Nerits shakes his head and turns, leading us down the hallway. He leads us quickly through the small maze that is the cellar of the master’s large manor. We reach the stone steps and make our way to the top.
Nerits is about to open the door but stops, hand hovering inches from the handle. There are raised voices on the other side. I look at Nerits, panicked, eyes wide. He looks back at me, sheepish.
“My magic isn’t what it once was.” He whispers apologetically. I open my mouth to respond when Nedac interrupts.
“Well that’s just wonderful!” he hisses, voice hard and cruel. Nerits flinches, avoiding Nedac’s sneering gaze.
“Shut up, Nedac!” I snap, indignant on Nerits’ behalf. Nedac rears back, enraged, ready with a retort but I speak first.
“Keep your foul comments to yourself until we are out of here and safe.” I hiss back, glaring hard. My tone of voice must scare Emmalis because she whimpers quietly in my arms. I rub her back comfortingly and place a tender kiss on the top of her head.
“And pray tell, Miss Fallen, how do you propose we get out safely?” Nedac sneers. “Your esteemed spellcaster has seen fit to forget our weapons!”
My stomach sinks as I realize that Nedac is right. Nerits forgot our weapons. My hands clench, aching to hold my sword.
Suddenly I’m all too aware of the missing weight of my sword around my hips and my bow and quiver over my shoulders. Realizing where I am and how badly I need them when I don’t have them makes me feel naked. Utterly laid bare.
Nerits looks stricken. His eyes are wide and his face pale. He turns to me, grim resignation painting a sad mask over his face.
“Miss Sara,” he says. “Please forgive me. I was careless and didn’t think my plan through.”
Nedac snorts derisively and I give him a glare. He sneers back at me but doesn’t deign to comment further.
“We’ll just have to run.” I say. “There’s no other option.” Nedac and Nerits both turn to face me, giving me their full attention.
“Nerits, are you strong enough to cast a small shielding spell around us?” I ask.
“It’ll be a struggle, but I can do it.” He says, voice firm with determination, giving me a decisive nod.
“And Nedac,” I say, turning to face him. “You are to disarm the first guard you see and take his weapon. We are to make our way to the front gate and-”
“No,” Nedac interrupts. “The back gate. Ayers, if he’s waiting for us anywhere, will be waiting at the willow tree.”
I know of the willow tree. Ayers and Caden spoke of it often. It was their special place. A place away from the demands of their lives.