“Ahh … much talk of the Blue out there, Peregrine. Tribes are striking out in search of it. Some going south, across the Shield Valley. Some east, beyond Mount Arrow. The Quince tribe took to the north, beyond the Horns, and came back with nothing more than empty stomachs. Lots of talk, see, but none of it sticks. ”
“I hear Sable knows where it is,” Perry said.
Shade shrank back, his clothes jingling. “He says so, yes, but I’m no Scire, like you are, Peregrine. I can’t know if he speaks the truth. If he does know, he’s not telling a soul about it. Word says there’s a boy who can control the Aether—you might want to know that. Such a child would be worth something in a time like this. ”
Perry kept still despite the jolt to his pulse. How much did Shade know? From the corner of his eye, he saw Cinder pull his hat down. “That’s not possible. ”
“Yes, well … it is hard to believe. ” Shade seemed disappointed to not have drawn any interest, because his next bit of information came readily. “The thaw came early to the north this spring. The pass to Rim is clear. You can go see Olivia now. ”
Liv. Perry was caught off guard by the mention of his sister. “She didn’t go to the Horns. She never made it there. ”
Shade lifted his eyebrows. “Didn’t she?”
Perry froze. “What do you know about Liv?”
“More than you, it seems. ” Shade smiled. He seemed pleased to have information to bargain with now. But he hadn’t counted on Roar.
Perry turned in time to see his friend leap over the table in a dark blur. There was a sudden loud tumble and a rattling of spoons and rings and trinkets. Reef and Gren drew their knives, and then everything stopped. Perry climbed over the table to see Roar pinning Shade.
“Where is she?” Roar hissed, pressing his blade to Shade’s throat.
“She went to the Horns. That’s all I know!” Shade looked at Perry, terrified. “Tell him, Scire! It’s the truth. I wouldn’t lie to you. ”
The hall grew quiet as all eyes turned to the commotion. Perry’s legs felt unsteady as he climbed down. He brought Roar to his feet and caught his friend’s temper, a searing scarlet color.
“Walk. ” He pushed Roar toward the door. Air. They both needed air before they dealt with Shade. He didn’t need bloodshed tonight.
“Sable found her. ” Roar’s eyes darted everywhere as Perry shepherded him across the hall. “He had to have. The bastard tracked her down and hauled her back. I have to go there. I need—”
“Outside, Roar. ”
They left a wake of questioning stares as they made their way across the hall. Perry focused on the door, imagining the cool night air outside.
Roar stopped and turned so abruptly that Perry almost crashed into him. “Perry … look. ”
He followed Roar’s gaze to Aria. Bear drove the rod into her arm in quick, short stabs, Marking her with the ink. Aria was sweating, and her hair clung to her neck. She looked over, meeting his eyes. Something was wrong.
He was in front of her in a heartbeat. Seeing him, Bear startled and yanked the rod back. A line of blood dribbled down Aria’s arm. Too much blood. Far too much. Part of the Marking was done, the flowing lines of the Aud tattoo reaching halfway across her bicep. The skin around the inked skin was red and swollen.
“What is this?” Perry demanded.
“She has thin skin,” Bear said defensively. “I’m doing it the way I know. ”
Aria’s face was ghostly pale, and she was slumping. “I can handle it,” she said weakly. She wouldn’t look at him. She kept her gaze on the fire.
Perry’s eyes locked on the inkpot just as he smelled something off. He picked up the small copper bowl and brought it to his nose. He inhaled. Beneath the ink he caught a musty, mousy odor.
For an instant, his mind couldn’t fit the information together. Then it hit him.
The ink was poisoned.
The copper pot clacked against the hearth before he realized he’d thrown it. Ink splattered across the mantel, the wall, the floor.
“What did you do?” Perry yelled. The drums stopped. Everything stopped.