36

I was speechless for just a moment. "I should have known I'd find a lying scumbag like you in charge here," I said bitterly, although the shock of finding Carnius Magius here was not what I had expected at all.

"She was spying on us, "Tarick said. "Killed six of our men."

Magius looked at Tarick skeptically, raising an eyebrow. "She killed six men all by herself? Are you sure she was alone?"

"We didn't see nobody else with her."

"So you don't know," Magius said. "Maybe you should go and check."

Tarick stiffened. "The weather's got worse, it's snowing like crazy out there."

Magius looked at me. "Were you alone, Sasha?"

I said nothing, because it didn't matter. Magius seemed to know this, and then nodded and turned back to Tarick and said, "Send more men to go and look. Find out how many others there were, and hunt them down."

Tarick grumbled in annoyance and grabbed my arm. "You two," he muttered to the men holding me, "go and fetch Botta and Norles, and go look and see if you can find any more tracks, see if she did have anyone else with her."

"Sure thing, boss," one of them said with a sigh. They stomped off, leaving me alone with Magius and Tarick.

Magius crossed his arms and looked at me thoughtfully, giving me a condescending smile. Back before the Fort was attacked, Magius and I had hardly been friends. I barely knew him, but he always came across as a slimy, unlikable little twerp. Now, seeing him with this army of killers, my dislike for him grew. If my hands hadn't been tied, I would have strangled him.

"So, what are we going to do with you now?" he said rhetorically, rubbing his chin with one hand. "I'm afraid I am all out of ideas."

"I was hoping you might give her to me and the boys," Tarick sneered. He chuckled menacingly in my ear. "She killed some of our friends, I think we deserve some payback."

"Don't be ridiculous," Magius scoffed. "Your men allowed her to sneak right into our midst, and then six of them managed to get themselves killed in the process. And I'm certain that she wasn't alone, so you've likely allowed her accomplices to escape unharmed. You think I'm going to reward such incompetence?"

"Fine," Tarick growled, yanking on my arm. "Just give her to me then. I've been doing your dirty work out here for months. I deserve some extra compensation."

Magius shook his head. "No, I don't think so. Besides, our work is almost done. Once we're finished here, you'll be rich. You can go an buy yourself all the beautiful women you could ever want."

"Yeah, maybe, but I want this one."

"She's dangerous," Magius said, looking at me with an appraising eye. "If you turn your back on her for a second, she'd try to stick a knife in it. To be honest, I don't like the thought of her being here at all. It might be better to cut her throat and dump her in the snow."

"You want me to?"

"Well, not yet. It's not really my decision. Come, bring her along."

Magius led us across the room and through the rocky tunnel that led to another, much larger area. This cave opening was almost thirty feet square, with two long tables and some boxes and supplies scattered around. Lumpy stalagmites were grouped in the corner, where water dripped from above. A stack of swords and some other equipment was lying against the cave wall. On one of the tables, there was a sizable pile of black rocks, chunks of pure ebony stolen from the mine. There were two men on guard, standing by the entrance way, and they watched me closely as Magius led us into the room.

There was a man standing at the other end of the room, leaning casually against one of the tables as we entered. He wore jet black trousers and a red silk shirt, and when he laid his eyes on me, my breath caught in my throat.

I felt my heart drop out of my chest, and my legs wobbled. A rush of remembered pain and grief seemed to boil up, and I couldn't even speak. The whole world seemed to rush over my head, and I felt like I was about to faint.

The man standing before me was Falx Carius.