A heavy silence followed Zon’s question. Ameryn wanted to answer, but the memories…her face stung at the thought of them. Her face. Her body. Her heart.
“If it’s too uncomfortable to talk about—”
“No,” she reassured him with a shake of her head. “It’s fine.” She took a deep breath. Maybe saying something would help. Especially if she said it to him. He who alone knew what she had looked like before her mutilation.
“You remember that day…?”
“How could I forget?” Zon took a long stick and stirred the fire, not looking at her. Perhaps he knew that his gaze unsettled her.
“After Sucraám’s slavers took us from our homes, you remember, we traveled together for days.”
“That’s how we met Enilor and Loui,” he finished.
“And Claritas and her sister. They had been together for a while, all chained together in a line.”
“Sucraám’s brand already on their necks,” Zon added. He pulled his collar down, revealing the red circular mark on his own neck. He looked at Ameryn. She stretched her head backwards, outlining the same brand on her neck where it was hidden under a tangle of scars.
“You remember that day, then, when Sucraám found me.”
“To this day, I’m not sure why he singled out that group of slavers for inspection. Maybe it’s because he knew that my kind kept to the south and to the west. Maybe he was hunting for me, just me. I still do not know.”
“He took you,” Zon prompted.
“Yes,” Ameryn whispered, her mind starting to lose itself in the memories. “The will of the Sprite King was not to be denied. He pulled me from the line…” She swallowed. “By my hair. I remember you screaming.”
Zon said nothing. His head was down.
“He took me with him. I was his slave, hand and foot. He asked me what I was. I could not answer. He asked me if my parents had ever told me what I was. I did not know. I was just a girl.” Ameryn forced the words around the growing knot in her throat. “Just a girl.
“But he knew what I was. He knew, and would not tell me. Whatever I was, he hated it. He hated my people. He killed my parents, and he tried to kill me. He tried and he tried, but he did not succeed,” she said, swallowing again and managing a feeble laugh. “As you can see. But he did everything in his power to strip me of what I had been before. He changed me. He made me ugly. He took my face away. He made me his beast. I existed this way for a year and a half.”
“Those are the very scars he gave you?” Zon asked. “They look…pardon me, but they look…”
“As though they were made yesterday?” she finished. “Yes. He made sure the scars would remain. Sprite sorcery is more wicked than they would like the world to believe. He poured something into the scars so that they would not heal. And every time I think of him, of what happened…” She pulled her hand away from the scars on her neck. Her fingers were spotted in blood.
“How did you escape?”
“I didn’t.” She smiled. “I’m not brave like you. No, I was bought. When King Grare finalized the peace treaty between the Rats and the Wolves, stopping the genocide, he caught sight of me in Lord Sucraám’s tent. He inquired after me—asked him what I was. He told the king I was a monster he had tamed—very strong, impossible to kill, and very fast. The king bought me that day and took me to Kharador, where I was trained to be his daughter’s watchdog.”
“Does he know what you are?”
“No, I don’t think so. No one does. Perhaps I did, once, but now…” she shook her head. “All memory of what I was has been erased. I am nothing more than the princess’s Guardian.”
“At least you are free now. Free from him.”
Ameryn scoffed. “I will never be free. Look at me. My face bears his signature. And now his son—his son—” Ameryn was shaking. “His son has kidnapped the princess. She is his slave. What more can that monster take from me? What more?”