She fought to avenge not only Roran’s death, but also the deaths of the other sailors on that ill-fated ship. She’d lost track of how many Hodarians she’d slain, but the pile of bodies before her seemed both awful and impressive.
She was facing five men—five burly, dark-skinned, scowling men—when a guttural yell rang out and the men stopped in their tracks. She didn’t speak Hodarian and didn’t know why the men stopped, but she didn’t wait to find out; she lunged, spearing one of them in the heart. The others did not move to attack her, but merely backed away, shouting at her with looks of disgust.
She looked around herself to find that she was surrounded by a dozen Hodarians, none of whom moved to fight her. A shout rang out again, and this time she discovered the source of the voice: Greyson. Dear, weapons-refusing Greyson, who had never before betrayed the slightest talent for wielding a sword but who had proven to her that morning that he was a master swordsman. Well. She supposed that she should likewise not be surprised that he also spoke Hodarian. What other secrets had he been keeping from her?
As her breathing slowed and the red in her vision cleared, she noticed something else: she and Greyson were the only ones left standing from the Naralian ship. The majority of the crew lay on the deck of the ship, dead or dying. Prince Roran’s body was somewhere behind her, under a pile of Hodarian bodies. His servants, presumably, had been killed as well.
The battle was over, then. They’d lost.
The concept was not a hard one to understand, nor was she in denial about the hard truth of her position. But if these men thought she’d simply throw down her weapons and submit to their whims, they were sorely mistaken.
With a newfound burst of strength, she swung her sword at a man, slicing him across the abdomen. Another man caught the edge of her second sword across his face as he hurried to retreat from her. A third man grabbed the hilt of her sword as she stuck it through his chest, pulling it down with him.
She was down to one sword.
One of the Hodarian warriors surrounding Greyson shouted something, and the men around her began jogging to the side of the ship and climbing down, ignoring her completely. He must be their commander, she decided. She grabbed her dagger from her belt, threw it at the man’s head, and watched with satisfaction as it lodged in his eye.
Then a sharp pain radiated down through her skull, and her vision went black.
When she awoke, she found that her hands and feet had been tied together tightly behind her, so that she could neither shift positions nor even feel her fingers. Dried blood had formed a thick film on one side of her face that felt taut and itchy. She tried to move, tried to speak, but she found that she didn’t have the strength. She surrendered to the darkness once more.
It was the distinct patter of hailstones that woke her next. Her captors had apparently thought she might be more valuable if her appendages were intact, so her bonds had been loosened slightly, and she could once more feel her fingers, though they were stiff and cold. Wherever she was being held was dark and chilly, and it stank of fish and vomit.
The floor beneath her swayed: so she was on a ship, she supposed. Presumably a Hodarian ship, the one they’d used when they snuck onto the Naralian one and slaughtered everyone. She wondered why they’d attacked. Were they looking for gold? Jewels? They clearly weren’t pirates, judging from their training and expensive weapons. Perhaps they’d been assassins, sent for the sole purpose of killing Prince Roran. But what about his ambassadorial immunity?
She wondered, too, what role Greyson had played. Whose side was he on? Had he been a Hodarian spy all this time? Had he helped them sneak onto the ship?
But she’d seen him fighting the Hodarians off—or was that only for show, until he was sure Roran was dead and Ayalah was defeated? He did have that infuriating habit of looking his betters in the eyes… could it be that his arrogance this whole time was a result of him being a spy and knowing that one day, his time for revenge would come?
She felt like a fool.
Worse than all of the personal betrayals was that now Greyson knew that she was looking for the next piece of the prophecy in Hodaroth. Surely he would find it now and—do what with it? Turn it over to the Hodarian king? Use it for his own benefit? She sighed. What a fool she’d been, trusting the smithy from Miltinoth with the bright eyes.
She shivered and let her eyes close.