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"That was good of you," Nikolai said as they crossed the palace grounds to the old zoo. A full moon was risting.

Zoya ignored the compliment.

"Why can't it be as simple as a war ? One enemy facing another in honest combat?"

"Ravka likes to keep things interesting," said Nikolai. "Don't you enjoy a challenge ?"

"I enjoy a nap," said Zoya. "I can't remember the last time I was allowed to sleep in."

"None of that. A full night's sleep might put you in a good mood, and I need you at your most disgruntled."

"Then keep spewing inanities and you may see me at my worst."

"All Saints, are you saying I haven't seen you at your worst ?"

Zoya tossed her hair. "If you had, you'd be under the covers, gibbering prayers."

"A unique way of getting me into bed, but who am I to question your methods ?"

Zoya rolled her eyes, but she was grateful for the distraction of this easy back-and-forth. This was safe, simple, nothing like the quiet of his bedchamber, his hand tight in hers. And what would she do when Nikolai was married and propriety rose like a wall between them ?

She scowled. She would get by just fine, as she always had. She was a military commander, not a simpering girl who wilted from a lack of attention.

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"Tell me, Brekker, do you believe in monsters?"

"Of all kinds."

"Prepare to meet another."

He closed his eyes and let the demon uncoil. It wasn't hard. The monster was always waiting for its chance.

Kaz raised his cane as the shadow emerged, taking shape in the air before them. "All the Saints and their ugly mothers."

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Spoiler(cliquez pour révéler)- On va le regarder mourir, se lamenta Tolya.

- Tout le monde pleure la première fleur, récita doucement Mayu. Restera-t-il des larmes pour les fleurs à venir ?

- Je chanterai pour toi, continua Tamar.

Tolya plaça une main sur son ceur.

- Bien après la fin du printemps.

Eux seuls savaient ce que ce moment, cette tragédie, signifierait. Des larmes coulaient sur les joues de Tolya.

-Spoiler(cliquez pour révéler)Que les saints veillent sur toi, Nikolai. Tu meurs en roi.

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Et c'était peut-être tout ce qui comptait: survivre, oser rester en vie, construire l'espoir quand tout espoir est perdu.

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- Nous ne sommes pas sans défense. Les romans sont remplis d'anti-héros improbables donnés perdants dès le début de l'histoire.

- Tu lis des romans?

- Quand j'ai le temps.

- Donc jamais.

- Je lis quand je n'arrive pas à trouver le sommeil.

- Ah, tout le temps alors !

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- Parce que, contrairement à Kaz, j'ai une conscience.

J'ai une conscience, objecta Kaz. Mais elle est discrète.

Jesper rit.

- Discrète ? Si tu as une conscience, elle est baillonnée et ligotée sur une chaise quelque part!

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Comment ? Comment survit-on à un monde qui ne fait que prendre ? Elle n'eut pour toute réponse que le silence des étoiles, magnifiques, brillantes et insouciantes.

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"I would choose you." The words were out before he thought better of them, and then there was no way to pull them back.

Silence stretched between them. Perhaps the floor will open and I'll plummet to my death, he thought hopefully.

"As your general ?" Her voice careful. She was offering him a chance to right the ship, to take them back to familiar waters.

And a fine general you are.

There could be no better leader.

You may be prickly, but that's what Ravka needs.

So many easy replies.

Spoiler(cliquez pour révéler)Instead he said, "As my queen."

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"I'm not supposed to let you in", Jesper said.

Brekker seemed unperturbed. "Why not?"

"Because everytime I do, you ask me to break the law."

A voice from behind Jesper said, "The problem isn't that he asks, it's that you always say yes."

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Kaz rapped his cane on the floor. "And now you know why I don't visit more often."

Jesper folded his arms. "No one asked you to visit more often."

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