Chapter no 15 – JASE

Vow of Thieves (Dance of Thieves, #2)

The tide, there was a rhythm to it.



It was winning. I felt it pulling me under.




Blackness. It was all I knew. And silence. Had I stopped breathing? But the pain was still there. The pain was everywhere.

I had to be alive.




Burning. Wet. My skin, my lips, everything on fire.

Hell. I had to be in hell. And I couldn’t find my way out.




He’s coming to.

Bloody saints. Not now. Keep him quiet.

I tried to reach up, to feel my eyes, to see if they were open, because I still only saw blackness, but the slight movement ignited a red-hot poker stabbing into my shoulder. I groaned and a hand pressed hard over my mouth.

“Shhh,” a voice hissed. “Unless you want to die!”

I was still because I couldn’t move. I couldn’t reach up to push the hand away. I heard something creak over my head. A wooden floor? Muffled voices.

No love lost between us and the Ballengers …

… burned us out …

If any were here, we’d be the first to hand them over … Good riddance, I say.

If you do see him, you’re to report it immediately.

I heard the sound of horses riding away, and the hand lifted from my mouth.

I felt myself slipping again, falling back into some dark cave. “Who are you?” I whispered.


“Kerry of Fogswallow?”

“How many Kerrys do you know?”

Only one. A small child was able to hold me down.




The heavy scent of burning tallow stirred me awake. When I opened my eyes, a candle flickered in a glass lamp and shadows shifted on walls. Barrels lined the room, and there were rushes scattered across the floor. I was lying on a pallet. Caemus sat next to me on a milking stool. Shadows filled the hollows of his face. None of it made sense. What was I doing here? What had happened to me? And then, bit by bit, the black fog rolled back. We had been attacked. Kazi and I—

I tried to rise, but instead I sucked in a sharp breath, coughed, and pain shot through my chest.

“Hold on, there,” Caemus said, gently holding me down. “You’ve barely got one foot out of that underworld. Don’t go stepping back into it.”

“Where am I?” I whispered.

“The root cellar. Lucky thing you dug it. Don’t know where else we’d hide you.” He poured water from a pitcher into a cup. “Here,” he said, bringing the water to my lips. I struggled to drink. Even my tongue ached. It was dry, coated, and salty. My lips were cracked, and I shook with the effort of lifting my head, even with Caemus’s help.

He set the cup aside. “That’s enough for now. We didn’t think you were going to make it at all. You’ve been in and out for days now.”

I couldn’t remember any of it. “Where’s Kazi? Why isn’t she here?”

And then the fog rolled back a little farther. Baricha. I had told her to run, to get away, but instead she jumped from her horse and fought them, beating them away from me, ordering the horses to run. She killed one, and then another, and then a fist—a fist punched into her stomach—but I couldn’t move. I couldn’t get to her. I couldn’t do anything. I had never felt more helpless. Baricha. Tigone ran into the forest. Metal flashed, voices shouted, the world faded in and out. Pieces were all I could remember— slamming to the ground, footsteps, someone lifting me.

“He only brought you.”

“He? Someone brought me here? Who was it?”

“I don’t know. It was dark, the middle of the night. He didn’t say his name, and it was hard to get a good look at him. I think he wanted it that way. He told me to take care of you—to do my best, but not to call a healer. He said they were watching all the healers, following them. He tried to give me coin for your safekeeping, but I wouldn’t take it. Before he left, he wiggled your ring off your finger. Said he needed it, and I didn’t argue, seeing as he was trying to save your life.”


They were watching healers. “Who are they?”

“I don’t know. We haven’t gone back since the fires. We’re making do with what supplies we have here. It’s too dangerous in town.”

He had to tell me twice. Maybe three times. I was still drifting in and out, trying to grasp his details. Taking sips of water. Coughing. Still feeling like I had a foot in an underworld that didn’t want to let me go.

He said that about two months ago there had been a bad fire. The north livery burned down. All the horses inside died. The next night there was another fire and then a raid on a caravan. More trouble came after that, but he and the rest of the settlers had stayed away, afraid of being hit on the trail, not to mention that since five Vendan soldiers had absconded with the Patrei, Vendans hadn’t exactly been welcome in town. Except for a hurried trip to get some medicine at the apothecary, they hadn’t been back. Caemus mostly kept his head down, not wanting to be noticed, but from the little he gathered from whispers at the apothecary, it seemed the Ballengers had

been running everywhere, trying to stop whoever was stirring up the mayhem before an army had marched in and taken everything over.

“An army?” I asked. Each new bit of information he gave me seemed to twist into something more impossible. “What army?”

“I don’t know, but I heard there’s a lot of them. I got a glimpse of a few as I rode in.”

An army from where? A neighboring kingdom? Or had the leagues joined forces? I thought about Fertig’s gang and Kazi’s observation that they were well trained.

“And Tor’s Watch?” I already knew the answer. I had seen the broken spires, the walls. But I still couldn’t understand how. Our defenses were impenetrable. Our walls, our guards, our vantage point, and the steep grade leading to Tor’s Watch—an army with a dozen ballistae couldn’t breach our walls. Our archers would take them out before they were even in range. “How did they bring down the wall?”

Again, he said he didn’t know for sure, but he said they had weapons unlike anything he had ever seen. “Word is, the whole nave of the temple is gone and that one shot brought it down. The apothecary’s wife said they did it just to get everyone’s attention. It worked. No one’s challenging them now.”

This was not an army coming in to rescue a town. It was an invasion.

Paxton, Rybart, and Truko. It had to be. They had joined forces.

I was afraid to ask, but more afraid not to. “What did the weapons look like?”

“That was the strange part,” he said. “They weren’t that large. They carried them on their shoulders.” He went on in some detail. They sounded exactly like the launchers Beaufort was designing for us—the ones we never got.

“What about Kazi? Do you know where she is? Do they have her?”

He shook his head. “Don’t know. The man who brought you didn’t say, and like I said, we haven’t been back to town.”

But I did know. They had her. She was their prisoner. That was the only way Kazi wouldn’t be here beside me. Unless—

I remembered them swarming over us, black shadows moving over the dark hillside.

“I have to get to—” I leaned over on an elbow, trying to sit up, then fell back, unable to breathe. Caemus cursed, saying I was going to break open the wounds that Jurga had stitched shut.

“You’re not going anywhere. Even if she is in town you wouldn’t be any help to her, not with the shape you’re in. And not with just one of you, and hundreds of them.”

“But my family. They could—”

“They’re not helping either. They’re all hiding inside that mountain of yours. I know that much.”

The vault. And that meant it was really bad.

“I have to get to them. They’ll know what we were up against. They’ll help me find—” But then I felt the black fog rolling back in, and my eyelids eased shut against my will. I was afraid I might not open them again, afraid that this time the underworld might pull me under and not let go.

The cellar, the musty air, the pain, everything slipped away.

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