Aria’s room was cold and spare: a simple cot and a chair with a curling backrest made of stag horns. The only light came through a dingy beveled-glass window recess
ed deep in the stone wall.
Roar was given the room adjacent to hers, but he followed her inside. Aria pulled the door shut and wrapped her arms around him. His muscles were tense, trembling.
“I don’t understand. Liv let him touch her. ”
She winced at the pain in his voice. “I know. I’m sorry. ”
She had no better words to give him. She remembered the conversation they’d had days after leaving the Tides. She’d still felt the poison inside her, and she’d been in knots about leaving Perry. Roar had spoken to her of truth. He’d lost a truth today, just as she had months ago when she’d learned she was half Outsider. Her life had rested on a pillar that had suddenly vanished, and she still hadn’t found her balance. Nothing she said would help him, so she stood with him and held him until he was ready to stand on his own again.
When he drew away, the anger in his brown eyes chilled her. She grasped his hand. Roar, don’t do anything to Sable. He’s expecting it. Don’t give him a reason to hurt you.
He didn’t answer her. For once she wished she could hear his thoughts.
He shook his head. “No. You don’t. ” He moved away, sitting against the door.
She sat on the bed and looked around the small room. She didn’t know what to do. For the past two weeks, she’d raced to get here. Now that she was here, she felt trapped.
Roar pulled his knees up, resting his head in his hands. His forearms were flexed, his hands fisted. In hours, they’d have dinner with Liv and Sable. How would it feel to sit across a dinner table from Perry and another girl? To watch him touch her cheek, the way Sable had touched Liv’s? How would Roar bear it? In their plans, she and Roar had never spoken about leaving Rim without Liv. Not once had they imagined she’d want to stay.
Aria pulled her satchel into her lap, feeling the small lump inside the lining. Earlier, she’d wrapped the Smarteye in a cloth, with a handful of pine needles to mask the synthetic scent of the device, in case Sable searched their things. She heard the heavy footfalls of guards moving through the corridors, and the door didn’t have a lock. While she was there, contacting Hess—or Soren—would be too dangerous.
It was said that Sable despised Dwellers. She didn’t want to find out.
She rummaged around until she found the falcon carving. An intense pang of longing hit her as she brought it out. She imagined Perry as he’d been the night of her Marking ceremony, leaning against Vale’s door with his thumbs hanging on his belt. She pictured his narrow hips and wide shoulders, and the small tilt of his head. His focus completely on her. Whenever his eyes were on her, she felt so completely seen.
She held the image in her mind, and pretended she could speak with him through the figurine the same way she spoke with Roar.
We’re here, but it’s a mess, Perry. Your sister … I really wanted to like her, but I can’t. I’m sorry, but I can’t. Maybe I was wrong to leave without you. Maybe if you were here, you could talk Liv out of marrying Sable and help us find the Still Blue. But I promise I’ll find a way.
I miss you.
I miss you, I miss you, I miss you.
Be ready, because when I see you, I’ll never let you go again.
My word, Peregrine,” Marron said. He craned his neck, staring in wonder at the cavern. “What a place. ”
Perry had brought him there first thing in the morning, explaining the Tides’ situation along the way, holding Marron’s arm as they climbed down the bluff. Now he concentrated on breathing evenly as he followed Marron’s lead deeper inside.
“It’s not ideal,” Perry said, raising the torch in his hand higher.
“Ideals belong in a world only the wise man can understand,” Marron said quietly.
“That would be you. ”
Marron met his gaze and smiled warmly. “That would be Socrates. But you’re also wise, Perry. I had no plan for losing Delphi. I regret that very much. ”
They fell into silence. Perry knew Marron was thinking about the home and the people he’d lost. Months ago, Perry had watched Roar and Aria train with knives on the rooftop at Delphi. He’d kissed her for the first time there.
Perry cleared his throat. His thoughts were slipping to a place he didn’t want to go. “I want to bring the tribe here before we’re forced out. We should leave the compound on our terms. ”
“Oh, yes,” Marron agreed. “We’ll need to start preparing right away. We’ll need freshwater, light, and ventilation. Heat and storage for food. The access is poor, but we can improve it. I could design a pulley to lower heavier supplies. ”