The wicked heroine, p.65
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       The Wicked Heroine, p.65

           Jasmine Giacomo

  Chapter Twenty-nine

  The next evening, Sanych steeled herself and descended to the lowest deck. Following her mental map of the Kazhak’s layout, she arrived at the brig as the two imprisoned Counts were eating their simple supper of rolls and broth.

  The sailors on guard duty at this particular cell along the long hallway nodded respectfully to her, and she asked if she might speak to the prisoners. When the men nodded in the affirmative, Sanych stepped up to the metal barrier and rested her hands lightly on a cold, dark crossbar just above her waist level. The Counts looked up at her.

  “Good evening, Archivist,” Armala greeted her. He sat on a wooden bench to her left, holding his wooden bowl in one hand and a hunk of cold bread in the other. His left ankle was attached to a metal hoop in the wall beneath the bench by a length of chain that allowed him relative freedom around his half of the cell. Sengril was in a nearly identical situation on the right side of the enclosure. The trunks of quest maps and papers were open in the middle of the floor, where both men could access them together.

  “Good evening, Count Armala, Count Sengril,” she returned. “How…how fares the study?”

  Sengril smiled sympathetically. “It’s all right, Archivist. We’ll survive. At least until our trial back in Vint.”

  Sanych swallowed uncomfortably.

  Armala glanced at Sengril for a moment and then spoke. “It’s going well, Sanych. Nothing new, as we’ve been over this many times before. But it was…merciful…of Geret to give us the distraction, and we may yet find some new nugget of information about Hynd, Shanal, or the Tome itself.”

  “Well…I’m glad you’re…mostly comfortable. I just…” she faltered.

  The Counts shared a look.

  “It must be awkward, feeling that your leaders have betrayed your country,” Sengril said quietly. “Your trust in our authority has been broken.”

  Sanych gripped the cold metal bars, her eyes on their joints. “Yes.”

  “Please understand, that to us it does not seem so. We acted in good faith, hoping to change the way Vint was ruled, not for our benefit, but for its own. Think, perhaps, that your trust in us has not been broken, but rather, stretched. Stretched so far that perhaps new concepts may enter and be accepted?”

  Sanych raised her eyes to meet Sengril’s, confusion and hurt warring in her expression.

  Armala intervened. “Eh, perhaps with time, Stervan. She is young, yet.”

  Though the statement was spoken gently, it still caused Sanych to clench her jaw. “Good evening, sirs,” she said, turning to leave.

  As they listened to her footsteps grow fainter down the long hallway out of the brig, Armala said calmly, “That girl has the most potential I’ve ever seen among the Temple folk. If she doesn’t rise to Mastery within ten years, I’ll eat my toes.”

  “Rhist, your sense of drama is misplaced,” smiled Sengril. “You may have to eat your toes for nutrition long before we get back to Vint.”

  “Your perception is duly noted.”

  Sanych stomped up the spiraling stairs to the berth deck. How can they sit there as if they have done no wrong? They clearly broke the laws! I’ll never stretch my trust far enough to accept what they did! Never!

  The light filtering in from outside the ship was so low, Sanych knew it must be nearly sunset. Tonight, the cannons would not fire, as they had for the previous seven days, and she intended to sleep deeply and well, if her frustration and anger didn’t keep her up. Maybe if she had a good talk with Meena. The Shanallar always had a wider perspective on this sort of thing–

  The ship shuddered.

  Sanych leaned on the banister for support, twisting her head around as if she would be able to see the source of the motion. She had blindly trusted in the enormous Sea God to carry her across even the deepest seas without incident, and now she was suddenly afraid. She bolted up the stairs and ran down the long port-side corridor toward Meena’s rooms.

  A slow rolling sensation caught her unawares, and she realized the corridor was tipping under her feet. She slowed, uncertain. Then the ship righted itself. The sudden motion had Sanych staggering for her footing, and she lurched against the corridor wall.

  “Meena?!” she called.

  Doors were opening in curiosity, and the few dozen passengers berthed along the corridor peeked out, trying to ascertain what was happening. Voices rumbled around her in a handful of languages, with Versal and Hrillian dominating her ears. Members of the quest asked her what was going on, but she had no information for them.

  Meena entered the corridor, looking concernedly at the passengers. “If you’re still upright,” she called to them, “hold onto something.” She spotted Sanych, still several dozen feet away, and started jogging over to her.

  The ship jerked heavily to port, tossing everyone against the outer wall of the corridor. Sanych thudded against the wall, crying out as she felt a painful crack in her right wrist.

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