Ruin and Rising (The Grisha 3) - Page 35

Tolya’s brow was furrowed. Stigg was meant to be with us. Harshaw hadn’t been trained to work the lines.

“Just hold her steady,” he cautioned Harshaw. He looked to where Mal stood braced on the opposite side of the hull, hands tight to the ropes, muscles straining as we were buffeted by snow and wind.

“Do it!” Mal shouted. He was bleeding from the bullet wound in his thigh.

They made the switch. The Bittern tilted, then righted itself as Harshaw let out a grunt.

“Got it,” he grated through clenched teeth. It wasn’t reassuring.

Tolya leapt down to Adrik’s side and began working. Nadia was sobbing, but she held the draft steady.

“Can you save the arm?” I asked quietly.

Tolya shook his head once. He was a Heartrender, a warrior, and a killer—not a Healer. “I can’t just seal the skin,” he said, “or he’ll bleed internally. I need to close the arteries. Can you warm him?”

I cast light over Adrik, and his trembling calmed slightly.

We drove onward, sails taut with the force of Grisha wind. Tamar bent to the wheel, coat billowing behind her. I knew when we’d cleared the mountains because the Bittern ceased its shaking. The air cut cold against my cheeks as we picked up speed, but I kept Adrik cocooned in sunlight.

Time seemed to slow. Neither of them wanted to say it, but I could see Nadia and Zoya beginning to tire. Mal and Harshaw couldn’t be faring well either.

“We need to set down,” I said.

“Where are we?” Harshaw asked. His crest of red hair lay flat on his head, soaked through with snow. I’d thought of him as unpredictable, maybe a little dangerous, but here he was—bloody, tired, and working the lines for hours without complaint.

Tamar consulted her charts. “Just past the permafrost. If we keep heading south, we’ll be above more populated areas soon.”

“We could try to find woods for cover,” panted Nadia.

“We’re too near Chernast,” Mal replied.

Harshaw adjusted his grip. “Does it matter? If we fly through the day, we’re going to be spotted.”

“We could go higher,” suggested Genya.

Nadia shook her head. “We can try, but the air’s thinner up there and we’ll use a lot of power on a vertical move.”

“Where are we headed, anyway?” asked Zoya.

Without thinking twice, I said, “To the copper mine at Murin. To the firebird.”

There was a brief silence. Then Harshaw said what I knew a lot of them had to be thinking. “We could run. Every time we face those monsters, more of us die. We could take this ship anywhere. Kerch. Novyi Zem.”

“Like hell,” muttered Mal.

“This is my home,” said Zoya. “I won’t be chased out of it.”

“What about Adrik?” Nadia asked, her voice hoarse.

“He lost a lot of blood,” said Tolya. “All I can do is keep his heart steady, try to give him time to recover.”

“He needs a real Healer.”

“If the Darkling finds us, a Healer won’t do him any good,” said Zoya.

I ran a hand over my eyes, trying to think. Adrik might be stable. Or he might slip more deeply into a coma and never come out of it. And if we set down somewhere and were spotted, we’d all be in for death or worse. The Darkling must know we wouldn’t land in Fjerda, deep in enemy territory. He might think we’d flee to West Ravka. He’d send scouts everywhere he could. Would he stop to grieve for his mother? Dashed on the rocks, would there be enough of her left to bury? I looked over my shoulder, sure that at any minute I’d see nichevo’ya swooping down on us. I couldn’t think about Nikolai. I wouldn’t.

“We go to Murin,” I said. “We’ll figure out the rest from there. I won’t force anyone to stay. Zoya, Nadia, can you get us there?” They’d been flagging before, but I needed to believe they had some reserve of strength to call on.

“I know I can,” Zoya replied.

Nadia’s earnest chin lifted. “Try to keep up.”

“We can still be seen,” I said. “We need a Tidemaker.”

David glanced up from bandaging the powder burns on his hand. “What if you tried bending the light?”

I frowned. “Bend it how?”

“The only reason anyone can see the ship is because light is bouncing off it. Just eliminate the reflection.”

“I’m not sure I follow.”

“You don’t say,” said Genya.

“Like a rock in a stream,” David explained. “Just bend the light so it never actually hits the ship. There’s nothing to see.”

“So we’d be invisible?” Genya asked.

“Theoretically.”

She yanked off her boot and plunked it down on the deck. “Try it.”

I eyed the boot skeptically. I wasn’t sure how to begin. This was a completely different way of using my power.

“Just … bend the light?”

“Well,” said David, “it might help to remember that you don’t have to concern yourself with the refractive index. You just need to redirect and synchronize both components of light simultaneously. I mean, you can’t just start with the magnetic, that would be ridic—”

I held up a hand. “Let’s stick with the rock in the stream.”

I concentrated, but I didn’t summon or hone the light the way I did with the Cut. Instead, I just tried to give it a nudge.

The toe of the boot grew blurry as the air near it seemed to waver.

I tried to think of the light as water, as wind rushing around the leather, parting t

hen slipping back together as if the boot had never been there. I cupped my fingers. The boot flickered and vanished.

Genya whooped. I shrieked and threw my hands in the air. The boot reappeared. I curled my fingers, and it was gone.

“David, have I ever told you you’re a genius?”

“Yes.”

“I’m telling you again.”

Because the ship was larger and in motion, keeping the curve of light around it was more of a challenge. But I only had to worry about the light reflecting off the bottom of the hull, and after a few tries, I felt comfortable keeping the bend steady.

If anyone happened to be standing in a field, peering straight up, they might see something off, a blur or a flash of light, but they wouldn’t see a winged ship moving through the afternoon sky. At least that was the hope. It reminded me of something I’d once seen the Darkling do when he’d pulled me through a candlelit ballroom, using his power to render us nearly invisible. Yet another trick he’d mastered long before I had.

Genya dug through the provisions and found a stash of jurda, the Zemeni stimulant that soldiers sometimes used on long watches. It made me feel jittery and a little nauseated, but there was no other way to keep us on our feet and focused.

It had to be chewed, and soon we were all spitting the rust-colored juice over the side.

“If this stains my teeth orange—” said Zoya.

“It will,” interrupted Genya, “but I promise to put your teeth back whiter than they were before. I may even fix those weird incisors of yours.”

“There is nothing wrong with my teeth.”

“Not at all,” said Genya soothingly. “You’re the prettiest walrus I know. I’m just amazed you haven’t sawed through your lower lip.”

“Keep your hands off me, Tailor,” Zoya grumbled, “or I’ll poke your other eye out.”

By the time dusk came, Zoya didn’t have the energy to bicker. She and Nadia were entirely focused on keeping us aloft.

David was able to take over the wheel for brief periods of time so Tamar could see to the wound on Mal’s leg. Harshaw, Tolya, and Mal alternated on the lines to give each other a chance to stretch.

Tags: Leigh Bardugo The Grisha Fantasy
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