Grayne woke with a start. He threw off the blankets that covered him and struggled to stand. A pale-skinned woman with curly black hair stood from the chair by the fireplace and rushed over to him.
“Grayne, you need to take it easy,” she said urging him to return to the bed.
“Who are you?! Where am I?” he demanded from a crouched position. He looked ready to spring and his single good eye scoured the room. He acted like a wild cornered animal although he was still emaciated and could barely stand. In fact, he looked as if he might topple.
The black-haired woman spoke in a soothing voice. “Grayne, we are at the Cardinal’s Roost, an inn in the town of Falnook. We left Farzan and the Citadel weeks ago. I am Raven. Do you remember me?”
Her words seemed to take the fight out of him and Grayne fell backwards onto the bed. “Yes, I do remember.” He put his hand over his damaged eye and felt a patch covering the grisly opening. He struggled to remember and said, “I am so very tired.”
“You have been asleep for twelve hours,” Raven said as she moved over to the table near the door. She brought a tray and set it on the edge of the bed. “I have apples and milk.” She held out an apple segment for him to take. “I didn’t think you’d want bread,” she said lowering her eyes bashfully.
Grayne snatched the apple piece from her hand and ate it voraciously. “Go slowly,” she warned. “You will make yourself sick. You need time to adjust.” She handed him another piece of apple and took the knife from the tray and began to cut more segments.
Grayne ate the second piece more slowly, but he still eyed her suspiciously, like a wild animal, as though she might take the apple away from him. She handed him another piece and began to pour milk from a pitcher into a metal cup. As she handed it to him, she asked, “Who’s Summer?”
Grayne’s eyes narrowed. He threw the cup full of milk aside and it splashed onto the wooden floor. With strength borne of anger he grabbed Raven by her black hair. She screamed and he took up the apple knife and placed it against her neck. A line of red trickled down her porcelain neck.
Desperately she cried out, “You said her name in your sleep. Please, I meant nothing by the question.”
He let out a guttural noise from his toothless maw. “What is this? Is this a trick?” Years of physical, emotional and psychological torture left him with the belief that even this could be part of Farzan’s cruelty. “Answer me, or by The Seven I will cut your pretty throat without a second thought!”
“Grayne! No, this is no trick! Farzan is imprisoned by your house.” Grayne tensed up at hearing Farzan’s name. “I swear to you, I only want to help you.”
“Why?!” he asked as the blade pushed deeper into the flesh of her neck.
“I…I,” she stammered. “I want to repay you for what I have done to you. For the years you lost. For…for my role in..” she trailed off.
“I don’t need your help!” he shouted as he pushed himself off her while still holding the blade at his side. “I don’t want your help,” he said just above a whisper.
“Grayne, I will do anything to save you. Please, you have to trust me.”
He turned back, and in a flash was back upon her. “I have to?” he asked with a pink gummy smile. His single grey eye bore into her skull before he pushed her away.
“On the table there is a small leather bag. Please look in it,” she said short of breath.
Grayne looked at her for long moments, searching her face for a clue as to her motives. Finally, he rose off her and moved unsteadily to the desk. He lifted the brown leather bag and looked back at her. The bag was light. He expected it to be filled with coin, perhaps a consolation for her participation in the years of torture he withstood. He looked at the bag and back at her.
She looked down at the floor as she said, “Go ahead. Open it.”
Grayne pulled the bag open and peered inside. He squinted as he looked for several long moments, trying to comprehend what was inside. “Is this a joke?” He threw the bag at her, but Raven did nothing to defend herself from it. She simply let it hit her in the face. The brown bag flopped onto the floor and its contents spilled out onto the oval rug underneath her.
Splayed across the floor were thirty-two teeth.