Part VIII – Account by Penny Kearney
The bleeding from the cut on my hand stopped. I sat in the corner of the cell, safe, for now, amongst the shadows. It was actually a relief to be left here alone, considering. I was exhausted. Here I could rest and not worry that anyone would prod me, either physically or mentally.
The memory of Set’s distant gaze peering through me, and the sensation that accompanied it, made me shudder. Or maybe that was just the cold. None of the warmth from above ground reached the dungeon.
And here, I could be afraid without the wrong people finding out. Even with my usually hopeful outlook, I could not deny that this situation had the likelihood of becoming very dire. What happened next would determine lives. Making the wrong move just wasn’t an option.
I leaned my head back and stared at the ceiling. Closing my eyes meant seeing Rex’s dead face again. I couldn’t do that, so I forced them to remain open.
How many of Percy and Seph’s troops died after we left? Had Ross allowed the wounded to be treated?
I clenched my uninjured fist. A mouse squealed outside my cell, and scurried away. I watched it go, but another shadow caught my attention. Surprise streaked down my spine.
Set stood in the shadows, staring into my cell at me. I’d been listening for his approach, but hadn’t heard a single sound. Yet there he stood.
Set stepped more into the dim light that filtered in from some cell window down the hall. Curiosity glinted behind his eyes. “You are so strange, Lady Kearney. A balance of warrior and peacemaker, leader and follower, mentor and friend to many.”
Remaining in my place at the back of the cell, I let the darkness hide my frown from him. I wasn’t sure if he’d come to gloat, or do what Ross had told him to and activate my ‘gift’. As much as he seemed to be working for Ross, I couldn’t quite believe that he was doing it for Ross.
“Should I bother asking why you seem to know me so well?”
The corner of his mouth twitched, like one with an impish secret. “And what if I do?”
“I don’t see how you could. I generally associate with folk far more congenial than yourself.”
“Congenial…..” He seemed to ponder the word, then shrugged. “I have my ways. You wouldn’t understand them.” He stepped forward once more, standing not three inches from the bars. His gaze shifted from curious, to intent. “But you could.”
I narrowed my eyes at him.
“Why don’t you believe in the gifts, Kearney?” He asked. “Your ‘friend’ seemed rather set on their existence.”
So that’s what he’d come for. I glanced towards him, letting my gaze linger. Hearing him speak of Dana with such disdain needled the embers inside me that had just begun to go down. Guarding my hand, I rose, and walked to stand just out of his reach by the bars.
“I believe Dana has something special.” I matched my tone to the quiet atmosphere. “But he insists on saying that all of us do. I don’t.”
“And what makes you so sure of that? Why should you be any different?”
I shrugged. “Why should I be the same?”
“Ah, but there you are wrong.” The unnerving smile returned. “One can be the same, and yet different. You are human. I am human. And yet we are worlds apart in difference.”
My gaze sharpened. “You are not human.”
Though I’d thought those words several times, saying them out loud confirmed this reality.
Set’s laughter filled the hall, a desecration of the cold, somber quietude. “Ah, there you are quite right. But you get my point; you have a gift, you simply deny it.” His expression suddenly sharpened again. “Why is that?”
I blanked. What was I meant to tell him? That I had more important things to do? That even if I could, I wouldn’t take a power, that I had enough things to figure out, to worry about, without adding some abnormal ability on top of it?
That I wasn’t sure I could be trusted with one?
“I don’t want it.”
“Is that so…” He narrowed his eyes. “What if this gift could have saved your precious soldiers?”
My throat tightened. I forced myself to continue holding his gaze.
“What if this gift would have been the one thing that could have won the battle against Ross. And you must admit, it came within a hair’s edge! But…you lost.” He snapped his fingers. “Just like that. Just because you….didn’t want it. How selfish. All those dead….”
“I know what you want!” I snapped, smothering my conscience. “They’re dead, for whatever reason. Whatever gift may or may not have saved them can’t save them now, and I’m not going to give it to you.”
Set shook his head, chuckling, eyes twinkling. “You honestly think I want to use your precious power, don’t you?”
I frowned. No, but you’re definitely up to something.
“No. I do not. Leave that to Ross, whatever his plans are.” He waved his hand in a gesture dangerously close to scorn. The twinkle died, replaced with a glint of pure, sadistic anticipation. “What I want….is to see your friend, Dana, suffer. I want to see him fail, despair, loath life and his actions that backfire upon him! And I’m doing that quite well, thanks to you.”
In spite of wishing I could bash his face against the stone wall, I searched his expression. “Why? What has he done to you?”
“Nothing!” He grinned. “Nothing at all. Isn’t it splendid? That’s not to say he doesn’t deserve it, eh? But that aside, the fact that he doesn’t makes it all the more sweet.”
This man was insane. I’d been right. He really wasn’t human. At least, not anymore. The desire to hit him returned.
“Go on.” He said. “Become angry once more, it will serve no purpose but to tire you even more. The only thing that will help you…” His tone dropped. “Is to find your gift. Why do you thnk Campbell and Ross feared you all, tried to destroy you all? It certainly wasn’t because of your skills, I can tell you that. No…. the guardian knights are gifted. Even Ross knows that, and yet you refuse to. How interesting.”
The recklessness that comes with the warmth of anger rose inside me, and I moved closer to the bars, giving Set a taunting look. “I’m stuck here. Whether I find my ‘gift’ or not, I’m still stuck here. So what makes you think that I am going to just hand over the one thing you’re asking me to give, just like that? Why shouldn’t I frustrate you as long as possible, since it doesn’t make any difference to my outcome anyways?”
“Because…” Set grasped one of the bars with his hand, holding my gaze. “He is coming.”
I narrowed my eyes. He?
“Your end will not be at Ross’s sword.” Set said. “My twin is stronger than those fools think, and I did not kill all your forces. Even they know that. You must be ready to fight, for you will. And if you do not have an edge…. Who knows what will happen this time, hm?”
My thoughts raced again. Set had a maddening way of seeming to know everything and telling everyone nothing. Until, that is, he saw fit. None of this made sense. Not only the appalling idea that Set had a twin, who for all I knew could be worse than he was, but also how this affected me in any way. What did my forces have to do with any of that? Was his twin opposed to Ross in some way? And if so, what gave him the idea that I would help? Unless his twin also had wicked designs on myself and the other members of The Order.
“Am I?” His stare was unblinking. “That, I cannot do.”
For some reason I believed this. Maybe because amidst so may evil traits, it seemed ironically fitting that he would have one good one that he could twist to his will.
“Why should I fight this…..twin? Why shouldn’t I just let him destroy you all?”
Set shook his head, like I was missing the point. “Who could possibly be my twin, Kearney? It should be obvious. How else would I know he’s coming?”
How was I supposed to kno—
My thoughts halted. “You don’t mean—“
He nodded, his smile growing once more. “He will always find a way. Even I cannot alter that.”
Of course…. Why had I not thought of this?
No, I knew why. Because as much as Set looked, and even sounded, like Dana, he was just too evil for me to associate them with each other in any way beyond aesthetics. When Set had said ‘twin’, I’d thought he’d meant someone like him. Not his complete opposite. And perhaps I didn’t think of it because I wanted to believe that Set was nothing more than a look alike. A coincidence. I didn’t want to believe that he and Dana had anything in common besides appearance.
But now I understood what Set meant. Dana was coming for me, and if we were to be successful in escaping – maybe even completing our original rescue mission – we would need an advantage.
“What do you want from me, Set?” I said, gaze leveled on him. “You’re working for Ross. You should not be trying to convince me to use my ‘gift’ against him.”
Set chuckled. “Good, you’re using your head. Now, whoever said I was working for Ross? I like to call it a ‘convenient acquaintance’. Temporary, of course.”
I’d suspected something like this. “Then what do you want?”
“That I’ve already told you. You have a poor memory.”
“That cannot be it. If it is, then my ‘gift’ has nothing to do with it anyways.”
“Then what, oh wise one, could it possibly be? I cannot lie.”
Ugh, he was maddening. “Even if I have a gift, it’s of no use to you, so why bother.” I abandoned my position to return to the shadowed corner. I was done. I wanted him to go away so I could think.
“Because if you die, your friends die with you.” Set said, tone ominous. “And if Dana dies, so do I.”
I paused, frowning at the grimy stone wall.
“You see, I am rather….” He searched for the right word. “Invested, in his survival.”
“Do you mean to say that the only way to kill you is to kill Dana….?” I turned my head to watch his form out of the corner of my eye.
He beamed. “Good girl, using your head!”
“Oh, shut up!” I snapped. “You’re so childish.”
“Now who’s being childish, the one who refuses what’s staring her in the face, or the one who is nothing but honest in speech, hm?”
I made no reply, turning my gaze on the back wall once again. My hand throbbed.
Set’s footstep scuffled against the ground. “As you wish, then. I’ll leave you to your pondersings, but remember: you do not have forever.”
“No….” He paused. “No, you have even less time than I thought.”
A tingle ran down my spine, and I glanced back at him. His smile was gone, and his gaze distant, as if seeing something else. “He comes to kill me. Good…”
My stomach twisted. “It works both ways, doesn’t it?”
Set glanced me a smile. “Rather ironic, isn’t it?"
Dana, you fool!
Without another word, Set left, his footsteps fading almost the instant he vanished from sight into the darkness.
My entire body trembled. I lowered to my knees. Thoughts spun in my head so fast they almost made me dizzy. If I couldn’t figure out what to do, Dana was going to walk right into a trap.