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.Heidi bends down to untie the rope that secures me to the wagon post, and I take a second to be sure that my bootlaces are loose enough to allow access to the knife.Usually Samuel is the one who fetches me from the wagon each day.I don’t trust Samuel much, but I trust Heidi even less.If Ian decided to attack me, I doubt Heidi would lift a hand in my defense.When she looks up, the rope now held in her hands, I’m sitting with my back to the bench, my laces loose enough to let me grip the knife hilt in seconds if I feel threatened.Not that I can do much with it when my right hand is useless, but it’s better than nothing.“Let’s go.” She loosens the rope around my ankles so that I can walk without tripping over my feet and then tugs the rope as if I’m a reluctant sheep she has to lead to its pen.I look at the floor so that the flash of anger I feel won’t show in my eyes, and get to my feet.The evening air clings to my skin as I climb down the wagon steps, careful to keep my right arm tucked close to my body.The skin around my burn is yellow and puffy.My fingers keep swelling up when I sleep.I’m sure the wound needs to be thoroughly cleaned, medicated, and rebandaged, but I don’t have the supplies for that, and if the trackers have a first aid box in the crates of supplies at the head of the wagon, they aren’t saying.I take a deep breath, grateful to smell something other than the hot, dusty air inside the wagon, and taste something bitter and dank on the back of my tongue.The air is more than humid.It’s damp and carries with it the unmistakable tang of algae mixed with wet wood.We must be near a river or a lake.“Hurry up.” Heidi’s voice is curt as she grabs my left elbow and propels me past a bank of cypress trees.The trunks are narrow at the top, grow thicker through the middle, and then expand at the bottom to stab the ground like a skirt of splayed silver-gray fingers.“What’s the rush?” I ask.Heidi walks faster, and I stumble over a half-buried rock as I try to keep up.Her grip tightens painfully on my elbow.“I said hurry up.You need to eat fast.We don’t have much time.”“Why not?” I ask, but she ignores me.The wagon rests on the side of the crumbling road.We haven’t stopped in a clearing like we usually do.Instead of a fire for the night’s meal, Samuel is ripping strips of jerky off a chunk of meat he carries in his pack while Ian sits on a tree stump, scraping the blade of his sword against a rock to sharpen it.Both of them frequently stop to study the surrounding forest.“What’s the rush?” I ask again, and Ian jerks his gaze to mine.“We’re waiting on the boat to arrive,” Samuel says.A boat.That explains the dankness in the air.It also explains why we’ve been heading west.Rowansmark is built along a river.A journey by boat will cut our travel time down from weeks to a few days.“The boat should’ve been here already.” Heidi shoves a strip of jerky into her mouth and talks around it.“I don’t like waiting for it when we know we’re being followed.”Quinn.My heart beats so fast, I’m convinced Samuel can hear it.If I’m right, the trackers are about to be in a world of trouble.“Could be Logan, if he used the tunnels beneath Lankenshire to leave the city without the Carrington army seeing him,” Ian says.“Or Willow.Though if she’s tracking us, she’ll have found her brother’s body, and we’d all have arrows sticking out of our necks by now.”The thought of Quinn, still alive despite Ian’s best efforts, sends a blaze of triumph through me.“Could be highwaymen.A Tree Village.A courier from another city-state who isn’t happy with his leader’s new protection agreement with Rowansmark.” Heidi’s voice is clipped.“Doesn’t matter who’s out there.What matters is getting the girl somewhere safe before we’re forced into a confrontation that could jeopardize the mission.”“We can’t wait here much longer,” Samuel says.“If the boat doesn’t show, we need to cut south and find a place suitable for setting a trap.”They aren’t going to set a trap for Quinn while I still have breath in my body.Heidi shoves jerky into my hands.“Get the girl into the wagon and tie her up.Ian and I will decide whether to wait for the boat or to start moving south with the wagon.”Samuel takes hold of my arm, and I slowly turn toward the wagon.The road we’re on climbs a gentle slope leading west.I can’t see anything beyond the rise, but if we’re stuck between Quinn and a river with no boat in sight, I’m about to be rescued, and Ian is about to wish he’d never been born.Except I can’t be rescued [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]