Predictably, Luke came to find me later on that day to tell me that his “gentle questioning”, as he put it, had resulted in no answers. Katherine had held to her orders, which was commendable when being interrogated by the Crown Prince; which meant her orders came higher - from the King himself.
I sighed. Looked like I’d have to do it my way, then.
Her eyes widen she sees me. I’m not sure why - maybe it’s the clothes; I’m wearing my black work clothes, which must jar with her view of me as a sweet, quiet and meek Lady of the Court.
Or maybe it’s the little ball of fire dancing around my hand, weaving through my finger like a magic trick of the olden days.
Either way, I can tell that she’s scared.
That’ll make her talk faster.
I saunter towards her slowly, letting menace fill my every movement. I can vaguely feel Luke’s eyes on my back as I approach her, but I block it out; I need to have all my concentration on her if I don’t want to seriously hurt her by mistake.
Katherine visibly shrinks away from me. I have to harden my heart against the pang of guilt and hesitation I feel. This woman might be my only hope of ever finding Freyja and Finn. I couldn’t feel sorry for her, not now.
With a quick snap of my fingers, the little ball of fire expanded and floated around us, growing both in stature and width, forming walls of flame around us. I purposefully kept Luke out of the walls, hoping the fire might hide some of what was happening in here from him. I wasn’t sure why I didn’t want him to see me at my worst; after all, a healthy dose of fear might make him more cooperative. But I didn’t want to see the look in his eyes when he realised his old friend was dead and gone.
‘W-w-what do you want?” Katherine asked me, her eyes flickering everywhere, watching the flame wall as it popped and jumped merrily around us.
I cocked my head, watching her closely, all thoughts of Luke leaving my head. I shrugged. “Not much. Just information.”
Her whole body shook. “I d-don’t know anything,” she gasped. “I swear.”
I narrowed my eyes. “I don’t believe you. Know why?”
She shook her head, eyes never leaving the flame wall.
“I saw you that night we met at the bar. I followed you to the warehouse.”
She swallowed. “That was… a work thing.”
I chuckled darkly. “I’m sure it was.”
She shook her head quickly, but didn’t move, eyes finally leaving the flames to focus on my nervously. I stared her down. “I need to know, Katherine.”
“I can’t tell you,” she whispered desperately.
With a flick from my hand, the flames tightened around us, and her eyes snapped back to them, her body shaking uncontrollably.
“The King recently took two young prisoners, yes?”
She whimpered but nodded.
I sighed in relief that she was cooperating. “Where are they being kept?”
Her eyes came back to me. “P-please,” she whispered. “He’ll kill me. They’re not being harmed, I promise.”
“I’m sorry,” I told her truthfully. “But I don’t trust him not to hurt them and no one should live in a cage. Especially not a child. I need to know.”
The flame walls inched closer and she whimpered.
“Where are they, Katherine?” the heat from the flames was starting to affect her this close. I thanked the gods, as I had done many times before, that fire didn’t affect me at all as I watched her break out into a sweat.
She shook her head resolutely, keeping her lips tightly shut. I sighed. I couldn’t bring the flames any closer, not without seriously risking burning her. So I had to resort to the old-fashioned way. I stepped up to her, and she tried to shrink away but squeaked in surprise and fear when she got too close to the fire and jumped away. Except that put her directly in front of me. Grabbing her hair none too gently, I pulled her head back, twirling my knife lazily in my other hand.
“Don’t make me do this,” I asked her quietly.
She kept silent, so I raised the blade. I wasn’t sure if I’d actually do it, but I needed her to believe that I would. As the tip of the knife came to rest on her neck, she slumped against me and I held back my sigh of relief. Letting go of her, I asked quietly.
“The warehouse you saw me go into.”
I nodded. “Thank you.” The wall of fire dropped down instantly and she dropped with it, kneeling on the floor.
“He’s going to murder me,” she whispered.
“About that,” I said. “Maybe there’s something he can do,” I nodded towards where Luke was standing, eyes wide, staring at us.
She looked over and nearly fell again in her haste to stand and curtsey. I shook my head, amused. Such a fuss for one man. It boggled my mind.
He looked at me, knowingly. “You’d better get used to it, if you plan to go through with this, you know.”
I made a face. “Shut up. I have work to do.”
“We have work to do,” he corrected me sharply.
I shrugged. “If you say so.”
“Great. We’ll talk tomorrow about what to do next, then.”
He nodded and moved towards Katherine, a worried look on his face. I paused when I reached the door, and looked back. He was sitting her in the only chair in the room, and seemed to be calming her down, if his soft voice was any indication. I shook my head. If I’d make a bad Queen, with my short fuse and lack of Court knowledge, what did Vegard expect from his son? I should’ve known from the start that Luke didn’t have anything to do with the kidnapping; he’d never have the stomach - or the heart - for that kind of tactic.
Just as I was about to leave, Luke lifted his head and looked back at me. In his beautiful brown eyes, I saw much more than I think he’d wanted me to see.
I saw that my childhood friend no longer knew who I was - and that he had reached the point where he didn’t want to know either.
Hesitating, I decided he needed to know if this alliance was going to go forward. “I don’t regret it,” I told him truthfully. I’d done what I needed to.
He nodded, but his eyes turned back, away from me, and I wondered if we could ever be friends again. I had a feeling it wasn’t possible