After some debate, Jay decided to carry Isellta bridegroom-style for better weight-balance distribution. He took each step carefully and slowly.
Isellta didn’t say anything. He kept his gaze straight ahead. His wings fluttered non-stop.
Neither one needed to speak.
Jay stepped off the last step.
Isellta’s wings fluttered faster as he glanced around. “Which cell is he in?”
Jay laughed. “Don’t worry. I’ll take you there.”
“Oh, Jay! Jay, I’m going to see him. Jay, put me down. I need to be down. Put me down. Put me down!”
“Okay, careful.” He lowered Isellta to the floor.
Isellta flattened his wings against his back, but they refused to be still. They vibrated.
“What do you want me to do?”
“Just take me to him. That’s all.”
Jay chuckled softly. “Fair point.”
Isellta’s heart pounded as they approached the cell. His wings went still.
The cell seemed to be empty.
Is he here? Is he okay? What if Mark Caten has hurt him? Would he do that? What if Her Majesty did something bad to him? She hates him. What if she staked him? Would she stake him, though? What if she didn’t stake him? What if?
“Olessa. I don’t understand.”
She picked up the thin dagger and admired it.
He shuddered. “I don’t think you should do this. It will hurt him.”
“Silly, mindless fey. That is the whole point of this experiment. And it is a very worthy experiment.” She tapped the dagger’s tip with her fingertip, drawing a single drop of blood. “Let’s see if vampires bleed.”
Isellta broke free of Jay’s grip. He whispered into his hands and pushed the magic at the cell door. It swung open. He stumbled into the cell.
Something unseen grabbed his breastbone and squeezed.
Isellta cried out. He pressed his fist above the spot and glanced around. “Robin? Ro—”
The grip tightened.
“Uh…” His legs wobbled. “…uh…” He reached out to grab something, but there was nothing to grab on to. He fell to his hands and knees. “…uh..”
Jay hurried over. “What is it?” He laid his hand on Isellta’s back. “What’s wrong?”
“I..” He cringed as the pain worsened. “…hurts…”
“Let me get you out of here.”
“No. I need to know. I.” The pain brought tears to his eyes. His voice cracked as he said, “Jay, I need to know.” His tears fell. “I can’t leave until I know.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“Help me up?” he said plaintively.
Jay did just that.
Isellta pressed his fist above that spot again. “Robin?” He glanced around the empty cell. “Robin, are you here? Are you…” He looked to the back wall.
Isellta stood off to the side and watched Olessa push the unconscious vampire against the back wall.
There was something about him that made him different from the other vampires Olessa had experimented on.
Olessa closed the manacles around his wrists and ankles and waist.
Isellta frowned and tried to figure it out. Something about his face, the messiness of his hair. Something about the shape of his shoulders.
She snapped her fingers. “Muzzle him, fey.”
Isellta stretched out his arms and shuffled uncertainly to the back wall. The pain in his breastbone worsened. He could imagine it fracturing like a sheet of single pane glass.
He whimpered, but he did not stop.
Until he reached the wall.
It was only then that he noticed the strong smell of tangerines.