“Get in,” commanded Ivan. Then, seeming to remember the Darkling’s order, he added, “if you please.”
“No,” I said.
“What?” Ivan seemed genuinely surprised. The other Corporalki looked shocked.
“No!” I repeated. “I’m not going anywhere. There’s been some kind of mistake. I—”
Ivan cut me off, taking a firmer grip on my arm. “The Darkling doesn’t make mistakes,” he said through gritted teeth. “Get in the coach.”
“I don’t want—”
Ivan lowered his head until his nose was just inches from mine and practically spat, “Do you think I care what you want? In a few hours’ time, every Fjerdan spy and Shu Han assassin will know what happened on the Fold, and they’ll be coming for you. Our only chance is to get you to Os Alta and behind the palace walls before anyone else realizes what you are. Now, get in the coach.”
He shoved me through the door and followed me inside, throwing himself down on the seat opposite me in disgust. The other Corporalki joined him, followed by the oprichniki guards, who settled on either side of me.
“So I’m the Darkling’s prisoner?”
“You’re under his protection.”
“What’s the difference?”
Ivan’s expression was unreadable. “Pray you never find out.”
I scowled and slumped back on the cushioned seat, then hissed in pain. I’d forgotten my wounds.
“See to her,” Ivan said to the female Corporalnik. Her cuffs were embroidered in Healer’s gray.
The woman switched places with one of the oprichniki so that she could sit beside me.
A soldier ducked his head inside the door. “We’re ready,” he said.
“Good,” replied Ivan. “Stay alert and keep moving.”
“We’ll only stop to change horses. If we stop before then, you’ll know something is wrong.”
The soldier disappeared, closing the door behind him. The driver didn’t hesitate. With a cry and the snap of a whip, the coach lurched forward. I felt an icy tumble of panic. What was happening to me? I thought about just throwing open the coach door and making a run for it. But where would I run? We were surrounded by armed men in the middle of a military camp. And even if we weren’t, where could I possibly go?
“Please remove your coat,” said the woman beside me.
“I need to see to your wounds.”
I considered refusing, but what was the point? I shrugged awkwardly out of my coat and let the Healer ease my shirt over my shoulders. The Corporalki were the Order of the Living and the Dead. I tried to focus on the living part, but I’d never been healed by a Grisha and every muscle in my body tensed with fear.
She took something out of a little satchel and a sharp chemical scent filled the coach. I flinched as she cleaned the wounds, my fingers digging into my knees. When she was done, I felt a hot, prickling sensation between my shoulders. I bit down hard on my lip. The urge to scratch my back was almost unbearable. Finally, she stopped and pulled my shirt back into place. I flexed my shoulders carefully. The pain was gone.
“Now the arm,” she said.
I’d almost forgotten the cut from the Darkling’s knife, but my wrist and hand were sticky with blood. She wiped the cut clean and then held my arm up to the light. “Try to stay still,” she said, “or there will be a scar.”
I did my best, but the jostling of the coach made it difficult. The Healer passed her hand slowly over the wound. I felt my skin throb with heat. My arm began to itch furiously and, as I watched in amazement, my flesh seemed to shimmer and move as the two sides of the cut knit together and the skin sealed shut.
The itching stopped and the Healer sat back. I reached out and touched my arm. There was a slightly raised scar where the cut had been, but that was all.
“Thank you,” I said in awe.
The Healer nodded.
“Give her your kefta,” Ivan said to her.
The woman frowned but hesitated only a moment before she shrugged out of her red kefta and handed it to me.
“Why do I need this?” I asked.
“Just take it,” Ivan growled.
I took the kefta from the Healer. She kept her face blank, but I could tell it pained her to part with it.
Before I could decide whether or not to offer her my bloodstained coat, Ivan tapped the roof and the coach began to slow. The Healer didn’t even wait for it to stop moving before she opened the door and swung outside.
Ivan pulled the door shut. The oprichnik slipped back into the seat beside me, and we were on our way once more.
“Where is she going?” I asked.
“Back to Kribirsk,” replied Ivan. “We’ll travel faster with less weight.”
“You look heavier than she does,” I muttered.
“Put on the kefta,” he said.
“Because it’s made with Materialki corecloth. It can withstand rifle fire.”
I stared at him. Was that even possible? There were stories of Grisha withstanding direct gunshots and surviving what should have been fatal wounds. I’d never taken them seriously, but maybe Fabrikator handiwork was the truth behind those peasant tales.
“Do you all wear this stuff?” I asked as I pulled on the kefta.
“When we’re in the field,” said an oprichnik. I nearly jumped. It was the first time either of the guards had spoken.
“Just don’t get shot in the head,” Ivan added with a condescending grin.
I ignored him. The kefta was far too large. It felt soft and unfamiliar, the fur lining warm against my skin. I chewed my lip. It didn’t seem fair that oprichniki and Grisha wore corecloth while ordinary soldiers went without. Did our officers wear it, too?
The coach picked up speed. In the time it had taken for the Healer to do her work, dusk had begun to fall and we had left Kribirsk behind. I leaned forward, straining to see out the window, but the world outside was a twilight blur. I felt tears threatening again and blinked them back. A few hours ago, I’d been a frightened girl on my way into the unknown, but at least I’d known who and what I was. With a pang, I thought of the Documents Tent. The other surveyors might be at their work right now. Would they be mourning Alexei? Would they be talking about me and what had happened on the Fold?
I clutched the crumpled army-issue coat I had bundled up on my lap. Surely this all had to be a dream, some crazy hallucination brought on by the terrors of the Shadow Fold. I couldn’t really be wearing a Grisha’s kefta, sitting in the Darkling’s coach—the same coach that had almost crushed me only yesterday.
Someone lit a lamp inside the coach, and in the flickering light I could better see the silken interior. The seats were heavily cushioned black velvet. On the windows, the Darkling’s symbol had been cut into the glass: two overlapping circles, the sun in eclipse.
Across from me, the two Grisha were studying me with open curiosity. Their red kefta were of the finest wool, embroidered lavishly in black and lined in black fur. The fair-haired Heartrender was lanky and had a long, melancholy face. Ivan was taller, broader, with wavy brown hair and sun-bronzed skin. Now that I bothered to look, I had to admit he was handsome. And knows it, too. A big handsome bully.
I shifted restlessly in my seat, uncomfortable with their stares. I looked out the window, but there was nothing to see except the growing darkness and my own pale reflection. I looked back at the Grisha and tried to quash my irritation. They were still gawking at me. I reminded myself that these men could make my heart explode in my chest, but eventually I just couldn’t stand it.
“I don’t do tricks, you know,” I snapped.
The Grisha exchanged a glance.
“That was a pretty good trick back in the tent,” Ivan said.
I rolled my eyes. “Well, if I plan on doing anything exciting, I promise to give fair warning so just … take a nap or something.”
Ivan looked affronted. I felt a little snap of fear, but the fair-haired Corporalnik let out a bark of laughter.
“I am Fedyor,” he said. “And this is Ivan.”
“I know,” I replied. Then, picturing Ana Kuya’s disapproving glare, I added, “Very pleased to meet you.”
They exchanged an amused glance. I ignored them and wriggled back in my seat, trying to get comfortable. It wasn’t easy with two heavily armed soldiers taking up most of the room.
The coach hit a bump and jolted forward.
“Is it safe?” I asked. “To be traveling at night?”
“No,” Fedyor said. “But it would be considerably more dangerous to stop.”
“Because people are after me now?” I said sarcastically.
“If not now, then soon.”
I snorted. Fedyor raised his eyebrows and said, “For hundreds of years, the Shadow Fold has been doing our enemies’ work, closing off our ports, choking us, making us weak. If you’re truly a Sun Summoner, then your power could be the key to opening up the Fold—or maybe even destroying it. Fjerda and the Shu Han won’t just stand by and let that happen.”
I gaped at him. What did these people expect from me? And what would they do to me when they realized I couldn’t deliver? “This is ridiculous,” I muttered.
Fedyor looked me up and down and then smiled slightly. “Maybe,” he said.
I frowned. He was agreeing with me, but I still felt insulted.
“How did you hide it?” Ivan asked abruptly.
“Your power,” Ivan said impatiently. “How did you hide it?”
“I didn’t hide it. I didn’t know it was there.”
“And yet here we are,” I said bitterly.
“Weren’t you tested?”
A dim memory flashed through my mind: three cloaked figures in the sitting room at Keramzin, a woman’s haughty brow.
“Of course I was tested.”
“When I was eight.”
“That’s very late,” commented Ivan. “Why didn’t your parents have you tested earlier?”
Because they were dead, I thought but didn’t say. And no one paid much attention to Duke Keramsov’s orphans. I shrugged.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” Ivan grumbled.
“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you!” I leaned forward, looking desperately from Ivan to Fedyor. “I’m not what you think I am. I’m not Grisha. What happened in the Fold … I don’t know what happened, but I didn’t do it.”
“And what happened in the Grisha tent?” asked Fedyor calmly.
“I can’t explain that. But it wasn’t my doing. The Darkling did something when he touched me.”
Ivan laughed. “He didn’t do anything. He’s an amplifier.”
Fedyor and Ivan exchanged another glance.
“Forget it,” I snapped. “I don’t care.”
Ivan reached inside his collar and removed something on a thin silver chain. He held it out for me to examine.