“What’s all this?” Ryker slouched to one side of the throne with a goblet in one hand. Bayvlad and Nakin stood at the front of the group and Rachael, Faiza, Ethan and I stood behind them with a soldier at each of our sides. The rest of the soldiers fanned out behind us.
If I weren’t scared for my life, I would have laughed at how ridiculous it looked to have all those soldiers for four unarmed, untrained people.
“Your Highness,” Bayvlad and Nakin said at the same time. They glared at each other. Nakin held the stone up for Ryker to see.
“I’m sorry for the mess, Your Majesty,” she said, referring to the blood dripping from her shredded hands. “But I didn’t think this should be kept from you.”
Ryker bolted upright and sloshed wine on the servant beside his throne as he thrust the goblet at him. All kingly protocol gone, he came from his throne. Nakin met him halfway. She bowed and held it out.
“The Hashna Stone,” he breathed. He slid it over his neck, not seeming to notice the blood smeared on it. He looked from Nakin to Bayvlad.
“How was it…How did you find my stone?”
Again, Nakin and Bayvlad started to speak at the same time, but this time it was Bayvlad who got Ryker’s attention.
“I was doing as you ordered, Your Highness,” he said in a smooth voice. “I was using the grimulin to take the stone.”
Ryker looked startled that Bayvlad would say that in front of soldiers who thought he was Radon and had always had the stone.
“From these thieves.” Bayvlad gestured to us behind him.
“Ah, you found the thieves who took my Hashna Stone,” Ryker said, quick to play along.
Bayvlad dipped his head in a show of modesty. “But as the stone was about to come into my hands, this girl comes in leading soldiers and takes it from the grimulin. She refused to give it to me.”
Ryker turned to Nakin. “Are you after what is the King’s?”
Nakin didn’t wilt under Ryker’s gaze. “If I were, I would have put it around my own neck and not bring it to you, Your Highness.”
“Then why not give it to my sorcerer?”
Nakin lowered her head in a sign of respect. “I wanted to make sure it made it to its owner.”
“You don’t trust him to do that?”
“He was in a room by himself with the,” she glanced at us, “thieves.”
“Your point?” Bayvlad said, bringing himself up.
“There were no guards, no soldiers, no one to help him,” she said. “It was suspicious.”
“I don’t need help from your pitiful kind.” Bayvlad gave a disgusted look at Nakin. “I have more strength in one hand than a hundred of those misfit recruits you train.”
“Enough of this squabble.” Ryker said as he turned and walked back the throne. “It doesn’t matter to me which of you is stronger or how many it took to bring me my stone, only that I have it. Now throw the thieves in the dungeon. Bayvlad, stay here a moment.”
The soldiers began to move us out of the room. I had no way of getting the Hashna Stone back now, but maybe I could get Ryker to doubt Bayvlad’s motives.
“My king!” I called. “I need to speak with you.” The soldier at my side backhanded me. Ryker only glanced at me before his gaze went back to Bayvlad.
“It’s about the stone. I’ve been to Hashna.” This time the soldier’s slap made blood leak from my nose, but it was worth it.
Ryker’s face flickered with interest. “Bring the prisoner here.”
Once I was standing a few feet from the throne, Ryker told the soldier to leave.
“But, Your H—“ one of the soldiers started to say.
“My guard will watch him.” With the flick of his hand, Ryker summoned the guard behind his throne to stand beside me.
I wiped the blood leaking from my nose, and quickly went over what I would say, hoping I wouldn’t only dig myself deeper.
“If you have something to say, you should say it,” Ryker told me. “I have more important matters than listening to a thief.”
I wanted to spit back that the only thieves in the room were Bayvlad and him, but I needed Ryker to listen to me.
“I didn’t steal the stone. I found it.”
Bayvlad snorted. “Your Highness, we don’t have time—“
“Quiet, Bayvlad.” Ryker said without looking at him. “This will go faster if you aren’t interrupting.”
I wanted to smile at the way Bayvlad snapped his cloak around him and tightened his lips. It was like an adult version of a child’s crossed arms and pouting lips.
“It was in a cave, some miles from here,” I told Ryker. “When I put it on, I started having dreams—I later found out they were messages—telling me to take it to Hashna. Once there, the dwarves told me…” I paused, hoping that after my next sentence, Ryker wouldn’t throw me out before I could get to my point.
“Go on.” Ryker’s eyes held mine. “What did they tell you?”
I took a breath. He was going to throw me in the dungeon anyway. “They suspected treachery.”
“And you believe them?” Ryker leaned back into his throne and raised an eyebrow.
“They said that an item of powerful magic like the Hashna Stone can move itself if it is in great danger.”
“And what great danger is it in?”
“Me?” Bayvlad schooled his features to look offended.
“The only thing that could put the stone in such danger are the grimulin,” I said, “And the only one who can conjure them is Bayvlad.”
“This is foolishness,” Bayvlad said. “Nothing but a desperate attempt to get out of being punished.”
I ignored Bayvlad and kept my eyes on Ryker. “Ask your brother.”
When I spoke the words Ryker’s face went rigid. “So, the dwarves were able to see the Hashna Stone.”
“And who was wearing it,” I said.
“But did they see who tried to take it?” Ryker asked.
Bayvlad’s eyelid twitched, but he kept the rest of his face calm. For all he knew, they did. I wished I had the satisfaction of telling Ryker that the dwarves had seen him.
“Your brother did,” I said. “Who else can conjure grimulin and would be able to get to the dungeon without being questioned?”
Ryker looked at Bayvlad thoughtfully.
“The king doesn’t trust the word of his brother, nor the world of a thief,” Bayvlad snarled. “Your Highness, surely you won’t let him insult your intelligence.”
Ryker held his hand up to Bayvlad to silence him and for a moment I thought he might believe me. Then he snapped his fingers.
“Take him to the dungeon.”
The guard beside me iron-gripped my arm, squeezing a cut the grimulin had given me. I sucked in a breath through my teeth.
“Bayvlad wants the stone for himself,” I called as I was dragged away. “He put those grimulin in the dungeon. He knew the stone was missing from Radon and didn’t tell you. Ask him. Ask Radon.”
I was dragged out of the throne room. I looked over my shoulder and before the huge doors shut, I saw Ryker calmly take his goblet from his servant and take a drink.
Countdown to the big decision: one more chapter.
Missed some chapters? No problem! They’re all at the Hashna Stone Page .