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The shaking started deep within me. I pushed a hand tight to my stomach. Ash grabbed me. “Come on, we’re in deep shit here.”

We ran out of the healers’ room and there on the floor, beside Maggie was the reason we were in deep shit.

The armband Ash had worn to bring us to the Pit was broken in two. Our way home severed with a single blow from one of the clubs.

I had to trust Ash that he knew where we were going, that he would find us a way back to the forest. The hallways blurred as we ran, they all looked the same to me. Ash stopped at a door, cracked it open and peered in. Apparently, it was good and I breathed a sigh of relief. I followed him in.

The room was set up as a library, the walls covered in books, and a large table set in the middle. But the books were not really books, just paint on the wall. This was one of the dummy rooms, which at least was better than a hole all the way into the Pit.

Ash paced the room, hands on his hips, his jaw twitching, and the silence stretching until I wished he would just say what he had to say. “What in the goddess’s name were you thinking? We don’t kill other Enders, Larkspur!”

I pushed off the door. “We don’t know they’re dead. And they were going to kill me.”

“You don’t know that!”

“I do!” I yelled back, the anger and fear blending together into a heady mixture. “I saw it, saw what they were going to do, the same way I knew Maggie was going to pull on the lava in the Pit just as I swept her legs.”

Ash blinked several times, the confusion clear on his face. “Say again.”

“They were planning to kill me. Both of them. And Maggie, there was fire in her eyes, the same way I saw when I trained with her, except I could see what she was going to do with it. She was going to have the lava spill up and swallow us. There would be nothing left of us to find.” I rubbed a hand over my face. “I don’t know how I know, I just know that was going to happen, what they were going to do. I’m sorry.”

He was quiet long enough that I dared to look up. His face was thoughtful, the anger gone. And then he truly surprised me. “I believe you. I knew something was different the minute we stepped into the Pit. The way Maggie and Match faced us, the aggressiveness they were showing. That isn’t like them. Could it be Belladonna setting this up?”

I wondered that myself for just a split second before shaking my head. “No, she might be a tool, but Cassava would be the only one to make something like this happen. But I thought Granite was the only one who knew we were coming?”

“Cassava knows more than she should.” Ash closed his eyes. “She’s always there, always seeing what she shouldn’t. As if she can see through my eyes, hear through my ears.”

None of that would help us, though. If the Enders I’d fought actually died, I would be on the hook for their lives. “You believing me won’t get us out of this. And I have no way of proving what they were going to do. Which means if they die, I’ll be right behind them.”

The sound of running feet and shouting outside our door interrupted us, and brought us both around, reaching for our weapons. Tension rose and my muscles ached to move, to run, adrenaline with nowhere to go was a terrible thing. The running footsteps faded and I let out a slow breath. Ash still wore the black Ender cloak Cactus had given him. I’d left mine behind in the healers’ room. I doubted one cloak would be enough to hide us both, and if the Salamanders were like our Enders, they knew every single one of their own. There was no way we could get by them. And then there was the main door. How would we open it?

An idea began to form, one I wasn’t sure was good, but it was all I could come up with.

“They have a Traveling room, like us?” I tapped one foot on the floor.

Ash’s eyes shot to mine, narrowing slightly. “Yes, but it will be deep within the Ender barracks just like ours. Highly protected.”

“Do you know where the barracks are?”

He nodded, eyes glittering with a spark of life. “Yes, I do.”

“Then what choice do we have? We have to get to the Traveling room if we’re going to stop Wicker.” I straightened my back, the tension in my muscles pulling at me to relax and take it easy. “If we get out of this alive, I’m going to need a spa day.”

“If we get out of this alive, I’ll take you myself,” Ash muttered, moving to the door.

A soft laugh escaped me. “Pedicures for us both?”

He gave me a lopsided grin and opened the door. “Why the hell not?”

Pedicures with Ash. Damn, my life was getting weird.

Chapter 18

Ash knew where we were going. The Salamander barracks were near the entranceway, the better to guard the Pit. Which was all well and good. The layout of the Pit with the endless hallways, doors, and stairwells worked in our favor, as well as against us.

For the third time, we jammed ourselves into the dark recesses of a hallway as two Enders swept by, their eyes glowing, flickering with a barely contained fury. Their footsteps eased and we started on our way again.

“They’re going to kill us both, if they catch us.” I kept my voice low as we ran up a set of stairs that seemed to go on forever. At the top, the landing curled to the right and climbed again.

“All the more reason to get the hell out of here.” Ash peered around the corner before beckoning me to follow. The running, fatigue, fighting, lack of food, and general heartsickness left me moving in a haze, after the initial burst of adrenaline. The world around us blurred and blended into a never-ending game of cat and mouse. Sweat slid down my face, and my arms burned from clinging to my spear for all I was worth. I wanted to put it away, but I knew that was a foolish thought.

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