“Pardon?” Beth said, unsure whether she’d heard him correctly or not.
He sighed and turned his head away again. “You are, Bethalin, daughter of Malik. You have no claim to your father’s throne in the north because your brother rules there but there is no one else with a stronger tie to the east.”
“I... have a brother?” she asked.
“He’s not the nicest man in the world. Nor the most prudent.”
“What do you mean?”
“He’s reckless. I do my best not to travel north unless circumstances demand it. Thankfully, my work in Altsina keeps me busy most of the time.”
She stayed silent, considering his words. “Where’s Altsina?”
“I forget you don’t know; it’s a city in the south-east, not far from the forest. It’s the city of the black Paraa, where Evil – Lucius’ father – rules.”
“Why do you stay there?” she asked.
“Because Evil found me in the middle of a field, half-dead. He took me in and brought me back to health. I never got round to leaving after that. I’m not complaining; I watched Lucius grow up, trained him, as well as watched his mother leave the one that loved her— I’ve never stopped to think that I should go to one of the other clans. I wouldn’t fit in now anyway; I’m too different.”
“True enough, old friend,” said a voice from behind them.
A small smile turned Storm’s lips as Beth turned her head quickly to see the owner of the voice.
Behind them stood a young man who looked as if he’d stepped right out of the 80’s; his black jeans torn at the knees, chains hanging from one side of his waist, his tight black t-shirt ripped a little (although this looked like a genuine accident), his short black hair was spiked up so it looked as if countless women had been running their hands through it, and he had piercings to spare. There were four in the cartilage of his right ear, two in the cartilage of the left, two in the lobe of his right, three in the lobe of his left. One of them in the left connected to his lip by a chain. His eyebrow was also pierced, and his nose. After a quick count of the visible piercings, Beth decided he had a minimum of fourteen—because she knew there were other places on the body that could be decorated with bits of metal. One other thing about him was the star outline he had around his left eye.
“Afternoon, Sam,” Storm said without turning around.
The man, Sam, sat down beside Storm quietly. “Afternoon.”