Deliverance Page 108

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“You don’t.” I’m breathing too fast. Or too slow. I can’t tell, but my chest is tight and my pulse is racing, and I’m underwater again. If this is how it feels to drown, I can’t wait to suck the water into my lungs and let it take me.

“You said I consume you.” Her lips find the pulse on my neck and press while my heart hammers inside my chest.

“You do.” My voice is rough.

“Prove it.”

I smile as I hear the challenge in her voice, and then, as the moon drifts across the sky above us, I dedicate myself to the task of kissing Rachel until she runs out of air, and we drown together.

CHAPTER FORTY-FIVE

RACHEL

We’re up and moving south toward the swamp below the city before dawn. Logan has no idea how soon the Commander will attack Rowansmark, but it’s too difficult to hide an army that size for long. Sooner or later, a tracker, a sentry, or a traveler through the Wasteland will see the forces gathered outside Rowansmark and report it to James. The Commander must know this, so he won’t wait.

Which means we have to get back into the city today and stop the summoners.

Except that Logan doesn’t seem to think we can.

“I told you,” I say as I accept a handful of blackberries and some peeled thistle—our breakfast for the day—from Nola. “We can’t find the summoners because they’re buried somewhere, and we aren’t going to have time to search every inch of dirt around the city’s wall. There are three full armies running drills inside and out of that wall all day long. We’d be caught in a second. And if we can’t find the summoners, we can’t destroy them. According to Ian, our only option is to send an inverse signal to nullify the sound wave the summoners produce.”

“We don’t have anything capable of sending an inverse signal. That would require a device set exclusively to the opposite of the infrasonic wave, and all we’ve got is a staff set to infrasonic and enough transmitters to amplify it for hundreds of yards,” he says as we follow Smithson and Nola through the woods. Frankie is at our backs, his hand on his sword, and Willow and Adam tree-leap far ahead of us, searching for danger.

None of them say it, but I can see their concern for me in the way they’ve surrounded me as we travel. The way they bring me food and watch for traps and basically treat me like my injuries mean I’m one slippery step away from being an invalid.

I’d argue that I had these same injuries when I escaped Rowansmark’s dungeon, hiked through a sewer pipe and a swamp, and then traveled north of the city and climbed a tree, all while starving, but the reality is that it’s nice to feel loved after weeks of being reviled and abused.

“The device could send an inverse signal,” I say.

“The Commander has the device.”

I blink at the bitter anger in his words, though I know it isn’t directed at me. “Okay, then you can build something.”

He gives me a tense, lopsided little smile. “While I love the faith you have in my abilities, the truth is that it would take days to put together a piece of tech capable of sending an inverse signal powerful enough to nullify what the summoners must be able to do. And that’s if I had the right supplies, and if I wasn’t also breaking into Rowansmark.”

I frown as I skirt a thorny bush. The sun is a faint blush in the early morning sky, and the path through the Wasteland is cloaked in grays and purples. I reach out and run my fingers down the cold length of Melkin’s staff, strapped securely to the back of Logan’s travel pack. Near the top, a small section of the metal slides open—a battery compartment, I assume. The compartment is open by just a fraction, and a thin bundle of copper wires stretches from the opening and into Logan’s pack.

It’s the modification he spent the last few weeks working on so that he could do what he promised me—make a weapon capable of destroying the Commander.

So that I could finally close my eyes and dream of something other than blood.

“What about using Melkin’s staff?” I ask as we pass the grove of ancient, twisted walnut trees I stopped at on my way north less than two days ago.

“The staff can only send an infrasonic signal.”

“Which means what?”

“Which means it can only send the same type of signal that the summoners send. It would call the tanniyn, but instead of one sonic pulse, it uses the transmitters I stole from Hodenswald to emit a constant, unremitting infrasonic signal with an amplified strength capable of reaching a minimum five-hundred-yard radius.” He wraps his hand around mine as we leave the walnut grove behind and approach the swamp. The sharp, fetid fumes lie heavy in the air and sting my eyes as we come closer. “I’m sorry, Rachel, but I don’t know how to stop the summoners. We’re going to have to stop James Rowan instead.”

I think over his words as we reach the edge of the swamp and stare at the wide mouth of the pipe resting to the west of us.

“Fine. But we need a backup plan in case something goes wrong.” I look at Logan. “You’re usually the one with the multiple backup plans. What’ve you got?”

He slowly shakes his head. “If we can’t stop James in time and he activates the summoners to call the tanniyn outside the city’s wall, then we’re out of options. The beasts will destroy the Commander’s army.”

“Unless we use the staff.” I meet his eyes. “Maybe we can’t nullify the summoners, but we can outdo them. If James triggers the tech before we can stop him, we can use the staff. A sustained, powerful infrasonic signal might draw all the tanniyn inside of Rowansmark instead of outside the wall. You said yourself that you’d put a plan in place with the armada’s captain to evacuate the city and then flood it once you used the staff, right?”

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