The Rogue Knight Page 52

“What do you know about the monster?” Jace asked.

Dalton shrugged. “It’s becoming a cause for real panic. The monster seems to be heading this way. Towns and cities are emptying as it gets closer. Anyone who doesn’t run away disappears. But you guys should know more about it than I do.”

“Why?” Skye asked.

“You know,” Dalton said. “The soldier.”

“What soldier?” Skye asked.

“The guardsman from Pillocks who saw the monster,” Dalton said as if relaying common knowledge.

“I haven’t heard about this,” Skye said.

“Aren’t you part of the Unseen?” Dalton asked.

“Yes, but I haven’t been in touch with my contacts for several days,” she said.

“Sorry, I figured you knew,” Dalton said. “There was a guardsman who saw the monster and got away. As far as I know, he’s the only person who ever came close and then escaped. I’m not sure what exactly he saw, but apparently some of the champions and aldermen were worried his stories could cause panic. They sent him to Blackmont Castle.”

“Is that where they put everyone?” Jace asked.

“Only the most important prisoners,” Dalton said. “The ones they don’t execute. Anyhow, some members of the resistance intercepted the soldier on his way to Edgemont and freed him. Rustin Sage and Alderman Campos were furious. Nobody knows where he ended up.”

“When did this happen?” Skye asked. “Recently?”

“Just barely,” Dalton said. “Like a couple days ago.”

Skye stood up. “This has been useful. You’re a very attentive young man.”

“Thanks,” Dalton said.

Cole couldn’t believe how much Dalton already seemed to know about life in Elloweer. Then again, Cole figured it would surprise others to find out how much he had learned about the Outskirts in the short time he’d been here. It shouldn’t be a shocker—Dalton worked in a confidence lounge where people traded secrets every day, and he had a good brain. Stuck in another world, he had kept his ears open.

“You three will be safe here,” Skye said as she moved toward the exit. “I know just who to contact to find out more about the guardsman. This could be a crucial lead. The more we know about the form Honor’s power has taken, the better chance we’ll have to help her regain her abilities.”

“What should we do?” Cole asked.

“Sit tight,” Skye said. “I’ll return soon.”

Chapter 21

MORGASSA

“This is kind of like talking to a dead guy,” Dalton said. “I already mourned for you. I figured I’d lost you just like everything else. Even if you had survived, I knew the chances of seeing you again were basically zero.”

Dalton and Cole sat together on one of the sofas. Jace slept on the other sofa, face against the cushions. Skye still hadn’t returned.

“I could have died,” Cole said. “The sky castles almost got me. And I thought we were goners when we fought Carnag.”

“I can’t believe the adventures you’ve had,” Dalton said. “Sambria sounds crazy! I thought I had it bad, but compared to you, my life has been calm. Since getting sorted at Junction City, I’ve worked at the Silver Lining and practiced making seemings. Part of me still can’t believe you found me.”

“I told you I’d come,” Cole reminded him.

“I know,” Dalton said. “I believed you’d try. It just seemed impossible. Even so, a little piece of me thought you might show up one day. I swore to myself that if you found me, I’d run off. That’s part of the reason I kept track of the secret passages.”

“You haven’t heard about Jenna since Junction City?” Cole asked.

“I’ve hardly seen anybody from home since then,” Dalton said. “I don’t know where they sorted her. I’ve only seen the four other kids they sent to Elloweer—and it’s been weeks since we split up. None of the others are here in Merriston.”

“I saw Jill Davis in Carthage,” Cole said. “She told me how to find you.”

“Really?” Dalton asked. “How is she?”

“Alive,” Cole said. “Kind of like you—doing her job as a slave in a confidence lounge. She didn’t want me to try to rescue her. She was scared the resistance couldn’t protect her.”

“She might be right,” Dalton said. “She’s probably safer where she is.”

“Do you wish I hadn’t come for you?” Cole asked.

“No way,” Dalton replied with enthusiasm. “Jill might be safer working at the confidence lounge, but that doesn’t mean she’s better off. There’s more to life than safety. It was risky for me to leave, but if I didn’t want to do it, I wouldn’t have come. Besides, what was the alternative? Stay here as a slave the rest of my life?”

“I don’t know,” Cole said heavily. “I’ve gotten you into trouble before. Look . . . I’m sorry I brought us to the haunted house. I’m sorry I wanted to see the basement. When we were going down the stairs, you heard them lock the door. You tried to warn me. I should have listened.”

“Not your fault,” Dalton said. “It was dumb to go into a stranger’s basement, but you weren’t the only one who volunteered. I was curious too. We should have known something was off just because they had a basement.”

“What do you mean?” Cole asked.

“Who in our neighborhood had a basement?” Dalton asked. “You didn’t. I didn’t. Do you know anybody who did?”

“I never thought about that,” Cole said. “We used to have a basement when we lived in Boise.”

“Not that basements are evil,” Dalton said. “Just out of the ordinary in Mesa. I noticed the weirdness of having a basement, and I knew it was dumb to go into a stranger’s house, but there were lots of kids, so I figured nothing bad could happen. By the time I heard the door lock, it was too late. Once we went down the stairs, we were sunk. If we had gone back up to try the door, they probably would have just sprung the trap earlier.”

“Maybe,” Cole said. “But going to the spook alley was my idea. I convinced you. Jenna, too.”

“She went with a bunch of her friends,” Dalton said. “She might have gone whether or not you invited her. Don’t worry—she’s probably got a cushy job. She can shape. They’ll treat her well.”

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