Ádan leaned against the wall by the door, watching Varajas pack. The two of them were alone in the empty, echoing safehouse that every day felt more haunted with the ghosts of every Knight who had come before.

“You don’t have to go,” Ádan said.

“Someone needs to. We can’t have wizards poking around our secrets unsupervised. And who else would you send? Nikki?”

“I could—” He broke off as Varajas stopped working to glare.

“You could what?” Varajas pressed. “Take another thing onto yourself? Find a new way to get yourself in trouble?”

Ádan kept quiet and after another moment, Varajas nodded and returned to folding clothes. “It’s your own flavor of arrogance, you know,” he said. “You and Derian both. This idea that it’s your job to personally fix everything.”

“I’m just worried about you.”

“I’ll be fine.”

It was what V had been saying for days now. Ever since Loukanos had broken in… No. Ever since Ádan had led Loukanos here and the Archwizard had magically tortured Varajas to try to get information about the knife. Ádan could vividly imagine what that had been like, having been in the midst of suffering a similar torture—meant to be fatal—before Korin had arrived to rescue him.

Watching V closely, as Ádan had been trained to do, he noticed the slight shake in Varajas’s hands. He’d seen the way Varajas twitched at little noises when they caught him by surprise. Ádan was probably doing a bit of that himself. But it meant Varajas wasn’t at his best. And he was going out alone, where even Lysander wouldn’t be able to help him if he was discovered.

But then, when was the last time any of them had been at their best?

“Besides, if I stayed here, I’d be stuck in the safehouse, useless, as long as Ruan and Father Donatien are in the city. Can’t be out on the streets with Blades about who know me.”

And Ádan knew that too. If the Brotherhood found Varajas, at best, they’d drag him in and execute him on the spot. At worst, they’d figure out that the fact he was still alive meant there might still be other Knights who escaped Ulek.

“I just wish…” Ádan didn’t even know what he wished for. Except a different world. A better one.

“We all do. But this is what it is.” Varajas tied his pack closed, lay a hand on it. “Lysander’s making me part of his personal guard. It’ll give me freedom to move around as much as I need. Plus, it’ll keep me close to the wizard. I’ll do what I can to make sure he doesn’t find anything he shouldn’t.”

“Just be careful.” Ádan knew how useless those words were, but he still had to say them.

Varajas knew too, but he let it go. He shouldered his pack and came over to Ádan, clasping his hand tight. “I’ll be back before you know it.”

“Light protect you,” Ádan whispered.

V’s response was a flat smile, and a fluttering movement of his hand towards his neck, quickly stilled. “I don’t think the Light looks after people like us. But thank you.” And with that, he left.

A note from Barbara J Webb

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About the author

Barbara J Webb


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