Dragonhearts - Page 14

“I don't know which is worse - a rapist - or a rapist with delusions of being witty,” I intoned from concealment, my voice sounding as it were coming from everywhere at once.

Rolph spun around so quickly it was almost dance-like. “Who's there?” he snarled.

I loosed a long, low chuckle, and waited for the last echo to fade away before I answered. “Why don't you just consider me the 'Spirit of the Woods?'”

His two brutes were just smart enough to look scared at that, but Rolph's face became a fine mask of disdain. “That's just a peasant tale,” he sneered.

Rolph's expression, like the expression on the faces of his brutes, froze on his face.

“Then you have nothing to worry about,” I said, shaking my head as I came out of concealment and walked toward Elfreda. The trio surrounding her tried to move - gods, how they tried - but none of their muscles cooperated with them, so they stood in position, shaking almost imperceptibly.

Elfreda started to smile at the sight of me, but her smile died only half-formed when without preamble I asked her, “Do they live or do they die?”

“D . . . Die?” Elfreda stammered.

I raised my hand toward Rolph in a purely theatrical gesture to emphasize my point before asking her, “Is that your final decision?”

“No!” Elfreda shouted. “I mean . . . yes, I thought . . . I mean no!” She took a ragged breath in an attempt to stabilize herself. “I mean I thought you might . . . you know . . .” She gestured vaguely. “But . . . ”

“But you thought I would kill on your behalf without involving you so you could remain untouched by it,” I finished for her. “Is that what you thought?”

Elfreda dropped her eyes in shame. “Yes,” she whispered.

“Well, you were wrong then,” I told her. “If you want them to die, you're going to have to say so and be a part of the decision.” I put steel into my voice. “Now decide!”

Page 14

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