Deliverance Page 88

“Only half?” the Commander asks.

“If the battle doesn’t go our way, I’m going to need to be able to protect my people. Half for the battle, half for Chelmingford.”

“I suppose that makes sense,” the Commander says grudgingly.

“Of course it does.” Tara claps her hands sharply and turns away from the window. “So, two days to Lankenshire. Four days to the Rowansmark branch of the river. And another three days to reach their port. We’ll be at war in just over a week.”

“We need to leave tonight,” I say, because she’s right. We have just over a week’s worth of travel ahead of us, and a week might be too long. I need to get to Rowansmark before James Rowan decides no one cares enough to ransom Rachel.

Before he kills her.

I meet Tara’s eyes. “We’re on a tight schedule. A messenger has been dispatched from Lankenshire to warn James Rowan. We have to leave now. Every moment counts if we want to have a chance to save . . . to win this war.”

She nods once, and within the hour, we’re on a boat sailing south toward the drop-off point closest to Lankenshire, and I’m once again alone with thoughts of Rachel. Of loving her. Of kissing her.

Of being too late to save her.



I’m hungry.

I’ve been locked inside this cell for eight days now, and while I’ve been given water, I’ve received only two meals, both of which were half the size of what I’d normally eat.

I guess James Rowan doesn’t need to keep up the pretense of wanting me alive to trade with Logan when there’s no one but Marcus McEntire, with his incoherent ramblings and his strange humming, to see me slowly starve to death.

Twice a day, Rowan’s butler comes downstairs, inspects my cell, gives me water, and empties the bucket I use to relieve myself. He has no weapons I can steal. He watches me closely while my cell door is open. And the lack of food combined with my injuries ensures that I don’t have the strength to kick my way through one of the thin, crate-board walls while he’s gone.

I’m trapped. Unable to escape. Unable to fight. Unable to do the one thing I swore I’d do when I reached Rowansmark: disable the tech in time to save Logan.

I’ve spent my days alternating between resting and following Samuel’s advice. I’ve paced my cell. Stretched my arms above my head. Leaned down to touch my toes. I’ve cursed him, Ian, James Rowan, and the entire city of Rowansmark with every agony-laced breath I’ve taken, but I’ve done it. My scabs pull against my skin like too-small pieces of cloth stitched onto me with a needle and thread. I’m still unable to curl my right hand into a fist, thanks to Ian’s stupid fires. And the lack of food makes my head spin. But Logan is coming, an ambush is waiting, and I can’t let my body rest until I’ve done everything I can to save him.

As dawn sends weak shafts of sunlight into my cell, I flex my back, swallowing a whimper as my muscles burn. I haven’t seen Rowan since the day he ordered me whipped. I haven’t seen Samuel or Ian either, but considering the fact that Marcus McEntire—the man both Samuel and Ian believe to be dead—is locked in the cell next to me, mumbling nonsensical madness at all hours of the day, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that James has ordered both of them to stay away from me.

It wouldn’t do to have two of his most faithful followers realize that he’s a liar.

Pushing myself to my feet, I shuffle toward my cell door, where the light from the hall’s window is the strongest. My head feels woozy, my thoughts sluggish. If I’m going to get out of here, I have to do it today. There’s nothing helpful in my cell, unless I count the sewage bucket, but what could I do with that? Throw it at the butler and hope the two seconds it gives me are enough to let me outrun a healthy, well-fed man?

Reaching the cell’s door, I push against it. The chain that locks me in clinks softly. If I lean hard, I can give myself a small crack to look through. I scan what little I can see of the hall—past the empty cells beside me and to the foot of the dungeon’s stairs—but I don’t see anything that wasn’t there the last time I checked. Gray stone floor, bleached white walls, the splintery slats of wood that divide half of the room into cells, a water pump similar to the one I used to pump by hand to fill our bathtub, and beside it a half door set into the wall beneath the stairs.

A large pipe is hidden behind the half door, ready to carry the contents of the sewage buckets into Rowansmark’s main sewer line. In Baalboden, we’d haul the buckets to the far corner of our property and toss the contents into a deep hole. In Rowansmark, you can’t dig a deep hole without hitting water, and no one wants to throw raw sewage into the same water that also supplies the city’s wells. Instead, one of the city’s engineers devised a system of pipes—one for each house—that lead to a large main pipe that carries the sewage hundreds of yards into the Wasteland.

The butler empties our buckets into the pipe and then uses the pump to rinse the sewage away. The pipe is just large enough that I think I could fit, but only if I want to be dumped into Rowansmark’s main sewer pipe, where once a day a flood of water from the dam that holds the river at bay rushes through, sending anything inside of it gushing into the swampy mess that is the southern Wasteland.

As an escape plan, it’s useless. I’d be outside Rowansmark, unable to help Logan. Unable to destroy the tech that can call an army of tanniyn in seconds.

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