Page 50

“Lark, don’t make us hurt you,” Blossom said, her voice distinct even behind the visor.

“It’s not me you have to worry about,” I snarled.

“Cassava is back,” she said.

The guard beside her snapped a fist sideways, catching her in the head. “Shut the hell up, woman.”

His distraction was all I needed. I swept his feet, leapt into the air and came down with my fist, driving it into his chest. Ribs cracked under my blow, at least three by the way his body gave under me.

To the side, Samara drove both fists into her opponent’s gut, throwing him hard into the wall. He slid down as his eyes rolled upward and he passed out.

I stood and stared at Blossom. “Cassava? Are you sure?”

She slipped off her visor and threw it to the floor. “Yes. As soon as you were gone she showed up, took Vetch under her wing and took the throne. She said . . . she was going to send someone to bring Bella home and deal with her condition.” Her voice caught and I put a hand on her shoulder. “She means to kill Bella’s baby, doesn’t she?”

Just like Bramley. “Has she done it? Has she sent anyone?”

Blossom shook her head. “Not that I know.”

I slipped off the Traveling band and put it on Blossom’s arm. “Go, protect Bella. You know she is the one who should rule here. She can’t be hurt. Tell her to fight for all she’s worth and to never forget she holds the necklace. She’ll know what I mean.”

Slowly Blossom nodded. “What about you, Lark?”

I looked at Samara. “I’m going to kill Cassava. I’ll send a message when it’s safe to bring Bella home.”

Blossom brought the globe around and settled it on the Deep. With a twist of the armband she was gone.

“You should go too.” I bent and trussed up the guards, glancing at Samara.

“No. This will affect us too. We know Cassava is a loose cannon. She stole Wicker from us.” She helped me tie up the guards. “How do you want to do this?”

I touched my hand to where the smoky diamond lay in my pouch. I opened the leather bag and slipped it out. “Take this. It will boost your power. When you go back to the Eyrie, give it to Aria. It belongs in her hands.”

She gasped as I dropped it into her hands. “Mother goddess, the power raging in this . . . is it what I think it is?”

“Yes. Use it carefully. Or maybe in this case, not so carefully.” I stood and strode to the door, peeking out. There were no guards waiting for us. But that did not mean it was safe. The bond with Peta tugged at me. She was scared and pissed off as only a cat could be. But she was alive.

I slipped out and Samara followed me, silent. I stopped at the bottom of the steps and tugged off my tall boots. I needed as much connection with the earth as I could get. Wiggling my toes, I pulled the power of the earth below me and let it fill me.

“What can we expect?” Samara asked quietly.

“Blackbird can control all five elements. Cassava is powerful with earth, but nothing else.”

She grabbed my arm. “Can you kill her? Are you strong enough?”

“I’ve been waiting my whole life. I’ll kill her or die trying. In which case, you finish the job. All our homes are in danger as long as she is free.”

Her face grim, she nodded. I crept up the stairs, all my senses straining. But there was no sound, nothing to indicate there were ever inhabitants in the barracks. A spooky emptiness permeated the air as we slipped into the upper levels. I went to my room and then Ash’s. Both were empty, though I hadn’t really expected him to be waiting for me there.

Beckoning for Samara to keep close, I crept along the edge of the training room to the main doors of the barracks. I ran a hand over the wooden doors, then pressed an ear to them. There was nothing, not even a buzz of distant talking. I looked at Samara and she shrugged.

There was no other way . . . unless. . . . I spun and we ran back the way we’d come, bolting down the stairs and sliding to a stop in the Traveling room. There was one armband left. I grabbed it and slid it on. “Hang on.”

“What are you doing—”

The world dissolved, but the trip was quick. I popped us into the forest at the northern edge of the Rim. There wasn’t even time for a memory to roll over me.

I dropped to a crouch and Samara followed suit. “Where are we?”

“At the outside edge of the Rim.”

“Why exactly?”

Slowing for a brief moment, I looked back at her. “Call it a hunch, but there is only one doorway out of the barracks and Cassava knows it. She’s not stupid, even if she is deranged. She’ll be waiting for us to pop through those doors.”

“Great, smart and a psycho.” Samara pushed a fern out of her way and caught up to me. We jogged side by side until we reached the first house on the outer edge of the Rim. I ducked down beside the wooden structure. Using the houses for cover, we slipped unnoticed to the center of the Rim where it became apparent things had gotten rather shitty.

By the numbers, it looked as though every single member of my family had been gathered outside the Spiral and the Enders Barracks. In the center of them stood Cassava, with Blackbird at her side. I scanned the crowd looking for Ash, but there was no blond head with his height. My heart clenched. No, she wouldn’t have killed him. The bond with Peta thrummed lightly and I felt her eyes sweep toward me. I reached back and touched Samara to bring her forward for a look. Putting my mouth to her ear, I whispered, “Can you sweep everyone away from Cassava?”

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