Deliverance Page 93

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Outside the dungeon’s window, a drum begins pounding, and what sounds like hundreds of boots slap the pavement in time to the beat. I’ve heard the same sound every morning for the past four days. I assume it’s Rowansmark’s army running drills. Dad and I visited Rowansmark fairly often, and I don’t remember seeing soldiers march in formation in front of James Rowan’s mansion, but then again, I wasn’t concerned with the military, the trackers, or anything else inside the city walls. I had Dad, so I was safe.

But I don’t have Dad with me now, and I can’t ignore the fact that even though James Rowan has tech at his disposal that can call and control an army of the tanniyn, he’s still prepping his army for war.

Which means he feels the need to have a backup plan.

Which means the tech can be destroyed, if I can just get Marcus to tell me how.

“Listen to me,” I say, cutting off another stream of mutterings that sound both mathematical and full of nonsense. “Where are the summoners?”

“Don’t know. Don’t. Do I?” He crawls to the wall and blinks at me, uncomfortably close. “Summoners?”

“Yes. Where are they?” My knees dig into the floor, and my back aches.

“Lab? No.” He stares past me. “After? Ian.” His eye finds me again. “After Ian.”

I put the pieces of his thoughts together and come up with the answer, my stomach sinking. “You don’t know where the summoners are because they moved them from the lab after Ian . . . after you were hurt?”

“Below? Yes. Below.”

“Below what?”

He huffs out a little breath. “Ground?” Patting his hand on the floor, he says, “Below?”

My chest hurts as the implication of his words hits me. “The summoners are buried somewhere? That’s how they work?” I shake my head as he starts muttering “inverse wave function anomaly Julia” over and over again. “Of course that’s how they work. Melkin’s staff didn’t call the Cursed One until it was driven into the ground. But if the summoners are buried, how will I find them? How will I destroy them?”

The rattle of a chain being pulled from its lock drifts down the dungeon stairs seconds before the door creaks open.

My voice is harsh as I whisper, “Marcus, someone’s coming. Listen to me. How do I destroy the summoners?”

“Can’t? Can’t. Below. Inverse. Waves?”

Pressure builds in my head, an ache that begs to be released in tears as boots slap the stone steps. I can’t get the answers I need from Marcus. I can’t find the summoners because they’re buried. And even if I could find them, how would I destroy them when all Marcus can say is inverse?

“Ian? Knows. Inverse. Summoners inverse.”

My jaw clenches. “Ian knows how to destroy the summoners using the inverse of something?”

Marcus blinks rapidly while the chain on my door slides free. It’s too early for the butler to be bringing us our second ration of water. Either Samuel took the bait, or Logan is on the horizon, and Rowan wants me visible so that I’ll draw Logan close enough for the summoners to do their job.

Turning away from the wall, I watch my cell door open while Marcus hums and mutters to himself. Instead of Samuel, though, Ian enters the room, his eyes weary and his face as pale as if he’s been the one locked up and starved for days instead of me. Instantly, I clamber to my feet, cursing the wounds on my back for making my movements slow and cumbersome. If Ian is here, it must mean that James no longer needs me alive and has given Ian permission to kill me.

Marcus continues to hum in loud, discordant bursts. I wonder how long it will take him to pay attention to the conversation in my cell. I wonder what he’ll do when he recognizes Ian’s voice.

More than that, I wonder what Ian will do once I tell him his father is alive.

If I’m lucky, it will reach the part of him that used to understand right from wrong and keep him from killing me. If I’m really lucky, it will distract him enough to give me a chance to escape.

“Quinn is still alive.” His voice is cold. “But then I suppose you knew that. Considering the damage he’s done over the past week, he must’ve arrived in the city the same day we did. Won’t take us long to corner him, now that we know who we’re looking for.”

“What damage?”

“Someone burned down the armory last night. We lost hundreds of weapons.” He speaks without much inflection, like the effort it takes to breathe life into his words is beyond him now. “Before that, it was my father’s lab. Before that, one of the army barracks. Yesterday, he got careless and was spotted just before a fire started in the trackers’ main training center. Longish dark hair, leather pants, looks like he belongs in a tree. It’s Quinn.”

I blink. Burning down armories and barracks and labs doesn’t sound like Quinn. Either he’s using the blazes as a distraction while he hunts for me, or he’s decided to start taking Rowansmark apart from the inside out without me. Or both.

“I bet you think he’s helping your cause, don’t you?” Ian asks, stepping closer to me. Marcus stops humming abruptly, and I hear the swish-scrape of his pants against the stone as he crawls toward the wall again. “I bet you think you’re going to be rescued, and that you’re going to turn the tables against a city-state—against an army of three city-states—and against the tanniyn, because if nothing else, you are recklessly confident in your own abilities.”

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