As Lusa walked the long corridor of the seventh floor she couldn’t help but wonder what the palace looked like bathed in sunlight. Sweet, warm, comforting sunlight. The outside wall was lined with window after window, each hidden beneath a thick burgandy curtain. This was the fifth floor she’d explored—out of twelve—not including the foyer or dungeon. Each floor had a different theme.
Lanterns were mounted between the windows, not doing the sunlight any justice with their meek glow. For every three windows there was a door on the parallel wall. Beautiful forest scenery was carved into it. Intricate detailing that had to have taken weeks if not months. Lost in studying the carving of the thick magnolia tree scaling up one door, she’d almost forgotten her two bodyguards. When she stopped, they stopped. It was more than aggitating. She knew they meant well, but the principle of privacy in this place was lost.
Glon had been uncomfortably quiet since the night of the festival—the night of her near death experience. Pres had probably been his friend, and now her existance had sent him to the cells for treason. Treason, because it was the Empress’ order that Lusa remain alive, and Pres was willing to forfiet that order by allowing another mercenary to claim Atraun’s bounty.
Atraun . . . she needed to find out who this person was. She hadn’t a clue as to how she’d fit that into her schedule of finding the Eye of Plymus, killing a sorcerer and saving the world, add to that keeping herself alive, and the next month was full.
Regardless, she hated the silence between her and Glon, her favorite guard. She needed to fix this. “I returned Nata’s gown without her knowing, thanks to the help of Pretty La—“ Hm, she’d never learned the name of the servant girl who’d helped her get ready that night. “Well, one of the girls you had help me. And I never thanked you.”
“Don’t mention it.” There he was, hiding behind his sulking face. Though his tone didn’t carry hardly enough charisma as it usually did, it was a relief that he talked to her.
The hallway forked and Lusa randomly chose the right. She’d become tired of being couped up in her room, tired of reading, tired of hiding from sleep. A walk seemed like a good idea at the moment. Lusa sighed. “I’m sorry about Pres.”
His lack of immediate response unsettled her. But then he spoke up, “Wasn’t your fault.”
This was pointless. He gave her no hope in redeeming whatever friendship they had started, if friendship was even possible under these circumstances. Was she so desperate to not be alone she was willing to befriend a man that would kill her if she tried to escape? Lusa almost laughed out loud, a glorious image of Kaden flashing before her eyes in his festival attire. She was hopeless.
Lusa watched each lantern she passed flicker in her motion until one window stood out among the others. In fact, it was bulky the more she studied it. She was one window away when it dawned on her . . .
Lusa jerked to a stop. Glon picked up on her anxiety and unsheathed his sword. The other guard—she hadn’t gotten his name yet—repeated the action. Her insides clenched at the idea of reliving another bathhouse incident.
The curtain burst open. A barbarian of a man clad in leather armor swung his battle-ax and charged her. Lusa yelped. Glon knocked her to the side and spun into the man. The barbarians ax swung over the smaller man—which was something to say seeing as Glon was massive himself. He’d been aimed at her. Redirecting his weapon to Glon pulled him off balance. Lusa scurried to her feet, panicked and at a loss for words about the palace and its poor ability to keep the bad guys out. Maybe there was someone working against her down there, too.