A Torch Against the Night

Page 47


“Get me intelligence on those Tribes,” I tell Faris. “Sizes, alliances, trade routes—everything.”
“Harper is speaking to our Fiver spies now.”
Harper. I wonder what Elias would make of the Northman. Eerie as the ten hells, I imagine him saying. Less chatty too. I can hear my friend in my head—that familiar baritone that thrilled and calmed me at the same time. Would that Elias and I were here together, hunting some Mariner spy or Barbarian assassin.
His name is Veturius, I remind myself for the thousandth time. And he is a traitor.
In the dungeon, Dex stands with his back to the cell, his jaw tight. Since he too spent time with Tribe Saif as a Fiver, I’m surprised at the tension in his body.
“Watch it with her,” he says under his breath. “She’s up to something.”
Within the cell, Mamie sits on the lone, hard bunk as if it is a throne, her back rigid, chin up, one long-fingered hand holding her robes off the floor. She rises when I enter, but I wave her back down.
“Helene, my love—”
“You will address the commander as Blood Shrike, Kehanni,” Dex says quietly as he gives me a pointed look.
“Kehanni,” I say. “Do you know the whereabouts of Elias Veturius?”
She looks me up and down, her disappointment obvious. This is the woman who gave me herbs to slow my moon cycle so it wasn’t hell to deal with at Blackcliff. The woman who told me, without an ounce of irony, that on the day I married, she would slaughter a hundred goats in my honor and make a Kehanni’s tale of my life.
“I’d heard you were hunting him,” she says. “I’ve seen your child spies. But I didn’t believe it.”
“Answer the question.”
“How can you hunt a boy who was your closest companion only weeks ago? He is your friend, Hel—Blood Shrike. Your shield brother.”
“He is a fugitive and a criminal.” I pull my hands behind my back and knot my fingers together, twisting the Blood Shrike ring round and round. “And he will face justice, like other criminals. Are you harboring him?”
“I am not.” When I don’t break eye contact, she breathes in through her nostrils, hackles rising. “You have taken salt and water at my table, Blood Shrike.” The muscles of her hands are rigid as she clenches the edge of the bunk. “I would not insult you with a lie.”
“But you would hide the truth. There’s a difference.”
“Even if I am harboring him, what can you do about it? Fight all of Tribe Saif? You’d have to kill every last one of us.”
“One man isn’t worth a Tribe.”
“But he was worth an Empire?” Mamie leans forward, her dark eyes fierce, her braids falling into her face. “He was worth your freedom?”
How in the bleeding skies would you know that I traded my freedom for Elias’s life?
The retort hovers on my lips but retreats as my training kicks in. Weaklings try to fill silence. A Mask uses it to his advantage. I cross my arms, waiting for her to say more.
“You gave up much for Elias.” Mamie’s nostrils flare, and she stands, smaller than me by a few inches but towering in her rage. “Why should I not give up my life for his? He is my son. What claim do you have on him?”
Only fourteen years of friendship and a trampled heart.
But that doesn’t matter. Because in her anger, Mamie has given me what I need.
For how could she know what I gave up for Elias? Even if she heard tales of the Trials, she couldn’t know what I sacrificed for him.
Not unless he told her.
Which means she’s seen him.
“Dex, escort her upstairs.” I signal to him behind her back. Follow her. He nods and escorts her out.
I trail him and find Harper and Faris awaiting me in the garrison’s Black Guard barracks.
“That wasn’t an interrogation,” Faris growls. “It was a bleeding high tea. What in the hells could you have possibly gotten out of that?”
“You’re supposed to be herding Fivers, Faris, not eavesdropping.”
“Harper is a corrupting influence.” Faris nods at the dark-haired man, who shrugs at my glare.
“Elias is here,” I say. “Mamie let something slip.”
“The comment about your freedom,” Harper murmurs. His assertion unnerves me—I hate how he always seems to hit the nail on the head.
“The gathering is nearly over. The Tribes will begin leaving the city after dawn breaks. If Tribe Saif is going to get him out, that’s when they’ll do it. And he has to get out. He won’t risk staying and being spotted—not with the bounty so high.”
A knock sounds on the door. Faris opens it to a Fiver dressed in Tribal clothes, his skin stained with sand.
“Fiver Melius reporting, sir,” he salutes smartly. “Lieutenant Dex Atrius sent me, Blood Shrike. The Kehanni you interrogated is heading to the storytellers’ stage on the eastern edge of the city. The rest of Tribe Saif are on their way there too. Lieutenant Atrius said to come quickly—and to bring backup.”
“The farewell tale.” Faris grabs my scims from the wall and hands them over. “It’s the last event before the Tribes leave.”
“And thousands come out for it,” Harper says. “Good place to hide a fugitive.”
“Faris, reinforce the cordon.” We plunge into the packed streets outside the garrison. “Call in all the squads on patrol. No one gets out of Nur without going through a Martial checkpoint. Harper—with me.”