Aria fractioned to a vast dome, feeling weak and dizzy. Sterile white rows stretched back hundreds of feet. Vegetables and fruits sprouted from them—ordered, perfect bursts of color.
Her heart began to pound. This was Ag 6—one of the farming domes in Reverie. She’d been here before in search of information about her mother. Soren had attacked her not far from where she now stood.
Paisley had died here.
Aria’s gaze traveled up. High above, black smoke hissed from the irrigation pipes, tumbling down and pooling around her. She tried to run for the airlock door. Her legs wouldn’t move.
A voice broke the silence. “You can’t get out, remember?”
Soren. She didn’t see him, but she recognized his taunting voice. “Where are you?” The smoke reached her, stinging her eyes and making her cough, but she couldn’t see anyone else in the dome.
“Where are you, Aria?”
“You can’t hurt me in here, Soren. ”
“You mean in a Realm? Is that what you think this is? And you’re wrong. I can hurt you. ”
A wave of dizziness sent her stumbling. Her knees buckled, and she went down, grabbing her head. Why was her head pounding? What was wrong with her?
A burning pressure grew stronger and stronger at her bicep. She looked down. Smoke poured out of her skin, seeping into the air. There was fire inside her. Her blood was burning. She yanked and tore at her skin, but invisible hands trapped her.
“Enough, Molly! Get them off her arm!”
It was Roar’s voice, but where was he?
Soren’s muscular form appeared above her. “You won’t get away this time. ”
She struggled to tear her arms free. She needed to fight him, but she couldn’t break loose. “I’m not afraid of you!”
“You sure about that?” He darted for her, grabbing her around the waist.
“It’s me, Aria! It’s all right. It’s me. ”
Roar’s voice. Soren’s face. Soren’s hands wrapped around her.
Aria struggled against his grip. She didn’t know what to be afraid of. She had no idea what was real, or why her blood felt like boiling water in her veins. She fell back against the farming rows, kicking, fighting, as her vision turned gray and then black.
Perry entered the cookhouse and found Wylan standing on a table, facing a small crowd. It was late—only a few stray lamps were lit across the shadowed hall—and most of the tribe had gone to their homes for the night.
“He’s a hothead; that’s all he’s ever been,” Wylan said. “He’s with the Dweller. He was keeping that from us. Now he says he’s going north for the Still Blue, but don’t believe that, either. I wouldn’t be surprised if he never comes back!”
“I’m back,” Perry said. He felt cold. Completely focused. As sharp as the knife in his hand.
Wylan whirled and nearly fell off the table. Around Perry, people gasped, their eyes dropping to the blade at his side.
Bear put up his hands. “I had no idea, Perry. I didn’t. I would never do—”
“I know. ” Bear’s temper proved his innocence. He’d been just as shocked as Perry had been earlier. Perry inhaled deeply, slashes of blue edging his vision. “Who was it?” He searched the faces around him.
No one answered.
“Do you think silence will protect you?” He walked past Rowan and Old Will, moving through the crowd, pumping air into his lungs. Inhaling.