“Barrow!” a man’s voice calls, accompanied by a fist knocking on the bathroom door.
They waste no time when I don’t respond, and neither do I.
Egg pushes the door in, his white face almost blending into the tiled walls as he steps inside, sloshing through. Clover does not follow, but stands with one foot in the bathroom, the other in my bedchamber. It doesn’t matter. Both her feet are in the puddle of steaming water.
“Barrow . . . ?” Egg says, slack-jawed at the sight of me.
It doesn’t take much to let the chandelier drop, but the action feels heavy all the same.
It smashes against the wet tile. When the electricity hits the water, a surge pulses through the room, shorting out not just the other bathroom lights, but the lights in my bedroom. Probably this entire wing of the palace.
Both Arvens jump and twitch as the sparks dance through their flesh. They crumple quickly, muscles seizing.
I vault over the water and their bodies, almost gasping as the weight of the bathroom’s Silent Stone melts away. The manacles still weigh on my limbs, and I waste no time searching the Arvens, careful to keep out of the water. I turn out their pockets as quickly as I can, searching for the key that haunts my waking moments. Shaking, I feel a curl of metal beneath Egg’s collar, lying flush to his breastbone. With trembling hands, I yank it free and set to loosening my manacles one by one. As they drop away, the silence lifts, bit by bit. I gasp down air, trying to force lightning into myself. It’s coming back. It must.
But I still feel numb.
Egg’s body is at my mercy, warm and alive beneath my hands. I could cut his throat and Clover’s, slice their jugulars with any one of the jagged bits of glass I keep well hidden. I should do it, I tell myself. But I’ve already wasted too much time. I leave them living.
As expected, the Arvens are trained enough in their duties to have locked my bedroom door behind them. No matter. A hairpin is just as good as a key. I pop the lock in a second.
It’s been a few days since I stepped outside my prison, and then I was leashed to Evangeline, guarded on all sides. Now the hallway is empty. Dead lightbulbs march down the hall overhead, taunting in their emptiness. My electrical sense is weak, barely a spark across the darkness. It has to come back. This won’t work if it doesn’t come back. I fight a swell of panic—what if it’s gone for good? What if Maven took my lightning from me?
I sprint as fast as I can, holding on to what I know of Whitefire. Evangeline took me left, to the ballrooms and the great halls and the throne room. Those places will be crawling with guards and officers, not to mention the nobility of Norta, dangerous on their own. So I go right.
Cameras follow, of course. I spot them at every corner. I wonder if they shorted out too, or if I’m entertainment for a few officers. They might be making bets on how far I get. The doomed endeavor of a doomed girl.
A service stair takes me down a landing, and I almost knock over a servant in my haste.
My heart leaps at the sight of him. A boy, my age, maybe, his face already flushing as he holds on to his tea tray. Flushing red.