“You won’t get away with this, Kazi,” Jase said as we walked. “How long can you keep a knife pressed to my neck? The minute you drop your hand, they’ll kill you.”
“Eleven years, Jase. I can keep it here for eleven years if I have to.”
“We can still work something out.”
“Shut up. Save your stories for Zane.”
As we passed an outbuilding, I ordered Synové to shoot a fire arrow through the window. It hit the rear wall and lit up the interior. Stacks of papers were scattered on a worktable.
The captain strained against Wren’s grip, groaning and trying to work his gag free.
“What are you doing?” Gunner yelled.
“Kazi, don’t!” Jase pleaded. “We have too much invested—”
“Do it,” I ordered.
Synové shot another fire arrow, this one shattering a kerosene lamp on the table, and the room ignited in flames. I heard the groans, the cursing, damning us all to hell, and saw the furor in the captain’s eyes. I felt the rage rolling off Jase.
“Open the gates,” I said to Drake and Tiago.
They looked to Jase for confirmation. He nodded.
The hay wagon and horses were still there, not yet returned to the stables. They didn’t expect us to get this far.
Natiya and Eben were methodical, chaining each man to the rail inside the wagon. More orders were being shouted, this time from Mason. He was calling for horses from the stables. They intended to follow us.
There wasn’t room in the back of the wagon for both Jase and me, and I needed to stay with him. My knife at his neck was all that was keeping us alive. I ordered him up on the front seat. “Drive, Patrei. We’re going to see the queen.”
The horizon turned from black to misty blue. The stars of Hetisha’s Chariot retreated. The sun was coming up. “The horses need to rest,” I said.
“I’ll tell you when the horses need to rest.”
“All right then, I need to rest.” And I did. I ached—my shoulders, my back, my head, my eyes. I wasn’t sure how much longer I could keep them open and focused.
“Tell your family to go home, and then we can all rest.”
We had stopped for an hour during the night to water the horses, but there had been no rest for us. My family, straza, and guards circled around, torches blazing, waiting for Kazi to let up, make a mistake, succumb to fatigue or their taunts.
Not even when Sarva and the others started in. Once their gags were removed so they could drink, they were relentless. I knew what they were doing, trying to provoke her, trying to get her to lose her concentration and turn toward them so I could disarm her. But they went too far.
“Bet that Zane had a real fine time with your mother,” Bahr sneered.
Then Sarva began to describe the things he would have done to her. “Shut up, Sarva!” I yelled. He said things I wouldn’t say to save my life. I felt Kazi’s arm quiver against my back, but the blade stayed steady over my shoulder, her eyes frozen on the dark trail ahead.
I thought she’d waver or collapse by now—at least doze off as the wagon rumbled through the darkness and tedious miles. She wouldn’t tell me where we were going. Her crew, who rode nearby, wouldn’t tell me either. Right now, we were headed south, but I figured we were going to cut east soon.
“Are we going all the way to Venda?”
“None of your concern.”
She had barely uttered a word to me, and the ones she had were hostile. I knew she must be exhausted too. She slumped beside me, but her knife was still in slashing range of my throat. I blinked, trying to shake off the fatigue. I heard snores from behind us. At least someone was getting sleep.