Книга: Three lotd-1
Назад: Twenty-Nine
Дальше: Thirty-One


The air outside seemed colder now than it’d been only moments before. Dagon had released Three and let him walk out on his own, but he’d hovered the whole way, tense, ready to pounce if necessary. Three knew better than to try anything in that narrow hallway with Dagon so close behind. During that short walk, his mind had jumped into hyperdrive, flying through options, knowing they all led to the same outcome. Though if Dagon had wanted to kill him, he’d be dead. He might be dead in the next moment, or the next, but for this moment, stepping out into the night again, he was still alive. Still a chance, however slight.

Dagon had the initiative, but Three wasn’t going to cede control. As soon as they crossed the threshold, he stung Dagon the only way he knew how.

“Cass is dead, Dagon.”

He heard Dagon stop behind him, and Three kept walking, gaining critical distance.

“That’s far enough.”

Three stopped and turned slowly back to face Dagon, taking an extra half-step back.

“Haven isn’t dead,” Dagon said, matter-of-fact, hollow.

“I couldn’t save her and the boy. I tried but…” Three trailed off, shook his head. Measured the distance.


Dagon shook his head slowly, his eyes unfocused for a moment. Imagining. Or remembering. In that instant, Three swept across the gap and drove his fist through Dagon’s jaw.

A lesser man would’ve blacked out on his feet, gone straight to ground. Instead, Dagon staggered with the impact, but managed to twist, catching himself with his left hand on the ground and whipping his right around in an arc. The stance was nearly impossible, contorted, like Dagon’s back had broken and his shoulder dislocated. Yet as Three deflected the blow with his shoulder and forearm, he was surprised at its power. Dagon rebounded, switched direction off the impact and struck twice, once at Three’s knee and the other stinging the front of his thigh.

It was a small thing, but significant. Three knew from the angle of Dagon’s attack that he’d been aiming for the saphenous nerve along the inside of his leg, a strike that would’ve crippled him. But he’d missed. Even as Three was bringing his elbow down, he wondered if Dagon had ever missed before.

Dagon, still crouched, managed to partially intercept the strike with the flat of his hand, taking the blow in the upper shoulder instead of the back of the neck. He surged upwards, a brute force tackle that lifted Three off the ground. But the two were tangled, and Three reflexively brought his knee hard into Dagon’s solar plexus, felt a dull crack. Dagon’s breath exploded out in a wheeze. As the two crashed backwards, Three twisted at the last moment, dumping Dagon face first onto the concrete.

The impact broke them apart, and Three scrambled up to a knee. Somehow, Dagon was already up, blood in his mouth, hands outstretched. But Three’s body was in motion. The sword was out, speeding to target. Dagon’s hands clapped together on either side of the blade, catching it mid-thrust. Try as he might, Three couldn’t budge his sword any direction. Dagon’s grip held it locked: a human vice.

And for a moment, the two stood frozen, locked together, brothers in blood. Then, Three felt his blade release, and Dagon spread his hands.

“Got me.”

Three saw now. Dagon had stopped his sword, but not soon enough. The first quarter of his blade had found its mark. Judging from the angle and the depth, just under the ribs, Dagon likely had a punctured lung and a gashed right ventricle. He was already dead. He just hadn’t admitted it yet.

Dagon stepped back, sliding himself free of the blade with a spurt before he pressed his palm over the wound. Three watched, waited for some sudden movement, but Dagon just stumbled backwards, propped his back against the nearest wall, and slid to sit on the ground. Weary. Broken. Three’s blade may have finished the work, but something else had delivered the crushing blow before they’d fought.

In the soft moonlight, Dagon stared at Three with the hint of a smile curling his cracked lips.

“I’m glad it was you,” he said at last. Three stood from his crouch at last, relaxing. But didn’t approach.

“Feels honorable, somehow. This way.”

Three just held still. It wasn’t that unusual. Dying men often felt the need to say something there, at the end. But he’d seen Dagon move too fast to trust him even now.

“We’re brothers in a way, you know. More ways than you’d guess.”

At that, Dagon reached up with his other hand and pulled the neck of his shirt down low, exposing the pale flesh of his upper chest in the moonlight. Three couldn’t make out what it was he was supposed to be looking at from that distance. Dagon waited. Three took a few cautious steps forward. It was recognition that stopped him again.

Markings swirled across Dagon’s flesh, intricate tattooing of ideograms in lines and patterns not altogether similar but far too familiar for Three’s liking. Dagon saw Three’s reaction and was satisfied, released the cloth and let his hand fall to his lap. Still he smiled.

“What clan?” Three asked, at last.

“The Empty Frost,” Dagon answered, with a wet cough. There was a rattle in his chest. Fluid building. “You?”

“House Eight.”

Dagon grunted, a sort of impressed chuckle, mixed with pain. His gaze floated off down the street. “The Old Ones. That explains a lot.”

“Frost was a good house.” Three meant it. The Empty Frost clan had never been an influential one, but before the Falling, it had been known as a house of integrity and honor.


Three stepped closer and took a knee. “How’d you end up with RushRuin?”

“Lack of conviction,” Dagon said. A half-joke. “Tried for a while, you know. But…” He trailed off, either lost in thought or momentarily overwhelmed by pain. After a moment, he shivered, or shook himself. “Just easier.” He blinked heavily, changed the subject suddenly. “…I wasn’t going to kill, you know.”

Three flashed back to the moment he was drawing his blade. Dagon standing with his hands outstretched. Not preparing to strike. Motioning to stop.

“You killed my friend.”

“He didn’t give me a choice.”

“And what were you going to do?”

“I don’t know,” Dagon looked back to Three then, into his eyes. “You’re a better man than me, Three. Doing what I could’ve done. Should’ve done. A long time ago.”

“You loved her.”

“I wanted her. If I’d loved her, I would’ve protected her.” Dagon’s gaze dropped back to the ground. Three didn’t respond. They sat in silence for a long moment, Three listening as Dagon’s breathing shallowed and became forced.

“How you doin’, Dagon?”

“Can’t feel my legs, Three.”

Three slid around and sat down beside Dagon, back to the wall. It all seemed so foolish now. So wasteful. So few things to have changed for the two of them to have been friends instead of enemies.

“Strange pair, aren’t we?” Dagon said, his voice thin. “The elite of the damned.”

Three nodded.

“I guess this is the part where other people would ship,” Dagon said. Nearly a whisper.


“Will you sit with me? Until after?”


After a moment, Three added, “I’ll do more. I’ll remember you, Dagon, of the Empty Frost Clan.” It wasn’t a platitude. It was an oath, and a blessing. A pledge between brothers. And a comfort from a fear Three knew in a vague way, a fear he knew Dagon was feeling the full force of now. Something they’d each learned from their own houses, long ago.

They weren’t wired. There was no digital afterlife for them. But as long as a brother remained, they would be remembered.

Dagon smiled faintly. His breathing slowed. And quietly, Dagon, the Grave, died.

After a time, Three rose and went into the back room of the small building where they’d been hiding, and roused Wren. The chemlight still glowed softly. He was surprised to see how soundly the boy had slept that night, when so much danger had been so near. Even now Wren moved sluggishly, hair matted to the side of his head with sweat, looking as if he could sleep through the day. It was several moments before he noticed.

“Where’s Mr Carter?” he asked suddenly. There was no way to soften the blow, so Three didn’t.

“He’s dead, Wren. Dagon killed him last night.”

“Where’s Dagon?”

“Dead too.”


Three nodded. Wren hid his hands in his face, but not before Three had seen the glimmer of tears welling. The boy cried silently, and Three let him for a time. But there was work to do.

“Come on. I need your help.”

In those bitterly cold hours before dawn, with Wren at his side, Three worked to scavenge and build a makeshift metal basin. Together, they prepared and wrapped the bodies of Mr Carter and Dagon. Three lay the bodies side by side in the basin, then stood back, with Wren close by.

“Want to say anything?”

Wren was quiet and still. But just before Three stepped forward again, the boy spoke.

“Mr Carter was a great man. He was kind, and strong, and he always made me feel safe.” He paused. And to Three’s surprise, he added, “Dagon was a good friend. He did some bad things, but I don’t think he really meant them. He was a good friend.” He looked up, eyes and cheeks shining in the weak light. “Do you want to say anything, Three?”

“I think you covered it, kid.”

Wren nodded, and as the sun was just beginning to redden the sky, Three stepped forward and set the bodies alight. They stood in silence as the flames took the remains. Wren watched deep into the fire.

“We’re going to fight today, aren’t we?” the boy asked.


Wren thought for a moment. Wiped his cheeks, his eyes.




It was still early morning when they set out, headed back towards Morningside. Three couldn’t help but wonder how long it would take Asher to find Fedor, and to react. And what that reaction would be. Today would decide everything. Three had accepted that. Embraced it. It was the end, however it turned out.

“What do you think, Wren? Ran or Jez?” Three glanced over his shoulder at the boy following a step behind. His eyes were downcast, but he seemed to be standing taller than Three remembered.

“Jez,” Wren said after a moment’s hesitation. “But you’ll have to be careful. She’s got… magic. Or something.”

“What kind?”

The boy shrugged. “She talks to people. They do stuff.”

“Why not Ran?”

Wren didn’t answer.

“Is he stronger?”

“He’s nicer.”

Three wanted to press the issue, but decided it didn’t really matter. He’d have to deal with them all at some point anyway. The order didn’t seem to make much difference. Except Asher. He’d be last.

“I think maybe — maybe we won’t have to fight Ran,” Wren added. “At the end.”

“Are they together now?”


It was a new approach. At first, Three didn’t think it’d be possible. Then, when he’d realized Wren’s gift, he hadn’t wanted to risk it because he’d feared it would give them away. But now the risk… well, this close to the end it didn’t seem to matter one way or the other. Whatever came, he would deal with it.

It had taken some convincing. At first, Wren was afraid to try, was afraid he couldn’t do it, but Three had coaxed him into it. Sure enough, he could do it. Was doing it. For the first time since this had all begun, Wren was tracking them. Masking his own signal, tracerunning theirs. Leading them to the very people that had been hounding them for so long.

Wren wouldn’t go near Asher, not even across the digital, but the others he seemed more confident about. They were still in the city, but they weren’t holed up in the Governor’s compound. They were roaming the streets. Searching.

“Got your knife?” Three asked.

Wren nodded. “But I don’t want to use it.”

“You might have to.”

Wren swallowed. “If I have to.”

They pressed on towards Morningside as the outskirts of the city began stirring into life. Three scanned the surroundings, searching for signs of danger, soaking in the feel and flow of the people that were just beginning to appear. The outcasts, or those deemed not worthy to live within the walls. The closer he and Wren got to Morningside, the more active it became, as the men and women outside prepared for another day of bartering inside. Wren took quick steps to catch up and grabbed Three’s hand with casual familiarity.

“What do they sell?” Wren asked suddenly.

It was a good question. There didn’t seem to be much that the people outside of Morningside could provide to those inside. Hand-crafted trinkets, perhaps. Something just endearing enough to attract the charity of a wealthy city-dweller. But Three’s quick eye saw little in the way of goods among those preparing to enter the city. It clicked for him, then. Most of the outcasts that made a living in Morningside probably did so by selling themselves, in one way or another. Indentured servitude. Freedom for security.

“Don’t know, Wren. Maybe they’re all musicians.”

“That sounds fun,” Wren said. Then with barely a pause added, “How do we get inside?”

“Quickly,” Three answered. “And with big smiles.”

Wren looked up, not understanding. Three just looked down and winked. Wren held his hand a little tighter.

Within a few more minutes, a gate was looming ahead of them. Not the same gate they’d entered before, though not far from it either. A steady trickle of people had already started making its way into the city.

“Hold on a sec,” Three said, stopping. Wren turned to face Three, and in the next moment Three had him under the arms and was picking him up. Three lifted the boy up over his head and set him on his shoulders.

“Won’t they be looking for us?”

“Yeah,” Three said. “But we often see what we expect, and miss what we don’t.”

As they approached the gate, Three moved up alongside a woman who was carrying two large cases, one stacked atop the other. She was a few years older than he was, with wrinkles just starting at the corners of her eyes. Brown hair pulled back in a loose knot, with wisps floating on either side of her face. Not particularly attractive.

“Ma’am, we’re headed the same direction,” he said, smiling. “Can I carry those for you?”

The woman smiled faintly but shook her head. “Oh no, I can manage. I do it every day.”

But Three was already taking the top case. The woman tried to protest, but she needed both hands to hold the other, so there wasn’t much she could do. Three fell into step with her, close enough so their shoulders brushed as they walked, and just kept smiling.

“Whew, one of these is heavy enough,” he said. “You must be the strongest woman in Morningside.”

“It’s really OK,” she said, though already he could tell she didn’t mean it. “I can manage.”

“You already said that,” Three said with a wink. “Day in, day out, you manage it. You deserve a break.”

“Well, thank you.”

“It’s my sincere pleasure, ma’am.”

They were maybe fifty feet from the gate. Three counted four guards. One more than the other gate had last evening. The guards were scanning the people as they passed, but so far they hadn’t stopped anyone.

“I usually come in through the south side,” Three said. “Do they always post four on this gate?”

“Just one most days, sometimes two,” the woman said. “I don’t see Jonas, though. He’s always here.”

“Day off maybe.”

Thirty feet. Three slowed his pace just enough to let another pair of travelers catch up. The woman instinctively matched his stride without even seeming to notice.

“No, yesterday was his day off. Something must be going on inside.”

“Parade for the Governor, I bet.”

The woman snorted. “And me in my work clothes.”

“You look lovely, ma’am. If you don’t mind me saying so.”

“I do mind, because it’s not true,” she said with a slight frown. But then a smirk appeared. “But keep talking anyway.”

“If those are your work clothes, I’d hate to see you in your finery. I might be tempted to flirt.”

“I don’t remember what that’s like.”

“Neither do I, ma’am.”

They shared a laugh then, though only the woman’s was genuine. Fifteen feet. One guard was scanning the horizon in an unfocused way, two of the guards were looking at the pair of travelers that Three had let pass. But the other was staring right at him.

“How you doin’ up there, buddy?” Three asked Wren.


“You smilin’?”

Wren didn’t answer, which meant the answer was no. Ten feet. The guard’s eyes narrowed. His hand went down to his belt. So Three did the only thing he could.

He lurched forward suddenly, fumbled the case, and went sprawling on his hands and knees right at the guard’s feet. The woman gasped, and Wren let out a little yelp. But somehow the boy managed to land on his feet just a step or two beyond the guard. Though a trained eye might’ve picked up on the way Three had kept Wren from falling, or how gently the case went to the ground without tipping over or spilling its contents, to the surrounding crowd it looked entirely as if he’d just tripped over his own feet.

Three burst into laughter then. A raucous, foolish guffaw that guaranteed all eyes were on him as he rocked back on his knees and hung his head in mock shame.

“Honey, are you alright?” the woman asked.

“Fine. I’m fine.” Three looked up at the guard, locked eyes with him. Smiled. “Just an idiot.”

The guard searched his face for a moment. Then quickly reached down and took his arm. Firm.

And helped him to his feet.

“Sure you’re OK, sir?”

Three kept smiling, and clapped the guard on the shoulder. “Broke my pride, but I think that’s it.” He picked the case back up and dusted it off.

“Well, try to be more careful,” the guard said. “Lucky your son’s so quick on his feet.”

“Yes, sir, I am. Lucky to have him. You have a great day,” Three answered with a nod.

And with that, Three and Wren breezed inside the city. They walked with the woman to the tea-house where she worked, Three alternating between apologizing and flirting the whole way there. By the time they parted ways, she’d made not so subtle invitations for him to meet her at sundown, and suggested that some kind of repayment was in order for his kindness. Three assured her it was not, and made as clean a getaway as he could.

Once they were back out on the street, he took Wren by the hand.

“Sorry if I scared you,” he said. “I wasn’t gonna let you get hurt.”

“I know,” Wren said.

“You OK?”

Wren nodded.


Wren nodded.

“Alright. Where is she now?”

“This way.” Wren tugged Three’s hand, and gently guided him through Morningside’s elegant streets and walkways.

There was a heavy sleepiness to the city, as if the citizens were waiting for the outsiders to take care of the morning. The further they moved away from the gates, the fewer people they saw. Wren led Three through an unfamiliar quarter, heavily shadowed by the wall at sunrise. He stopped suddenly, and drew Three to one side, slipping into an alley between two darkly-windowed buildings.

“She’s there,” the boy said, pointing to a squat, one-story building further down the path. It was quiet here, almost untouched by the distant murmuring of the rest of the waking city.

“Is she alone?”

Wren shook his head. No point in going in, then. Three scanned the area. It was too open here. But further down the alley…

Three crouched down on a knee, and put his hands on Wren’s shoulders.

“I need you to do something brave,” he said.

Wren stared back with his deep sea-green eyes, intent but watery. Afraid, but trying desperately not to show it. The boy nodded.

“I need you to let her see you.”

Wren stood utterly still. Eyes wide, jaw clenched. His breathing quickened.

“Stand here at the end of the alley. As soon as she sees you, just turn and walk down there.” Three pointed back down the alley between the two buildings, to where they backed up against the city’s great wall. “I’ll be right there, waiting. I’m not gonna let her hurt you, OK? Don’t run. Just walk. Even if she calls your name, don’t run or turn around. Just keep walking. Think you can do that?”

A long pause. Then Wren shook his head slowly.

“I don’t think I can,” he said. “I can.”

Three squeezed Wren’s shoulders. Ruffled his hair. “I’ll be right there.”

Wren nodded. Three took to his feet and walked down the length of the alley. Forty feet, maybe. It opened into a small sort of courtyard between the buildings and the wall, though the space seemed mostly unused. Three was relieved to find there were no windows back here. He turned and looked back to Wren, who was watching him. Three nodded and gave the boy a thumbs-up. Wren waved and disappeared around the corner.

The next few minutes were the worst Three had suffered since the night he’d lost Cass. He hadn’t meant for Wren to leave his sight, and he cursed himself for not telling the boy that explicitly. But there was nothing to be done about it now. He couldn’t risk getting caught out in the open, not when Wren might turn the corner at any second with Jez close behind. The seconds crawled by, and Three fought to still himself, fought to silence the voices screaming in his head at how foolish a plan he’d made, how he’d endangered Wren, how Jez had probably already caught him. What was taking so long? Three slid low to the ground and risked a peek around the corner. Where was Wren? How much closer to the building had he gone? There was a distant sound, a high pitch, muffled. Was that Wren, calling out? Three stood back up. This wasn’t going to work. Wasn’t working. He cursed himself for not thinking it through, for putting Wren in harm’s way. He had to get him back. Three was just stepping into the alley when Wren rounded the corner at the opposite end, walking carefully towards him.

The boy’s face was bloodless, ghostly white, and even from this distance, Three could see he was shaking. But he held strong, kept his pace steady. Three motioned for him to keep coming, and then slipped back into the shadows of the courtyard.

He could hear the boy’s shuffling footsteps echoing down the alleyway. Closer. Almost there. And then.

“Wren?” A woman’s voice. Warm. Tender. Not at all what Three had expected. “Wren, sweetheart, is that you?”

But Wren did just what Three had told him. His pace didn’t falter. A few seconds later he came into the courtyard and headed straight for Three. Three pressed a finger to his lips and waved Wren into the far corner, furthest from the entrance. Wren nodded and moved there quickly, curling himself into a tight ball, hands over his ears and terror in his eyes.

Three crept silently to the edge of the nearest building, moved into position, poised to strike. He could hear her approaching cautiously, footsteps falling fainter the nearer she got. Then, silence. Three strained to hear her.

“Wren?” she said again.

She had stopped about two-thirds of the way down the alley. But it was alright. Either she’d come all the way to investigate, or she’d wave it off and turn back the other way. If she didn’t come to him, Three could cover the distance and take her down before she made it back to the street.

“Is there someone back there with you, sweetheart?” It shouldn’t have mattered, but Three couldn’t help but notice the perfect quality of Jez’s voice. Rounded and full, pleasantly deep. Resonant. “Why don’t you come out where I can see you?”

Without even realizing it, Three started edging towards the alley. He caught himself.

“It’s alright,” Jez said. “I want you to come out.”

Her voice seemed to come straight from inside his own head, a honeyed droning that filled Three with a sense of complete calm. And he remembered how beautiful she was. Vividly he saw her in his mind, her perfect features, her perfect form accentuated by her fitted bodysuit. Three felt himself sliding dreamlike, even as one part of his mind raced to analyze what was happening. Some kind of vocal implants, most likely. Wren had warned him. But the most common ones worked through connection, like a virus for the mind. Three had never experienced anything like this before.

“Come out. I just want to see you.”

He knew exactly what was happening. The frequency of her voice was being tuned to modulate the electrical impulses in his brain, inducing a dream-like state that left him dangerously open to suggestion. And even knowing this, he couldn’t keep himself from stepping into the alley.

“There you are,” Jez said with a suppressed smile. Seductive. “I’m so glad to see you.”

She took a step closer. Three’s arms hung limply at his sides, while the tiny part of his mind that was still his own screamed for him to act. He would have to destroy her… but not yet. He wanted to hear her, to see her, just a little longer. He felt so warm, so comfortable. She started walking toward him now. Not the stalking, bird-like movements he’d seen before. Fluid. Feline.

“I was hoping I could be the one to find you, you know,” she said, her voice low. “I wanted to be the one.”

Her smile. Her eyes. Everything about her said she loved him. Desired him. But Jez was going to kill him. He knew it. And he accepted it. It would be alright.

“Asher will love me for being the one.”

Six feet away.

And suddenly an arctic light pierced the veil, a pulse of blinding white shocking him back to himself. He reflexively shielded his eyes. In the next instant he glanced back to Jez, who was momentarily stunned by the flash. Their eyes met for a split second, and as she opened her mouth to speak, Three closed the gap and lashed out, striking her across the throat with the web of his hand.

Jez reeled backwards choking, but as Three advanced she snapped her head around, whipping her long braids towards him. Not realizing the threat he tried to strike through the attack, but felt the sudden impact and sting across his face as the razortips woven in her hair bit deeply into the flesh of his cheek and neck and brow. The shock blurred his vision, and he missed his target.

Three followed with a forearm, but Jez slipped the blow and swiped upward with her palm, aiming for his eyes. Three threw his head back, narrowly dodging the attack. He snatched her wrist with one hand and wrenched her elbow with the other, using the leverage to slam her face-first into the alley wall. Before she could rebound, he drove his knee into her lower back. And as she arched backwards from the strike, he grabbed her head in a lock and twisted nearly to the point of breaking.

It hadn’t been that long ago that he’d been in her position, a fraction of an inch and a few pounds of torque from dead. Jez started to go slack, and Three forced her down on to her knees, keeping a strong stance behind her. Another day, in that critical moment, he would’ve snapped her neck without hesitation. But the sudden realization that if not for Dagon’s mercy he would be dead was enough to give him pause. Locked together as they were, his cheek pressed hard against the back of her head, Three could hear her choking breath as Jez’s throat continued to spasm from his blow. The whole left side of his face was wet and sticky with blood, one eye blinded with it.

“Please,” Jez rasped, barely forcing the word out through his chokehold. The power of her voice was gone. So, it seemed, her will to fight. Jez wasn’t like Fedor or Kostya. She wasn’t a fighter. She was a manipulator, a seductress. And somehow, now, caught in his arms that were so much stronger, she seemed suddenly fragile. Not altogether unlike Cass.

At the far end of the alley, towards the city, the white light continued to pulse. Three recognized the source now. Wren’s strobe from the Vault. He’d forgotten the boy even had it. Three glanced behind him with his good eye. Wren was there, standing in the courtyard. Watching. Three loosened his grip on Jez.

And suddenly—

“Asher, he’s here!” she called out in her damaged voice.

Three strengthened his hold.

“Wren,” he called. “Look away.”

He left her body behind the building and together with Wren fled towards the center of the city. They were careful to dodge other citizens until Three could get the bleeding stopped and the blood washed off his face. Crouched behind a one-story clothing shop, he used a maintenance pump to splash ice cold water across his latest wounds, and scrubbed them clean as best he could.

The cuts sprayed across his face were thin but deep, the kind of precision pain only a razor can deliver. The one across his eyebrow was the worst. He was fortunate not to have lost the eye completely. Wren stood quietly by, pale with fear, brave in his silence.

Three wiped his face and shook his hands dry as well as he could, and caught Wren’s eye. “You OK?”

Wren nodded slightly.

“Where’s Ran now?”

Wren’s eyes unfocused for a moment. “Heading back towards the middle of the city.”

“Governor’s compound?”

Wren shrugged. “I guess. Yes, that seems right.”

Three wondered why. Why Asher wouldn’t send Ran after them immediately. Frightened? He probably didn’t know about Dagon yet, not for sure. But he’d lost Fedor and Jez within eight hours. Maybe in his panic, he was calling all security back home. But Three’s hope of that was quickly lost. The next moment, all across the city, alarms began to blare.

Wren reflexively stepped into Three’s body, buried his face against Three’s neck. Three threw his arm around him protectively.

“They’re coming!” Wren said in a terrified whisper. He gripped Three so tightly, it nearly choked him.

“I’m not gonna let ’em take you, Wren. Not now.”

It was a promise. He said it, and he meant it, even though he had no idea how he was going to keep it. His brow still hadn’t stopped bleeding yet, but if they were alerting the whole city there was no reason to worry about that now. And there was no way to figure out a plan, no time to strategize. Three didn’t know how many guardsmen a city the size of Morningside had, but it was likely in the hundreds. They had to move.

“Come on, Wren,” Three said, picking the boy up.

Morningside’s security forces would most likely seal the gates, and work their way from outside in. That made the Governor’s compound literally the last place they’d look. And maybe he’d get a shot at Asher before all was said and done.

They raced together through the streets as citizens began flooding out of their homes, and it didn’t take long before Three realized something else was going on. Something terrible. The citizens of Morningside were in a panic, fleeing together in a mad rush, a churning human current that swept Three and Wren along with it, all going in the same direction. Towards the Governor’s compound. And then above the cries of panic, Three heard a shriek that pierced his heart.

The Weir were attacking.

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