We’re going to have fun together. Niamh had never been one to despair. And so when Davian had given her a glass of wine, she’d drunk, although she had immediately recognized that it was drugged. When she woke, it was in her prison. It wasn’t much of a prison, as things went; more of a dank pit. But the walls were far too high for her to scale, so she didn’t bother to try. She had also had her clothes stripped from her, and given nothing to wear. It was a blessing that the nights were warm, and that the insects would not venture here, not when there were plenty of other walking bodies present. Sixty steps around the circular pit, she had discovered. She would often pace, having nothing better to do. Her monotonous days there would be marked only by her feeding, where they would throw down the day’s meal. And then she would return to her pacing, until she was tired enough to sleep. At times, though, she would glance up and see Davian watching, hands clasped behind his back. He would say nothing, and Niamh would say nothing, and he would watch her pace, still completely nude. There was nothing of desire in his gaze, only flat contempt and a mild amusement as she ignored his presence. On the fifth day, though, things changed. The wineskin she was tossed that day was drugged again; Niamh drank it anyway. What was the use of prolonging the inevitable? This time, when she awoke, she was bound to a chair, still naked. Her eyes were blindfolded but she sniffed the air, catching Davian’s distinctive scent. She’d had ample time to learn it, being in his company during the long ride to Somerind. “Who are you?” She kept silent and refused to answer. When his hand connected to her face, she swallowed and wondered how long she could keep silent. All throughout the long session, she said nothing. He asked her if she was Niamh Ca’ernin, asked her what she knew of the North, asked her so many questions that her mind began to shut down. Only at the end, when his hand cradled her chin and his thumb stroked her mouth did she react. “That time in the pit must’ve given you desire for something. If you answered my questions, I could arrange for a bath, for some proper food, for a bed – ” She bit his thumb as hard as he could, and was rewarded by the coppery tang of blood in her mouth. A sudden hiss of pain, and then a blow to her head; disoriented, she unclenched her teeth. Through a daze, she heard, “Take her to the prisons.” As she was hauled away, she heard him mutter, “F***ing bitch.” The prisons were dank and cold, not at all like the pit. She found herself wishing almost wistfully for the latter; this particular prison was barely big enough to fit her. Niamh was a tall woman, after all. She wanted to die. Niamh had thought this through very carefully. If Davian had asked her if she was Niamh Ca’ernin, then he must know, or at least suspect. Therefore, Niamh Ca’ernin had to die. She couldn’t leave the throne for Orlan. Given that she had been stripped of her weapons, she had two choices. Either she could drive Davian to such a rage that he would kill her (unlikely), or she could starve herself. And since there was a small hole in the floor where she could presumably relieve herself… She had no idea for how many days she managed to throw the food in there. All that she knew was that one morning, when the guard had opened her door to give her the day’s rations, she hadn’t been able to react even to his smile – it was, thankfully, one of the kinder ones. He had disappeared, and a few moments later, Davian had come, his thumb still bandaged. With a nod to the guard, he picked up the pail of broth that was her morning meal. As the guard closed in, she tried to push him away, but weak and ineffectual as she was, it did nothing. He pinched her nose tight. Perhaps I could die this way and choke to death, she thought, but her body betrayed her, and at last, she had to breathe, and when he did, Davian poured the broth down her throat. Choking and spluttering all over the guard, she heard him say flatly, “You are Orlan’s prisoner, and you will be kept alive until he chooses otherwise. You have a choice. I will come in every day and repeat this process, or you may eat willingly.” She shuddered involuntarily as she remembered the worst of the guards; today’s was older and kind, but some of the younger ones looked as though they would quite willingly indulge in rape if they could get away with it. Davian left without another word, and the guard smiled at her again, almost apologetically. Niamh was young and strong, and she recovered swiftly. She ate what was given to her, and wondered what Orlan’s plans for her future was. Davian did not attempt to interrogate her again, and she dared to hope that Orlan had forgotten her. Foolish hope. Perhaps a week after the feeding incident, Davian came to her door. He silently handed her a pail of warm water and some cloths as well as some soap, and she washed herself. She donned the plain gown that he also gave to her, and then followed him docilely as he led her through the halls. As Davian knocked, she heard a deep voice growl, “Enter.” The door opened, and he gestured her through. Taking a step inside, her gaze locked on the board set up within the room and suddenly felt a surge of – well, not glee, but something close to it as she beheld one of her greatest passions. Kheppri.