I opened them all the way.
There was a sudden silence behind me as Bian and Nick looked around at what I was doing.
“Providing you had nothing to do with killing Larry or what went on at Bow Creek, I accept your request for sanctuary, Yelena,” I spoke to the uninterested railroad tracks below. “Might as well come in now and swear. But I warn you, if you were part of either of those, I’ll hunt you down and kill you.”
I stepped back inside, turned and waited, my back to the cold air wafting in from outside. And any weapon that came through those windows.
Nothing like making a grand gesture.
Bian’s katana was out and she’d risen to her feet. Nick remained seated, tension in every muscle.
A faint sound confirmed my guess had been correct. A whisper of cloth against brick as she slid down from the roof and onto the balcony, moving slowly and tensely, cat-cautious.
I could feel her, unfolding like some dark, poisonous orchid behind me. The brassy scent of Matlal and… something followed her in. The hairs on my neck stood up. I refused to turn around.
Naryn was asking what the hell was happening. Bian swung the laptop around until the webcam pointed at us.
When the woman spoke, her voice was quiet, controlled, with a slight Slavic accent.
“Your data is compromised. My name is not Belyevolosova. No more lies and disguises,” she said. She sank down on one knee beside me, took my hand and bowed her head over it. “I am Yelena Vylkove. On my Blood, I had no part in the death of Larry Dixon and I was never at Bow Creek. I never used the children. I so swear, and I request sanctuary from House Farrell.”
She spoke the truth. I knew it somehow.
Or she was a sociopath, able to lie undetectably like Noble.
Bian placed her katana deliberately on the chair. Her laptop keyboard started to rattle as her fingers raced across it. In his corner of the screen, I could see Naryn turn to his systems to hunt for information on the new name they’d been given.
I felt tension ratchet up in Yelena. Nick caught it, coming to his feet.
“We have to exchange oaths.” Yelena pressed her forehead against my hand and spoke quietly a short version of the oath I’d given Skylur at the Assembly. “I petition the protection of House Farrell. I offer my Blood, life, loyalty and obedience to the House. I will honor the obligations and responsibilities of the House. I submit to the absolute rule of the House.”
My Athanate was way ahead of the rest of me.
I remembered Skylur’s closing sentences of his oath at the Assembly like they’d been carved on my heart. “Faith for faith. Blood for Blood. Life for life. I grant the rights and privileges within my gift.”
“My Blood is yours,” Yelena whispered. She sounded shocked.
“It is done,” I finished.
I took my hand away before she could kiss it or anything like that. She rose silently to stand behind me.
I had a moment to wonder what I’d done before Bian won the race for digital information.
“Oh, shit,” she said again, her voice barely a whisper as she grabbed her katana and swung it to face us.
“What?” I asked.
The bright blade of the katana had my attention, but from the corner of my eye, I could see Nick frown and shake his head. He didn’t know either. He was up on the balls of his feet now, but I didn’t know if he was fast enough to stop Bian, if she took it into her head to attack.
Yelena knew why. I could feel it, but I didn’t want to turn my head with that katana pointed at us.
“Step away, Amber.” Bian’s voice was strained and she had to clear her throat. “The new name she’s given isn’t Russian. It’s Ukrainian. A small town in the delta of the Danube river, on the Black Sea.”
My geography wasn’t that good, but the mention of the area triggered it; Diana’s briefing about the Athanate groups that weren’t aligned with Panethus and Basilikos. The western reaches of the Black Sea were part of