Deliverance Page 111

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Ian turns on her. “You can’t save him. You’ll be instantly identified as an outsider come to rescue him, and you’ll be killed. Only someone from Rowansmark could get close enough.” He looks at Rachel. “Tell Marcus I became the son he thinks he has.”

“What are you doing?” Rachel’s voice is sharp.

“I was lied to, and I did things . . .” Ian looks at the stage and then back at me. “Take care of Dad. Promise me.”

I don’t even know how to answer him.

“Promise me!” His voice shakes.

“I promise,” I say. My sword is heavy in my hand as I raise it. “But I also promised I would deliver justice for the people you killed.”

“You won’t have to.” Ian squares his shoulders and pivots toward the stage. “I’ll do that myself.”

CHAPTER FORTY-SEVEN

LOGAN

As Ian stalks toward the stage, James Rowan says. “We will not be taken. We will not be dishonored. Our enemies have met their match.” His voice rises. “We will teach them a lesson they will not soon forget. Starting with this criminal. Judge and be judged!”

“Judge and be judged!” The crowd takes up the chant, swelling in volume until I can feel their words in my bones. “Judge and be judged!”

The whip cracks, and the crowd screams in glee as a bloody welt rises on Quinn’s back. Quinn’s face is stoic, but his lips are pressed tight, his fists clenched against the pain.

“Logan! Let’s go!” Willow grabs my arm, and together with Rachel, we edge our way closer to the stage, keeping to the fringes of the seething mass of people. Behind us, Frankie bellows at someone to remove themselves from his path or be ground to dust beneath his boots, and in seconds, the rest of our people have caught up to us.

We’re still too far from the stage to get to Quinn, though. Pushing and ramming, we manage to move forward another ten yards before becoming stuck behind a wall of people who look like they’ve been drinking ale since sunrise.

Flashing the tracker insignia on the front of his cloak, Ian parts the crowd like water. The whip snaps again, and another bloody wound opens across Quinn’s back as Ian vaults onto the stage.

James Rowan frowns. “What are you doing up here?”

“What I should’ve done the last time I was here. Stopping you.”

Ian draws his sword. Instantly, the soldiers who surround the stage grab their weapons and surge toward him. He has seconds to either run, fight them off, or kill James Rowan.

I grip my own sword with bloodless fingers as Ian raises his weapon while the soldiers rush forward. His eyes meet mine for a moment, and then he turns and slices his weapon through the ropes that bind Quinn to the whipping post.

Quinn rolls away from the post and comes up in a crouch. The soldiers converge on Ian, their swords slashing. He doesn’t try to defend himself. He simply drops his weapon and holds my gaze while they drive their blades into him. Pain flashes across his face, but in seconds it’s replaced by peace. He opens his mouth to say something, but chokes instead, blood leaking from his lips while his knees give out and his body crumples to the stage.

My heart slams against my chest, and my throat tightens. Unexpected grief mixes with my anger until I can’t tell the difference. I want to rush the stage and pull the soldiers away from Ian. So I can scream the truth about the pain he caused. So I can hurt the man who turned my brother into a monster. So I can tell Ian I wish I could go back in time and save us both from all of this.

Tears sting my eyes, and I can’t tell if I’m mourning the boy who would’ve been my brother if life had dealt us a different hand, or the boy who gave his life for us because he understood he’d made the wrong choices and that justice requires sacrifice.

When the soldiers step back, Ian lies bloody and unmoving, his eyes staring up at the sky. Seconds later, he explodes, and there’s nothing left of him. I swallow hard and look away from the bloody mist that coats the stage.

The crowd panics, shoving one another to get away from the stage and the terrifying sight of a tracker standing up to their beloved leader. Quinn, free of his ropes, is caught between James Rowan’s whip and the trackers who just killed Ian.

Using the panicked crowd to our advantage, we let Frankie bulldoze his way through to the stage. Willow leaps onto the platform and dashes toward Quinn. “Run!” she screams at him as the trackers turn toward them.

The rest of us vault onto the stage, draw our weapons, and scramble to get between Quinn and the trackers’ weapons. On the city wall behind us, someone blows a long, low note from a horn, and soldiers begin running toward the gate or climbing ladders up to the cannons along the wall.

James Rowan locks eyes with me and smiles like he just found gold.

He whistles again while the trumpeter on the wall plays another long, low note. The crowd obediently falls into an uneasy quiet, and in the wake of their screaming panic, the unmistakable sound of hundreds of boots marching toward the city filters over the wall.

The Commander is here. Rowansmark is under attack.

“My people, the traitors sent against us are already in our midst. Evacuate now.”

The people scatter, racing into buildings, climbing ladders, moving quickly but without the panic they displayed before. They’ve clearly been drilled on what to do in the event of an emergency. A bell begins tolling in the center of the city, warning residents who weren’t at the stage.

Ignoring the movement around him, Rowan drops the whip, pulls a small black box with a raised button in the center from his pocket, and raises it high. His gaze finds mine, and his smile turns my stomach.

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