The walk down to the dungeon seemed shorter than it had before. Maybe it was my excitement, or even hope, that sent me down those stairs so quickly. It had to be that, and I wouldn’t allow myself to think it could be anything else. I wouldn’t admit that I had missed her, was excited to see her.
Oh, but what would I say? I had to convince her to help Renn. Would she refuse? It wasn’t as if she had much to lose, at this point. She was sitting in a dungeon, imprisoned. Her King, dead. Her life’s purpose, the Suryan Mages, dissolved. Her high status as High Suryan Premiere, again, dissolved. But, her sister, whom she thought had been long gone, was alive. Though, if Larke refused to try to help her, then that wouldn’t be true for long. Surely, she would want to try. If she didn’t, then I didn’t know her like I thought I did.
All too soon, I reached her cell. She was curled up in the corner, staring blankly at the wall. I wondered if she’d even noticed my approach. I cleared my throat, hoping to catch her attention.
I cleared it again.
Sighing, I clanged the bars with my hand. She shot up into a startled seated position, looking around feverishly. Finally, her gaze settled on mine. She must’ve been asleep, though she didn’t look rested. Her eyes were dark, edged with dark bags under them.
Her face turned distrustful. “What do you want?” she asked, looking wary.
“I need you to do something.”
She didn’t answer, simply staring at me as she rearranged herself into a more comfortable stance. Still seated, she now crossed her legs and rested her hands atop her knees.
I supposed I might as well be out with it. There’s no easy way to say this.
“Renn isn’t dead.”
She gasped, her eyes wide and hopeful.
“Don’t get your hopes up, though,” I warned. “She’s in some kind of coma.”
“What am I supposed to be able to do about that?” she asked quietly, her whispers echoing across the empty cell across the way, her eyes flitting there and back to me.
Nya had been long gone, already sent off to Thiol. I wondered briefly if she had been speaking ill of me to Larke. I shook it off; it didn’t matter anyway.
I explained to Larke what the Healer had told me, describing how he thought Larke could supply a burst of energy that would allow Renn’s life energy to sustain itself enough for her to wake.
She listened carefully, the guilt plain on her face. It wasn’t entirely her fault that Renn had been overloaded with energy, as Renn had willingly absorbed the life energies of the Usurper and his traitor wife just before they’d battled, not to mention all of that magical fire during in the battle. Even though she’d been able to reflect that, it had to have taken its toll upon her as well. But, Larke was certainly the tipping point. Without her interference, Renn would have been able to recover, just as she had with the fire.
I waited for her response. I kept waiting, Larke’s silence increasing my concern. Did she need more incentive than her sister’s life and well-being?
“I would pardon you, if you succeeded,” I pleaded.
This earned me a thoughtful, yet still wary, stare.
“I thought you’d threaten to execute me,” she said offhandedly. “It’s what I would’ve done.”
That surprised me. “Did you really think that highly of me?” I said, half joking.
It didn’t relieve any of the tension between us; her stare still pierced through me.
“Here’s what will happen. If you succeed, you’ll be pardoned. You’ll be allowed to choose your path, whatever you decide,” I reiterated, watching her watch me intently. “But if you fail... I’ll give you yet another choice. Exile or death.”
She tilted her head, considering my offer. I had used her advice on her, given her the choice she’d wanted for Spenser. She had the ability to choose her future regardless. As King, and she a traitor, it was the best offer I could provide her. I hoped that she knew that.
“I’ll try,” she said finally, her voice rasping. “But if I fail, I choose death.”
My brow furrowed, concerned and unsure I’d be able to follow through. “Very well,” I said carefully. “It will be as you choose.”