Deliverance Page 112

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“Today, we call forth an army that cannot be defeated. Today, we sacrifice our enemies on the altar of justice. Today, we show the world what we are capable of!” he yells as he slams his finger down onto the button.

CHAPTER FORTY-EIGHT

RACHEL

A deep boom shakes the ground around the city’s wall and rattles all of the buildings.

“He used the summoners,” I say as the trackers onstage close ranks and lunge toward us. “The tanniyn are coming. He’s going to destroy the army.”

Seconds after the boom dissipates, the ground outside the wall sounds like it’s shaking. The tanniyn are going to surface outside the wall and crush all of the innocent soldiers who got caught up in this war because they obeyed orders from their leaders. Leaders who simply want to stop James Rowan and destroy the tech that would enslave them all.

I look at Logan as Adam, Smithson, and Willow meet the first wave of trackers, swords clashing. “We have to use the staff.”

Before he can answer me, a tracker slams into him. Logan barely keeps his footing and parries the blow in the nick of time. All around me, my friends are battling for their lives. The only reason I’m not yet fighting a tracker is because I’m in the center of the stage, and none of them can reach me yet.

Outside the wall, a rumble grows. We don’t have much time left before the tanniyn destroy the army, and with it, our chance to break Rowansmark’s seat of power.

Making my decision in a heartbeat, I lunge toward Logan, grab the staff, and wrestle it free of its ties while Logan fights.

“Rachel, I’ve got it,” he says, but he doesn’t have it. He’s got his hands full defending himself against a tracker. So does everyone else. The only one who can call the tanniyn to surface inside the city is me.

Finally, the right thing to do is in front of me, and I don’t have to think twice. Pivoting to put Frankie’s bulk between me and the trackers, I race along the back of the stage and leap to the cobblestones below.

“Not so fast.” James Rowan coils the whip that is once again in his hand and snaps it toward me.

I flinch, but suddenly Quinn is there, letting the leather tip hit him so that he can grab it, wrap it twice around his forearm, and yank the whip out of Rowan’s grasp.

“Good to have you back,” I say. “I was getting really tired of constantly saving myself.”

Quinn laughs, but then he grasps the handle of the whip and gives Rowan a look that should fill the man with terror.

“Stay away from her. From all of us.” Quinn’s voice is coldly furious.

Rowan laughs. “Or what?”

“I’ll stop you.” The absolute certainty in Quinn’s voice raises the hair on my neck as I hurry toward the edge of the square, where Rowan’s gracious lawn meets the cobblestone pavement.

The ground quivers, and outside the wall, screams are rising as a few of the beasts surface.

I certainly hope there’s more where those came from.

Across the square, Logan drives his sword into the tracker he’s fighting, and turns to help Smithson and Nola. His eyes find mine, and for a second, there’s only the two of us, but then I turn away, raise the staff, and drive it into the ground.

CHAPTER FORTY-NINE

RACHEL

This time, the boom doesn’t stop. It’s a rolling wave of deafening thunder that pulses from the staff every few seconds. The ground shudders and twists, throwing me to my knees as cracks split the grass and race through the cobblestones like snakes.

“No!” James Rowan screams and runs toward me. “What have you done?”

I push myself to my feet as Quinn leaps in front of Rowan to stop him from reaching me.

“What I had to do.”

Rowan’s voice shakes with rage. “You stupid girl. You’ve ruined us!”

The ground heaves, throwing all three of us onto our stomachs. I land on a crack that splits with a rending noise like the earth is tearing itself apart.

“Move!” Quinn shouts, dropping the whip so that he can crawl toward me. The dirt writhes, tossing him away from me and into Rowan.

The older man attacks, swinging his fists at Quinn’s face. Quinn deflects the blows with cold precision, his entire focus on the crack that is widening beneath me in quick jerks.

“Hold on,” he yells. As if I’d planned to let go.

I dig my hands into the ever-shifting ground and try to push myself away from the crack before it swallows me. Grabbing on to one side of the split, I hang on as it shudders and belches damp, loamy air tinged with the acrid stench of smoke.

I have to move. Roll to the side. Do something before the tanniyn surface and either slice me to shreds with their razor-sharp talons or burn me to a crisp.

Shoving my boots against the crumbling cobblestones behind me, I scramble frantically for leverage, but the ground crumbles beneath me. The cobblestones turn to dust. The grass buckles and shudders like a living thing.

Rowan is screaming, but I can’t make out the words. I think Quinn is yelling at me too, but all I hear is the terrifying roar of the tanniyn barreling toward the surface directly below me.

CHAPTER FIFTY

LOGAN

Another tracker slams into me, and I struggle to keep my footing on the stage as his sword nicks my side. Ignoring the blood and the pain, I shout, “The tanniyn are surfacing inside the city. Stop fighting and get out!”

The tracker jerks his head toward the square and curses. I shove him out of my way, and then my blood seems to freeze as I take in the scene before me.

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