Chapter 33

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LILY dropped into the hollow at the base of the tree, straightening when she hit the ground.

Adrian had spent the night on the floor. He'd woken her up close to midnight—he seemed to never sleep, honestly—and here she was.

The Commanders Askari and Commander Banon were there again, their faces hidden in shadow.

"Lily Quilan," the female Commander Askari said, stepping forward.

"Yes?" Lily asked, wondering why they'd asked her to come.

"First, check her." She gestured at Lily, tilting her head towards her brother.

Fazil Askari stepped forward and patted Lily down, checking for weapons. It was a quick, professional touch. Lily was thankful she hadn't actually brought any.

He stepped back, shaking his head, and the woman continued. "Come here."

The three of the crouched on the ground, and Commander Banon spread out a large piece of parchment. Lily knelt in front of them, her eyes falling to the inked paper.

It was a map.

All the four kingdoms were on it—Qarini in the north, Dezhaya to the west and Arrian to the east. Tsuchengko was in the center, separated from the other kingdoms by the Islamar Sea.

She gave a questioning glance to Commander Banon. "A map?"

Commander Banon gave her a sharp nod. "Tell me what you see here, Lily."

"Oh, stop with all the dramatics!" The female Commander Askari hissed. She turned to Lily. "Look at your country."

Lily caught herself just in time. "Tsuchengko isn't my country, if that's what you're referring to."

A cruel smile made its way over her face. "Very well, then. Look at Tsuchengko."

Lily did, gazing at the country she'd seen thousands of times before. Ellävuor in the center, four rivers running from it to the Islamar Sea, separating the four cities.

"You lived in Aquana, yes?" The male Commander Askari asked, arching a dark eyebrow at her.

Lily nodded. "Near the palace."

"Can you tell us about secret passages, in the palace, out of it, anything?" He asked.

"Why?" Commander Banon asked.

Lily watched as the female Commander Askari's face grew tight. "Taya," she said, through gritted teeth.

Commander Banon's face grew closed off, and she said back on her heels.

Their attention turned back to her.

Lily swallowed. "I—I can't think of anything. The General never told me anything of the sort."

The female Commander Askari grunted. "Tell me, what are the sentiments of the lower classes?"

Lily bit her lip. "I don't know much, but they're worked very hard. I haven't hear of complaints, though."

"Well, you wouldn't, would you?" The male Commander Askari said, hi tone bitter. "You were a noble."

Lily stared at him hard. "Yes, but I took care of the General's work sometimes. The general attitude of the middle classes wasn't bad. They were mostly fine with the way the kingdom was being hard."

"The General's work?" The female Commander Askari asked, her eyes intrigued.

Lily swallowed. Perhaps she'd said too much.

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