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“What are you doing?” Bronherrn asked when Prillani rushed in and unlocked his shackles.
“What I have been meaning to do since I kissed you.” She handed him her torch.
He followed looking around with suspicion. Their shadows moved in the dancing firelight, mingling together along the walls. She led him out of the cold cell. Unsure if he should trust her, he looked into the long corridor stretching beyond. He tried to focus his senses but had been chained for too long.
Every echo of their breaths, every scuffle of rats caught his attention. The further Prillani took him, the more unsure he became. But a light grew brighter before them. The air flowed with a natural breeze and the scent of fresh wildflowers made him hunger for the fields of his homeland.
They rounded another bend and his heart began to beat hard against his ribs. He stared at the back of Prillani’s head with wonder. When she stopped, he reached her side and shielded his eyes at the striking outer world. He stood at the edge of the tunnel and breathed in the scene. Summer had come once again. He had lost an entire year in the Zuthan dungeon.
He glanced over to Prillani and realized she had every intention of setting him free. Bird song trilled above confusing his mixture of gratitude and anger. Something within him wished to reach for her and pull her in his arms, but then he remembered who she was.
He slowly stepped out. When he gained his footing on the soft wheat grass, he knelt on the ground and grasped large clumps of it in his hands. Unable to control himself, he cried out. The strange sound sprang from his lips involuntarily and echoed in the surrounding freedom.
He stared around the field and could not place his thoughts. They remained a mangled wreck. So many memories flooded his mind he did not know where to begin. He had never felt so alone. The soft pressure of Prillani’s hand met his shoulder. He jerked away for a moment.
“I am sorry,” she whispered low.
He reached for her. The tender touch of her slender fingers grounded him. He grasped her hands and pulled her onto the grass kissing her all over. His body ached with soreness, and his bones grew as stiff as a tree trunk, but her soft warmth gave him renewed energy.
He had no wish for worries or doubt. He yearned to have her, no matter who she was. After living in the dark for so long, she had become a new light in his life. She was the only one who had aided him when he faced torture and death. As he ran his hands along her body and began to kiss down her neck and chest, she drew back.
He grew restless at her distance and brought her hands to his mouth.
“I fear you are too grateful.” She tugged at her hair in the wind.
“Should I not be?” he asked.
“I do not know. Will you return home?” her voice shook as if forcing the words out.
He sat up and plucked a tall piece of grass from the ground. With a sigh, he chewed the sweet end. Why? “It is not that simple. You wish me to lead you to my people, is that it?”
“No,” she sat forward and touched his arm. “Not me… oh you ass.”
Bronherrn turned to glare at her, but when he looked at her face, he recognized a battle in her eyes. He fought off a smirk as he reached forward to brush her cheek with his grimy fingertips. He caught sight of his mangled hands in the warm sunshine and tucked them under his legs.
“My father has grown tired. He wanted to kill you.” She tugged at his sword hand and rubbed the nub that had lost its end.
“So you agreed to betray me?”
She let go and stood.
He did not allow his eyes to drift from her for a moment. “Are you or are you not meant to follow me and attack my people.”
She whirled around and kicked him in the chest, knocking him down. “Do not raise your voice to me!”
He attempted to jump up gasping for breath. A burning sensation crept through his lungs and he cursed his weakened frame.
“Why must I betray one or the other when each act will betray my heart?” Prillani knelt before him and pulled him up.
He panted in her face. He had thought Aethelwyn to be confusing before his capture, but Prillani baffled him more than anyone he had ever known. The pain in his lungs lessened, but his chest held a new heaviness.
She leaned in and kissed him long and full. She released him and pushed him forward. “Now go. I can handle my father.”
Bronherrn stood and stared at her for a moment, but her stern expression got him moving. With a look back he shouted, “How?”
She offered him a smile and turned into the tunnel.