Rubin didn't know what he'd expected Krig to be like, but it certainly wasn't this.
In the past two weeks, he'd been put through severe training with Vipera, and Rubin had been forced to wait to see him. He didn't know why he even wanted to - maybe it was just that he was curious about Nymfe. Curiosity, he told himself. That was all. Not worry.
But when Vipera made the formal introduction, Krig was not how Rubin would ever had expected anybody to be like. Especially not somebody only just freed from the chains of slavery.
"Rubin," Vipera said, "this is Krig. He's going to spy for the Golden Flame."
Rubin studied him carefully. A shaggy mane of blonde hair hung loosely from his head, and his skin was just as pale as it had been when he'd found him. His eyes were the very same blue as they had been all those years ago in Disan, only without the desperation. A grey shirt concealed the scar. And his face? His face was expressionless.
"I'm Rubin," he said by way of greeting.
"Krig," the spy said simply.
"I see," Rubin replied. That was it. No handshakes, no smiles, no more words. It was the first time in a while Rubin had felt awkward in a conversation, and so he turned to Vipera instead.
"Why did you introduce us?"
Her eyes burned into him, as though branding him stupid and worthless.
"You will likely be working together in the future. Why else?" she sneered. Rubin shrugged.
"Could've been anything," he shrugged. Shooting a sidelong glance at Krig, he added, "Well, I'll go find a job at the Shade. See you."
The next time he saw Krig, it was in passing as he headed towards Vipera's room. An impulse struck him, and he called the spy's name before biting his tongue.
Krig turned, and Rubin felt his unfeeling blue eyes on him as they neared one another.
He wanted to ask about Nymfe. He wanted to know, and yet how could he ever ask? How could he bring up that topic like this? And then there was that one last nagging reason - he might not want to know.
"I... How're you settling in?" Rubin blurted, veering away at the last moment.
"I'm finding it pleasant here," Krig replied.
Rubin nodded, as though that had been the sole purpose of their brief shard of conversation, and kept walking. What the hell was wrong with him? He shouldn't care whether or not the girl had made it - hell, he shouldn't even remember her name! Sentiment was for the weak, not for survivors. How long would it take him to drill that into his head?
No, he told himself firmly. It was only curiosity. Better yet, it was only the selfishness - he had given her the ruby, he only wanted to know if she was alive so that, if he ever needed something, he would know where to find her.
He'd told hundreds of lies before, but this one was by far the worst. And he knew it.