Home > House of Sky and Breath (Crescent City #2)(3)

House of Sky and Breath (Crescent City #2)(3)
Author: Sarah J. Maas

Sofie’s stomach tightened, but she focused on donning the clothes and shoes Silver had brought for her to change into. “Then let’s hope we make it to the coast before she does.”

His throat bobbed. She dared ask, “Pippa?”

A muscle ticked in his jaw. He and Pippa had been jockeying for a promotion into Command’s inner ranks for years now. A crazed fanatic, Silver had called Pippa on more than one occasion, usually after her Lightfall squadron had led a brutal attack that left no survivors. But Sofie understood Pippa’s devotion—she herself had grown up passing as fully human, after all. Had learned exactly how they were treated—how Pippa had likely been treated by the Vanir her entire life. Some things, some experiences, Silver could never understand.

Silver said, “No word yet. She’d better be where she promised to be.” Disapproval and distrust laced every word.

Sofie said nothing else as they drove. She wouldn’t tell him the details of the intelligence she’d gathered, for all that he had done and meant to her, despite the silent hours spent together, bodies and souls merging. She wouldn’t tell anyone—not until Command came through on their promises.

The Asteri had probably realized what she’d discovered. They’d no doubt sent the Hind after her to stop her from telling anyone else.

But the more immediate threat came from the dreadwolves closing in with every mile they hurried toward Servast, hounds on a scent. Silver’s frequent glances in the rearview mirror told her that he knew it, too.

The two of them could take on perhaps a handful of wolf shifters—they’d done so before. But there would be more than a handful for an escape from Kavalla. Far more than they could face and live.

She’d prepared for that eventuality. Had already handed over her comm-crystal to Command before entering Kavalla. That precious, sole line of communication to their most valued spy. She knew they’d keep the small chunk of quartz safe. Just as Silver would keep Emile safe. He’d given her his word.

When they emerged from the van, mist wreathed the narrow docks of Servast, writhing over the chill, night-dark waters of the Haldren Sea. It wended around the ancient stone houses of the port town, the firstlight in the few lampposts above the cobblestone streets flickering. No lights shone behind the shuttered windows; not one car or pedestrian moved in the deep shadows and fog.

It was as if the streets of Servast had been emptied in advance of their arrival. As if its citizens—mostly poor fisher-folk, both human and Vanir allied with the House of Many Waters—had hunkered down, some instinct bleating that the fog was not to be braved. Not this night.

Not with dreadwolves on the prowl.

Silver led the way, hair peeking from beneath the cap he’d donned, his attention darting this way and that, his gun within easy reach at his side. She’d seen him kill efficiently with his power, but sometimes a gun was easier.

Emile kept close to Sofie as they crept down the age-worn streets, through the empty markets. She could feel eyes on her from behind the closed shutters. But no one opened a door to offer help.

Sofie didn’t care. As long as that boat waited where she’d been told it would be, the world could go to Hel.

Mercifully, the Bodegraven was idling at the end of a long wooden dock three blocks ahead, silver letters bright against her black hull. A few firstlights glowed in the small steamer’s portholes, but the decks remained quiet. Emile gasped, as if it were a vision from Luna.

Sofie prayed the other Ophion boats would be waiting beyond the harbor to provide backup, exactly as Command had promised in return for the valuable asset she’d gone into the camp to retrieve. They hadn’t cared that the valuable asset was her brother. Only what she told them he could do.

She scanned the streets, the docks, the skies.

The power in her veins thrummed in time to her heart. A counter-beat. A bone-drum, a death knell. A warning.

They had to go now.

She started, but Silver’s broad hand clamped on her shoulder.

“They’re here,” he said in his northern accent. With his sharp senses, he could detect the wolves better than she could.

Sofie surveyed the sloping rooftops, the cobblestones, the fog. “How close?”

Dread filled Silver’s handsome face. “Everywhere. They’re fucking everywhere.”

Only three blocks separated them from salvation. Shouts echoed off the stones a block away. “There! There!”

One heartbeat to decide. One heartbeat—Emile halted, fear bright in his dark eyes.

No more fear. No more pain.

Sofie hissed at Silver, “Run.” Silver reached for his gun, but she shoved his hand down, getting in his face. “Get the kids to the boat and go. I’ll hold the wolves off and meet you there.”

Some of the children were already bolting for the dock. Emile waited. “Run!” she told Silver again. He touched her cheek—the softest of caresses—and sprinted after the children, roaring for the captain to rev the engines. None of them would survive if they didn’t depart now.

She whirled to Emile. “Get on that boat.”

His eyes—their mother’s eyes—widened. “But how will you—”

“I promise I will find you again, Emile. Remember all I told you. Go.”

When she embraced his lanky, bony body, she let herself inhale one breath of his scent, the one that lay beneath the acrid layers of dirt and waste from the camp. Then Emile staggered away, half tripping over himself as he marked the lingering power building at her fingertips.

But her brother said softly, “Make them pay.”

She closed her eyes, readying herself. Gathering her power. Lights went out on the block around her. When she opened her eyes to the newfound darkness, Emile had reached the dock. Silver waited at the ramp, beckoning beneath the one streetlight that remained lit. Her stare met Silver’s.

She nodded once—hoping it conveyed all that was within her heart—and aimed for the dreadwolves’ howls.

Sofie sprinted right into the golden beams of the headlights of four cars emblazoned with the Asteri’s symbol: SPQM and its wreath of seven stars. All crammed full of dreadwolves in imperial uniforms, guns out.

Sofie instantly spied the golden-haired female lounging in the front of the military convertible. A silver torque glimmered against her neck.

The Hind.

The deer shifter had two snipers poised beside her in the open-air car, rifles trained on Sofie. Even in the darkness, Lidia Cervos’s hair shimmered, her beautiful face passive and cold. Amber eyes fixed on Sofie, lit with smug amusement. Triumph.

Sofie whipped around a corner before their shots cracked like thunder. The snarl of the Hind’s dreadwolves rumbled in the mist behind her as she charged into Servast proper, away from the harbor. From that ship and the children. From Emile.

Silver couldn’t use his power to get her. He had no idea where she was.

Sofie’s breath sawed out of her chest as she sprinted down the empty, murky streets. A blast from the boat’s horn blared through the misty night, as if pleading with her to hurry.

In answer, half a dozen unearthly howls rose up behind her. All closing in.

Some had taken their wolf form, then.

Claws thundered against the pavement nearby, and Sofie gritted her teeth, cutting down another alley, heading for the one place all the maps she’d studied suggested she might stand a chance. The ship’s horn blasted again, a final warning that it would leave.

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