Amadhay lay in the bed that Anne had given her for the duration of her stay.
Nolando, Christein, and Anne were still debating over where she would stay and who would know. Christein had, when the two of them had had a moment alone together told her that he hadn’t told anyone that he’d heard from her. If she wanted, she could live under the radar from both Palnoki and the Phoegani. She had the choice that Atlas had been trying to force onto her for six months. She could completely cut ties with everything to do with the Phoegani.
But she couldn’t. She played with the chip, turning it over and over in her hand. She hadn’t yet told Christein about the chip or the Palnoki’s plans. There hadn’t been time. Anne and Nolando were big on not leaving the two of them alone, though for the life of her, Amadhay couldn’t understand why. She understood that they didn’t like Monkey too much, but she did. She loved him. Didn’t what she want have any kind of bearing?
Then again, it seemed her wants weren’t being factored into anything. She was still just a child in their eyes. She hadn’t been a child for a long time. She’d had to grow up quickly under Arne Riff’s tutelage. A child didn’t last long as an assassin, they were too weak-willed. A woman did because a woman could do her job and not flinch. Amadhay was a woman and she hated that her family didn’t recognize that.
No, she wasn’t the court appointed majority age of 19 or the standard aelfe majority age of 23, but she was more of an adult than most aelfe that were. She had seen more hardship and made more mature decisions in the past few weeks than most people did in years. She had killed her best friend, her lover, her only true equal. She had held the only truly pure and innocent person in her life, the only person who truly believed she could be good as he bled out on her lap. She had been betrayed by people she loved. She had nearly died, had died a little in some ways. She had even forced herself to get over her fears of horses and flying to get away.
She could make her own decisions.
She closed her hand around the chip, staring at nothing. Still, she wasn’t sure that she wanted to make this decision. Life would be so much easier if Nolando would just decide that she was staying there, if Monkey covered for her with the Phoegani. She could have a relatively easy life. She’d still have to hide, but she was sure that Nolando would smooth over the situation with Amaya and hiding wouldn’t be as important, aside to shield her from the Phoegani and Palnoki. She could have her family again. She wouldn’t have to kill. She could just be Amadhay. Atlas would be happy.
But she wouldn’t be.
She wanted to see Benjy again, even if that meant going back to the Phoegani. She wanted to question Rea about her healing practices, to see if they were truly friends. She wanted to keep Monkey and Benjy safe from the Palnoki. She wanted to keep Amaya safe from the Palnoki. It was her duty. She owed it to her sister, after having betrayed her more than once.
She owed the world to keep the Heralds out of Atlas’ hands. She may have loved him, but she knew he wasn’t nearly as sane as he sometimes seemed. He may have wanted her and might still refuse to hurt her, but the rest of the world? Everyone he didn’t want was seen as an acceptable expense. Even Arne Riff wasn’t that bad. He might see many people as expendable, but even he wouldn’t willingly kill as many people as she knew Atlas was probably going to. Atlas only cared about his handful. Arne Riff cared about power and wanted people there to rule over. Atlas only wanted what he couldn’t have and damn the consequences.
She couldn’t let him win. She wouldn’t let him win, not after everything he’d done to her, had planned to do to those she loved, had forced her to do. No, she wasn’t going to let him win, especially not with the fate of the world practically in his hands. And not only their world…
“What kind of things do you want?”
“World domination. The Heralds. Interplanetary exploration and then domination. You.”
She turned onto her stomach, pressing her face into the pillows. He’d listed her among conquests he wanted. She wasn’t going to be a conquest and she wasn’t going to let him have those other conquests either. She would stop him, no matter the cost. She had already forfeited her right to remain neutral the moment she had decided in the barn, the moment she had decided that having a life with Ribbon, that Ribbon’s life was less important than the good of the entire world. She’d chosen her side. She had finally made her own decision. Atlas would be proud.
So what she could do if she stayed with Nolando was useless speculation, because she couldn’t. She wasn’t sure how she was going to do it, but she was going to have to convince Nolando to give her over to Christein and then convince Christein to let her go back to the Phoegani. She didn’t want to, but she had a feeling that she was going to have to involve Arne Riff. He could force their hands. He’d want her back. She was an even better asset now that she knew the Palnoki.
Her fingers touched something underneath the pillow. Sitting up, she sat the chip onto her lap and picked the pillow up. Laying there, right where her head had been, was an unmarked, sealed envelope. She paused for a moment, wondering who it was for, and knowing that she should give it to one of the maids, but unable to fight her curiosity.
She opened the envelope. She pulled out the one slip of paper. She read it. She stared at it. She dropped it onto her lap and looked inside the envelope. Turning it upside down, she shook it until the last content fell into her hand.
It was her hair ribbon. The ribbon. It had blood on it, Ribbon’s blood, she was sure. Clutching the ribbon in her hand, she looked at the note once more, looking for more words where there were none. It only said five.
You could have just asked.
Little Red and Her Monkey (Crimson Splashes) [Series-wise]
Hot Chocolate (Coffee Shoppe) [Chronologically 'verse-wise]