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Chapter no 47 – JASE

Vow of Thieves (Dance of Thieves, #2)

Judith used a heavy wooden spoon to lift a steaming cloak from a large pot of boiling dye. “What do you think, “Patrei? Black as midnight, as you ordered.”

“It’s perfect, Judith.”

She moved on to the next cloak. She had come alive since yesterday, her hair back in its neat braids, a renewed purpose showing in her face as she studied the bubbling water. In fact, the whole vault had come alive. They had all been up since long before dawn. Sleep could wait for another day. Gunner and I hadn’t slept at all. Once we decided on our course of action, we went rummaging through the vault for supplies and then decided who would do what.

Everyone had a job. Even the children. They were busy weaving leaves and moss into caps that Tiago and Hawthorne were stitching together. My mother, Rhea, Wren, and Samuel were measuring out lengths of rope. Gunner was right. We had almost as many shelves full of rope as we had dates.

Aram and Titus had left for town while it was still dark. They needed to be there by first bell when Banques made announcements. I prayed there would be none today. Every trip up and down the mountain was a risk, but Titus and Aram knew the mountain like the back of their hands. They would also try to seek out Aleski and Imara. Aleski needed to spread the word that everyone was to show up for Kazi’s hanging. We needed a full plaza. We were also going to need more horses, and if anyone could manage to “borrow” a few without it being noticed, it was Imara.

“Like this,” I instructed Mason, showing him how to load the launcher. He was the one who would have to fire it. I would be busy with other duties. “You can get four shots out of every load of ammo, but you should

only need one.” I tried to recall every instruction Bahr had given me. It had been a long time since I had fired it.

“Keep it snug against your shoulder,” I told him. “The mount will absorb most of the shock, but there will still be a strong kickback. Keep a wide stance to your feet.” He aimed it, imagining a target on the far wall of the greenhouse. Unfortunately, he couldn’t actually test it, especially not inside the cave. Even outside, the sound could travel for miles and draw attention, and with clear skies, it couldn’t be mistaken for thunder. We removed the ammo and continued his practice. “Eye your target the same way you would if you were shooting an arrow, then keep it steady while you pull the lever back, nice and smooth.”

“Maybe I’m the one who should be shooting that thing,” Synové said, then shrugged. “That is, if you need someone with good aim.”

“My aim is good,” Mason replied between gritted teeth. Synové grunted in return.

She already knew what her job was. A fiery arrow. Maybe several of them. Blasting a hole in a wall didn’t require precision. Igniting the contents did.

 

 

Priya stomped across the greenhouse toward me. “We’re all going to die, you know?”

“You didn’t think so when we were twelve.”

“I do now. He can’t tie a proper knot to save his life,” she grumbled, jerking her head toward Paxton, who trailed a few paces behind her.

“That’s what you’re for. To teach him.”

“I think I have it now,” Paxton said apologetically. He stuttered over a few more words and finally said, “I’m sorry.”

Priya blew out a long puff of air and rolled her eyes.

“Maybe we will all die,” I answered. “But if we die, we die fighting.” “Don’t go reciting history on me,” she answered. “Who are you?

Greyson Ballenger?”

“I need his eyes on this, Priya. Please.”

She looked at me, her frustration draining, her expression filling with worry instead. It was crazy. I knew I was asking a lot. She closed her eyes and nodded as if fortifying herself, then turned to Paxton. “Let’s go, genius,” she said to him, and they returned to their knot practice.

We’re all going to die.

Maybe for the first time, I really understood all the generations of history I had studied and transcribed, and Greyson Ballenger’s desperation when he shoved sticks into the hands of his newly adopted family.

Maybe I finally understood that history wasn’t just written on walls and in books but made in a thousand daily decisions, and some of them went wrong, some went right, and some decisions just had to be made because time was running out. Waiting for someone else to write your history was no way to live. Sometimes it was only a certain way to die.

I walked across the greenhouse and stopped to look at one of the finished cloaks, black on the outside and a forest of color on the inside. A perfect lie.

Here you go, Patrei. Listen up.

I saw Kazi looking sideways at me. Her grin. Her pursed lips. The line of concentration between her brows. Her voice. It was all clear in my head.

I have two arms but not a bone,

I can’t be hurt with knife or stone. I have a head but lack a face,

I don’t need eyes to match your pace.

I’m shifty, a thief, a trick of the eyes, My robes are made of mystery and lies.

I am short, I am thin, I am monstrous and tall, But when midnight comes, I am nothing at all.

A shadow.

A trick of the eyes.

And that’s what I would become. What we would all become.

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