Would you think badly of me if I told you I stayed in bed for more than forty eight hours after that? Because I did. And I don't regret it, not one little bit. I've been through so much crap these past few weeks that I feel like I deserve a little R&R now and then, especially after nearly being chopped to pieces by a lunatic with a sword.
When I woke up the next morning, Mom went through her typical routine of freaking out, asking me if I was all right at least a thousand times, and putting her hands everywhere short of where the sun don't shine to make sure I didn't have a fever. I let her do her thing, still feeling too tired to put up a fight. Besides, it was nice to know someone cared about me after...
My thoughts were cut short when I heard the floorboards creaking outside my bedroom door. I turned to look, expecting to see Stark standing in the hallway. Instead, I saw Mr. Wrogan.
"Hello, Amber," he said in his deep rumbling voice. "How are you feeling?"
"Better," I answered for about the thousandth-and-first time.
"And your arm?"
Hesitating a little, I raised the bedsheet off my body and looked down to see my other hand bound from my fingers to my wrist. I tried to move it, and it rose up off the mattress a few inches before falling back down again. I barely felt a thing the whole time.
"It's still numb," I finally answered. "And I can't move it."
Wrogan sighed and nodded. "That's to be expected. It'll get better, but it might take a few nights. Make sure you take in plenty of moonlight."
"Where's Stark?" I asked as soon as he stopped talking. "Is he okay?"
"He's in his room," Mom told me while she dabbed my forehead with a wet rag. "He's... well, he's—"
"The ramidreju potion is doing its work," Mr. Wrogan interrupted her. "He woke up about an hour ago, but his wounds are still quite severe. He is not in the friendliest of moods."
As if on cue, Stark's voice rang through the hallway, "Is he still here? I told you to get out of my house, you..." I never got to find out what, exactly, Mr. Wrogan was, because his rant was cut short by a fit of ugly sounding coughing.
"Oh no," Mom said, rising. She looked at me, and then through my bedroom door.
"I'm fine, Mom," I assured her. "Go take care of him."
Mom smiled a little. "Thank you, sweetie." After planting a quick kiss on my forehead, she hurried out of the room, having to squeeze to get around Mr. Wrogan.
"Your mother is a very kind woman," the giant said after she was gone.
I nodded. "Yeah, she is."
"Not everyone is so fortunate to have a mother like her."
I looked at him, and then snorted and shook my head. "Are you going to tell me you're only like this because you never had a mother?"
Mr. Wrogan drew up straight, his head scraping my ceiling. "Like what?" he asked.
"Kidnapping little girls and running experiments on them so you can sell them to the highest bidder."
Wrogan looked down at me, affronted. For a second I thought he was going to storm out of my room, probably taking the top part of my doorframe with him, but then he sighed and shook his head.
"You don't understand, Amber," he said in a softer voice. "That's not me. That isn't the kind of man I am."
I huffed in my throat. "The past few months really could've fooled me."
"I didn't start the Silverblood project for money," he insisted. "I had to make it sound that way for Vaazkima and Shavver to approve of it, but that's not why I did it."
I tried to sit up in my bed, but failed. "You're going to have a real hard time convincing me you had a good reason for all this."
Wrogan frowned and crossed his arms. "You want a reason for it?" he asked after a minute's consideration. "Last night is your reason."
"The Slayer?" I asked. "What does he have to do with any of this?"
"He has everything to do with it. And not just him, all of them. Amber, every experiment my department at Majestic conducts is to develop weapons we can use against them."
I narrowed my eyes at him. "And the Silverbloods..."
"The Silverblood project was my attempt to breed a new type of werewolf, one that could overcome their own greatest weakness."
"But that isn't all you did," I snapped. "You wanted us to turn into monsters too, didn't you?"
Mr. Wrogan's face turned a shade redder at my accusation. "I wanted to make you stronger, faster, more capable of defending yourselves! Is that really so bad?"
"After everything I've gone through, do you expect me to say it's a good thing?"
"You're still just a child," Wrogan shot back. "You don't understand anything."
Now it was my face that turned red. "What, am I supposed to suddenly be okay with all this just because I'm eighteen? Is it magically going to stop hurting?"
"No, it's isn't going to stop hurting. It never will, none of it! But Amber," he leveled a finger at me, "you don't know what suffering is. You live in a big, warm house with plenty to eat, surrounded by people who love you. You get to leave that house whenever you want to. You get to go to school like a normal human being. And for all your complaining, you never even went through any real experimentation at Majestic. Do you have any idea how many Mythics I've met who would do anything to have a life like yours?"
My mouth snapped shut.
Wrogan nodded. "I didn't think so. Yes, a few bad things have happened to you, Amber. You didn't ask for any of this, and I am sorry that you had to be dragged into it. But you need to stop feeling so sorry for yourself, because you have a better life than ninety nine percent of the Mythics in the world."
He took a step backwards toward my door. "That is why I am the way I am, Amber. Everything I do, I do so that other Mythics can have a life like yours. If half of my test subjects die and the rest of them have to be tortured, then so be it!" He paused, as if he was just now realizing what had come out of his mouth. "I'm not without pity," he insisted a moment later, "but I am focused on the bigger picture. If my people, our people ever want to be truly free, then we're going to have to become stronger. That means sacrifices will have to be made. If nobody else is willing to make those sacrifices, then I'll do it. I'll do it even if my name goes down in history for being a monster! I'll do it, because I, at least, know that I'm doing it for the right reason."
He looked me in the eye, and... and dadgum it, I wasn't able to meet his gaze. How had he done that? Somehow, he'd managed to turn everything around and make me feel like the bad guy for not wanting to have acid pumped into my veins until it stopped hurting.
Because I wasn't, right?
"She's just a little girl," I said a minute later, staring down at my sheets.
Mr. Wrogan cocked his head. "Excuse me?"
"Kimberly. She's only a girl. She isn't even six years old yet. If you want to go around talking about sacrifices and the greater good, that's fine. Whatever. But she's just a kid. If anyone deserves to escape from all this, it's her."
Mr. Wrogan didn't answer immediately. He stood there, framed by my bedroom door, for almost five minutes. Further down the hall, I could hear my mom clucking over Stark, and Stark grumbling something in reply. Even further away, I heard the TV playing in the living room. I was back in my bed, I realized, so I guessed Rebecca must have been kicked out into the living room, at least for the time being.
"I'll make you a promise, Amber," Mr. Wrogan said. His voice was barely a whisper, but I could still hear his rumbling words perfectly. "From this point onwards, Kimberly is safe. I can't promise anything about you, but I do promise that Majestic will never again touch Kimberly. You're right, we've taken enough from her. Let her have as normal a childhood as she can."
I looked at him for a few seconds, searching him for any sign of dishonesty, but I couldn't find it. Finally, I nodded.
"Thank you," I told him.
"You're welcome," he said, nodding in return. Then he turned to the door and closed it. "I only stayed to make sure you were all right. I have to go now."
He withdrew a key from his pocket and fitted it into my doorknob, which was weird because my bedroom door didn't have keyholes on either side. As soon as he did, Stark and Mom's voices winked out of existence. I knew what I was going to see when he opened my door, and sure enough when he did I was greeted with a view of the corridor of doors in Majestic's headquarters.
"Take care, Amber," he said, stepping through it.
"Wait!" I said. Mr. Wrogan froze in his tracks, half in and half out of the magic doorway, and looked over his shoulder at me. "Answer one more question for me."
"If I can," he said.
"The Silverblood you're testing on now. Who is he?"
Mr. Wrogan's eyes grew wide. Seeing his reaction, my heart began to beat faster. Then, just when I thought he was going to answer me, he stepped the rest of the way through the door and began to close it.
"Wait!" I called after him. "Answer me!"
"He is nobody," he said. "Don't worry yourself about him."
"No, wait!" I tried to sit up again, but proved too weak and collapsed onto my back. "Wrogan, answer me!"
It was too late, though. My bedroom door clicked shut, and a second later Mom's voice came back.
"Crap!" I yelled, pounding my good fist on my mattress. I realized I was gasping for breath, and my forehead was soaked with sweat. Stupid, freaking, stubborn pig! Why did he have to make things so hard for me? Why couldn't he just cooperate? And why was I so freaking tired? I couldn't think straight. I rested my head back against my pillow as my eyelids became too heavy to keep open.
A few seconds later, I was asleep again.
NEXT TIME: I know, I know, short chapter. Sorry, guys! But don’t worry, because big things are coming up. Important things. Scary things. But are they good things? You’ll have to stay tuned to find out!