Deliverance Page 5

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She tucks the necklace and the transmitter away, and says, “Do we need to remove the transmitters from every beacon to disable them?”

I shake my head and show them how to disable the infrasonic component inside the tech.

Clarissa taps three times on the door and then studies me while Cassidy hides the now-useless beacon inside her cloak again. “You upheld your end of our bargain. I’ll do the same. I will send an emissary to the Commander with the terms of your deal. And your people will be offered asylum within our city as long as they agree to be governed by our laws.”

“Drake is leader in my place.” Something tight wraps itself around my chest as I realize I’m leaving the rest of the survivors behind, and I might not be coming back. I can’t guarantee that I’ll survive my encounter with the Commander, much less my attempts to rescue Rachel and bring down Rowansmark.

One of the soldiers guarding the room’s entrance taps once before opening the door. “All clear, ma’am.”

Clarissa nods but makes no move to leave the room. Instead, she continues to watch me. “What will you do?” she asks. “Once you give the device to the Commander—provided you survive that encounter—what will you do next?”

I meet her gaze. “I’m going to Rowansmark.”

The tiny creases around her eyes deepen. “If voluntarily giving yourself over to the Commander isn’t suicide, heading to Rowansmark certainly is. Why not just go to the other city-states and show them how to disable the beacons?”

“Because Ian—the tracker who was disguised as one of us—took my . . .” The words to describe what Rachel is to me won’t come. “He took Rachel. And he’s going to kill her if I don’t show up at Rowansmark with the device to ransom her back.”

“The device you’re supposed to give to the Commander?” Clarissa frowns. “I don’t want him to blame me for a double cross, Logan.”

“He’ll be dead before he has a chance to blame anyone for anything,” Willow says as the soldier in the hall pokes his head in again.

“Ma’am, the proceedings are ready to start. Hallway remains clear of trackers.”

“Thank you, Paul.” Clarissa leans closer to me. “I hope your plan for ransoming Rachel is stronger than your plan for getting out of Lankenshire, because you’re going to need a miracle to survive Rowansmark.”

“I understand that it’s a trap, but—”

“Yes, a death trap,” Cassidy says, holding her cloak close. “Clearly you haven’t heard the news that Schoensville and Thorenburg, formerly allies of the Commander, have committed their entire armies to the defense of Rowansmark in anticipation of the Commander and Carrington marching south. The word is that it was either protect Rowansmark or have their cities burned to the ground just like Baalboden and Carrington.”

“Carrington is gone?” My mouth is dry, my heart racing. How can I possibly ransom Rachel and destroy the tech inside Rowansmark when I’ll have not one but three armies waiting for me there?

“It is,” Clarissa says, her voice crisp, though her eyes are shadowed.

“You can’t show up at Rowansmark with just the two of you and expect to win.” Cassidy moves toward the door.

“I count for at least ten,” Willow says.

Cassidy rolls her eyes. “Maybe you do, but still. Ten against three armies? You don’t have a chance.”

She’s right. I close my eyes and play through the scenarios. Any way I look at it, there are no clear-cut paths. No easy solutions. I promised to find Rachel. I also promised to destroy both the Commander and Ian for the pain they’ve caused so many people. And I can’t imagine finding any peace until the threat of Rowansmark’s tech has been put to rest. Since Ian, Rachel, and the tech will be in the same location, I can’t keep one promise without finding a way to deliver on the others.

But how can I reach Rachel, kill Ian, and obliterate Rowansmark’s threat all by myself? Especially when Rowansmark is already expecting me? Even if Willow counts for ten, the odds are nearly insurmountable.

“Logan?” Clarissa’s voice compels me to open my eyes, but I don’t see her. I see the army outside the gates. The city-states up north who don’t realize that they can alter the transmitters in their beacons and break the yoke of Rowansmark’s tyranny. The leaders who might recognize the need to sacrifice now for the sake of lasting peace later.

Leaders who might not listen to me, but who would listen to the one man who has always held more sway over the other leaders than anyone else: the Commander.

As long as I can convince him that it’s in our best interests to work together.

My hand shakes as I raise my fingers to touch the scarred brand on the side of my neck—a brand the Commander burned into my flesh while I was in his dungeon. I can’t think of the man without seeing my mother dying on the streets of Baalboden, flogged for daring to leave her home without a Protector. Oliver bleeding to death in a wagon, killed by his leader’s sword for the crime of being important to Rachel. Jared committing treason because he could find no other way to protect others against the monster who ruled his city.

The thought of being allied, even temporarily, with the Commander makes me sick. I want to hurt him. I want to light him on fire and watch him burn, but I can’t. Not if I want to keep my promise to stop Rowansmark, deliver justice to Ian, and protect Rachel. An alliance with the enemy of my enemies might feel like walking barefoot over shattered glass, but it’s the only logical course of action. Emotion isn’t going to help me reach my agenda. I can swallow the rage and the bitterness long enough to keep my promises.

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