“Think I can talk my way through?”
“Yes, but are you willing to risk your soul? It’s already sliding; I don’t recommend using Spirit,” Peta said.
I wasn’t really eager to use it either. Spirit was not something I’d ever truly understood; mostly it came to me in moments of sheer desperation. Or anger. Neither of which I had going for me at the moment.
Bella took a step. “Let me try.”
She led the way, lifting a hand in greeting. “Is Finley in? I would like to speak to her.”
They tightened their holds on their respective tridents, lowering them toward us. The one on the left shifted his stance, widening his legs. “The queen has given orders to keep everyone away from her chambers.”
We drew closer, even as Bella nodded. “Of course. Could one of you take a message for me? I wish to apologize and ask her forgiveness.”
Peta’s shoulders twitched, and I managed to keep my face neutral. Harmless.
Lefty snorted. “Do I look like a messenger boy?”
Bella smiled as sweetly as I’d ever seen her. “No. But I thought because I said please you’d do it. Please.”
He brought his trident down so the points hovered at her chest. “I suggest you leave, Terraling.”
So we were back to that. I pulled Bella away, so fast she spun, and he shifted so the trident now faced me. I touched a finger to the middle point of the three-pronged weapon. “Really? You want to play that game with me, little boy?”
He pulled back, his body tensing. I dropped to the floor as the trident shot through where my chest had been. I kicked him in the knees, breaking one by the feel of the bones crunching. I rolled out of his way as he fell, grabbed his trident and jerked it from his hands. I spun and blocked the second Ender as he swept toward me. The tridents locked and I twisted mine hard to the right, jerking his from his hands.
When it came to strength, as a Terraling, I had it hands down against any of the other elemental families. Score one for the elemental built like a brick shithouse.
He leaned over me, bringing his face nice and close, a short sword in his hand.
With the trident out of the way, and still on my back, I kicked up and nailed him in the jaw under his helmet. His head snapped back and he fell in a boneless heap, his head clanging on the stone floor. Rolling to my belly, I stared into the eyes of Lefty. I reached out and yanked his helmet off.
He was a kid, young and probably not even finished with his Ender training.
“Don’t kill me,” he whispered, terror in his eyes.
I snaked a hand out and circled my fingers around his neck. I pulled him close to me as I squeezed down on the arteries. He scrabbled at my hand, and then slowly went limp.
I stood, dropped the trident, grabbed a leg on each Ender and hurried to the door. “Not much time. Bella, get the door.”
“How are we going to get Finley here?” She held the door open for me and I dragged the two Enders into Finley’s room.
The room was done in soft pastel colors that mimicked the ocean and the white sandy beaches. I wanted to stop and look, to take it in because there was a peace in the room I hadn’t felt in a long time. Not since before I’d been banished. I realized it was the same sensation I’d picked up in the Eyrie. A sense of belonging.
Child of spirit, you will find your home in all places.
I froze, swallowed hard, and looked around. That was the same voice I’d heard in the mountains right before I destroyed the Eyrie. I hoped it was not a precursor to what was coming.
I shook it off, rolled the two Enders off to one side and followed Peta as she sniffed the air. “This way, I can smell the salty musty papers.”
“Lark, how are we going to get Finley here?” Bella asked again.
I glanced at her. “If she knows I’m here for the sapphire, she’ll find me, I think. Whoever is controlling her doesn’t like me much and seems to think I can be taken out. I’m banking on that arrogance.”
Peta trotted through the room to a door set into the wall that would have been easy to miss. The wall was covered in sand that shifted under my hand when I touched it, the warm granules all but vibrating under my touch.
Bella moved up beside me. “You are putting a lot of weight on mere possibilities.”
“I don’t want to fight Finley if I don’t have to. She’s a good queen, and once upon a time, she was a good friend to us both.”
The edge of the door shimmered and showed itself as I passed my hand over it. Pressing against it, I was surprised when the door slid inward, opening up into a glass dome, one of the sparkling tower tops seen from the water.
“You say that like . . .” Bella trailed off, took a breath. “Like you would kill her if you faced her.”
“If I have to, I will. Because if I don’t and Blackbird gets a hold of that stone, we are going to have to face him. And I know he is stronger than me even without the stones. Better that she die, than you and me.” I stepped into the small room and leaned over a table where three pieces of paper lay and chose to ignore the horrified silence from my sister.
The papers were ancient. So heavily salt-encrusted, the words were barely legible. They lay in a shaft of sunlight coming in through the dome. A faint breeze from the ocean floated through. As though they were placed deliberately to disintegrate under the weather.
Bella and I leaned over them, and Peta stood up on her back legs to peer at the papers.
“Can you read them?”