“Bwenlair,” said the young Underworlder, nodding respectfully. “Would you please share with us the secret your father imparted to you?”
Caden looked at him with a guarded expression.
“The powerful secret,” Sahrim hissed, leaning forward with the torch, “which the Order is seeking.”
“I fear,” said Marianne, shivering, “that your treasure-box is empty. I know of no powerful secrets.”
There was a hint panic in Cayden’s eyes. “Marianne, think.”
She shrugged helplessly. “I’m sorry. I wish I knew.”
The newcomer spoke firmly. “Then we must leave her on the Dripping Ledge until she remembers.”
Anthony grabbed her arm.
“No!” Cayden shouted, stepping forward to look the young Underworlder in the eyes. “What good will that do? It won’t help her think—it will terrify the wits out of her!”
Part IX"But is not a little terror worth so many lives, Elaistro?" the Underworlder said. "This is not the time for your caution and gallantry. If she knows, she must tell us."
Even in her fear, Marianne could see that Cayden's eyes were ice cold. He had no charity for this young Underworlder. He shot Sahrin a look, but the older Underworlder only shrugged.
"There's no need for any of this," Cayden said through gritted teeth. "She had a glass of the Larish Nectar. It should start working in a moment or two. Why is your first instinct always violence? You should control your men, Sahrin."
Marianne staggered even as Cayden spoke. There was something strange at work in her flesh. Her head was light. It felt as if she were floating. The light from the torches was all colors of green and purple flickering madly. She was no longer sure if her feet were underneath her or even still attached. Marianne put out a hand to support herself against the damp wall, but found only black emptiness. Her knees buckled.
Someone caught her under the elbows and kept her from falling. She could not see anything, just the bright colors of the torches blocking out everything else.
"As I said," she heard Cayden's deep voice in her ear. "Larish Nectar has other benefits."
Anthony was yelling somewhere a long way off. Marianne could only just make out the words. "What did you give her, you bastard? What did you do?" Someone muttered something in answer, but Marianne couldn't hear them. Cayden lowered her slowly to the ground.
"Now," Cayden said. His voice was the only thing that was clear in her flickering green and purple world. "Larish Nectar has a strange property. It is concocted from night-fish blood and from a particular type of fungus the Underworlders discovered a long time ago."
Marianne reached out to the void and fastened her hands onto something warm and solid. "What's happening to me?" she gasped.
"No need to panic, Marianne. It is no poison. Larish Nectar only helps you remember whatever it is you wish to remember. That is why they serve it in the tavern. Memory is a powerful drug."
"Why did you give it to me?" New colors began to flicker in Marianne's vision. Red now and a sunlight yellow.
"I want you to help us, Marianne." Cayden's voice was very calm. "We can save so many lives and free our city from the Order, but only with your help. We need to know what your father told you. Will you help?"
Marianne concentrated on breathing for a few moments. "Yes," she gasped.
"All right, then. I want you to remember all the times you were ever with your father. Most likely he told you when you were very young, when you wouldn't have understood what he imparted to you. It might have been some sort of token or just a passing phrase. Remember, Marianne. For all of us."
The lights came together in one bright flash behind Marianne's eyes. Then images flickered past her like the turning of a kaleidoscope. Her father laughing. Her father serious. Her father looking at her mother with love in his eyes. She saw him young when his hair was still dark like Tony's and older when it was greying. New memories she had never seen before flickered past, memories of looking out of a cradle at her father's face.
He had told her so many things, given her so many things. How was she to know which was this vital piece of information that would save so many people?
Something glittered in her mind's eyes and it grew large to envelope her.
She stood on the stone walk in front of the their grand house. She was little, not higher than the edge of the tall fountain. It was her birthday and her father had a great gift for her.
Her dark haired father knelt so their eyes were level. Behind him, a younger Janth curled his neck up into the sky. His scales shone bright green still and his eyes glittered like jewels.
"He's yours," her father said. "You must take care of him."
"I'll feed him and water him everyday forever. I promise," a young Marianne said.
Her father smiled. "This is a great gift. You must not undervalue him when you grow older. Dragons are very special, my dear," he said. "They all know a secret."
Marianne liked secrets very much. "What sort of secret?"
"You would have to ask Janth. Each dragon keeps a different secret."
"Will he tell me if I ask?"
Her father stood up and Marianne craned her neck back to look up at him. He was a black patch against the sky, but better and braver than any knight. "Dragons only give up their secrets to their very good friends and then only if you ask very very nicely." He looked back over his shoulder at Janth who was watching them with clear deep eyes. "There may be a time when you must ask him, but not before." He put his hands on Marianne's shoulders. "Never ask Janth his secret unless there is no other way."
Marianne's eyes snapped open. The strange colors were gone, but everything she looked at had a smooth hard edge as if all the world had been coated with diamond. Cayden knelt on the damp floor in front of her. Her hand was fastened like a vice around his forearm.
"Do you remember, Marianne?" he asked.
Marianne released his arm and started to struggle to her feet. Cayden helped her, lifting her when she staggered.
"Janth," she breathed. "Janth knows."
If you missed part of the story, you can catch up in the Blog Epic tab. There are beautiful maidens, handsome strangers, a dragon with the flake and a great evil which is plotting to undo them all!