Chapter no 41 – JASE

Vow of Thieves (Dance of Thieves, #2)

My wife.

I had promised Kazi we would tell them together when they were all gathered round. At the dinner table, I suggested. I had imagined what it would be like. Everyone full of expectation, knowing something was brewing. The table would be full with all our favorite foods, braised rabbit with fool’s sauce, fish stew, and sage cakes, and there would be toasts. Multiple toasts circling the table twice. Hugs. Happiness. Teasing. Laughter. We would tell them together. That was how she wanted it. How I wanted it. Instead I had screamed the announcement without her. There was no happiness in it. It was a murderous declaration. How many promises to her had I broken? It was probably a small thing to worry about now, but it burned through me like acid. It was just one more thing that had spiraled

out of control.

We headed toward the waterfall. I had been ready to jump on my horse and race down the mountain after Kazi, but Wren, Synové, and Paxton had held me back. “We need a plan. A good one to fix this botched mess,” Wren growled, glaring at Gunner. Paxton said it would be a few days at least before she was hanged—as if that was good news that would comfort me. The king would interrogate her first, and knowing Kazi, she would hold out. Only when he was sure he could get nothing useful from her would he hang her. Banques would announce it first too. He always wanted an audience, witnesses to justice, he called it. But his true purpose was a message: Defy us, and this will be your fate too.

My stomach turned inside out as I asked the question I wasn’t sure I wanted an answer to. “What will he do to her in those few days?”

“I don’t know,” he answered, but I heard the worry in his voice. I walked briskly ahead, leading Mije beside me.

Priya caught up with me, grabbing my arm, trying to explain. Mason stood behind her. “Good people do bad things, Jase. They make mistakes.”

I wrenched free from her grasp, not slowing my pace. “Don’t defend him!”

“Jase.” She stepped in front of me to stop me. Her eyes glistened. “We helped turn her over.”

I stared at both of them, the betrayal stabbing deeper. “Then you’re both dead to me too. You let hatred rule your head.”

I stepped around her.

“What do you think you’re doing right now, Jase?” she called after me. I kept walking.

As we approached the falls, Gunner doubled his pace to intercept me. “Where do you think you’re going?”

“The vault. We came here for help. I will get it from someone I trust.” “They are not family,” he said, shaking his finger at Wren, Synové, and

Paxton. “You cannot show them—”

“I am the Patrei, and I say they are. Step aside.” My hand went to the dagger at my side.

“Gunner,” Mason whispered, trying to get him to back down, maybe nervous about what I might do. He had good reason to be nervous.

Gunner didn’t move, but his voice lowered. “What did you mean when you said she was your wife?”

“Just like it sounds. We’re married. We married on the first day of our trip back here.”

“A Vendan marriage?”

Wren stepped forward defensively. She and Synové were barely controlling their rage. “You have a problem with a Vendan marriage, beetle brain?”

He didn’t answer, meeting her angry glare with his own, but he stepped aside, and we continued walking to the vault, disappearing behind a stand of trees, disappearing behind a waterfall, disappearing into the darkness of caves.



A torch flickered in my hand.

Left. Left. Right.

Our horses were stabled in the last cave, a smaller one than the greenhouse but with a roof hole large enough to let in some light, and there was water.


We hiked up the last incline. It was nearly impossible to see the door. It was covered with the same kind of algae that covered the cave walls.

Aram squeezed past me with a rock in his hands. He pounded on the cave wall. A code.

We heard the low, grating turn of a wheel, and the door pushed open.

Hawthorne, one of our tower guards, stood behind it. He startled when he saw me and raised his sword. With my heavy fur cloak and stained face, I was a tall, hulking menace he didn’t recognize.

Aram put his hand out to reassure him. “It’s Jase,” he said. “Patrei?” he whispered.

I clapped his shoulder as I went past him. Everyone followed behind me. The first room, a wide hall just outside the bunk room, was lined with workers, guards, groundskeepers, stable hands, and children, some curled in balls sleeping, others tucked next to each other for warmth, their faces gaunt, weary—Omar, Tamryn, Kwan, and Emma. There was a rumble of whispers as I walked in. Patrei. Two children took one look at me, Wren, and Synové, and ran. One of our oldest employees, Judith, a caretaker at Riverbend, sat against the wall, her usually perfect braided hair now wild around her face. Her pink-rimmed eyes were watery, and she lifted her hand toward me. I knelt and embraced her. She clung to me and cried into my shoulder. “You’re here, Patrei. You’re here. Good boy, Latham. Take care of things now.” Latham was my grandfather’s name. He died before I was


“I’m here,” I whispered back to her, as if that would make everything all right. But it wouldn’t. I was only a man and barely that, struggling myself. She had three lifetimes of experience over me, but I knew to her the whispered name Patrei was more than a single man. It was a history,

generations of promise, determination: We will survive this. We will make it through as we always have.

But determination was not what I saw. Instead I saw weariness and despair. These were the ones who had made it into the vault. Who hadn’t?

I moved on to the bunk room. It had been cleared of the old bunk frames. In fact all of the broken girders and dust were gone. It wasn’t a historical relic anymore but an active shelter. More who had escaped the blast and invasion lay on blankets, pallets, cloaks, piles of straw, anything to keep them off the cold floor.

Eyes opened. Heads turned as I passed. Freya, Tomás. A few were injured. Dressler, Mishra, Chane. Their heads were wrapped with rags, or their arms were in slings. A murmur rose. Fear. A few rushed from the room.

“It’s me,” I said. “Jase. And these are my friends. It’s all right.”

Wren, Synové, and Paxton all held their hands up, indicating they weren’t going for their weapons.

The murmur grew to loud chatter rolling through the room. Several stood, stunned, and then Helen and Silas stepped forward to embrace me as I passed. They touched my face and looked at the ring in my brow. Then a large man leaning heavily on a cane stepped forward. It was Tiago. His previously round face now had hollows beneath his cheekbones. I looked down at his leg. “Damned blast,” he explained. “Flying debris severed half my calf.” He shrugged. “But I still have all my toes.” He threw his arms around me. His leg may have been weak, but his grip was still fierce.

“A hundred and thirty-four,” Titus said. “That’s what’s left in here now.

But there were more. Twenty have died so far.”

So far.

The study was more of the same, but in the sickroom were the more seriously injured. I went to each of their pallets. A few of them moaned, but most didn’t know I was there at all. I didn’t even recognize them at first but Aunt Dolise and Uncle Cazwin were among them. Titus said they rarely came to and then shook his head as if he didn’t hold much hope for their recovery. Synové stooped to pull a blanket over one of our archers, who lay on the floor, half covered, his skin sallow and his lips cracked.

The storeroom was next. The shelves were mostly stocked with overflow from other storerooms on the grounds, crates of candles, lantern oil, a few blankets, dates. So many dates. My mother had always stocked too many. They had been my father’s favorite. But most of it was just a dusty collection of items that had accumulated over time, not edible, and useless for daily survival.

A few basic food supplies were kept there as a matter of tradition, mostly sacks of grains, and crocks of honey and salt that were rotated in and out every few months. In my entire life, they had never been put to active use in the vault. We had a long-standing joke in the family that when some food tasted off, it must have been made with supplies from the vault. The shelves were mostly empty now.

By the time we passed through the storeroom and into the kitchen, those inside had heard the claim that I was alive and had begun to stand. The murmuring voices of dozens became louder. Patrei? The Patrei is here? But in the sea of faces, the first one I spotted was Samuel.

I crossed the room to him, maybe I ran, but I was holding him, squeezing him so tight he whispered, “Jase, I can’t breathe.”

I released my grip and held his face in my hands instead. “You’re alive. I got a message. I thought it was from Jalaine. I—”

At her mention, his expression changed.

“Jalaine,” I said, my eyes quickly scouring the room, my pulse speeding. “Where is she?”

His lips pressed together, and he shook his head. “She didn’t make it.

Jalaine is dead.”

I blinked, the room going in and out of focus. My insides were suddenly weightless. And then my mind jumped to the only other face I hadn’t yet seen. “Mother?”

Priya had come up behind me. “Mother’s fine, Jase. We’ll take you to her.”

But first they sat me down at a table in the kitchen and told me about Jalaine and how she had died.

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