“Everything okay?” a voice said.
He looked up to see Varra leaning against the wall, staring at him. She seemed just as jaded as she had before, but the fierceness in her eyes still burned. A gentle flame at the moment, but it was there.
“Are you talking to me?” Maelys asked.
Her tone was serious. “No, I was asking the rat behind you.”
Maelys spun around in a sudden panic, backing up from the rat that… wasn’t there. He turned his attention back to Varra, who was laughing quietly. Her face lit up in a way he had never seen her. Not that he knew her that well, really.
She kept laughing, and Maelys couldn’t help but chuckle a bit, too. He was going to die tomorrow, lost in a city he was unfamiliar with, and yet…
“I didn’t realize how much I needed that,” Varra said, wiping a tear away.
“At least somebody’s enjoying their time trapped in a cell.”
Her face darkened a shade, and the mirth faded. The two sat in silence for a while, and Maelys avoided the woman’s gaze. He hadn’t meant that comment to be a jab. Had he offended her?
But then she broke the silence with a sigh. “I’m used to being locked in cells, I’m afraid.”
Maelys frowned. “I thought you were a princess or something?”
“Council member, if anything. It’s a lot less fun than the story books.”
“Being a ruler in the wealthiest city on the continent has to be worth something,” Maelys countered.
“Oh, I don’t envy commoners,” she amended. “But my life hasn’t been easy. Having your whole life laid out before you are born tends to have that effect. The story about the Spear Gate I told you and the others? Only the Hands and their seconds know it. I myself hadn’t heard that story until about a year ago. For whatever asinine reason they arrested me, it’s valid now. I committed treason by telling that story.”
“It’s not like it matters. Eathe is getting demoted soon, too, right? And I’ll be…”
“Not if I can help it.”
Maelys’ breath caught, and the two locked eyes for a moment. Maelys had thought that Varra only included him in the conversation was because he was valuable. Because he had information she needed. Well, and because of the jail cell, but still. Maelys had shown that he was useless, and then the guards told him he was about to be executed. It would be so much easier for her to let that happen… So…
“Why help me? I’ve only caused you trouble, it seems.”
Varra crossed her arms. “I brought you into this. Without me you would never have gotten into Upper Terrace.”
“I would have been killed by a constructor if you had left me in the Meadows. I almost died!”
“Somehow I doubt that,” she said.
“What are you talking about? Rozire and I had tried to sneak our way in! Even me and some magic wizard couldn’t do it without dying. You’re saying I would have been fine?”
She shook her head. “We didn’t nurse you back to health, Maelys. You got better all on your own. Incredibly fast, I might add. Xan had told me it would take at least a week for the Red Teeth to course through your system.” Her gaze was intense. “This isn’t an argument. Your life is my responsibility.”
Maelys shifted uncomfortably, looking away. “I wish I could at least be of more help.”
“Maybe you can be,” she said. Her voice was still gentile. Pacifying.
Maelys’ brow furrowed. “What do you mean?”
“What were you doing just now? Before we started talking?”
He thought about that for a moment. “Uh, meditating. Something Rozire taught me.”
“Can you show me how to do that?”