Where the fuck is Jonac? What’s taking so long?
A million answers bombard my brain. Maybe he doesn’t have the clout to demand an audience with my brother, even if he’s carrying a message from me. Maybe something’s wrong with Shoch. Maybe Shoch can’t make it back here. Maybe he’s too weak. Maybe the wyvern in him is panicking again. Maybe Shoch and Itzel have already started their ritual. Maybe something went wrong. Maybe Shoch didn’t make it. Maybe—no. My brain will keep running riot with these scenarios, but I force myself to ignore it.
Shoch is fine. Nothing happened. And there couldn’t have been enough time for the ritual.
Wait. How long did it take Shoch to forge the bond with Jonac? I scrunch up my brow. I remember the bowl of raw chicken blood and how Shoch and Jonac sat on either side of it. I remember how each of them added a drop of their own blood to the bowl—and how each of them drank half of that unholy mixture.
I remember something else, too: Shoch’s assurance that the bond between him and Jonac would only be temporary. Was that a bold-faced lie? No, I don’t think so. Shoch wouldn’t want a permanent bond with Jonac, of all people. So presumably it would have faded on its own eventually.
But Shoch doesn’t want to wait. He’s too eager to protect me.
Málaf! Jonac, what’s going on? Just barge in on my brother—make a fuss. And drag Shoch back here if you have to.
I need him here with me. Shoch, that is, not Jonac. I need to know that he’s all right, that the wyvern’s panic didn’t scar him. And I need him to abandon whatever idiot scheme he and his sister have cooked up.
Damn it, I can’t even pace anymore. A few hours ago, this room felt like a mansion. And it is a mansion, compared to that cramped cell at Crevlock. But now the walls are closing in on me. The smoke from the fireplace is choking me—that chimney never does a damn thing when the wind blows in from the west.
No, it’s not that bad. I know it’s not. But my head is pounding, my stomach is churning and I’m out of breath. Fuck, fuck, fuck.
Finally there’s a noise outside my room—some sort of commotion. Is it Shoch? Is he in trouble? I force myself to walk over to the door—small steady steps. That’s it. Ignore the hammer that seems to be bashing my head.
Despite the house arrest, I don’t think I’m literally locked in here. Unless my father had a bolt installed on the outside of the door, it should swing open.
It does. I can’t open it all that far without slamming into my father’s guards—who seem to be arguing with Jonac—but they stop talking and make way for me.
“What’s going on?” I give each man a questioning look in turn.
The older, gruffer guard turns my way. “Commander Camaria wishes to take you to His Highness—”
“On His Highness’s order!” Jonac cuts in.
“—but he has no paper or seal to prove that.”
“There was no time.” Jonac is gritting his teeth now and talking through them. “Shocha requires his master’s immediate attention.”
I’m pretty sure all the color in my face just drained out. “What happened?”
Jonac takes a deep breath. “His Highness allowed Shocha to meet with his estranged sister in private. He approved of his attempt to, ah, reforge their kinship.”
I blink. “Ruvan approved?”
“Yes, my lord.”
So my brother wanted Shoch to break his bond with Jonac and forge a new one with Itzel. But that can’t be right. Ruvan’s no fool. He must know that the only reason Shocha needs to forge a bond with anyone is so that he can command his wyvern again.
I speak slowly, trying to give my brain time to catch up here. “Did something go wrong, Jonac? Is Shoch—is he all right?”
“After his ordeal earlier, you mean?” Jonac shrugs. “Apparently he’s standing and walking on his own now. But the demon in him is still a danger, my lord. From what I’ve heard, should anything happen, you can calm it.”
This still isn’t adding up. My brother knows what Shoch is capable of, doesn’t he? Especially with control of a wyvern again. And even if Ruvan didn’t know before, Jonac must have just spelled it out for him.
So my brother wants Shoch to take control of his demon—his wyvern, I mean. Why? Why would he want Shoch to be able to command the wyvern through Itzel’s voice? Is it to protect Shoch? To make sure Shoch can stop the wyvern from panicking again and thrashing around? But that’s not all Shoch would do. Shoch will kill our father with that wyvern if he gets half the chance.
I stare at Jonac. Hard.
He stares right back at me, his eyes gleaming in the torchlight and tinged with both horror and a strange sort of sympathy. He’s never looked at me like that before, but I can guess what it means. I know Jonac. I know he’s telling me something he can’t say in front of these guards. Something he’d never dare say out loud, even in private.
Ruvan knows. He knows that Shoch wants to kill our father in order to protect me from the man. He knows—and he’s on board with the plan.