“I made them when I was supposed to be making salve,” said David. “Just like the Apparat said.”
“Right under the noses of the Priestguards?”
“It’s not as if they know anything about the Small Science.”
“Well, somebody must. You got caught.”
“Not exactly,” said Mal. He’d stationed himself by the doorway with Tamar, each of them keeping an eye on the passage beyond.
“David knew we were meeting in the Kettle,” said Genya, “and he guessed about the master flue.”
David frowned. “I don’t guess.”
“But there was no way to get the powders out of the archives, not with the guards searching everything.”
Tamar grinned. “So we had the Apparat deliver it.”
I stared at them in disbelief. “You meant to get caught?”
“Turns out the easiest way to schedule a meeting is to get arrested,” said Zoya.
“Do you know how risky that was?”
“Blame Oretsev,” Zoya replied with a sniff. “It was his idea of a brilliant plan.”
“It did work,” Genya observed.
Mal lifted a shoulder. “Like Sergei said, the Apparat was waiting for an opportunity to take us out of action. I figured we’d give him one.”
“We were just never sure when you’d be in the Kettle,” Nadia said. “When you left the archives today, David claimed he’d forgotten something in his quarters and came by the training rooms to give us the signal. We knew the Apparat would be more likely to trust Tolya and Tamar, so they roughed us up a little—”
“A lot,” put in Mal.
“Then they claimed to have discovered a devious plot involving a few wicked Grisha and one very gullible tracker.”
Mal gave a mock salute.
“I was afraid he’d insist on putting everyone in the cells,” said Tamar. “So we claimed you were in immediate danger and that we had to get to the Kettle right away.”
Nadia smiled. “And then we just hoped the whole kitchen wouldn’t fall in on us.”
David’s frown deepened. “It was a controlled blast. The odds that the cave’s structure would hold were well above average.”
“Ah. Above average,” said Genya. “Why didn’t you say so?”
“I just did.”
“What about those shadows on the wall?” asked Zoya. “Who pulled that off?”
I tensed, unsure of what to say.
“I did it,” said Mal. “We rigged it as a distraction.”
Sergei paced back and forth, cracking his knuckles. “You should have told us about the plan. We deserved a warning.”
“You could have at least let me blow something up,” added Harshaw.
Zoya gave an elaborate shrug. “I’m so sorry you felt excluded. Never mind how closely we’ve been watched and that it was a miracle we weren’t found out. We definitely should have jeopardized the whole operation to spare your feelings.”
I cleared my throat. “In less than an hour, I’ll be leading services with the Apparat. We’ll leave directly after that, and I need to know who’s going with me.”
“Any chance you’re going to tell us where the third amplifier is?” asked Zoya. Thus far, only the twins, Mal, and I knew where we hoped to find the firebird. And Nikolai, I reminded myself. Nikolai knew too—if he was still alive.
Mal shook his head. “The less you know, the safer we’ll be.”
“So you’re not even telling us where we’re going?” Sergei said sulkily.
“Not quite. We’re going to attempt to make contact with Nikolai Lantsov.”
“I think we should try Ryevost,” said Tamar.
“Go to the river cities?” I asked. “Why?”
“Sturmhond had smuggling lines throughout Ravka. It’s possible Nikolai is using them to get arms into the country.” Tamar would know. She and Tolya had been trusted members of Sturmhond’s crew. “If the rumors are true and he’s based somewhere in the north, then there’s a good chance the drop point near Ryevost is active.”
“That’s a lot of maybe and not much more,” Harshaw observed.
Mal nodded. “True. But it’s our best lead.”
“And if it’s a dead end?” asked Sergei.
“We split up,” said Mal. “We find a safe house where you can lie low, and I take a team to find the firebird.”
“You’re welcome to remain here,” I said to the others. “I know the pilgrims aren’t friendly to Grisha, and after tonight, I’m not sure how sentiment will change. But if we’re captured aboveground—”
“The Darkling doesn’t deal kindly with traitors,” finished Genya quietly.
Everyone shifted uncomfortably, but I made myself meet her gaze. “No. He doesn’t.”
“He’s had his shot at me,” she said. “I’m going.”
Zoya smoothed the cuff of her coat. “We’d move faster without you.”
“I’ll keep up,” Genya countered.
“See that you do,” said Mal. “We’ll be entering an area crawling with militias, not to mention the Darkling’s oprichniki. You’re recognizable,” he said to Genya. “So is Tolya, for that matter.”
Tamar’s lips twitched. “Would you like to be the one to tell him he can’t come?”
Mal considered this. “Maybe we can disguise him as a really big tree.”
Adrik shot to his feet so fast he nearly bounced me from the bed. “See you in an hour,” he declared, as if daring anyone to argue. Nadia gave me a shrug as he marched out of the room. Adrik wasn’t much younger than the rest of us, but maybe because he was Nadia’s little brother, he always seemed to be looking to prove himself.
“Well, I’m going,” said Zoya. “The humidity down here is murder on my hair.”
Harshaw rose and pushed off from the wall. “I’d prefer to stay,” he said with a yawn. “But Oncat says we go.” He hefted the tabby onto his shoulder with one hand.
“Are you ever going to name that thing?” Zoya asked.
“She has a name.”
“Oncat is not a name. It’s just Kaelish for cat.”
“Suits her, doesn’t it?”
Zoya rolled her eyes and flounced out the door, followed by Harshaw and then Stigg, who gave a polite bow and said, “I’ll be ready.”
The others trickled out after them. I suspected David would have preferred to remain at the White Cathedral, cloistered with Morozova’s journals. But he was our only Fabrikator, and assuming we found the firebird, we would need him to forge the second fetter. Nadia seemed happy to go with her brother, though it was Tamar she grinned at on the way out. I’d guessed that Maxim would choose to remain here at the infirmary, and I’d been right. Maybe I could get Vladim and the other Priestguards to set an example for the pilgrims and take advantage of Maxim’s skills as a Healer.
The only surprise was Sergei. Though the White Cathedral was miserable, damp, and dull, it was also relatively secure. As eager as Sergei had seemed to escape the Apparat’s grasp, I hadn’t been sure he’d want to take his chances with us aboveground. But he’d nodded tersely and simply stated, “I’ll be there.” Maybe we were all desperate for blue sky and a chance to feel free again, no matter the risk.
When they were gone, Mal sighed and said, “Well, it was worth a try.”
“All that talk of militias,” I said, realization dawning. “You were trying to scare them off.”
“Twelve is too many. A group that big will slow us through the tunnels, and once we’re aboveground, they’ll put us at greater risk. As soon as we have a chance, we’ll need to split up. There’s no way I’m taking a dozen Grisha into the southern mountains.”
“All right,” I said. “Assuming we can find a safe place for them.”