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Crewel

Page 96

   


‘Tsk, tsk, Maela. Who’s afraid of the bad little girl?’ I gloat, making no effort to hide the mocking in my voice. One way or another, the charade between us ends tonight. Might as well get in a few good jabs while I can.
‘I’m going to need you to loosen up on him a bit,’ I order the guard holding Jost, stretching my hands as if to reach out and destroy more of the frail tapestry of the room.
He glares at me for a moment, and I meet his intent gaze, unblinking, until he drops his arms. It’s a surer sign of defeat than anyone else in the room has shown. I edge closer to Jost, but I don’t reach out for him.
Loricel is still thinking, and I know why. She also has the power to close the rift. This raises the question of why she hasn’t yet, and I have to assume she still hasn’t chosen a side.
‘What do they have left to hold over you?’ I ask her softly. ‘They’re going to kill you. Worse – they’re going to exploit your gift.’
She smirks in a mirthless, bitter way, curling her withering lower lip into a scowl. ‘They have nothing on me.’
‘I know,’ I say. ‘But do you?’
Her hard eyes flash with fire, for a moment losing their coldness. ‘You’ve put us in an impossible situation.’
‘Not impossible,’ I say lightly. ‘Just challenging. Nothing is impossible for a Creweler.’
‘Except reality,’ she reminds me.
‘Except reality,’ I echo. I’m not sure what she means, but I know it’s important.
And then it hits me. Reality is impossible for us to control because we work within Arras. Our talent lies in stretching and shifting. Outside of Arras, we’re nothing. We only create illusion, and the sparkling, open void revealed before us is only another piece of that illusion. Beneath it lies something else, a reality only I can discover. A place where Cormac wouldn’t dare follow me. Earth.
But I can’t leave Jost. Or Loricel. Or my sister. Because the truth is that while I’m sure I can find my way out, I don’t know if I can find my way back. All eyes are on me, waiting for a response.
‘Enough of this,’ Cormac demands. ‘I’ve had enough of this drama. Adelice, like it or not, you’re responsible for every life in Arras. Stop acting like a spoiled child and fix this.’ He’s remarkably calm, but he stays firmly planted to his spot, a good distance away from the hole.
‘That’s just it,’ I say to him. ‘You treat us like children. But I know the truth.’
‘We don’t need her any more, Cormac,’ Maela calls out. ‘We’ll have Loricel’s skills transplanted, and there are those of us who’d make much better wives.’
‘Like you?’ he asks scornfully.
She falls back at the harsh rebuke. Personally, I don’t think even Maela deserves to put up with this much cruelty, but it’s just what I need to get her where I want her.
‘Maela,’ I say slowly, baiting the trap, ‘do you know how to do anything other than mutilate a piece of time?’
She glares at me, still standing firmly against the wall. Erik bristles next to her but stays silent. I need her to move if I’m going to kill two birds with one stone. Or at least knock them out.
‘Remember that night in the courtyard when you caught me with Erik?’ I taunt, but she stays still.
She stiffens at the recollection. I’m counting on her extreme mood swings to work in my favour for once.
‘Oh c’mon. You can dish it out but you can’t take it? You know, I never even gave him a moment’s thought before that. He sought me out.’ I can see Erik’s bright eyes travelling from Maela’s face to mine. I try to keep my gaze directed at her now, because I know this revelation will be painful for Jost. But not as painful as the one I’ve just had. I know why Erik is caught in the middle of this fight, and it’s not because of me. The truth was always tugging at my mind, and I refused to see, but now it’s so obvious I can’t believe they don’t all see it. The eyes should have been enough, but there were other clues. Both from a fishing village. The pained looks that crossed their faces when they saw each other. How they seem to hate each other.
‘Well, I’m glad Erik kissed me,’ I say, planting my feet a bit firmer in my spot. ‘It gave me something to compare to Jost’s kiss.’
I risk a glance at Jost and Erik. Jost’s puzzlement gives way to a look of betrayal, but Erik is watching me, trying to work out what I’m saying.
‘I never realised until now how similar your eyes are,’ I tell them, and Erik’s gaze widens a bit as he finally understands. ‘But it’s that and the way you kiss that tells me you’re brothers.’
It hits the room like a bomb, ripping through the minds of everyone listening. Someday I’ll tell Jost I had to do this to bait Maela and apologise, but there’s no time now. Maela doesn’t try to act calm. She flies at Erik for hiding the information. Considering her size, it might not have done much. Except I’ve left a gaping hole open in the middle of the room, and they tumble towards it. The stunned guard doesn’t move, and I dare one brief look at Loricel. Her face says it all: she won’t interfere.
Snapping to, I lunge toward Jost and grab his arm as Maela sends Erik over the edge of the tear. There’s no sound as he falls, although I can see his mouth open. She teeters on the edge but doesn’t fall. I’ve lost too many moments already, and each second counts. Thankfully, Jost is too weakened from the beating he took to protest as I throw us into the hole at our feet. I have enough time to see Loricel break away and move forward to begin the repair. She’s fast, and I know she’ll get it done before they can stop her, but she’ll pay dearly. In the end, she gave me my choice.