Back at my own palace, Matthias faces me with a grim look on his face. "Our spy says they're not even human. The spy barely escaped with his life."
I stand, looking at him in shock. Creatures that aren't human? What's going on? Matthias doesn't joke around; perhaps if it had been Lief to tell me... But no. Matthias would never jest about this kind of thing.
"Double the guard. I don't want a single one getting into the palace, understood? And organise patrols to keep watch. Our priority is to protect every person within the palace walls."
Matthias nods, and turns to leave. "Oh, and one more thing," he says. "They poisoned your sister with Deathshade. She's got four days left at most." Then he exits the room, leaving me with the words ringing around my head. Four days left at most. I should be happy. I should be laughing with joy; grinning with victory; jumping about the room with triumphance. And yes: I am happy. Without a leader, her army will be easier to defeat. But I'm also being torn apart by emotion, by a cloud of overflowing confusion and anger and... Sorrow? No - it can't be! I can't possibly be feeling sorrow at my sister's demise. I can't be: I despise her; loathe her, with all my heart and soul! She forced Lief to stay locked within a cell and her army has killed thousands of my men. But she didn't injure him; she gave him food and she never shoots to kill, a voice in my head whispers. Ignoring it, I follow Matthias to help with the preparation. I can't be pining over my sister, I tell myself again. That would be impossible.
There's a faint knocking at the door. At first, I fear for the worse, but realise quickly that Lief's voice would have been more urgent. No: this matter is something important, but not quite that desperate.
I swing myself out of bed and answer the door. He stands there, eyes glinting brightly and evidently healthier than when my sister released him. And that's when I realise: beside him, with chains binding his wrists together, is Owen. A snarl curls at the corner of my lips, my eyes narrowing with hatred. This is my sister's puppet: her precious little pet. But why is he here?
"I need your help, Elektra. Pandora, she's-"
"I already know," I snap. "But why come here?"
"She's your sister!" Owen pleads. Tears glint in the corners of his eyes. "And the poison is a foreign one. Lief studied poisons before we left our kingdom, and I thought-"
"You thought I could find some form of antidote?" This time, it's Lief's turn to interrupt. "You thought I'd help the one who constantly fights Elektra, who locked me up and was going to use me against my best friend? You must be desperate, Owen." I notice the spark within his eyes - like he somehow still clings to the hope they can be friends but is locking the hope behind bars because he knows it can never be. And so the hope is transformed into bitterness, because Lief doesn't know what else to make of it.
"And I am," he practically shouts. "You can take me prisoner, I don't care! You can kill me, or torture me; I don't care! Just... Please help her!"
"Why would I agree to that when I could already kill you?"
Owen pauses. "Then I'll tell you everything I know about the creatures attacking us. I'll give you a corpse to examine, and I won't flee if you decide to have me killed. I'm begging you!"
His offer is tempting. We need to know as much as we can about the new enemy, and besides, there's that spark of confliction within my mind, that I don't want my sister dead, that this is a useful idea.
"Very well," I say finally, and Lief stares at me in disbelief.
I shall save my sister. And then, she will owe me her life.