Dance of Thieves (Dance of Thieves 1) - Page 129

I glanced at Synové, her hand hovering over her knife. A tremor ruffled her eyelids like a thousand barbed switches were shaking behind them, and I wondered if Bahr was better left here with his throat slit than facing the agonies she planned for him.

“Forty minutes,” Natiya said. We were ahead of schedule. It was only a short walk down the covered terrace walkway to the back gate where the hay wagon and horses were waiting. I pulled the gag from Phineas.

“The plans for the weapons, where are they?”

The captain moaned beneath his gag, furiously shaking his head. Sarva and the others had similar responses, still trying to preserve their treasures. Phineas hesitated, listening to their groans. I shrugged. “Who do you think you should listen to? Them or us?” Every one of our weapons was trained on him.

“The second outbuilding near the gate,” he responded. “It’s our workshop. All the formulas are there.”

It was on our way. The gods were watching over us.

Before I stepped out onto the terrace, I pointed to the row of throwing knives on our chests in case they got any foolish ideas about fleeing in the darkness. “I wouldn’t try to make a run for it. Tell them what Rahtan means, Kardos.”

He mumbled beneath his gag.

“That’s right. Never fail. Got that, Captain?”

He nodded, an angry line creasing the crescent scar on his forehead.

I stepped out onto the terrace. The grounds beyond were black with a moonless night. If there was a stray guard who wasn’t in a birchwings sleep by now, he would not see us. The air was still, not so much as the ripple of a breeze, and the only sound was the warble of a thrush answering Wren’s call.

We made our way down the stairs to the grassy grounds that led to the gate, the six men shuffling between the others, silent and afraid, as I walked ahead scouting our path. We were halfway to the gate when I heard a rustle. It was too dark here to signal so I whistled, a low warble to stop them.

Another rustle.

And then the sky lit up like dawn.



“Positions!” I yelled.

In less than a second, we had our prisoners knocked to their knees. Synové, Eben, and Natiya stood behind them with arrows drawn, and Wren’s ziethe circled around the captain’s neck. I was a dozen feet in front of them all, with a dagger gripped in my hand.

The smell of sulfur burned the air, and my eyes adjusted to the sudden blinding flames of a hundred torches in the night.

And then I saw Jase.

He was standing in front of me, only steps away, blocking my path.

His family stood behind him—Vairlyn, Priya, Gunner, Titus, Mason, Aram, Samuel—even Jalaine. Their expressions were condemning, hurt, seething. The grounds were thick with guards, their arrows aimed, and straza with swords drawn.

Jase’s eyes glistened, his head shaking, looking like he’d been kicked in the stomach. His mouth opened but he struggled to find words. “This?” he finally asked, holding up a canister of white crystals. “Is this what you meant to get?”

He switched the birchwings? His whole family had played along, even Jalaine. That was what Jase’s last minute whisper in her ear was. “You knew,” I said.

“Not for sure. I didn’t want to believe it.” He threw the canister, and it shattered somewhere in the darkness. He looked back at Eben and Natiya, the cook and her husband now revealed as Rahtan too.

“You were planning this all along.” His eyes cut through me, accusing. “That’s all this was ever about?”

By this, I knew he meant we. My anger flared. He had harbored ruthless killers, conspired with them, lied about them, used me to lure the queen here. I was the one who was betrayed. He had no right to reproach me.

My next words were sharp, trying to cut him loose. “That’s right. That’s all it was ever about. These men are under our arrest for murder and treason, and you’re guilty of harboring them. Now step aside before we arrest you too.”

He blew out a disbelieving breath. “Have you lost your mind? Look where you are! You’re surrounded. Put your weapons down! Now!” he ordered.

We didn’t move. Bows pulled tighter, stretching with more threat on both sides. Poised arms shook.

Tags: Mary E. Pearson Dance of Thieves Fantasy
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