Eyes hold power.
Trench’s eyes are full of tears. I try to soften my own gaze, but all the tears in Bravo cannot put out the fires on the bridges he is burning. His choice will forever burnish or tarnish the golden eye of House Lux.
“Take your time. Make the right decision.” I say in my most sympathetic voice, but there is iron beneath the words. Now he is beginning to grasp the whole of it.
There is no choosing between Self and the Family. Red for the blood we spill. Gold for what we take. Black for the shadow that made us. It’s a hard lesson for a young brother, and the panic is writ large on his face.
“We will love you, no matter what you choose.” But there is only one correct choice, and he knows it. I leave him to his tears, letting the weight of my absence pull him down the path that awaits him.
His tears fuel my Faith.
Eyes hold power.
Six terrified gazes watch me approach. Do I look like an inspiring rescuer? Or just another slaver from which they can expect abuse?
“What’s your name?” I ask the slave in front of me. He looks familiar.
“Star.” And I remember. Remember his bright shield as he asks me questions about my business. Answers I gave to support another enterprising entertainer. I expected to meet him next as the merchant, not the wares.
The foreman’s gaze is hard as the steel manacles around the slaves’ wrists. He drives a tough price as we haggle for his product. I lay my payment out in stacks. This pile of scrap is one life. This pile of brass another. On the table it seems so insignificant.
And then their lives are mine. Manacles fall to the ground, and as soon as Rex and Star are clear, our pretense falls away as well. This time the slaver’s eyes hold only surprise and fear as I throw dirt in his frantic face and plunge my dagger into his chest.
His blood fuels my Revenge.
“Eyes hold power.” I whisper to the darkness and the wind. The pad of my thumb runs across Astor’s forehead and he murmurs in his sleep, frowning. I trace the crease between his eyebrows, slow and soft. Beneath his eyelids, I can see his gaze flickering, darting.
Somewhere beneath skin and bone, beneath the press of my fingers on his skull, there is his third eye. At least, that’s what Venetia taught me. A terrifying window through which the Green Bitch watches and waits and sends her undead to kill us all.
“Please give it up.” I had begged earlier, when we’d finished. My lips pressed against the damp curls on his neck. “You can be fixed.” Astor’s arms tightened around my waist. He wipes away my tears, but in the dark the others laugh at my concerns.
“Tied to the Gravemind, Rajah?” Ayrian scoffs, drawing on his cigarette. “Has that been proven?”
They are children with dangerous toys.
Now the tip of my dagger glints in the candlelight as I line it up with the crease between his eyebrows.
If I push, will he be saved? Or am I fated to forever feel my heart stop at the baying of hounds and the far of shouts of “Templar!” ?
He shudders in his sleep, as though he too hears his fate approaching with slavering mouth and rabid eyes. His hand clenches on my hip.
Slowly, I pull the blade away, slide it back under my pillow. Queen of Hearts Day is coming. We’ve spoken of a wedding. Astor expects my heart as dowry but in return I expect something of equal value.
His sacrifice will fuel our Love.