Chapter no 50 – The Villain

Assistant to the Villain

Well, the office search turned out to be useless, but that was hardly the problem now. Trystan stared at the crossed-out names and blinked. It had to be wrong.

Over the course of the last month, he’d been periodically removing names from his full list of employees. First eliminating any of the Malevolent Guards, then Sage, then Blade, quickly followed by Rebecka. He knew from the start it couldn’t be her, but he was not a man prone to easily trusting anyone. Except Sage.

The leather of his chair groaned as The Villain leaned forward over his black desk.

His siblings, included in a brief “acquaintances and non-enemies” section of the list, were also crossed off. A few of his guards had kept a watchful eye on them since the explosion, and neither had committed any suspicious acts. Malcolm had apparently not left his tavern since that night, save to stumble out to the bushes to empty his stomach. The list had narrowed further when a confidential shipment was compromised. All ten people who had known about it had been accounted for except one. And when the guvre escaped, everyone on the list was accounted for. All except the same name.


No, not her. Not one of the few reminders of his past he didn’t mind having nearby.

She knew so many secrets, but how many of those many secrets belonged to her?

Trystan wouldn’t sit here and ruminate on it. He knew Tatianna. He would simply go ask her where she was during the guvre’s escape, which was what he would’ve done if he hadn’t been comforting his sister most of the night.

He pushed open the door of his office and strode out, his boots echoing down the hall as Trystan tried to shake away his doubts. This was Tatianna

—there was no way that she was any sort of traitor.

Nearly to the door, he took a deep breath and assured himself there was nothing to worry about.

A familiar scream rent the air, causing the breath to seize in his chest in a flash of hot pain.


Trystan flew the last couple of steps to the door to Tatianna’s room, wrenching the handle—it didn’t budge. He began pounding on the locked door so hard it shook.

Sage’s pain was surrounding him as though he could see it. It was stinging his skin, burning him so deeply he felt faint. Trystan rammed his shoulder against the hard wood of the door, but it wouldn’t give. “Open the door, Tatianna!”

Another scream.

Frantic. He felt frantic. It was almost like he could see her pain in front of him, her crumpled on the floor. Her agony.

“OPEN THE DOOR!” Wood was splintering under his fists, tiny, sharp pieces sliding under his skin painfully. He didn’t care.

His magic pulsed, but something was blocking his power—a ward. Clare had painted a ward on the door. Trystan pounded against the wood now with the fury of a thousand storms, fear seizing the breath in his chest.

A weak voice called out, Sage’s voice: “Trystan.”

It was then that he became blind with rage and panic and all the thousand things that could be happening to Evie… It only took one more strike after that before the hinges flew clear off and the door gave way to slam against the floor.

The Villain crossed the threshold slowly, chest heaving, fists clenched. The gray mist of his power snaked across the room, landing on Clare and Tatianna, who looked horrified, fearful. Breathing heavily, he took in the rest of the scene.

The room appeared as it always did, not an herb out of place. His sister and Clare stood near each other, Tatianna holding up a small box toward Sage…

His eyes softened when he saw her, relief searing through his blood that she was in one piece. But she was lying on the ground, on her side, her sweet eyes looking to him, pleading.

When another wave of screams came out of her mouth, he squared his shoulders, sending out his power to find who was harming her—and

preparing to slice their flesh from their bones.

The gray mist of his magic pulsed, but instead of twirling around Tatianna and Clare, it swirled around Sage. Her eyes were closed now, her delicate hands pressed tightly to the ground, and her whole body was alight in colorful agony. Trystan didn’t hesitate. He raced toward her, sliding onto his knees and cradling her head in his arms. Her fists came up, gripping his shirt, tears falling from her eyes.

His gaze never left her face as he bit out, “Tatianna, whatever you’re doing to her. STOP.” The graveled boom of his voice sent her scrambling, and she slammed the box she was holding shut, latching it quickly and putting it aside.

In an instant, Sage was limp in his arms, her grip softening a sigh easing from her lips.

“Little tornado?” he asked, desperately trying to keep the worry from his voice.

“Present,” she mumbled into his chest, making it constrict. She was okay. Hoisting her up gently in his arms, he carried her over to the examination table before turning toward the guilty-looking women on the other side of the room.

“I will give you both the courtesy of ten seconds to explain yourselves before I rip out your throats,” The Villain said, pure rage laced through every word.

“Don’t do that, please,” Evie muttered weakly beside him. “I’m already nauseous.”

There was a short, silent pause before The Villain rephrased his words. “Fine. You both have ten seconds to explain now, and later, I will rip out your throats.”

“Don’t jump to conclusions, Tryst.” Clare had the gall to sound irritated, and Trystan wanted to wring her neck. “We were helping her.”

“By torturing her?” he said darkly, looking to Sage, whose breathing was shallow. Her normally vibrant skin was pale, sweat beaded at her forehead, and her face was streaked with tears.

But Sage’s small voice cut through the volatile tension in the air. “They’re telling the truth.” They all turned to look at her as she sat up slowly. Trystan reached out a hand to steady her, and she smiled at him gratefully. His face heated.

“The dagger is in the box.” She nodded toward the box on the table. It was made of simple wood, no longer than his forearm.

“I don’t understand.” He shook his head.

“Well, if you would stop nearly breaking your neck jumping to conclusions, I could tell you.” Clare rolled her eyes and cocked a hip. “The dagger is imbued with a rare kind of binding magic. It absorbed her blood when it cut her. That’s why it hurts whenever she’s near it.”

“And?” Trystan asked, feeling his pulse rising again.

“Clare said the only way to break the bind was to expose myself to the pain until it didn’t hurt anymore,” Sage said, still sounding weak. He felt ill. “So, you…you wanted them to do this?” He furrowed his brow, head


Sage flexed her hands after squeezing them. “I wanted to be free of it, the pain.”

His lips parted as he looked at her, unable to keep the fear from his gaze. “That’s very brave,” he said hoarsely.

Clare and Tatianna eyed them both, but when their gazes turned toward each other, they both swiftly looked away. Still both stubborn as ever.

Clearing her throat, Clare spoke again. “Tatianna allowed me to look at the blade this morning because the steel was made with ink much like mine,” Clare said, not looking at Tatianna at all. “The blade is almost sentient because of it, and when it gets a lick of your blood, it steals some of your essence.”

Trystan nodded; he’d heard of it before. “It’s not uncommon. Warriors in battle can greatly benefit from having a blade that is connected to them, like it’s an extension of their very being.” He smiled to himself.

“Warrior” seemed an apt description for the small woman in front of him already moving to stand.

“I want to keep going,” Sage said, color returning to her cheeks. “Clare says there’s something about this magic—something dangerous and unpredictable. I prefer not to have wild magic embedded in my shoulder, waiting to take me out like a ticking time bomb.” She paused and added, “I’ve had enough of those.”

Trystan wanted to tell her no, wanted to insist that she not proceed. But what if his sister was right? What if the magic of the wound could harm her without warning? “If that is your wish, then I’m sure Tatianna and my sister wouldn’t mind working together to help you.”

He looked pointedly at them both, and each gazed at the other before eventually nodding at him.

“Of course,” Tatianna said.

“Happy to assist.” Clare nodded demurely.

The list.

“Tatianna, where were you the night the guvre escaped?”

The healer widened her eyes before taking a step back, looking at him, and proceeding to howl with laughter. “Did you think it was me? The spy!”

Clare chuckled, too, and Evie put a hand over her mouth.

These women were taking years off his life. “You laugh, but you are the final person I couldn’t rule out as a suspect.”

“If I were the traitor, you’d be dead already, Tryst.” Tatianna reached up to pinch his cheeks, and he swatted her hand away. “The night the guvre escaped, I was at the Evergreen Tavern. You can ask the barkeep.”

His head was pounding with that deep ache that had settled there when the traitor first started complicating his life.

“Then I’m out of options,” he said, defeated.

Another voice floated from the direction of the open doorway. “What, uh… What happened to the door?” Blade walked in, grinning from ear to ear.

“What do you want, Gushiken?” This day was getting worse and worse.

“The guvres are doing a thing,” Blade said, giving The Villain a pointed look. “Seemed like they needed some privacy.”

“What sort of thing?” Clare asked.

“An, um—well, they’re reacquainting themselves with each other,” Blade said, waving his hand in a small circle.

“Oh,” Sage said matter-of-factly. “They’re fornicating.”

A strangled sound left Trystan’s mouth as he swung his gaze to Evie’s, his eyebrows nearly reaching his hairline. Her lips were curved into a soft, knowing smile…

Think about it. And die, his mind threatened.

“Fantastic,” Trystan said sarcastically, looking away from Sage. “And you need me there for that…why?”

“I thought you could use your magic to keep the office from crumbling.

They’re very…um…enthusiastic.”

His eyes squeezed shut. “I’ll be right there.”

Blade nodded at all three of them, grinning again before disappearing behind the ruined doorway.

Trystan started to follow but stopped short. Without turning around, he said, “Is my assistant still going to be standing when I return?”

“She’s safe with us,” Tatianna assured.

He nodded and kept moving. But when Sage’s screams began again, he wasn’t entirely sure he could keep his power from eviscerating someone until she stopped. He just hoped it wasn’t a guvre. Or Blade.

The dragon trainer chose that moment to give Trystan an encouraging thumbs-up, which was followed by another one of Sage’s screams.

Actually, he did hope it was Blade.

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