Ime lifts his head suddenly. He searches the crowd, his head turning sharply from right to left.
“What’s wrong?” Jaxon waves at a man carrying food. He takes a stick with meat impaled on it and bows his head in thanks.
“I can’t find Meah. I was able to keep track of her until she joined in the dancing.”
Jaxon pulls a large piece of meat from the stick and sniffs it curiously before popping it into his mouth. “Maybe she’s having too much fun to be found.”
Ime jumps to his feet, startling Jaxon. “I feel something…”
Waiting for Ime to continue, Jaxon lowers his food. The silence only grows longer until Jaxon asks, “What do you feel?”
Searching for the words, Ime’s eyes narrow. He knows this feeling. It’s familiar to him, as familiar as… His eyes widen when he realizes. “My fire. I feel my fire.”
Screams erupt at the center of the square, as though Ime’s words were a signal. The crowd creates an opening and the music cuts out. Ime and Jaxon are already on the move, forcing their way through the crowd. As they emerge into the opening, their eyes land on the cause of the screams. A man stands above the still body of a woman. He holds another woman at knifepoint to keep any magic users from approaching him.
Ime’s breath catches in his throat as he stares at the body. But the hair is the wrong color and he doesn’t recognize the clothing. He relaxes only slightly as his attention turns to the man with the bloody knife.
“Ime Gurek,” the man demands.
Jaxon’s eyes catch sight of Deven and his men moving forward through the crowd. They have their weapons drawn, but stop at the edge of the circle.
Stepping forward, Ime glares at the man. “I’m Ime. Why have you killed that woman?”
“To get your attention,” the man says. He throws a violet mask to the ground before Ime. Ime recognizes it as the one Meah was wearing earlier. “We have the Life Healer.”
“We?” Jaxon steps forward, next to Ime.
The man carefully lifts his shirt to reveal the familiar armor of the Blood King. “Teron waits for you at the top of the East cliffs. Meet him, alone, or he will kill the Life Healer.”
Deven and his men move forward, seeing a small opening to attack.
“Stop,” Ime shouts. “Let him go.”
To Ime’s surprise, the men stop and move back into the crowd. Deven orders a path to be cleared and the crowd does so quickly.
“Take me to Teron,” Ime says.
The man’s eyes land on Jaxon. He tightens his grip on the woman, who whimpers in fear.
Jaxon raises his hands in front of him. “I won’t follow. I’ll even make sure no one else does. But only if you hand over the girl.”
The man hesitates before tossing the woman at Jaxon. He turns his back to Ime and walks through the opening in the crowd. Ime follows in silence. Before he gets too far, Jaxon grabs his shoulder. He hands him his sword.
“Where were you keeping this?” Ime asks.
“Don’t worry about that.”
Ime takes the sword and nods. “Thank you.” He follows Teron’s man, leaving the crowd in shocked silence.