But sleep doesn’t come. I’m too busy thinking about everything that Henki told me tonight. About the Hades Blade and sacrificing my humanity to defeat Kendra. About the role that Kifo, Maisha, Mbaya, and Zuri play in keeping the balance of the world. About the terrible things that Kifo and Mbaya have had to do. About the grey areas that Maisha and Zuri have dabbled in.
I jerk up suddenly, eyes wide open. “No,” I breathe in hushed terror. There’s no way that’s what happened.
I leap from the pallet and stand still for a moment to catch my breath. I feel sick. Henki looks at me with concern but I ignore him and run to the door. Daemon tries to grab me. I brush past him and run out into the warm evening night.
“Kifo! Where are you?” I scream into the darkness. “How could you do this to me?”
I hear footsteps running toward me.
“What did you do?” I ask again, my voice a little scratchy, searching the growing crowd for her black and white figure.
“What do you mean?” she asks, stepping forward, a frown on her face and arms folded across her chest.
“Did you kill Ryan?” I demand. I turn to her husband, the silent giant standing beside her. “Did you stand by and let her take him? You could’ve saved him,” I accuse angrily.
I feel Daemon’s hands on my arms, trying to pull me back. “It is okay, Shadow Princess. There is no need to cause a scene. Thou art exhausted and in need of rest. We can all talk about this in the morning.”
I shake his hands off and stand in front of Kifo, a finger pointing at her chest. “Did your black heart enjoy his death? Did you enjoy watching him die? Did you enjoy knowing that I was losing one of the most important people in my life?”
Kifo knocks my finger away. “Do not test me, girl. You may be the princess, but I still control your life as well. Do not forget that I can take yours just as easily as my husband has been protecting it,” she threatens. “I did nothing to your dead lover. I knew he would die, yes, but I did not influence it one way or the other. Neither did my husband,” she adds, seeing my accusing glare turn to him.
“Then who did?” I demand, conscious of the growing crowd around us. “Who let him die?”
“I did,” a rumbling voice says, a voice full of thunder.
The crowd parts and a man slowly walks through the opening. His posture demands respect and screams power. His cognac eyes look over me thoroughly, and I feel as if he can see into my soul.
“So you are the one who would kill Kendra and save us all,” he says finally. The firelight dances across his muscled chest, highlighting the black runes and markings across his dark skin.
“And I helped him,” another voice says, as clear and bright as his is deep.
“Zuri, Mbaya, perhaps you should take her to your hut and have this conversation sans audience,” Henki suggests, looking anxiously at the large crowd. “I believe this is a private matter.”
The lighter skinned woman nods, her deep blue eyes glinting in the firelight. “Come, Princess Nikki. We will continue this away from listening ears.”
“You two stay here,” I tell Henki and Daemon. “Let me do this on my own.”
Henki hesitates before nodding and bowing slightly. Daemon looks slightly hurt, then turns and stalks back toward the hut.
I hold Henki’s gaze for a few more seconds before turning away and following Zuri and Mbaya deeper into the village.