was running we hit a tower and the whole ship groaned and twisted. The deck bucked hard port, and I found myself running downhill after the rolling Cog. The pitch continued until I was falling, just falling, my feet barely skimming the deck. I lunged against the railing, my hand outstretched as the Cog winked and spun and glittered against the city spread out below. My hands slipped across it. It fell, then I was falling, falling and the city rose up to gather me in.

I jerked to a stop. My left hand was on the railing, holding my flailing body. My right hand was on the Cog. The deck corrected, and we were flying level again. I pulled myself back up, right into the Angel.

She punched me hard, blades sinking into my conduit-laced ribs. I coughed in shock and pain. The Cog dropped onto the deck. When she bent to pick it up, I rolled over the railing and onto her back. We grappled, blades sliding into and out of my body. I held back the pain, tried to not think about my lungs, the tightness in my throat, the loss of feeling in my leg. I cinched onto her, clamped her beneath my chest and pressed down. I pinned her arms. The Cog rolled off her onto the deck. Her flower chest snapped at me, hungry, angry. Her bright eyes flared in the darkness.

She battered herself against me. I tried to hold her, but I could feel her slipping free. Blood was flowing out of me, red blood. The metal in my system was expended, and my mind was going with it. I couldn’t hold her here forever. I was going to slip, and she was going to stand up and kill me, and then take the heart. Free Camilla, and then the city would pay. Veridon should pay, I thought, but it won’t. It won’t be my fault. It won’t.

“Wilson!” I yelled feebly. I was slipping. The air buzzed with static. I couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t feel my skin. My grip on her wrists was slipping. She was staring at me, the hate and rage arcing up into my skin. I was crying, I realized. I could hear gunfire far up front. Wilson wasn’t coming. He wouldn’t be here soon enough.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m sorry I couldn’t do it.”

“It’s okay, Jacob. Just let go and it’ll be okay.”

“No,” I said. “It won’t.”

I trailed my hand down her face, paused at her nose, her lips. The delicate line of her cheek. I lay my hand across her throat and squeezed. Her eyes widened, panicked, then she was thrashing like a snakefish. I bore down, kept my hips on her chest, my hand on her wrists. My fist on her throat. Her mouth opened, pleading, but I couldn’t hear. Wouldn’t. It took a long minute, my vision blurred with water and blood from my forehead.

At the last her eyes flicked off. The halo died, the wings crumbled into silver ash. Those brown eyes reappeared for just a second, immediately flooded with tears, then rolled back. I pulled my hand off immediately. She didn’t move.

The Thunderous Dawn plowed into the Canal Blanche. The anti-ballast crumpled above us and fell, like the canopy of heaven closing on a life.

Sirens filled the city, and the skies danced with lightning. I took her in my arms and ran.


The Girl is Gone

I placed Emily in the small boat. I built it myself, out of some barrels and part of a coffin. The coffin came from my father. Accepting the gift was the first step, I suppose.

She fit nicely. I had repaired the damage, covered the bruises and the last cuts the Angel had inflicted. Her eyes were closed. The scars from the metal blisters were under the loose white dress I had gotten from my sister’s abandoned closet. It didn’t fit that well, but it looked nice on her.

We were downstream, near the waterfall. Wilson wanted to be here. I told him I was doing it tomorrow. I rented a wagon and a mule. People pretended to not see me leave the city. They knew, without knowing.

The water was cold around my ankles, then my knees. I placed the Cog on the center of her chest, then crossed her arms over it. I stood there for a long time, knee deep, the water splashing peacefully against the side of the boat. I meant to say something, but I couldn’t think of it. There was nothing to say, except things I should have said while she was still alive. Always the way.

I waded out deep. I wanted to get to one of the strong currents. She shouldn’t run up against the shore. I wanted her trip to go well. I would dedicate a plaque, perhaps, in the city cemetery. But her body belonged out here, away from the city, away from the powers that had ended her. Maybe I would dedicate a plaque out there, on the frontiers downfalls. Maybe I would make a trip, to the far places, the places Marcus had gone, a trip that we two should have taken together. Maybe.

I got out there, far out. The water was past my shoulders. The mud under my feet was unsure. I fell, the river bottom falling away without warning. I flailed. The boat pushed out from me, my fingertips just barely guiding it in a straight line into the current. I went under and thought about staying there. I remembered Wright Morgan and the dark currents of the Fehn. Still, I stayed for a moment, felt the current pull me, watched the light fade and the chill creep in to my skin. Then my foot brushed a rock and I got above water. I gasped for breath, then fought my way back to the shore. The current pulled me, dragged me, held me back. The mud sucked at my feet. I fell, the water running over my head and I struggled on hands and knees closer to the shore. When next I stood the water was at my waist.

I realized I had almost died, there. Water spilled out of my lungs. I was shivering. I turned back to the river, to the thin white line of the waterfall as it tumbled away from Veridon.

The little boat was gone. Emily was gone.

About the Author

Вы читаете Heart of Veridon
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату