Jack roused Asher from sleep, and went to his own bedroll beneath the stars. Asher looked to the gently crackling embers for a while, and then crept around the camp. He made sure everyone was asleep. With the ease of years of practice, he clamped his hand tight on Kydien’s mouth, and dragged her into the dark, quiet woods. She was light, and the woods weren’t so thick here as to impede his movement; they were out of earshot before long.
“Be quiet, and be still,” Asher hissed in her ear, as he released his grip. She nodded, her flesh pale in the faint starlight peeking through the canopy of leaves. Asher untied her hands, but not her feet, and propped her sitting up against a tree, before sitting down across from her. A tear rolled down Kydien’s cheek, and her breathing became fast. Fearful. There was only one reason Asher quietly drags people into dark places.
“We all spoke much of loyalty these past few days, yet you intended to betray us all. That is not something any of us – even Reyes – can abide,” Asher said softly.
“Are you going to kill me?” Kydien asked, whispered voice trembling.
“I don’t want to, honestly,” Asher shrugged. “The Stag Lord is your brother; that makes you an asset to us in our quest to kill him. A very valuable asset.”
“I’ve spent too long trying to find him… now that I have, I can’t help anyone kill him! What would you do, if it was your brother?”
“I…” Asher started to say something, but paused for a moment. Then he continued, “Look, when we get back to town and hand you over to the guards, you will be hanged. For someone as light as you, it’s a slow, terrible death by suffocation. Is that what you want? Is that what you’re willing to endure in a futile attempt to protect your brother?”
More tears rained on Kydien’s cheek. She bit her lip, and shut her eyes tight. “Just let me go. I’ll tell him to leave and never return.”
“He’s a cruel man, an evil man, and he must answer for his crimes. Exile would free the Greenbelt of his tyranny, yes, but he’d play his sick games elsewhere. And I certainly can’t let you go: you’re a tactical liability now. You’d give us away.”
“If you’re so hell bent on killing him, Asher, then there’s nothing I can say to convince you not to. All you ever care about is killing, and death. How are you any different from what you think my brother is?” Kydien’s voice cracked with anger. The tears were flowing freely.
“Dealing death is my purpose. But it’s not all I care about,” Asher said, ruefully.
“Yeah? Name one th-“
“I have a daughter.”
Kydien’s protestations gave way to quiet weeping and sniffling. She could tell that Asher was telling the truth. Finally, she whispered, “What do you want me to say, Asher?”
“Help us capture him. It’d be better to put him on trial in Restov than to kill him out here.”
“I can’t, I can’t…” Kydien sobbed.
Asher stood then, and reached into his pocket, and pulled out a black strip of cloth. “Then it’s me, or a hanging.”
“I d-d-don’t w-want to be h-h-hanged…” she cried.
“Shhh, it’s ok,” Asher murmured. “You won’t feel a thing.” He tied the blindfold around her eyes. “For what it’s worth, I’m so sorry.”
“My brother…” Kydien wept openly, barely able to speak.
Asher drew his favorite dagger and gently pushed Kydien onto her back beneath the tree. His left hand held hers tight, and his right plunged the razor-sharp blade directly into her heart. It was a clean entry – any surgeon would be duly impressed. The shock of the blow would protect her from pain; her body would quietly, softly fade to death within seconds.
When at last her grip failed, Asher removed the dagger and her blindfold, and pulled her body around the other side of the tree.
It was the spot where Reyes had buried Fionn.