Deliverance Page 43

Loading...

I glance at him like I’m not worried about being recognized and say, “I doubt it. This is my first trip to Hodenswald, and I’ve never been to Rowansmark.”

He frowns as if trying to figure out how he knows me. I glance impatiently between him and the door, as if wondering what his problem is. Finally, he lets go of my shoulder and steps back. I follow the Commander, Willow, and Connor through the door. The trackers stay behind.

The door opens up to a gently sloping ramp that leads us down another well-lit corridor until we reach the cellar below. Lyle gestures for the Commander to open the cellar door, but he turns and stares at Willow as if he expects her to open it instead. Willow crosses her arms over her chest and stares back.

I swallow the pithy remark I want to make about his arrogant misogyny and open the door myself.

Lyle’s cellar is stacked floor to ceiling with crates of ale along two walls. A third wall holds polished weaponry that I’ve only seen in the books Jared smuggled in from his trips outside Baalboden—rifles, pistols, bayonets. Relics from the past that were mostly destroyed in the fires that swept the major cities in the wake of the tanniyn’s arrival. A dusty table with a single oil lantern in the middle of it rests against the wall at the back of the rectangular room. Lyle wheels himself to the table, lights the lantern, and then barks, “Shut the door before those fools try to get my ale.”

As soon as the door is shut, the Commander asks, “Since when did you start letting Amarynda tell people what to do?”

“She’s my heir. Who else is going to tell people what to do? Now, I’m pretty sure those trackers believed my offended old man routine, but we’d better make this quick. You arrived two months earlier than our scheduled meeting, and you have my grandson in tow.” He nods toward Connor. “What’s going on?”

The Commander stares from Lyle to Connor and back again with narrowed eyes. “That’s your grandson?”

Lyle lifts his chin to meet the Commander’s gaze. “Something wrong with that?”

“He can barely walk through the Wasteland without tripping over his own two feet.”

Lyle’s expression doesn’t change, but a subtle tension enters the room. “He’s smarter than the two of us put together, and you’d do well to remember it.”

“I’m here as an official representative from Lankenshire.” Connor steps past the Commander. “Like you, we’ve been under Rowansmark’s control ever since we signed the protection agreement. But Logan”—he gestures toward me—“knows how to dismantle the beacons and replicate a device that controls the tanniyn like a puppet on a string. And the Commander has the combined might of Baalboden and Carrington at his disposal, plus the promise of one-fourth of Lankenshire’s army as long as you also commit troops.”

“One-fourth?” the Commander barks. “What’s this one-fourth business? We need a full commitment of troops.”

For once, I find myself in complete agreement with him. It’s an unsettling feeling.

Connor is firm. “And if you fail, who will be left to protect my city? You get one-fourth if you gain troops from Hodenswald—”

“If you’re so worried about us failing, then give us more than one-fourth!” The Commander paces around the table like a predator stalking his prey. “All of my remaining guards are committed. Carrington’s entire army is committed. For you to do less—”

“Forgive me, Commander, but neither your guards nor the army of Carrington have anywhere else to go. It’s easy to commit when that’s all you have left. We have a city to protect.”

“Committed to do what?” Lyle interrupts Connor before the Commander can respond. “Why are the soldiers of Carrington, Baalboden, and possibly Lankenshire coming together?”

Connor turns toward him. “To wage war against Rowansmark.”

Lyle slaps the arm of his chair. “It’s about time.”

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

RACHEL

I hate boats.

The deck refuses to stop swaying. The trees slide past on the shore too quickly for me to find my bearings. And the salty food the trackers keep offering me refuses to stay in my stomach.

I spent most of my first night aboard the boat with my head hanging over a bucket while I vomited until I had nothing left. When I tried to eat something for breakfast the next morning, I got to start the process all over again.

And now, at the end of our second day, I finally crawled out of the bathroom and took a few sips of water only to discover that my stomach still refuses to behave. I clutch the smooth railing along the lower deck and lean over the river as I gag and heave.

I really hate boats.

The only silver lining in the entire situation is that the trackers, convinced that I can’t escape from the boat and that my bout of seasickness renders me harmless, are ignoring me. If I could just get my stomach to calm down, I could take advantage of that. I could look for Quinn. Make sure he has food and water. I could find a weapon to replace the knife I lost to the river.

I could be ready for Ian if he tries to kill me before we reach port.

I drop to the deck and lean my head against the railing while I slowly breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth. We’re traveling quickly. At this pace, we should reach Rowansmark in another two days.

I need to feel better before then so I can figure out a plan for sabotaging Rowansmark that doesn’t end with me receiving a pain atonement sentence at the hands of Ian or his leader. My hands shake as I press clammy palms against my aching head. My right arm feels swollen and itchy, but I’ve been too miserable to roll up my tunic sleeve and check my wound.

Prev Next