It was day six of her captivity and Amadhay was literally bouncing off of the walls.
Five zoots into being alone in the room after Atlas had finally left her alone, and Amadhay had learned that the wards binding her there did strange things when she attempted to teleport out. First, and most strangely, it let her. She physically left the room, could see the barest glimpse of her intended location, which was right outside the window, in the piles of snow, and then was bounced right back, every time, without fail.
Second, it was a guessing game where she would end up in the room when she returned. The first time she had left from the window and when she returned, it had landed her nicely on her bed. The second time, however, she had left from her bed and ended up stuck inside of the wardrobe, which had been uncomfortable to say the least. The time after that, she had literally been bounced back, with force, into the wall, which prompted her Gift to take action, sending her into a type of warp every time she hit the wall. She bounced thirteen times before the other wards on the room froze her in place. She had to give props to the whomever had thought up the wards though, because they softened her crashes into the wall so much that it was as if she were bouncing against a mattress, leaving her completely unharmed if a little disconcerted.
Ribbon, a familiar looking tall and slender dark-skinned woman, had to come to unfreeze her. That had, at least, solved the mystery of who the blood witch was. Ribbon had explained that any time Amadhay moved fast enough to be in danger of combustion, the wards would freeze her for her own good. All that Amadhay heard was that if she moved fast enough, she might break the wards.
The second time Amadhay had made it to bouncing on the walls, she found she only made ten bounces before the wards caught her. With that, she had decided that she would keep at it until either one of three things happened: (1) she broke the wards and got out, (2) she was allowed out of the room, or (3) Ribbon killed her. Ribbon was getting really tired of having to come unfreeze her every few clacks, a matter she made very vocal.
The older woman had even threatened to make her wait for a zoot before coming, but Amadhay had called her bluff. She might not understand much of her situation, but she knew that Atlas wouldn’t want her uncomfortable, beyond her obvious captivity, for more than a few clacks at the most. Besides, she had the feeling that Ribbon liked her too much to leave her hanging.
Really, it had become kind of a game for the two of them. Ribbon would ask every time she came in how many times Amadhay had bounced, and Amadhay would tell her, with a strange sort of camaraderie. So far, she was at 27, which was, in her opinion, a horrible number, so her current goal was an even 30. She was also pretty sure that she had grown on the woman. They were almost close to what she would call friends, despite their power balance with Ribbon being the maintainer of her cell and her being the celled. In fact, the woman was now the one to bring her food starting day five. Ribbon claimed that Stefan was holding a grudge against her for shooting him (even though she had explained to him that she hadn’t known he was like Atlas, and shooting him in the head had been a mercy killing, not an act of spite) and other acts of similar destruction in attempts to get out. Amadhay didn’t really believe that, considering Stefan healed almost instantly no matter what she did to him.
She bounced to 27 and felt the familiar heat of the wards begin to warm up to freeze her, but still she pushed herself to move a little faster. She hit 28, 29. Come on, one more, she pleaded with her body and crashed into the wall once last time before she was caught, frozen in place except for her face.
“Yes!” she exclaimed, hearing footsteps coming to her door. “Beat the record and got thirty!” she called to the person who entered, assuming it was Ribbon since she couldn’t see as she had been frozen upside down and with her back to the door.
“What are you even talking about?” a male voice responded to her.
The unknown voice had the immediate reaction of stripping her of all the joy she had been feeling.
“Who are you?” she demanded, wishing that she wasn’t in such a vulnerable position around this nameless Palnokian.
Through her hair, she saw black clad legs walk in front of her. “I don’t think we were introduced properly yet,” the male said before crouching so that his head was nearer to hers. He pushed her hair up from her face with his arm and allowed her to see him. It took her a moment to recognize him until he tilted his head as far as it would go to the side, so that they were almost looking each other eye-to-eye. “I’m Tenshu.”
The ponytailed necromancer gave her a shy smile that she immediately didn’t trust.
“I hope there’s no hard feelings about Base,” he stated, his olive eyes regarding her closely.
She narrowed her eyes. “You killed my best friend. Would you have hard feelings if I had done the same to you?”
He shrugged. “I also unsealed him. I didn’t have to.”
She gave him an unimpressed look. “Except if you hadn’t, we would have tortured you until you did.”
He shrugged. “And it all would have been pointless, because I would have sealed him to eternal torment if you had.”
She raised her eyebrows. “And then I would have killed you.”
“And Base would still have been dead.”
They stared at each other for a few, long clicks, neither blinking. They were both aware that they were trying to outdo each other, but it wasn’t until Amadhay couldn’t think of anything to counter that with that she realized she had to give that round to him. The sheer audacity of him asking for her to pretty much forget he had tried to kill her friend actually impressed her. She kept his gaze, and neither blinked, yet another war of their wills, until they both began to smile. Amadhay was smiling because she could tell that she had met her match. She wondered if that was why he was smiling as well.
“I’m still not going to thank you,” Amadhay stated.
“I will thank you for not hurting Mitch. I know it must have been hard for you,” Tanhakinshu responded, giving her a full smile. She felt a traitorous fluttering in her stomach at that. He was a very pretty boy. Prettier, by far, than most of the men she knew. Prettier even, than many of the women she knew.
“Don’t thank me. I was under orders not to harm him if it wasn’t necessary.”
“You were?” Tanhakinshu asked, raising his eyebrows. “Who gave that order?”
Amadhay started to answer, but then she paused. She frowned. She couldn’t actually remember ever being given the order, only that she had been told not to injure them. Christein had said something about it, but…she couldn’t actually remember ever hearing the order for herself.
“Someone,” she said vaguely. “Can you get Ribbon? I kind of want to get down.”
“Can’t,” Tanhakinshu answered, lowering his arm so that her hair covered her face again. “She’s on a mission right now.”
That surprised her. Amadhay had honestly just assumed that Ribbon’s job was to make sure that she was nice, comfortable, and still stuck in the room. “What type of mission?” she asked.
“A secret one,” he said before pulling her hair up again. This time, he finger-combed her hair into some semblance of control before putting it into two braids. While she wasn’t exactly comfortable with him touching her as if he knew her, it was calming the way he combed through her hair in even strokes, giving two to one side and then two to the other. He even braided her hair using four parts, which, while it definitely made her wary of him, she did appreciate.
“Who taught you to braid like that?” she asked.
He grinned at her, gently playing with her braids. “My sister, Kimiko, is obsessed with the number two. Everything has to be in twos. Atlas told me you were obsessed with symmetry, so I figured you might be similar there.”
She wanted to roll her eyes, but she had to admit, at least to herself, that it was nice that he had thought it through enough to try to comfort her. Whatever his intentions, he had done something nice for her and she couldn’t help but respect that.
“It’s all part of the job,” she said.
“What?” he asked, giving her a confused look. He let go of her hair and it dangled between them.
“You killing Benjy. I would have done the same thing in your position, so I figure I can’t be too judgmental.”
“Is that your way of saying you’re not going to hold it against me?”
Amadhay looked away from him for a moment. “Maybe.”
“I’ll take it,” he said with a laugh in his tone. “Also, I guess, maybe I should let you down from there.”
“Can you do that?” she immediately asked, curious about the powers of a necromancer. She had once heard that they were adept in all forms of dark magic. She wondered if that were true, or if necromancers were only naturally good at necromancy and had to learn other magic forms if they wanted to use them.
“Sure. Ribbon told me how to do it before she left. She also said that I should leave you stuck until Atlas made me let you down, but I figure our new understanding of each other could be better cemented if you weren’t upside down.”
“Yeah, maybe just a little,” she said sarcastically, rolling her eyes. By the time she was done rolling her eyes, she was unstuck. She dropped unceremoniously, partially on top of him.
“Okay, that might not have been fully thought out,” he admitted, making her laugh even though she didn’t want to.
“If I have a concussion, I hope I get to break your leg,” Amadhay said, which made him give a shock of laughter. He helped her sit up before he dropped from his crouch to sit cross-legged on the floor with her. He studied her expression for a moment and she kept it perfectly deadpan, getting another laugh from him.
“I’m not sure if that was twisted humor or you’re being completely serious.”
Amadhay grinned at him. “Maybe you’ll find out someday.”
“I’m sure I’ll find out when you get that concussion,” he joked, making her feign a headache.
“Oh, the pain. Black, I’m seeing black,” she spoke dramatically, watching him from the corner of her eyes as she flailed about.
“You might be color blind,” he replied. “All I see is red. It’s kind of overpowering.”
“I know right?” Amadhay exclaimed, forgetting that she was only pretending to play around with him to make him lower his guard enough to use him as leverage. Whatever Project Apocalypse was depended on him living long enough to become a father. She could use that.
“I take it Atlas didn’t ask you about your opinions before painting?” Tanhakinshu asked. “I mean I figured you didn’t want the meadow scene that had been here, but the red is kind of…”
“Garish? It’s garish,” Amadhay stated, wondering whose room it had been, since a meadow scene sounded very particular. “Honestly, I would have much preferred a meadow scene. It’s harder for invisibility spells to blend with scenes than just one color.”
“Really?” Skeletal Smile asked, looking genuinely interested.
“Definitely. Patterns, pictures, it takes more concentration. They have to blend different parts of their bodies differently and be sure not to miss anything.”
“But what about the ones who just reflect? Wouldn’t it be easy?”
She snorted. “Reflectors have to stay still.”
He eyed her for a moment. “How would you even know? I doubt you’re much for being unseen.”
Amadhay started to mention Christein’s hardship blending in, even with his second Gift of camouflage from the chameleon of his aelfe before remembering that she was still talking to the enemy. Just because she was pretending to be friendly with him didn’t mean that she had to tell him secrets, especially not secrets about her cousin that could get him killed.
Instead, she went in a different direction. “Tell me about the Palnoki,” she demanded. “Because I’m kind of confused.”
He raised a single, slender eyebrow. “What about?” he asked.
“I figure there are a lot of you, but I seem to only see the same recurring ones. There’s you and the vampire, Ribbon, Atlas, Stefan, the cyborg, I know of an arachin, and I’ve heard stories about another vampire and a reaper. It sounds like a weird assortment of people.”
Tanhakinshu nodded slowly. “Atlas brought us all together,” was all he said.
She waited a few clicks for him to continue, but he didn’t. “How did you meet Atlas, then?” she asked, hoping to get even the smallest bit of information.
He gave her none. “I have to go,” he said, standing up with an easy speed that made her narrow her eyes and watch him a little closer. “But I bet Atlas would answer any questions you have,” he added over his shoulder as he left the room before she could argue or ask any more questions. She knew that he was implying she should talk to the man, but she had no plans of doing that.
She sat there silently, thinking everything over. All that she could determine was that she had two babysitters. She had two very good targets to use for her means. Or, if she looked at it the way she was sure Atlas would prefer she did, she had two people who could easily become her friends if she let them. She certainly planned on letting them.