I walk from the cell, head held high. Just another lie, I remind myself. Just another order. Get on his good side, Natalia. If he trusts you, you may be able to convince him to show you his secrets. It is just another way to convince Kane to do what we want. And yet… for a moment, seeing him so broken down, so defeated, I felt something else. Not the cold, harsh anger that I would expect. No, it was pity. Mercy. I had cared, just for a moment.
This could be dangerous. If I start to feel for him, then it might cloud my judgement. Caring is dangerous. Love is even worse.
I pause for a second, placing a palm to my forehead, gritting my teeth. “Get a grip on yourself, Natalia,” I mutter to myself. “The Queen’s orders. Focus on the orders.”
I compose myself, and keep walking. I find my way back to the Devias’ quarters. I can already hear talking and laughter in the Devias main hall. As soon as I enter, all conversation stops. Then a cheer rises up from the back.
“TO NATALIA!” the other Devias echo. Then I am swarmed by my friends.
The next few minutes are a blur of smiles and congratulations. Eventually, the eager crowd of Devias subsides, and Iya is beside me, guiding me over to one of the tables. I sit, and a drink is placed before me. I sniff it, then wrinkle my nose at the smell of alcohol.
“We’re forbidden from drinking alcohol,” I mutter.
“Except on special occasions!” Iya reminds me cheerfully, pushing the drink a little closer. “And this definitely is one! Come on now, drink up. This is some of the Queen’s finest stock! You wouldn’t let it go to waste, would you?”
I smile at her, and sigh with mock exasperation. “You are infuriating in every way, Iya! Alright then.” I pick up the mug, and take a deep sip. It has a slightly bitter taste- but all the better, I suppose. I drain the mug, and smile at those around me. There is laughter, and soon drinks are passed all around.
Gradually, the festivities grow, until there is laughter and joy all around me. However, I sit where I am, silent and unmoving. I do not drink again. I am thinking of Kane, alone and broken in the dungeon below us.
Slowly, I stand, and take one of the mugs of alcohol. Food has been brought, and I quickly put some onto a plate, then slip out into the hallway. I walk through the halls, then down several flights of stairs. Soon, I find myself at the door of the dungeon. I place the mug on the plate, then reach into my pocket, and pull out the key. I unlock Kane’s prison and slip inside, setting the food down on the cot in the corner of the room.
I look over to where he is chained against the wall. He must have looked up when I entered, because I find myself meeting his dark brown eyes.
His eyes go to the food. “What new form of torment is this?”
“Are you hungry?”
He eyes me warily, obviously expecting some tric. His face says it all though. He is.
I walk over to the chains, and boredly unlock them with a second key. He drops, catching himself with splayed hands. Then he crosses his arms and looks at me.
“The food,” I say, rolling my eyes, “is for you. Now eat it before I change my mind.”
He lifts his eyebrows slightly at me, but does as I say. He sits down on the cot, and picks up a piece of bread. He takes a bite of it, and I can see the pleasure that instantly fills him. He takes the silverware I provided- I am hardly worried about him attacking me- and slices into the meat. He tries this too. Then, with the barely controlled pace of a starving man, he eats the food that I have given him. I watch, with my eyes raised.
“You’re definitely hungry.”
He finishes, and glances up at me. “The villagers did not always have much food to spare. And those that had food to spare more often than not would not spare it. I ate very little.”
“Well you’re lucky I’m here,” I reply.
He reaches for the drink, and takes a sip. His eyes widen, and he coughs, nearly spitting it out.
“What is this stuff?!” he puts the mug down with a disgusted face.
“Alcohol. Haven’t you ever-” I stop, seeing his expression. “Oh. I suppose not. Don’t take such a large sip next time, if you’re not used to it.”
“I know what this stuff does,” he says, scowling. “It’s no better than poison.”
“I’ve been drinking it for three years, and it hasn’t done much to me yet,” I shrug. “It won’t kill you.”
“Well I’m not drinking it,” he says. His tone says that this is final.
I sigh. Some people have no gratitude for others. “Alright.” I take the mug from him, and drink it down with three longs gulps. “There.” I take the plate from him, and head back towards the door. I glance back, to see him looking at me, his expression confused.
“And no. I’m not going to lock you back up.” I unlock the door again, and slip out, before closing and locking it again. I turn to go, when he says my name.
“Yes?” I turn back.
He stands in the center of the room, his expression still full of confusion. But within that confusion there is something else. Gratitude. A little of the life that must have been in him once comes back.
“You’re welcome,” I smile, and turn away, heading back towards the festivities.