So, my choices were death or… well, more death. Great.
As we made our way over the Lattice, the honeycomb of paths between pits, all I can think about is making sure neither the redcap nor Kaynie notice the cut on my face. It’s stupid, really. No one looks pyremen in the face. It’s bad luck.
I try to think about what I’m going to do. Cedric apparently knew who this was. Or maybe he did. Maybe he was just being polite in his greeting. Even if he didn’t know, though, he will, and all the rest of the pyremen will be very angry at me. Oh, they’ll cover it up so the Pits don’t know what’s happening. I will, though. Maybe they’ll chain me up in the coldrooms where we keep the dead we can’t burn yet. Maybe they’ll just exile me.
Maybe I should just turn around and go to the Plaguer Camp.
Yeah. That’d be great. Start a panic in the Pits. Those always go so well.
The only people who like panics are pyremen. At least, that’s what they say.
The officer clears his throat. “Ms. Tavriss, who have you notified of your father’s death?”
As he speaks, I notice we’ve wandered to the outer edge of the Pits. This is familiar territory for me; I usually stay on the outskirts. It’s a little rougher out here, though. The lit pits cluster farther away.
Kaynie answers, “The staff. Pensley’s taking care of the arrangements. He’s sending out notices to the papers and the barons.” Her voice is cold. She’s trying to keep herself from crying, I realize.
The officer nods. “Well, I’m sorry to do this, but I have orders.” He takes out his baton and swings it in one fluid motion.
Before he can touch her, I shove him. I don’t even think about it. I just push as hard as I can.
He trips backwards a few steps and tries hitting me, but I’m too close for the baton to do any damage. I keep pushing. I’m used to grappling. The boys back in the caves aren’t exactly on friendly terms all the time.
His breathing is coming fast. It’s all I can hear. His dark coat is cool under my fingers as I keep shoving. He trips over a rock, and then another.
And then he’s gone. He’s screaming. Where did he go?
I almost slip off the edge and down into the pit. He’s down there in the darkness.
His screaming cuts off.
Yeah. This is good. I just killed an officer. Always helpful when trying to find the upper hand in any situation.
I turn. Kaynie is staring at me. “What did you do?” she whispers.
“He was going to hit you. With the baton.”
She processes for a moment. Two moments. “I can’t go home,” she mutters. “There’s probably more people there.”
“What are you talking about?”
She fixes me with those eyes. Even in the dark they shine. “Will the pyremen protect me?”
“From what?” I look over the edge. I can’t see anything down there in the pit, but he’s down there. Did I kill him? Did I just kill a man?
It’s different killing a man. I’m used to dealing with people who are already dead. I don’t care about them. They don’t matter. But to stop someone’s life? To change them from someone like me to someone I’d burn?
Kaynie repeats her question. “Will the pyremen protect me?”
I look from the pit to her and back again. “Maybe. I don’t know.”
“I need protection. Someone wants to kill me so they can take over the coal mines. And if someone takes over the mines, they can control the heat barons.” She grabs me by the shoulders. “I need protection.”
She’s looking at my face.
Why is she looking at my face? It’s bad luck to look at my face!
Wait. An officer just tried killing her. That’s pretty bad luck already.
Could she push the bad luck right back at me?
“Um. They can’t protect you. But I think I can.”
She cocks her head.
“I’ll protect you. Come on.” A grab her hand and pull back the way we came. “I know a place you’ll be safe.”
Yeah. This will go well.
Read the next part here.