“Do you have any idea how loud guilt is to me?”
He caught it: the rancid reek of fear. He grabbed the scent like a line and followed it. The tribe recoiled, terrified, stumbling into benches and tables. All except Gray, who stood fixed as a tree. Perry’s vision tunneled, focusing only on him. On the farmer, who shook his head, his face pulled taut with terror.
“She’s a Mole! She’s not even one of us! She has no right to be Marked!”
Perry lunged, slamming into Gray. They fell together, knocking into people and crashing into the floor. Someone kicked his hand, and the knife tore from his fingers. Hands fell on his shoulders, but they didn’t stop him. He was pure intent. Pure focused power—all the fear inside him releasing through his fist
three times before Reef and Bear wrenched him away. Perry fought his way back, cursing, struggling. He’d heard bones crack, but it wasn’t enough. Not enough, because Gray was still alive. Still moving on the floor.
Bear lifted him off his feet, throwing him backward. “Stop! He’s got sons. ”
Perry crashed into a table. Reef appeared in front of him, jamming a forearm into his neck, stunning him. “Look at me, Peregrine!”
He forced himself to meet Reef’s eyes.
“Let him disperse,” Reef said. “Let him go. ”
Perry’s gaze went to the two boys, standing in the crowd. Yesterday in the fields they’d been laughing, taking shots with Brooke’s bow. Now they stood pressed together, crying.
Reef stepped back, releasing him.
Gray lay on his side a few feet away. Dark blood streamed from his nose and pooled on the floorboards.
“Pick him up,” Perry said. Hyde and Straggler hauled him off the floor and held him upright. Gray couldn’t stand on his own. “Why?” Perry asked. “Why did you do it?”
“She doesn’t deserve Markings! She’s not even one of us. I am. ”
“Not anymore,” Perry said. “You lost that right. Be off my land by tomorrow morning. ”
As Hyde and Strag dragged Gray away, Perry put his head down and spit out the warm pool of blood in his mouth. He’d taken a punch at some point. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught a flash of Shade’s messy, jangling coat. The gossipmonger had scored a victory tonight.
“You’re a liar, Peregrine. ”
Perry looked up and followed the bitter voice until he found Wylan, buried in the crowd. “You want to come here and say that, Wylan?”
“If I do, will you beat me, too?” Wylan shook his head. “You’re worse than Vale,” he said under his breath, and left.
Twig shoved Wylan as he passed by. A cheap shot—surprising for someone as honorable as Twig. Perry’s gaze moved across the hall. Hayden braced nearby, and Gren had his knife in his hand. Reef scanned the crowd, a warrior assessing the enemy.
They weren’t the enemy. These were his people. Perry looked around the hall, scenting pity and fear and rage.
Finally, Reef spoke. “Go on, all of you. It’s over,” he said.
But Perry knew he was wrong.
Searing pain in Aria’s arm woke her. She blinked in the darkness. Her tongue was stuck to the roof of her mouth, and her head pounded so intensely she was afraid to move. She was on the bed in Vale’s room. Aether light seeped through a small crack between the shutters, blue and cool, like the glow of a full moon.
She looked down, moving her head slowly. A strip of cloth was tied tightly around her bicep. She knew the dark stains on it were blood. Her hand shook wildly as she reached up and touched it. She felt scalded. Not just along her skin but deep inside her veins.