“She has died.” His breath caught. Mary had died two weeks ago and the mere thought of her caused tears to well. At night, he still wept uncontrollably. He was relieved that her suffering was over, but he could not control his grief. “My beautiful Mary has died and I’ve no reason to stay here. I can’t serve your brother. I don’t know what he plans, but I want no part of it. Tell me how I can be – of – service – to – you.” Marthin’s voice shrank to a broken whisper.
When there was still no sound in the room, he whispered again: “My beautiful Mary has died…”
A small hand touched his arm. “I’m sorry for it, Marthin.”
He closed his eyes. His instincts, his logic, his knowledge of her, had played him true.
When he opened his eyes again, he saw that she had moved across the room and had switched on a soft light. She sat – a mere shadow in the semi-darkness – on the bed.
“I have nothing to offer you, Marthin.”
“I need only your trust and to be of service to you, Lian.”
She was silent, unmoving.
He took the plunge. “I will help you take Chrystal away. She is not safe with the Ülrügh.”
Lian Ellen’s head tilted a little to the side. “Where is she?”
“With the Ülrügh. She’s been there these last six weeks.”
Her shoulders slumped fractionally. Marthin wished he could see her face.
“Is he with her now?”
“I believe so. He keeps her with him almost always. How did you intend to take her?”
“I intended simply to lift her into my arms and carry her away.”
“How – out of the Serai –”
“There are many ways in and out of the Serai.” She rose, crossed to Chrystal’s wardrobe and stabbed torchlight into it. Some clothes lay on the shelves. “But I know none that go directly into the room in which the Ülrügh sleeps.”
“She is in the room next to his – the one in which he keeps his computers.”
“Nor is there a way into there. But there is a way not far from his rooms.” As she spoke, Ellen stuffed clothes into a backpack. “Are there times when only Katherina is with her?”
“Lian, Katherina has been dismissed from service.”
Lian Ellen’s shadow-body turned sharply towards him. “Dismissed? How so, Marthin? What’s happened to her? Where is she?”
“I’ve given her a space in the great hall, Lian. It was the best I could do. For fear of the Ülrügh, others will not even speak to her.”
“But why? Katherine is as harmless as a child.”
“After your – ah – escape from the hospital and Pedro’s disappearance, the Ülrügh turned much of his anger on Katherina. He believed she knew much more about Pedro and about you than she would tell him. He beat her severely and still she insisted that she knew nothing about where either of you were.”
“Aaaah.” The sound moaned from Lian Ellen as she leaned her forehead on the wardrobe. She stood there, silent, for some time, then murmured. “First I have to save Chrystal.”
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