I was tossed in the first cell and the door was slammed shut behind me. My connection to the earth was gone and I was weaponless. I stood in the center of the cell. I’d been in here once before as a prisoner, I knew what to expect. Still, there was a shocking sense of exposure to suddenly be stripped of all that made me strong.
Raven appeared suddenly at Elk’s side as the Ender locked the door. “I think you should leave him in here permanently. Feed him only once a day. Enough to keep him alive, but that’s it.”
Elk nodded, his eyes glazed over with the command that was obviously pushed through by Spirit.
“It will be done.”
Raven clapped him on the shoulder. “Excellent. Now leave. I want to speak to Ash. We have things to discuss.”
Elk left without a question and Raven leaned against the bars of my cell. We had things to discuss, did we?
Just what in the seven hells was Raven up to?
aven grinned at me, and there was something off about him. Something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Perhaps he had a split personality? “I know you think we are on opposite sides, but we’re really not. We just are coming at this from two different directions, you know?” he said.
I didn’t move from the center of the cell. I was pretty sure he couldn’t affect anything in the cell with any of the elements, but I didn’t want to chance that I was wrong. I still didn’t understand why he hadn’t killed me outright.
“What, nothing to say to that?” He leaned in and reached through the bars. His fingers were about an inch from me.
I folded my arms and drew in a slow breath, forcing myself not to move. “Why didn’t you let your father execute me right there?”
His eyebrows shot up. “Well father is a rather loose term, don’t you think? Perhaps the man who raised me would be better.” He winked as if telling me something I didn’t already know. “As to why I didn’t kill you, that’s simple. It’s not time for you to die yet.” As if that was going to make me feel any better about him standing there.
He pressed his head to the bars. “You want to know how my mother did it, how she managed to have me?”
“Not particularly,” I said, though I’ll admit I was curious.
“Ha, I see it in your eyes. You want to know the sordid details.” He grinned, and again I was struck by the fact he didn’t seem mad, just . . . disturbed maybe was a better term. As though he enjoyed making people uncomfortable with the truths of his past.
He clasped his hands together on my side of the bars. “She’s not even truly my mother. Though that isn’t something most people know. Her handmaid bore me.”
I stared at him, unable to fathom exactly what he was saying. He wasn’t Cassava’s son?
He nodded and gave me a wink. “Yes, she raised me as hers, but I share no blood with her. That wouldn’t do. She gave the handmaid the pink diamond to wear, along with the ruby from the Pit, and the smoky diamond from the Eyrie, and then forced her to bed an Undine. While the details she never really shared, I have not quite duplicated it.”
“You are not of the royal house at all,” I said, my voice icy even to my own ears.
Raven laughed softly. “No, I’m not. But does that matter when I am obviously the strongest one in the whole world?” He wove his fingers together. “Lark, she isn’t really my sister you see. If I could convince her to have me, show her we aren’t related—that seems to be a sticking point for her—I’d make her my . . .” He trailed off and made a suggestive motion with his lips while his eyes sparkled. I stood struggling to breathe around the anger that snapped through me.
I lunged for him and he jerked back, scrambling away from the bars as he laughed at me. My hands brushed over his fingers, but he slid through my grasp, leaving me with a piece of cloth I ripped from his shirt.
“Oh, you almost had me there, Ash.” He waggled a finger at me like I was a naughty child.
“You’d be better off killing me. Because I will never stop coming after you and your mother.”
“Phah.” He waved a hand at me, leaning in as if we were conspirators. “The trick is to control people, Ash. And as long as I can control you, I may yet have a use for you. In fact, I’m sure I will have use for you. Dead people can’t help me, not really. It’s too much of a pain in the ass to have them resurrected.”
I couldn’t stop my jaw from dropping open. Raising the dead? Goddess tell me he wasn’t so foolish as to play in matters of necromancy. That was a line of power that had been stripped from the elemental world for a reason.
He waved at me again. “Don’t worry, I only did it once to see if it was possible. It is, but . . . well, let’s not go there. The result was not what I’d hoped.” For a moment his eyes clouded over as if he were truly disturbed, and then he shook himself.
“Are you mad?” I asked, unable to not ask the question.
He shook his head. “I don’t think so. Though, I suppose it is possible. But I think the problem is I’m just very, very bored. You see, there is no one as strong as me, except Lark. I want to be in charge, she doesn’t want me to be in charge. I mean for a long time, it’s a game I played with Mother, but she’s—”
He shook his head and smiled. “One would think so. I was going to say Cassava is succumbing to the same madness as Father. Using Spirit when you aren’t meant to is as dangerous to the mind as having Spirit used on you.”