“Because if you were willing to tell me why you suspect he is here, then perhaps I might be able to share something … useful.”

Avitas glances at me. A warning. The game begins.

“For instance,” the Warden says, “the girl he’s traveling with—who is she?”

“Her brother is in your prison.” I offer the information freely—a show of good faith. You help me, I’ll help you. “I believe Veturius is attempting to free him.”

The light in the Warden’s eyes means I’ve given him something he wants. For a second, guilt floods me. If the boy is in the prison, I’ve made it far more difficult for Elias to get him out.

“What is she to him, Blood Shrike? What hold does she have over him?”

I take a step toward the old man so he can see the truth in my eyes. “I don’t know.”

Outside the boathouse, the wind picks up. It sighs in the eaves, eerie as a death rattle. The Warden tilts his head, his lashless eyes unblinking.

“Say her name, Helene Aquilla, and I’ll tell you something worth your while.”

I exchange a glance with Avitas. He shakes his head. I grip my scim to find that my palms are slick on the hilt. As a Fiver, I spoke to the Warden no more than twice. But I knew—all of the Fivers knew—that he was watching. What did he learn about me in that time? I was a child, only twelve. What could he have learned about me?

“Laia.” I allow no inflection in my voice. But the Warden cocks his head in cold assessment.

“Jealousy and anger,” he says. “And … ownership? A connection. Something deeply irrational, I believe. Strange …”

A connection. The healing—the protectiveness I don’t wish to feel. Bleeding skies. He got all of that from one word? I school my face, refusing to let him know what I feel. Still, he smiles.

“Ah,” he says softly. “I see that I’m correct. Thank you, Blood Shrike. You have given me much. But now I must depart. I don’t like to be away from the prison for too long.”

As if Kauf is a new bride he pines for. “You promised me information, old man,” I say.

“I’ve already told you what you need to know, Blood Shrike. Perhaps you weren’t listening. I thought you would be”—the Warden looks vaguely disappointed—“smarter.”

The Warden’s bootsteps echo in the empty boathouse as he walks away. When I reach for my scim, fully intending to make him talk, Avitas grabs my arm.

“No, Shrike,” he whispers. “He never says anything without reason. Think—he must have given us a hint.”

I don’t need bleeding hints! I throw off Avitas’s hand, unsheathe my blade, and stride toward the Warden. And as I do, it hits me—the one thing he said that raised the hairs on my neck. I processed one myself quite recently. Not unexpected, however.

“Veturius,” I say. “You have him.”

The Warden stops. I cannot quite see the old man’s face as he half turns toward me, but I hear the smile in his voice. “Excellent, Shrike. Not so disappointing after all.”



Keenan and I crouch behind a fallen log and survey the cave. It doesn’t look like much.

“A half mile from the river, surrounded by hemlock trees, east-facing, with a creek to the north and a granite slab turned on its side a hundred yards south.” Keenan nods to each landmark. “It can’t be anyplace else.”

The rebel pulls his hood lower. A small mountain of snow grows on each of his shoulders. The wind whistles around us, flinging bits of ice into our eyes. Despite the fleece-lined boots Keenan stole for me from Delphinium, I cannot feel my feet. But at least the storm covered our approach and muted the prison’s haunting moans.

“We haven’t seen any movement.” I pull my cloak tight. “And this storm is getting worse. We’re wasting time.”

“I know you think I’m mad,” Keenan says. “But I don’t want us to walk into a trap.”

“There’s no one here,” I say. “We’ve seen no tracks, no signs of anyone in these woods other than us. And what if Darin and Elias are in there and they’re hurt or starving?”

Keenan watches the cave for a second more, then stands. “All right. Let’s go.”

When we get close, my body will no longer allow me any caution. I draw my dagger, stride past Keenan, and step warily inside.

“Darin?” I whisper to the darkness. “Elias?” The cave feels abandoned. But then, Elias would make sure it didn’t look like the place was occupied.

A light flares from behind me—Keenan holds up a lamp, illuminating the cobwebbed walls, the leaf-strewn floor. The cave is not large, but I wish it were. Then the sight of its emptiness would not be so crushingly definitive.

“Keenan,” I whisper. “It doesn’t look like anyone’s been here in years. Elias might not have even reached here.”

“Look.” Keenan reaches into a deep crack at the back of the cave and pulls out a pack. I grab the lamp from him, my hope flaring. Keenan drops the pack, reaches in deeper, and digs out a familiar set of scims.

“Elias,” I breathe. “He was here.”

Keenan opens the pack, pulling out what looks like week-old bread and moldering fruit. “He hasn’t been back recently, or he’d have eaten this. And”—Keenan takes the lamp from me and illuminates the rest of the cave—“there’s no sign of your brother. Rathana is in a week. Elias should have gotten Darin out by now.”