Page 17

In the Quarter, no one knew my parents. No one looked twice at Darin or me. But a Resistance camp is different. I should have realized that.

I find myself staring at Sana’s tattoo, and my stomach lurches at the sight of the fist and flame. Mother had one just like it, above her heart. Father spent months perfecting it before inking it into her skin.

Sana sees me staring. “When I got this tattoo, the Resistance was different,” she explains without my asking. “We were better. But things changed. Our leader, Mazen, told us we needed to be bolder, to go on the attack. Most of the young fighters, the ones Mazen trains, tend to agree with that philosophy.”

It’s clear Sana’s not happy about this. I’m waiting for her to say more when a door opens on the far side of the cavern to admit Keenan and a limping, silver-haired man.

“Laia,” Keenan says. “This is Mazen, he’s—”

“Leader of the Resistance.” I know his name because my parents spoke it often when I was a child. And I know his face because it’s on wanted signs all over Serra.

“So, you’re our orphan of the day.” The man comes to a stop before me, waving me back down when I rise to greet him. He has a pipe clenched in his teeth, and the smoke blurs his ravaged face. The Resistance tattoo, faded but still visible, is a blue-green shadow on the skin below his throat. “What is it you want?”

“My brother Darin’s been taken by a Mask.” I watch Mazen’s face carefully to see if he recognizes my brother’s name, but he gives nothing away.

“Last night, in a raid at our house. I need your help to get him back.”

“We don’t rescue strays.” Mazen turns to Keenan. “Don’t waste my time again.”

I try to quash my desperation. “Darin’s no stray. He wouldn’t have even been taken if it wasn’t for your men.”

Mazen swings around. “My men?”

“Two of your fighters were interrogated by the Martials. They gave Darin’s name to the Empire before they died.”

When Mazen looks at Keenan for confirmation, the younger man fidgets.

“Raj and Navid,” he says after a pause. “New recruits. Said they were working on something big. Eran found their bodies in the west end of the Scholar’s Quarter this morning. I heard a few minutes ago.”

Mazen swears and turns back to me. “Why would my men give the Empire your brother’s name? How do they know him?”

If Mazen doesn’t know about the sketchbook, I’m not about to tell him.

I don’t understand what it means myself. “I don’t know,” I say. “Maybe they wanted him to join. Maybe they were friends. Whatever the reason, they led the Empire to us. The Mask who killed them came for Darin last night. He—” My voice fails, but I clear my throat and force myself to keep talking.

“He killed my grandparents. He took Darin to jail. Because of your men.”

Mazen takes a long draw on his pipe, contemplating me, before shaking his head. “I’m sorry for your loss. Truly. But we can’t help you.”

“You—you owe me a blood debt. Your men gave up Darin—”

“And paid for it with their lives. You can’t ask for more than that.” The little interest Mazen took in me disappears. “If we helped every Scholar taken by the Martials, there’d be nothing left of the Resistance. Maybe if you were one of our own...” He shrugs. “But you’re not.”

“What about Izzat?” I grab his arm, and he pulls away, anger flashing in his eyes. “You’re bound to the code. Bound to aid any who—”

“The code applies to our own. Members of the Resistance. Their families. Those who have given everything for our survival. Keenan, give her the leaf.”

Keenan takes one of my arms, holding on tightly even when I try to throw him off.

“Wait,” I say. “You can’t do this.” Another fighter comes to restrain me.

“You don’t understand. If I don’t get him out of prison, they’ll torture him—they’ll sell him or kill him. He’s all I have—he’s the only one left!”

Mazen keeps walking.

VIII: Elias

The whites of the Augur’s eyes are demon-red, vivid against his jet irises.

His skin stretches across the bones of his face like a tortured body on the rack. Other than his eyes, he has no more color to him than the translucent spiders that lurk in Serra’s catacombs.

“Nervous, Elias?” The Augur pushes my knife away from his throat. “Why? You needn’t fear me. I’m only a cave-dwelling charlatan. A reader of sheep’s entrails, yes?”

Burning, bleeding skies. How does he know I’d thought such things? What else does he know? Why is he even here?

“That was a joke,” I say hastily. “A stupid, stupid joke—”

“Your plan to desert. Is that a joke also?”

My throat tightens. All I can think is how does he—who told him—I’ll kill them—

“The ghosts of our misdeeds seek vengeance,” the Augur says. “But the cost will be high.”

“The cost...” It takes me a second to understand. He’s going to make me pay for what I was planning to do. The night air is colder suddenly, and I remember the din and stench of Kauf Prison, where the Empire sends defectors to suffer at the hands of its most ruthless interrogators. I remember the Commandant’s whip and Barrius’s blood staining the courtyard stones. My adrenaline surges, my training kicking in, telling me to attack the Augur, to rid myself of this threat. But common sense overrules instinct. The Augurs are so highly respected that killing one isn’t an option. Groveling, however, might not hurt.

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