tiny but plaintive
, as if to emphasize the dilemma.
It was rather unfortunate for this woman that Felix had happened along in her time of need. Had he been Jonas Agallon, heâd likely have already rescued the cat, and would now be busy milking a goat for its dinner.
Even just that brief thought of the failed rebel leader had managed to darken Felixâs mood.
âI donât save kittens, lady,â he growled.
Her eyes brimmed with tears. âOh, please. Thereâs no one else around to help right now.
do this, in Goddess Cleionaâs name. She loved animalsâall animals, big and small.â
âYeah, well, Iâm Limerian and our Goddess Valoria only liked animals if they ate kittens for breakfast.â
A hawk passed overhead, its shadow crossing Felixâs path. The woman shielded her eyes from the bright sun as she looked up at it with panic.
Felix wasnât sure if it was a real hawk or a Watcher, but it did look rather hungry for small felines.
Cruel and uncaring, remember?
He glanced at the woman who looked up with him with such hope that he might help her.
It didnât take very long at all to climb the tree, grab the cat, and return to the ground.
âTake it,â he said gruffly, shoving the furry handful away.
âOh, thank you!â She gratefully took the kitten into her arms and kissed it multiple times. Then she grabbed Felixâs face and noisily kissed both his cheeks. âYou are a hero!â
He just glared at her. âI am most definitely not a hero. Now, do
a favor and forget you ever saw me.â
Without another word, he began walking away from the old woman, her cat, and the stupid tree of shame.
â¢Â â¢Â â¢
He reached the city late that afternoon, when the sun had begun to slip behind the horizon, painting the sky with streaks of red and orange.
Felix took a deep breath as he approached the first palace entrance. Two guards crossed their sharp spears in front of him, stopping him from taking another step. He sized them up. Both massive men made Felixâs own tall and muscular frame look puny in comparison.
âGreetings, friends,â he began with a grin. âLovely day, isnât it?â
âGo away,â the mountainous guard on the left said.
âDonât you want to know who I am and what business I have here?â
âWell, Iâm going to tell you anyway. The nameâs Felix Graebas, and Iâm here to see his majesty, the king. No appointment necessary. Heâs not expecting me, but I assure you heâll know who I am and want to speak with me personally.â
Two spears now pointed directly at his throat. âAnd whyâs that?â the smaller guard snapped.
He cleared his throat, determined to hold fast to his courage. âBecause of this.â
Without making any sudden moves to provoke them to put their spears to use, Felix pulled up his sleeve to show the snake tattoo on his forearm that marked him as a full member of the Clan of the Cobra.
âAnd?â The guard didnât seem to know the importance of what he was looking at.
âYou might not personally know what this mark means, but believe me when I say that the king will be
angry if he were to find out you turned me away. Iâm one of his favorite and most accomplished assassins. I know you wouldnât want to make the king angry, would you? You both seem like men who value having all of their limbs intact.â
The large guardâs eyes narrowed as he peered at the tattoo again, his lips thin. After a rather torturous silence with the pointy end of both spears still pointed at Felix, the guard nodded once.
âFollow me,â he said.
Felix was ushered into a dark salon off the main foyer. The little room was decked out with a mosaic floor of silver and bronze and massive tapestries on every wall. Hanging front and center was the Auranian