Home > House of Sky and Breath (Crescent City #2)(4)

House of Sky and Breath (Crescent City #2)(4)
Author: Sarah J. Maas

If she could only make it a bit deeper into the city—a bit deeper—

Fangs gnashed behind her.

Keep moving. Not only away from the Vanir on her tail, but from the snipers on the ground, waiting for the open shot. From the Hind, who must know what information Sofie bore. Sofie supposed she should be flattered the Hind herself had come to oversee this.

The small market square appeared ahead, and Sofie barreled for the fountain in its center, punching a line of her power straight for it, shearing through rock and metal until water sprayed, a geyser coating the market square. Wolves splashed into the water as they surged from the surrounding streets, shifting as they cornered her.

In the center of the flooded square, Sofie paused.

The wolves in human forms wore imperial uniforms. Tiny silver darts glimmered along their collars. A dart for every rebel spy broken. Her stomach flipped. Only one type of dreadwolf had those silver darts. The Hind’s private guard. The most elite of the shifters.

A throaty whistle sounded through the port. A warning and a farewell.

So Sofie leapt onto the lip of the fountain and smiled at the wolves closing in. They wouldn’t kill her. Not when the Hind was waiting to interrogate her. Too bad they didn’t know what Sofie truly was. Not a human, nor a witch.

She let the power she’d gathered by the docks unspool.

Crackling energy curled at her fingertips and amid the strands of her short brown hair. One of the dreadwolves understood then—matched what he was seeing with the myths Vanir whispered to their children.

“She’s a fucking thunderbird!” the wolf roared—just as Sofie unleashed the power she’d gathered on the water flooding the square. On the dreadwolves standing ankle-deep in it.

They didn’t stand a chance.

Sofie pivoted toward the docks as the electricity finished slithering over the stones, hardly sparing a glance for the smoking, half-submerged carcasses. The silver darts along their collars glowed molten-hot.

Another whistle. She could still make it.

Sofie splashed through the flooded square, breath ragged in her throat.

The dreadwolf had been only half-right. She was part thunderbird—her great-grandmother had mated with a human long ago, before being executed. The gift, more legend than truth these days, had resurfaced in Sofie.

It was why the rebels had wanted her so badly, why they’d sent her out on such dangerous missions. Why Pippa had come to value her. Sofie smelled like and could pass for a human, but in her veins lurked an ability that could kill in an instant. The Asteri had long ago hunted most thunderbirds to extinction. She’d never learned how her great-grandmother had survived, but the descendants had kept the bloodline secret. She had kept it secret.

Until that day three years ago when her family had been killed and taken. When she’d found the nearest Ophion base and showed them exactly what she could do. When she told them what she wanted them to do for her in exchange.

She hated them. Almost as much as she hated the Asteri and the world they’d built. For three years, Ophion had dangled Emile’s whereabouts above her, promising to find him, to help her free him, if she could do one more mission. Pippa and Silver might believe in the cause, though they differed in their methods of how to fight for it, but Emile had always been Sofie’s cause. A free world would be wonderful. But what did it matter if she had no family to share it with?

So many times, for those rebels, she had drawn up power from the grid, from lights and machines, and killed and killed, until her soul lay in tatters. She’d often debated going rogue and finding her brother herself, but she was no spy. She had no network. So she’d stayed, and covertly built up her own bait to dangle before Ophion. Made sure they knew the importance of what she’d gleaned before she entered Kavalla.

Faster, faster she pushed herself toward the dock. If she didn’t make it, maybe there would be a smaller boat that she could take to the steamer. Maybe she’d just swim until she was close enough for Silver to spot her, and easily reach her with his power.

Half-crumbling houses and uneven streets passed; fog drifted in veils.

The stretch of wooden dock between Sofie and the steamer pulling away lay clear. She raced for it.

She could make out Silver on the Bodegraven’s deck, monitoring her approach. But why didn’t he use his power to reach her? Another few feet closer, and she spied the hand pressed to his bleeding shoulder.

Cthona have mercy on him. Silver didn’t appear badly hurt, but she had a feeling she knew what kind of bullet he’d been hit with. A bullet with a core of gorsian stone—one that would stifle magic.

His power was useless. But if a sniper had hit Silver on the ship … Sofie drew up short.

The convertible sat in the shadows of the building across from the docks. The Hind still lounged like a queen, a sniper beside her with his rifle trained on Sofie. Where the second had gone, she didn’t know. Only this one mattered. This one, and his rifle.

It was likely chock-full of gorsian bullets. They’d bring her down in seconds.

The Hind’s golden eyes glowed like coals in the dimness. Sofie gauged the distance to the end of the dock, the rope Silver had thrown down, trailing with every inch the Bodegraven chugged toward the open water.

The Hind inclined her head in challenge. A deceptively calm voice slid from between her red lips. “Are you faster than a bullet, thunderbird?”

Sofie didn’t wait to banter. As swift as a wind through the fjords of her native land, she hurtled down the dock. She knew the sniper’s rifle tracked her.

The end of the dock, the dark harbor beyond, loomed.

The rifle cracked.

Silver’s roar cleaved the night before Sofie hit the wood planks, splinters cutting into her face, the impact ricocheting through one eye. Pain burst through her right thigh, leaving a wake of shredded flesh and shattered bone, so violent it robbed even the scream from her lungs.

Silver’s bellow stopped abruptly—and then he yelled to the captain, “Go, go, go, go!”

Facedown on the dock, Sofie knew it was bad. She lifted her head, swallowing her shriek of pain, blood leaking from her nose. The droning hum of an Omega-boat’s energy rocked through her even before she spied the approaching lights beneath the harbor’s surface.

Four imperial submersible warships converged like sharks on the Bodegraven.

Pippa Spetsos stood aboard the rebel ship Orrae, the Haldren Sea a dark expanse around her. In the distance, the firstlights of the towns along Pangera’s northern coast twinkled like gold stars.

But her attention remained fixed on the gleam of Servast. On the little light sailing toward them.

The Bodegraven was on time.

Pippa pressed a hand against the cold, hard armor covering her breast, right above the sinking sun insignia of the Lightfall unit. She would not loose that final breath of relief—not until she saw Sofie. Until she’d secured the assets Sofie carried with her: the boy and the intel.

Then she’d demonstrate to Sofie precisely how Command felt about being manipulated.

Agent Silverbow, the arrogant bastard, had followed the woman he loved. She knew the asset Sofie brought with her meant little to him. The fool. But the possibility of the intel that Sofie claimed to have spent years covertly gathering for Ophion … even Silverbow would want that.

Captain Richmond stepped up beside her. “Report,” she ordered.

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