Chapter Twenty Seven

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Alris seemed colder than usual, which was saying something. The two other black robes dragged me through the same narrow corridors that succeeded in getting me hopelessly lost almost every day for what seemed like eternity until we finally arrived at a large mahogany door covered with intricate designs—the history of which I could not place—that must have taken years to carve. Alris banged on the door three times and then opened it.

I was immediately struck with the aura of dank and decrepit smells. The room was small, maybe big enough for twenty people to sit comfortably. The walls were lined with shelf after shelf of leather-bound tomes and extremely old scrolls. In the center of the room the oscura sat behind a large black desk with a ledger splayed out in front of him and a small candle burning at the end of the table.

They dropped me into the room and were gone before I could curse at them. The oscura spoke first, his voice rasp and dry and terrifying. “Teros Kareth, curious it is how often you are found standing in front of me.”

I cleared my throat in order to buy some time before I spoke. “I suppose I am accustomed to knowing my host.”

He laughed at that. “Cunning was never a trait lacking from the royalty of Panthos, that is for certain.” He stood up and moved around the large desk. “You are aware of the rules here, Teros Kareth, are you not?”

I wanted to roll my eyes, but I had heard of people losing them. “I am most assuredly aware of them, my dark lord.”

“Then you must explain to me why you, as a Teros, are dancing when it is strictly forbidden for you to do so.” There was no longer a hint of humor in his voice.

“I was told by my Delente that he would not train me until I had fifty dances. Ask him.” I had lied earlier; I most certainly did not know each and every rule. They were chiseled on an exceedingly old tablet that had faded over time. I was confident that no one knew every rule of the Sieltacor, but that excuse would not work here, no matter how charming I could be.

The oscura looked me over for a long moment. “I have already spoken with Exim. He claims that he has not had a chance to tell you anything because you continuously avoid meetings with him.”

I was not the least bit surprised. “Then how did he tell me I needed to shadowdance more, I wonder?”

“You will not mock this process, Teros Kareth. I do not think you are aware of the seriousness of your situation. The penalty for unauthorized shadowdancing is death, and as I am sure you are aware, there is no coming back from that particular punishment.” He rubbed a hand over his scarred face and leaned up against the desk.

“I did not knowingly break any rules, my lord. I simply did as I was told. I cannot prove that I was told that, nor can I explain why my Delente would behave the way he has up to this point, but I am sure that he has his reasons.” I thought about Exim for a moment, for it seemed as though I had made a new enemy and I did not even know it.

He tapped his fingers on his chin as he thought. “You could talk yourself out of the gallows even after they had tightened the noose, young Teros.” He shook his head back and forth as the smallest hint of a smile crossed his face. “Exim will be advised against telling me any more stories. I hope that you two can put whatever it is between you aside and train with the shadows. Time is not on your side here, Teros Kareth.”

I tried to appear not the least bit arrogant after the compliments he had paid me. “Thank you, my lord.”

He waved his hand dismissively and I went out the large door and into the small dark hallways that made up the crypt. I cursed as I decided which direction to head. It would not do well for me to get lost yet again and miss Master Nave’s first class.

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