then to the guards, “Take her to the hut for the cleansing ritual.”

They pulled me away, but as we reached the door, Galen called for us to wait. When he approached, I knew by the sick little smile twisting his lips that this wouldn’t be good.

“I almost forgot,” he said. “Opal, remove the barrier shielding your emotions from me now. I wish to know exactly what you’re feeling during the biggest night of your life.”

The glass wall disintegrated in an instant. I blasted pure hatred at him, but he chuckled. “Love you, too.”

The bamboo hut resembled one of the cottages, except it was bigger and only contained one room. Four women waited for me. They wore identical sleeveless white dresses that hung to the sand. Their hair had been tucked up into white scarves. No shoes on their feet and no softness in their faces. Their eyes held no spark.

The guards left me standing in the threshold, secure in the knowledge that Galen had ordered me to comply with these women. They resembled each other enough for me to guess that three of them were sisters and the older woman was their mother.

I scanned the room. Certain items, like the two posts with leather straps in the middle of the room sent queasy warning signals through my body. A large tub of water filled one corner and buckets, sponges and cleaning supplies leaned against the side wall. Despite the heat, a fire burned in the small hearth.

The mother took charge. She closed the door and ordered me to strip. As I peeled off my clothes, the girls tossed them into the fire. I watched the flames consume the fabric.

“Eat this,” Mother said.

She handed me a wad of slimy green seaweed.

“All of it. Now.”

I almost gagged at the taste of rotten vegetables and briny goo mixed with the gritty crunch of sand. It made me appreciate Leif’s healing concoctions. They were mild in comparison. As soon as I swallowed, my body flushed with heat. Sweat beaded on every inch of my skin. The hut tilted as my head spun. The girls led me to a bed covered with towels.

They ignored my requests for water. I understood the need for towels as sweat gushed from my body. When it finally stopped, Mother gave me a brown leaf to chew. It tasted like paper and flakes stuck to my tongue. It was also difficult to swallow with a dry mouth.

The girls hovered around me holding buckets. After a few minutes, I found out why. My stomach reacted violently to the leaf, expelling its contents in painful bouts over one of the buckets. I only had a few seconds of peace before cramps hit my guts and I quickly sat on another bucket.

No dignity during the cleansing ritual, which seemed to have no end. I would have loved to spit out the purple flower Mother shoved in my mouth, but Galen’s command forced me to chew and swallow. Burning pain stabbed deep inside me. I bent over as spasms seized my lower abdomen.

When blood poured from between my legs, I panicked.

Mother held me down and shushed me. “No lasting harm,” she said. “It’s to cleanse out a baby that might be growing. Master Walsh only wants his baby to grow inside you.”

Eventually the pain subsided and the girls helped clean me.

“Answer me honestly,” Mother said. “Have you taken moon potion in the last year?”

“Yes. Why didn’t you ask me before you gave me that flower?”

“Moon potion is not a hundred percent effective. How many years have you taken it?”

“Two.”

While she measured out a silver powder, I cursed Galen a thousand times. Moon potion prevented a woman from getting pregnant. One dose lasted a year. However, if you wanted to have a child before the year was up, a dose of starlight would neutralize the protection.

Mother mixed starlight with water and handed it to me. “Drink it. That is fresh water pumped from under our home.”

Then she fed me fruits and vegetables grown in the Bloodroses’ compound. I made the connection between purging all that I may have imbibed before coming here and replenishing it with substances from the clan.

My hope of being finished after the meal died when the girls strapped my wrists and ankles to the two posts in the middle of the room. My vulnerable position reminded me of my time at the prison.

Rustling sounded behind me; I craned my neck around. Mother held long strands of dried seaweed. She cocked her arm.

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