An idea leaped into my head, but Nyx recoiled from it.
“Was what Nyx said yesterday nothing too??” I asked through clenched teeth. “Hmm? Did my sister’s pain make a dent in your greedy mania, or are you that far gone, Elmiryn?”
Elmiryn’s eyes fluttered. “What Nyx… What Nyx said yesterday?” Her expression gradually smoothed to blank confusion. “What did— What did she say?”
“What Izma took away. What she did. You honestly don’t remember?” I pressed.
Elmiryn’s brow creased slightly as her eyes started to tick rapidly side to side. “Izma… hurt Nyx?”
Her grip on Lethia weakened.
I let out a sharp kai, signaling my intent to the others, then together, the three of us pulled in unison. The enchantress was wrenched out of Elmiryn’s slack hands with ease.
We crashed in a heap on the floor, each of us panting. I sat up quickly and was glad to see that—though the salt had been harrowingly moved, the line of the circle was still complete. The containment spell held.
Elmiryn hadn’t moved, her hands still up like she still had Lethia’s legs. “What did Izma do…?” she mumbled. “What did she—”
Slowly…very slowly. Her eyes grew large. Her features slackened.
“No…” Elmiryn whispered. More tears slipped from her shocked sickly eyes. “No… no! She stole my face! She stole my face and—”
The stone retreated from Elmiryn’s feet, melting back to the floor as though it were water rolling off of glass. The woman gripped her head and fell to her knees.
I stood up carefully and went back to the line, my boots nearly touching the salt. I stared down at Elmiryn as she pressed her forehead to the floor and wept silently. She punched the floor hard once. Twice.
Within, I could feel Nyx’s fury with me. She paced inside, sending aching waves along my skull. I sighed. I’d have to hash it out with her. For now, however…
Without turning around, I said, “Paulo, go get some rest. Quincy, check to make sure Lethia’s wounded arm is all right.”
I sat cross-legged next to the circle, my eyes turned away from Elmiryn’s sorrow to the floor. “I’m taking the next watch.”
Quincy didn’t want to linger. The shame and queasiness demanded a hasty retreat.
She and Paulo helped Lethia up the stairs where they found Hakeem waiting with a bucket of water and two scraps of cloth.
He looked at her eagerly. “Should I take this down, or–?”
“No,” Quincy said quickly. “No, just… leave those. Kali will fetch them later.”
Paulo gestured for the man to take his place supporting Lethia on one side. “Can you help Quincy? I’ve got to sleep.” He sounded weary beyond words. Heavy dark bags hung under his eyes.
Hakeem nodded, and when Paulo slipped out from under one of Lethia’s arms, he slid in quickly and held the girl by the waist.
“I trust you’ll tell me what happened?” Hakeem said to Quincy as Paulo lurched out the front door to find his usual sleeping spot.
She nodded mutely.
Quincy pulled Lethia and Hakeem toward the kitchen. There they sat Lethia down in one of the chairs.
The young girl was sickly pale and trembling, tendrils of her long wavy hair sticking to the sides of her sweaty face. Her eyes stared glassily forward.
“Lethia,” Quincy said as she pulled the pine box of bandages and salves they’d been using for the enchantress off a shelf. “Lethia, say something.”
“Something,” the girl mumbled.
“Good girl,” Quincy said, trying to feign strength. Trying to feign control.
But they didn’t really have a damn thing under control, did they? Not Elmiryn. Not themselves. And certainly not the dangers that sought them out.
Hakeem watched at the end of the table with arms crossed as Quincy sat next to Lethia on the right and placed the box down.
She gently took hold of Lethia’s amputated arm. “I just want to check your stitches.”
“Of course,” Lethia said quietly. She still didn’t look at Quincy. “Don’t want any setbacks on the road to recovery, do we?”
Quincy frowned at Lethia’s numb response. Being in shock was understandable, but the more Lethia spoke, the less the woman believed this was the case. There was something lurking in the girl’s words. Some muted emotion she couldn’t name.
Carefully, Quincy undid the bandages over Lethia’s stump. They’d been changing it regularly with a steady application of fresh salves, and so far the wound had been healing just fine. Daedalus had been confident that the stitches could be removed in just a few more weeks barring any setbacks.
Too bad they’d just had one.
Still, if the stitches held, then all Quincy would have to do was reapply the elf’s salve (comprised of secret ingredients he refused to divulge) and redress the wound. Otherwise, they’d need to have another painful round with the needle and thread again.
As the last of the bandage wrap came off, the pungent stench of the healing salve filled the room. Quincy’s nose wrinkled a little, but she leaned in and used the sunlight from the small kitchen window to inspect the integrity of the stitches.
She smiled. “Thank the gods. Everything appears all right.”