Everyone enters the cabin looking a bit leery. I can’t blame them after our last session. Daniel almost didn’t make it out alive. Davira did have a hidden dagger, as I suspected, and tried to use it on him as we were leaving. Luckily, Jace noticed, and he and Kaden stopped her. She is now safely back in Ilyon and doesn’t remember a thing about this.
“All right, everyone, I can’t promise a more pleasant day of questions, but at least no one will be in danger of meeting an untimely end from a certain crazed princess. We do, however, have two new guest joining us.” I step to the door once more and open it.
First Mick steps in.
After him comes Lady Anne, and Trask grins, quickly moving over to make a spot for her on the couch beside him.
I take my seat. “Since you’ve just joined us, Anne, I’ll start with you. Erika wants to know how you cope with the stress and strain of Trask being in danger so much.”
Trask rests his arm on the back of the couch behind her and watches her with a smile. She offers him a quick smile in return before focusing on me. “It certainly takes a lot of prayer. It’s not easy. Thankfully, I have very supportive parents. I draw a lot of strength from them.”
I glance at my cards and bite my lip to hold back a giggle. “Ghost has a question for Trask. When is the wedding?”
Trask breaks out into a grin and looks at Anne, who is shaking her head. “I’d like to know that too. When is our wedding?”
Anne looks to be trying not to smile. “As soon as I accept your one of your proposals.”
Trask toys with her hair. “And when will that be?”
“When it’s the right time.”
He sighs, but still looks at her adoringly.
I grin. “You two are so cute. Trask, Alea wants to know just how many times you’ve asked Anne to marry you.”
Trask leans his head back as if calculating. “I don’t know . . . dozens . . . a hundred times . . .”
Anne shakes her head again. “I’m sure it’s not a hundred.”
“Well, enough times I’ve lost count.”
“Speaking of weddings . . .” I set my eyes on Jace.
He sighs. “Here we go.”
“Micailah asks, ‘if you and Kyrin were to have a wedding sometime in the future, who would be your best man?’ And I imagine she was quite gleeful when she asked it.”
Kyrin tries to hide a smile, and Jace shifts awkwardly. “Do we really have to talk about this?”
“I’m afraid so, and it’s not the only question along these lines, so you should probably just answer and get it over with.”
He sighs again. “Fine. Kaden.”
Kaden grins. “I’m up for that.”
“Now I’ve got a question from Shantellle. She just has to ask, do you realize you're in love with Kyrin? She also says you must give up this idea of not getting married.”
Jace groans quietly. “Just how much of my life is laid bare before all these girls?”
“Well . . .” I pause, feeling a tad guilty, “. . . all of it?”
He groans again and is quiet for a moment before giving me a pointed look. “Do you really want me to answer this question? Isn’t one you usually consider . . . spoilerish?”
“That’s true . . .” I give it consideration. “I suppose you could skip it. Sorry Shantelle.”
Jace sighs in relief.
“Don’t get too comfortable,” I warn him. “I’m afraid we aren’t done. But, for the record, Shantelle wants you to know you’re an amazing young man and actually remind her a lot of her brother.” I give him an encouraging smile.
He smiles slightly as well. “Tell her thank you.”
“So Kyrin.” I glance at her, and she looks prepared for an uncomfortable question, which is good. “Stargazer asks, ‘How do you feel about your future husband owning a wolf?’”
She gives a short laugh, though Jace looks even more uncomfortable than she does. “They’re really curious about our personal lives, aren’t they? Well, I do love Tyra. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with anyone owning a wolf, black or not.”
“All right, Jace, this is probably the most . . . discomforting question I have for you . . .”
I let him have a moment to prepare himself and he takes a deep breath. “Ready?”
“Morgan’s sister asks . . . ‘Do you want to be a father someday and, if so, how many kids do you want?’”
Jace turns deep red and glances at the door. “Do I have to answer that?”
I’m torn. I hate doing this to him. “Well, could you sort of answer? It doesn’t have to be a direct answer if you don’t want to. I won’t force you.”
“Oh, but you would force the rest of us?” Kaden asks in a teasing tone.
I shake my head at him. “Shush.” I then focus back on Jace.
He’s uncomfortably quiet for a long moment before answering. “It depends on the situation.”
I nod. “Good enough. It’ll have to satisfy everyone . . . for now anyway. Okay, back to you, Kyrin, with some questions from Shantelle. Since you're so close to Jace, and you've impacted his life in such a deep way, how do you keep from not just loving him as a brother but falling for him? Or are you actually in love with him deep down (can't imagine yourself loving another guy that way), but just don't think he'd ever approach you with marriage in mind?”
A little pink dusts Kyrin’s cheeks. “I think I’ll let my actions speak for themselves.”
“It probably doesn’t take too much to read between the lines anyway. Okay, one more question on this topic. Alea asks Jace, ‘how do you feel about these fangirls, including her, shipping you and Kyrin?’”
“Honestly?” Jace shakes his head. “It’s discomforting.”
I can’t help but smile. “Maybe, but you two are rather cute together. You can’t blame them. All right, I’ll leave you couples alone now.”
There are varying degrees of relief between Jace, Kyrin, Trask, and Anne.
“You do realize you just called Jace and Kyrin a couple?” Kaden asks me.
“ . . . Yeah . . . that’s how everyone sees them. I think if that wasn’t the end game, I might have to fear for my life. Some of these fangirls actually have my address.” I toss the last few questions into the fireplace since I know how much Jace hates them. “I think it’s time to turn our attention to someone else.”
Jace finally looks more comfortable, though the others are obviously waiting to see who will be interrogated next.
“Mick, I have a few questions for you, obviously, since you’re here. Micailah wants to know how you came to know Elôm.”
“Well, I grew up in the Graylin Valley. My father was a mine owner. I started hearing about these letters going around that were forbidden. I was curious and ended up getting my hands on a couple. Turns out they were letters teaching about Elôm. I got a few more of them and, shortly after, I placed my faith in Elôm.”
I nod slowly. “Very interesting. I know those who have already had a chance to read The King’s Scrolls will love that bit of information. So, you do have a family?”
“Yes. My parents and a couple of sisters. They’re all still living in the Graylin Valley, as far as I know. When they I tried to talk to them about Elôm, they turned me in. I know it was hard for them, but they were afraid. I guess they thought it was best. I miss them though. I hope to see them again, someday.”
“I hope you do too.” I shifted my eyes to the other couch. “Kaden, here’s a question for you. If you hadn't ended up at Tarvin Hall, what would you have wanted to do with your life?”
“Well, if I hadn’t been taken to Tarvin Hall, I would have been a soldier. My grandfather would have seen to that. As for what I would have wanted to do . . . live in the woods, which I guess is what I do now. But I think I would have liked to be working on my own place and preparing for a family. I’m not sure what I’d want as far as a job. Farming, maybe. It’s not all that exciting, but at least you don’t have to answer to anyone.”
I chuckle. “And not wanting to have to answer to anyone is totally you. Kyrin, Sarah asks the same question of you. What would you have wanted to do with your life?”
“I think pretty much the same as Kaden. It’s what we always talked about growing up. I like things simple.”
“I know everyone is curious about your ability to remember everything. What is the hardest and best parts about it?”
“The hardest part is definitely not being able to forget the difficult times I go through. For everyone else, the memories and emotions can usually fade over time. For me they remain perfectly clear. That’s really hard sometimes.” She winces. “But the best part is being able to remember the good times so clearly. I never have to worry about losing any precious memories. They’re always right there to relive in my mind.”
“I’m sure it is very difficult at times, but I think it would be a cool ability to have. I’m way too forgetful sometimes.” I turn to Kaden. “Back on the subject of Tarvin Hall, what do you think about Meredith still being there and do you think she’ll ever join you in the resistance?”
“I don’t like knowing she’s there, especially without someone like me or Kyrin to look after her. It’s definitely not a friendly place when you’re young and don’t have anyone. As for her joining us, well, I’m sure that another thing our author doesn’t want us saying too much about.”
I smile. “You’re very right, Kaden.” I look at Jace to see if he’s recovered from the earlier questioning. He catches my eyes and looks resigned. “Jace, Morgan is curious, what did you think of Kyrin when you first met her, and especially when she started to show you attention?”
“I was surprised. I really didn’t know what to think of her. It’s rare for someone not to suspect the worst of me.”
I can’t help smiling. “Was it love at first sight when you met her?”
Jace doesn’t really react this time. Apparently, he’s getting used to such questions. I can’t tell which ones he hates more, questions about his past or questions about his relationship with Kyrin.
He shakes his head. “No, it was not love at first sight. Actually . . .” He glances at Kyrin. “I thought she was kind of crazy for wanting to have anything to do with me.”
Kyrin grins. “I think I thought I was kind of crazy myself. I was way out of my comfort zone.”
I flip to the next card and pause. Poor Jace. “Jace, Sierra wants to know, how old were you when you became a gladiator? And do you have any memories from before that?”
“I started training to be a gladiator when I was fifteen and had my first fight when I was sixteen.” He grimaces. “And I do have memories before that . . . just not good ones.”
“So do you have any favorite childhood memory?”
He slowly shakes his head. “No . . . not really.”
I look sadly at him. “You’re making me want to give you a hug.”
He looks discomforted by this.
“But don’t worry, I won’t. Next questions. Did you ever become friends with any of the other gladiators? Did you ever have to fight anyone you knew in the arena?”
“No, I never became friends with any of them. I was just the half-blood. While they eventually came to tolerate me, there was never any friendship involved. And no, I didn’t fight anyone I knew. They were all strangers who belonged to different masters.”
“Hannah has a couple questions . . .”
He looks suspicious.
“She’s not being a nosy news reported this time. She’s actually quite serious, and I’m sure she feels awful for what you’ve been through. You've led a very hard life, Jace. She knows, even before the arena, you were terribly abused. Was there ever anyone who tried to help you or showed sympathy? What kept you going through these dark times?”
His jaw clenches and he stares toward the floor as if reliving the past. Finally, he looks up at me again, his eyes deep blue with past pain. “There never was anyone. Each new master I had seemed worse than the last, and any fellow slaves I might have been friends with wanted nothing to do with me because of my ryrik blood. I tried to make friends at first, but I gave up after a while. It just wasn’t worth the constant rejections.” He shakes his head. “As much as I hate it, I think it was my ryrik blood that kept me going, at least for a while. It kept my anger and defiance hot enough to keep fighting. But, eventually, it wasn’t enough. I wouldn’t have been able to go on if Rayad had not come along.”
Kyrin squeezes his hand in sympathy, her face sad.
“All right, Jace, I won’t keep pressing you. I have just one more question before we finish up for today. Sarah asks, ‘If you could pick one day to relive, what day would you choose?’”
He clears his throat. “That would be the day I first killed someone. I wish I could go back and change what happened. Everything changed after that. Things got much worse. And I wish I didn’t have that guilt weighing on me so often.”
“Thank you for answering these questions, Jace. I’m happy to say that was probably the last of the really hard questions for you. Our last session tomorrow should be much more pleasant, for everyone.”