That was the first good news Varajas had heard in a while. “We’re all ears. If you know the way out, it’s time to share.”
But Samir shook his head. “I said I’m starting to put pieces together. I’m not all the way there yet, but I’m having—lets say, suspicions.”
Varajas was having suspicions of his own. “Girald’s involved with this, isn’t he. And that other Star wizard—Peyter.”
“Yes.” That answer, Samir gave confidently.
“He’s in here with us,” Ruan said softly.
“Who?” Varajas demanded.
“What?” Samir’s surprise was sharp.
Ruan didn’t look at either of them, his attention focused on Bolt. “I think…” he spoke slowly, like he was having to reach deep inside for the words. “I remember, but it’s like a dream. We were there.”
Bolt’s tail thumped hard against the floor, as if in confirmation.
“Not in the castle, but we got there through the castle. It was dark. A forest. He had a fire. He talked to me, but I can’t remember…I can’t remember what he said.”
“Okay,” Samir said. “That clarifies a few more things.”
Varajas was still working to align all the pieces. “You know him. Peyter.”
“I do. I did. If he’s in here with us…that may make things even easier.”
“He seemed to have control over this place.” Ruan was sounding more confident in his memory. “If you think he’s our way out, that may be, but he was able to make me lost in the vision again without any effort. Confronting him will be dangerous.”
Samir waved the warning away. “He could only do that because you didn’t understand the magic. Now we’re all awake and aware—I’m not about to get lost because of Peyter. No.” He sounded confident enough, Varajas was willing to believe him.
“The piece I’m still missing,” Samir went on, “and what I’d like to know before we confront him is what he’s after. Why all this?” He waved his hand around. “What does it get him and Girald?”
Samir had asked that question looking directly at Varajas. Ruan, too, was looking at Varajas. There was no ducking this. They’d all been in each others’ minds. Hardly any secrets left.
Still. “This is what the knights fought to protect. This is what they died to protect. This is why I’m still alive, and not dead with them. What you’re asking—I don’t even know my duty here.”
“He’s looking for it,” Samir said softly. “And for us to stop him, to get out of here, to disassemble the magic he’s created, I need to understand what he hopes to accomplish with it.”
As though Varajas even had that answer. “That’s the thing. If he’s looking for…well, whatever he thinks he’s looking for, it isn’t here.”
Ruan twitched, his eyes going wide, and Varajas could just about read the thoughts going through his head. He’d made a connection, a terrible connection.
“It’s in Triome,” Ruan said. “This thing you’re hiding.”
“The secret power of the knights,” Samir continued. “And Girald isn’t the only Archwizard looking for it. Loukanos—Sheluna was certain he was sticking his nose in places he shouldn’t be.”
At the mention of Loukanos, it was Varajas’s turn to flinch. Both Ruan and Samir were too smart, too observant to miss it.
“Loukanos went missing,” Samir said in a carefully neutral voice.
Ruan was quicker to jump to an accusation. “Did you kill him too?”
“No. In fact, it was him who tried to kill me.”
“Always the same excuse,” Ruan sneered.
“Are you really going to start this again?”
“We never finished it!”
No, they hadn’t. Eight years, and this argument was still fresh, still waiting to erupt beneath every conversation they shared. This bitter anger that had driven them to fight, that had driven them to fuck, that had seethed and simmered and festered.
Left to their own devices, they were well on their way to going another eight years without facing what had happened. Too bad the magic of this place had other ideas. Varajas could feel it happening—the tug on his mind—the moment where the force of that emotional memory made a connection with the world around them and he was dragged back down.