Here we are… a pivotal moment in the story, but one that I don’t think gives too much away.
Of course, if you haven’t read Healer’s Touch, here be spoilers. Warned.
A soldier sauntered arrogantly up to Aris. Llew might have said ‘swaggering’, but the man’s high boots and long, medalled, dress jacket suggested a class beyond swagger. The white handle hanging from his hip glowed in the airy moonlight.
“Captain.” The mustachioed man nodded to Aris.
“Lieutenant general,” Aris acknowledged the man in return.
The new arrival placed himself beside Aris as he observed all those gathered in the yard. He dipped his head to share a few words with Aris.
Military ranks were lost on Llew, but whether the man officially outranked him or not, it seemed Aris was in charge. The other man bent at the waist to listen to Aris’s instruction. The lieutenant general nodded and straightened. He and Aris surveyed the soldiers around them. Then Aris made a gesture.
Something thumped Llew in the chest, reminding her of the ache she’d felt when watching Karlani with Jonas. She looked to Jonas now. He was looking at two crossbow bolts in his hand, confused. He turned to her and his face went slack.
She looked down.
A crossbow bolt shaft protruded from her shirt, which meant the tip was… the tip was…
… suddenly one of three.
She stumbled back a step. Her chest ached. Her head clouded. Heat radiated from her belly.
“Llew!” Jonas flung aside the bolts he held and caught her as her legs gave way. “This’ll hurt, but—” He pulled the bolts free, ripping her apart. At least, that’s how it felt. But he couldn’t heal her with the bolts still in place. He pressed his hand to where her jaw met her throat.
As she died, she began to live again.
The familiar tingling started under his palm, prickled under his fingers. Her faltering heart fluttered, shuddered, then found its rhythm again as it reformed. She gasped, that first breath painful and exhilarating at the same time. Jonas pulled her into him. He trembled, leaning into her. Weak.
Bodies moved in around them. Hands gripped her. But Llew was strong. She pulled, she wriggled. But there were, how many? Eight? Nine? Probably all Kara. Their leather-gloved fingers dug in, bruising. Her hands were forced behind her back and cold metal closed around her wrists. Rough, gloved fingers still gripped her arms.
Jonas, too, was grappled, pulled to his feet and shackled. He struggled, but he was weakened.
Quaver had used her power against him.
She couldn’t believe it. But she should have expected it. Quaver loved Jonas, but only for what he could give them. They had no love for Llew.
Jonas found sporadic strength, growling and struggling, only to have Karan soldiers clamber over him to hold him down. He faltered under their assault.
“Aris!” he cried out.
Llew couldn’t tell if it was an accusation or a plea.
Like her, his hands were pulled behind him and chained together.
Hisham looked pained, but didn’t move from his post amongst the rest of the Karan host. Aris moved out from where he had been standing and came up between them. Beside and just behind him, Karlani wore a slight smile on her lips.
“The Aenuk is an enemy of the state,” said Aris. “She is to be held in custody until we reach a decision on what to do with her.”
“She’s Syaenuk, Aris!” Jonas growled. “She’s special. And she’s carryin’ my baby!”
“Yes.” Aris turned on his heels. “You are under arrest for fraternising with an enemy. You will be retained in custody until a decision has been reached regarding your future.”
“Bastard!” Llew felt she should say something.
“Take them away,” said Aris, not even sparing a glance for Llew.
Jonas struggled against his captors. Only a few could keep a grip on him at a time while they were walking. But for every one he knocked aside, another was ready to step in. They surrounded him, hands gripping arms or weighing down his shoulders. Perhaps if they had been ordinary men and women, he might have broken free. But they were Kara, each stronger than the average in their own right. And his strength had been taken. By Llew.
They were led through a brick archway into dingy darkness. A soldier went ahead, lighting infrequent candles for the rest to follow.
As they moved down stairwells, Jonas renewed his fight. Llew couldn’t see, but the grunts, groans, shouts and thumps were clear. Every now and then someone reminded him it would be much easier if he didn’t fight.
Llew tugged against her metal restraints, but only succeeded in drawing her own blood. Of course, the Quavens were prepared for that, all well-covered and gloved. She ducked and twisted, trying to free herself from their grip, but in such a tight space and surrounded, she didn’t have the room to put her extra strength and speed to use. Hands and bodies closed in around her if she so much as zigged.
Metal squealed, and she was shoved into a cell. Three walls were stone, one a row of bars barely wide enough for Llew to fit her arm through past the elbow.
The barred gate swung closed with a resounding clang and was locked. They hadn’t untied her hands.
“This is a mistake, Llew!” Jonas said, as all of the soldiers surrounded him to move him farther along the corridor. “I’ll get us out.”
His attempts to fight free remained ineffective as the posse of soldiers closed around him, moving him through an archway and out of sight and earshot.
Llew wandered her cage, hands still tied behind her. There was a dankness and odour about the space she couldn’t escape. Water—or something—trickled somewhere. More dripped elsewhere. She almost laughed, thrown back, as she was, to her hours spent with Cassidy. But the occupants down here didn’t need to be kept dry. They weren’t dead. Yet. Soon, her eyes adjusted to the dark enough to see the lighter lines of mortar between the bricks and the darker lines between the floor cobbles.
Shuffling feet and occasional shouts echoed from the direction the soldiers had taken Jonas until a heavy clanging cut it off.
Don’t forget, you can buy Healer’s Touch and pre-order Warrior’s Touch now!