The Tribeswoman fidgets, and I catch her glance. Across the depot, I see wagons draped in silver and green, as familiar as my own face. Tribe’s Saif’s colors. Tribe Saif’s wagons.

Surrounded by Martials.

They drag members of the Tribe out of the wagons and force them to their knees. I recognize my family. Uncle Akbi. Aunt Hira. Bleeding hells, Shan, my foster brother.

“Afya,” I say. “I have to do something. That’s my Tribe.” I reach for my weapons and edge to the open door between the wagon and the driver’s seat. Jump. Run. Come at them from behind. Take the strongest first—

“Stop.” Afya grabs my arm in a viselike grip. “You can’t save them. Not without giving yourself away.”

“Skies, Elias.” Laia’s face is stricken. “Torches.”

One of the wagons—the beautiful, mural-decorated Kehanni wagon that I grew up in—goes up in flame. It took Mamie months to paint the peacocks and fish and ice dragons that adorned it. I’d hold the jars for her sometimes and wash the brushes. Gone, so fast. One by one, the other wagons are put to the torch until the entire encampment is nothing but a black stain against the sky.

“Most of them got away,” Afya says quietly. “Tribe Saif’s caravan is nearly a thousand strong. A hundred and fifty wagons. Of those, only a dozen were caught. Even if you could get to them, Elias, there are at least a hundred soldiers out there.”

“Auxes,” I say through gritted teeth. “Easy to beat. If I could get swords to my uncles and Shan—”

“Tribe Saif planned for this, Elias.” Afya refuses to back down. In that moment, I hate her. “If the soldiers see that you came from Nur’s wagons, my entire Tribe is dead. Everything Mamie and I planned for in the last two days—every favor she called in to get you out of here—it will all be for nothing. You traded in your favor, Elias. This was the price.”

I look back. My Tribal family huddles together, heads bowed. Defeated.

Except for one. She fights, shoving at the auxes who have grabbed her arms, fearless in her defiance. Mamie Rila.

Uselessly, I watch her struggle, watch a legionnaire bring the hilt of his scim down on the side of her head. The last thing I see before she disappears from sight is her hands fluttering for purchase as she falls to the sands.



The relief of escaping Nur does nothing to assuage my guilt at what happened to Elias’s Tribe. I do not bother trying to talk to him. What could I say? Sorry is a callous inadequacy. He is silent in the back of Afya’s wagon, staring out at the desert in the direction of Nur, as if he can use his willpower to change what happened to his family.

I give him his solitude. Few people want witnesses to their pain, and grief is the worst pain of all.

Besides which, the guilt I feel is almost crippling. Again and again, I see Mamie’s proud form crumpling like a sack of grain emptied of its bounty. I know I should acknowledge to Elias what happened to her. But it seems cruel to do so now.

By nightfall, Nur is a distant cluster of light in the sweeping blackness of the desert behind us. Its lamps seem dimmer tonight.

Though we fled in a caravan of more than two hundred wagons, Afya has split her Tribe a dozen times since then. By the time the moon rises, we are down to five wagons and four other members of her Tribe, including Gibran.

“He didn’t want to come.” Afya surveys her brother, perched atop the bench of his wagon a dozen yards away. It is covered with thousands of tiny mirrors that reflect the moonlight, a creeking, trundling galaxy. “But I can’t trust him not to get himself or Tribe Nur into trouble. Fool boy.”

“I can see that,” I murmur. Gibran has lured Izzi up into the seat beside him, and I’ve caught flashes of her shy smile all afternoon.

I glance back through the window into Afya’s wagon. The burnished walls of its interior glow with muted lamplight. Elias sits on one of the velvet-clad benches and stares out the back window.

“Speaking of fools,” Afya says. “What’s between you and the redhead?”

Skies. The Tribeswoman misses nothing. I need to remember that. Keenan has ridden with Riz, a silver-haired, silent member of Afya’s Tribe, since our last stop to water the horses. The rebel and I hardly had a chance to speak before Afya ordered him to help Riz with his supply wagon.

“I don’t know what’s between us.” I am wary of telling Afya the truth but suspect that she could pick out a lie a mile away. “He kissed me once. In a shed. Right before he ran off to help start the Scholar revolution.”

“Must have been quite a kiss,” Afya mutters. “What about Elias? You’re always staring at him.”

“I am not—”

“Not that I blame you,” Afya continues as if I haven’t spoken, casting an appraising eye back at Elias. “Those cheekbones—skies.” My skin heats, and I cross my arms, frowning.

“Ah.” Afya flashes her wolfish smile. “Possessive, are we?”

“I have nothing to be possessive of.” An icy wind blows down from the north, and I huddle into my thin Tribal dress. “He’s made it clear to me that he’s my guide and nothing more.”

“His eyes say different,” Afya says. “But who am I to get between a Martial and his misplaced nobility?” The Tribeswoman raises her hand and whistles, ordering the caravan to a halt beside a high plateau. A cluster of trees stands at its base, and I catch the shine of a spring and the scrape of an animal’s claws as it patters away.