Axel touched her arm gently, and her eyes flickered open. She raised a questioning eyebrow, and Axel gestured for her to follow. Pausing, she nodded, standing to go with him.
He slipped into the shadows, waiting a moment for her presence to appear in the ocean of darkness. The moment she arrived beside him, Axel started gliding through the shadows, knowing that she would be following. That was one of her best qualities - she always would be following. And yet he'd simply insulted her, like the stupid fool he was.
They emerged in the glade, and Axel stood for a moment, looking at her with deep, nervous eyes.
"Skala, please listen to me. I'm sorry for the other night. I was worried. I was angry. I took it out on you because you were trying to help me, and I'm sorry. I never meant to-"
"Axel, you don't have to apologise." She smiled softly. "But thank you for doing so."
He returned her smile, bowing his head in thanks. "I was worried you'd hate me for it," he admitted, turning away slightly and looking to the river.
"Hate you?" Skala laughed. "No. I could never do that."
"I'm glad," Axel replied. "Shall we go and find some food for the others again?"
Skala nodded. "You like the soup at the Golden Flame, don't you?"
He grinned. "My thoughts exactly."
The first time they came back, they were carrying two bowls of soup each. The next time they emerged from the shadows, Axel was carrying two more bowls, and Skala a platter of bread.
"Did they see you?" Rubin checked again.
Axel raised an eyebrow. "We've been slipping food away from them for three days now, assassin. They haven't noticed us yet, and I don't think they ever will."
Rubin shrugged. "Fair enough," he said, swiping a chunk of bread from the platter as Skala laid it on the ground. The healer sat quietly in the corner, raising the spoon to her lips and eating quietly. Apparently, moving closer to her captors to take even one chunk of bread would be too risky, since she was continuously eyeing the platter without stepping forwards.
Lux stood weakly, picking up a chunk and taking it to her. Why would he do that? She was just another human. Nothing. Nothing but a selfish insect.
Trembling, she thanked him, and Lux returned to sit beside Axel and Skala once more.
"You're sure you're okay to be standing?" Axel asked him nervously at he sat. Lux smiled reassuringly.
"I'm fine," he replied. "She's been working hard to help me. And don't look at her like that," he added in a lowered voice. "She's wearing herself out, and she's been doing so for three days straight."
"Only because she wants to live," Axel replied irritably.
"But she's still working hard, so she deserves to eat, doesn't she?"
"Debatable," Axel shrugged, and Lux laughed. How could he be laughing only three days after torture? How could he do it?
Rubin coughed loudly to gain their attention, and Axel glanced up. He was leaning against the wall opposite, and Krig was sitting straight, perfectly to attention as the assassin spoke.
"We need to return to the Golden Flame, soon," he stated. "Most of them are still loyal to you rather than Vipera. We just need to show them that Vipera hurt you, and they should be on our side. It'll be easy," Rubin said cheerfully.
"Are you sure this will work?" Lux said. He was biting his lip - a habit that Axel had noticed appearing whenever he was nervous.
"No," Rubin shrugged. "But it's better than hiding here for the rest of my life, eating stolen soup and bread. No offence, Silver, but it's not so great as you believe it to be."
Axel snorted. "Or so you say."
"I do say, actually," Rubin corrected him, green eyes glinting in the faint light of the surviving rays of sunlight that reached through the dark. "I've been drinking this soup for a while, amateur. I'd know."
"You're also an idiot."
"That's not the point, but yes, I am. A handsome, beautiful, alluring idiot who all of you desperately want to kiss." He paused, grinning.
"Delusional, you mean," Axel sneered. Rubin tilted his head.
"Sorry, amateur, but you know nothing," the assassin shrugged. "But moving on! Are you all prepared to storm the castle and reclaim the Golden Flame?"
"Of course," Axel agreed. "It's rather dull in here."
"I'm in." Skala said it without hesitation; Axel could almost sense her desire for a fight.
"I'll join you, as well. I can't leave everybody there, completely under Vipera's control," Lux stated. His eyes were fiery with determination, and he managed a confident smile.
The spy nodded once.
"I'll go and ensure they haven't posted extra guards," he said, and Rubin grinned.
"Then we're all in. We'll go tonight, agreed?"
"Agreed," the murmur filled the cave, and Axel smiled inwardly. Tonight, undoubtedly, was going to be fun.
"And you went along with this plan?" Vipera seemed on the brink of simply slitting his throat, but, to Krig's relief, she resisted the urge.
"They would have agreed anyway, so I thought it best to take the opportunity to warn you," he told her. The woman clenched her fists, then unclenched them once more. "I recommend that you leave, else they might turn against you."
Vipera glared at him, her eyes cutting beneath his skin and trying to scar him emotionally. She grit her teeth, before finally speaking in a tone that implied Krig's imminent death.
"Then I will have to leave," she decided. "Do you know what position you've put me in? I spared you last time. It was only last week that I thought I could trust you, Krig." Her eyes were cold. "Apparently, I was wrong."
Krig bowed his head in shame.
"I am sorry."
"Does that make it any better?" Vipera hissed. "Does that mean that I'm not being forced to flee to the Tarns? Does that mean that suddenly, everybody here won't be trying to kill me?"
Her voice had risen to a shriek, piercing Krig's ears as he endured her words.
"You will continue to supply me with information, Krig. Nothing more. I can no longer trust the likes of you. Leave my sight."
He bowed respectfully, then turned quickly and walked from the room.
Axel sunk back into the shadows outside, unnoticed as he slipped away with Krig's treachery ringing through his ears.