“No one else will die for me,” I whispered.
Mastema straightened to his full height, towering over me. “It’s my job, duty, and right to protect my sister, who is the imminent ruler of my legion.”
“Not like this!” I chewed my lower lip. “I’m not like you.” He shot me a “Duh, no, really?” smirk. “My dark powers aren’t bound, even if I don’t know how to use them. Up until last week, the Grand Legion didn’t give a shit about what I did, provided I didn’t stir up trouble for them.”
“Stupid bastards,” Nicor said.
I waved off the comment. “But now I mean something to them. I pose a threat, right? Me. Not any of you. Unless….”
“Unless what?” Mastema growled.
“You stand between them and what they want. What if this is exactly what Gaap wants? Whether you use your powers or not, any scene you make will be a big offense and just as bad as if you’d let your demon hang out for the world to see. I can still fight with all I’ve got. I’m not bound by the laws as you are.”
“We know what they are — you don’t.” Melchom ground his teeth.
“I know parlor tricks with enough flash to make them wary of me. I can do this. I’ve been saving my own ass for a long time now.”
“You don’t have to.” Mastema clasped my hands in his. “You can stay in here, where it’s safe. We’ll contact Oriax and call in more guards. Aythna and her sisters created that spell with everything they had. We might have time….”
“Their magic is human, no matter how talented they are, Mast. A witch spell will act as a speed bump, nothing more.”
“You plan to go out there alone to face them?” His voice stayed low, deadly.
I lifted my chin and met his gaze. “Damn straight I will.”
“You won’t survive.”
“Fuck, Mast! Where is all that faith you had in me fifteen minutes ago? I’ve done this your way for how many days now? I’ve come to heel, and I’m tired of it.” I poked him in the chest. “You. Will. Not. Die. For. Me. Not today, or any other.”
He growled and leapt away as if I’d burned him. “You’re so fucking stubborn!”
“You raised me to be.” My hands clenched into fists. “Fine, I’ll make a compromise. I will go out there, all by my lonesome, and show them I don’t fear them. But if I’m over my head, then, and only then, may you come out with guns blazing.” My stomach rolled at the sight of his tortured face.
“You’d be dead before I could get to you.”
“Come now, brother mine. You’ve prepared me for days just like today.”
“Dirty half-breed, come out to play,” a second male voice called from outside.
I whirled for the door, releasing my inner snarling, rabid dog.
Mastema grabbed my arm. “Liwet….”
“Don’t you dare try to stop me!”
“I won’t. Their open insult grants you the right.”
I stilled. Did he mean it? “Then give me your oath you’ll stay inside?”
“You have it.”
“Not good enough.” I grabbed the second knife, tucked into the waistband of my pants. it was much sharper than the one in my pocket. I sliced my hand wide open. “Your blood oath.”
He said nothing, simply holding out his hand for me to cut. I sliced deep, the pain barely touching me. We clasped palms in a warrior’s tradition: palm over wrist, right over the beat of our pulses, the weakest point of the arm and a show of honor, respect, and trust. Then he did the most appalling thing he’d done yet. He pulled me into a hug.
“I will not interfere until my service to you is vital,” he said into my ear. I took the hint.
I snatched a pistol grip shotgun from him and faced the crowd. “For many of you, I am your celebrated, ordained queen, whether I accept this or not. For once, my title works in my favor.” I met Melchom’s glare. “With that privilege, I order you to stay here to protect my brother and his livelihood.”
I left Mastema and the head of the guard to deal with the uproar I’d left in my wake. With a flick of a finger, the front door swung open. The moment I stood on the other side, it slammed shut behind me.