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Bishop sat at the desk and watched her, his glower growing darker by the minute. Eventually, he stood up and blocked her hysterical path. "What did you learn about the Guardians?"
Sid jumped back and squeaked. She preferred the calculating and manipulative Bishop over this side of him. Anger darkened his features too much -- he belonged in the shadows with such looks. Perhaps even lumped in with the treacherous Guardians.
She couldn't blame him, though, not if his tale was true. "Only what Damian already mentioned. He asked his mother about magic, and she seemed to get upset he even uttered the words. I mean, I wasn't there, so for all I know Damian didn't tell me something, but I highly doubt it. I was actually kind of upset he risked asking her anything."
His upper lip curled. "You're hiding something."
He appeared to see through her, or inside her -- either made her damned uncomfortable. And she was technically hiding the whole argument with Damian about her gate back home. But that honestly had nothing to do with whatever the wretched Guardians kept from all of Nect. "Nope."
Bishop leaned toward her. "You know, I have magic of my own. I mostly focused my studies on opening the gate and reading the portal language, but I also picked up a few other tricks." His eyes shifted to slits. "I'm a bit rusty, of course. Not being around people much. Which is why I hadn't tried anything until now. But I can smell the secrets on you."
Smell them? Yikes. "Nothing to do with the Guardians and their deception, I assure you." She inched closer and stared right back into those accusing eyes.
He shrugged and sat back down. "Whatever. But have you considered my talent might help in ferreting out the truth and lies?"
"How rusty are you?" Wait, what was she thinking? Not as though Bishop could sit in on a conversation with the council. "Never mind. I'm guessing this magic of yours requires you to be pretty close. Care to risk reading a council member without getting caught?"
Bishop studied his hands, huffed, and grumbled.
"What was that? Sid's speaking too logically when you're letting your emotions get the best of you?"
He stared at her. "You mean like you did storming in here and freaking out about your roommate?"
"Hey, that was me freaking out with Damian. Not doing what I really wanted to do, which was storm the council room and demand they hand back Ama." And she had actually considered that for a fleeting moment, until she realized just how bad of an idea it was.
"Fair enough." He turned toward the desk and tapped his fingers on the book she'd pulled down from the shelf earlier. "I'd sure love some answers before I go home, though."
Sid sat on the end of the bed, directly across from Bishop. "I'd love answers, too. Possibly even Damian. But uncovering them aren't that easy." Knowing secrets existed and finding out exactly what those secrets were were completely different hurdles. "I'll make you a promise, though. If I find out anything to help Turss in the future, I'll come visit and tell you."
Bishop settled his elbows on his knees and stared at her. "Can't do that if Damian destroys the book."
"I won't let him." He couldn't. So much would be lost. And not just access to her gate back home. Still, there was that other option of hers... "Unless, of course, I come with you. I couldn't keep my promise, then."
He tilted his head, and that looking through her gaze appeared on his face again. "This is about your secret."
"When you're not rusty, can you read minds?" Seriously creepy.
The laugh that rumbled from his throat, paired with the grin that he'd first greeted her with, settled her temporarily. "Thank the All-Seeing Eye, no."
Sid considered asking him about this All-Seeing Eye of his. It sounded religious, and in Nect only the Ancients were worshiped similar to gods. Hearing about another religion would be fascinating.
Damian picked that moment to burst into the room, slamming the door behind him. At first she thought he was angry, but she visibly saw him trembling, palms still pressed to the flat surface of the door. His head hung low and it sounded as if he struggled to breathe.
She leapt off the bed. "What's wrong? What happened to Ama?"
When he finally turned toward her, she was shocked at the redness of his eyes. Had he been crying?
No, she wouldn't ask him that. Admitting something like that would be tough for a Guardian. Right now, he didn't deserve her prodding.
"What in the All-Seeing Eye happened to you?" Of course, she couldn't stop Bishop from being extremely rude.
Sid glanced at him, hoping he witnessed her displeasure. "Damian, sit. Catch your breath."
He wobbled to the bed and sat, pulled out a neatly folded rag from a drawer in his nightstand, took off his glasses, and wiped the lenses.
"Your secrets are burning a hole in my mind. Are you going to tell us, or bathe first?" The other-worlder might have allowed Sid some berth, but he clearly wasn't going to do the same for Damian.
All Damian did was shake his head -- no equally defensive response.
Couldn't Bishop see that whatever happened had the man completely rattled?
"I'm sorry." Damian's voice rasped out when he finally spoke. "I spoke to Councilwoman Liss about Ama, and she claimed the woman had given up and was on her way home. I saw no indication of deception." He paused and rubbed his forehead. "Nothing. I didn't see the lie." The words were so quiet, Sid assumed they were meant for himself.
"And then?" "I stormed back into the council building to... ask about something else, but I heard Liss talking to Bear." He raised a hand, reached out to Sid, then pulled back. "Ama was taken for experimentation. I don't know what it all entails, and she's being kept in some lab, but they intend to keep her drugged until they're sure you're no longer worried about her."
Worse. It was far worse than Sid had imagined. A quick death would have been a kindness. This, though -- pure torture. Before she thought it through, she snatched up Damian's still dangling hand and squeezed, more because she needed the human contact than to console him.
"What aren't you telling us?" Bishop needed to learn some manners. Holding his tongue wasn't in his vocabulary.
Obsidian felt the urge to explain, not that it would help. "Uh, yeah, he's turned on this weird lie detecting magic he has. It's unnerving."
Damian glared at Bishop, his dislike for the other-worlder finally peeking through. "It's personal."
He yanked his hand out of Sid's grasp. "We have other things to worry about besides digging into my personal problems."
"Like sending my ass back through the portal?"
Damian stood and stomped toward Bishop. "I'd love to do nothing more than that. But unlike you seem to think, I do care about more than just the precepts. And we have to find Ama and see if we can help her."
Obsidian gasped. She'd been ready to insist they save Ama after the men had finished their squabbling, and she'd never thought Damian would be the one to suggest it.
He plopped onto the end of the bed. "However, we have to consider the implications of anything we do."
Bishop held up his hands. "Hey, I don't have a dog in this fight. Leave me out of the we."
"Heartless bastard." The man had gone from rescuing her to willingly leaving another to be experimented on.
He almost looked guilty, but only for a brief moment.
"If you help us, you might learn more about the Guardians. Perhaps even something to help your world." Of course, Damian was smart enough to approach it more logically.
"And why do you even want my help? Why not just send me back through the gate and then deal with your Ama problem?" Bishop scoffed. "After all, aren't I more of a liability in a rescue attempt?"
Damian pulled his glasses off again and pinched the bridge of his nose. "The thing is, if we can rescue her, our only escape is through a portal. Yours."
Bishop gawked at the Guardian, then nodded, straight-lipped.
Sid tugged one of the pins out of her hair and examined it. She knew Damian was right. The only way to save Ama, and subsequently themselves, was to step through a portal, where the other Guardians couldn't follow.
Unfortunately, that meant leaving Nect behind. And her goal of opening her own gate to see what was on the other side.
She squeezed the pin until it pierced her palm, the pain bringing tears to her eyes. If she wanted to save Ama, she needed to sacrifice her own obsession.
Damian looked between her face and her hands, lips parted. He was giving up far more than her. Once he stepped through Turmoil, he'd sever his connection to the Guardians -- his family, his entire life was here in the House of Portals. Yes, she'd be leaving her family behind too, but not her beliefs. Damian's currently lay scattered across the ground, trampled on by the secrets the council kept.
Obsidian nodded. "We have to save Ama." No matter the cost.
Chapter 30 - Expected January 2022.