Siege and Storm (Shadow and Bone #2)(10)

“Well, lying gives you warts,” I said sourly. She laughed, then entered and set down the tray. She crossed to the sidescuttle and glanced at her reflection in the glass. “Maybe I should go blond,” she said. “Corporalki red clashes horribly with my hair.”

I cast a glance over my shoulder. “You know you could wear baked mud and outshine every girl on two continents.”

“True,” she said with a grin.

I didn’t return her smile. She sighed and studied the toes of her boots. “I missed you,” she said.

I was surprised at how much those words hurt. I’d missed her, too. And I’d felt like a fool for it.

“Were you ever my friend?” I asked.

She sat down at the edge of the bunk. “Would it make a difference?”

“I like to know just how stupid I’ve been.”

“I loved being your friend, Alina. But I’m not sorry for what I did.”

“And what the Darkling did? Are you sorry for that?”

“I know you think he’s a monster, but he’s trying to do what’s right for Ravka, for all of us.”

I shoved up to my elbows. I’d lived with the knowledge of the Darkling’s lies so long that it was easy to forget how few people knew what he really was. “Genya, he created the Fold.”

“The Black Heretic—”

“There is no Black Heretic,” I said, revealing the truth that Baghra had laid out before me months ago at the Little Palace. “He blamed his ancestor for the Fold, but there’s only ever been one Darkling, and all he cares about is power.”

“That’s impossible. The Darkling has spent his life trying to free Ravka from the Fold.”

“How can you say that after what he did to Novokribirsk?” The Darkling had used the power of the Unsea to destroy an entire town, a show of strength meant to cow his enemies and mark the start of his rule. And I’d made it possible.

“I know there was … an incident.”

“An incident? He killed hundreds of people, maybe thousands.”

“And what about the people on the skiff?” she said quietly.

I drew in a sharp breath and lay back. For a long moment, I studied the planks above me. I didn’t want to ask, but I knew I was going to. The question had haunted me over long weeks and miles of ocean. “Were there … were there other survivors?”

“Besides Ivan and the Darkling?”

I nodded, waiting.

“Two Inferni who helped them escape,” she said. “A few soldiers from the First Army made it back, and a Squaller named Nathalia got out, but she died of her injuries a few days later.”

I closed my eyes. How many people had been aboard that sandskiff? Thirty? Forty? I felt sick. I could hear the screams, the howls of the volcra. I could smell the gunpowder and blood. I’d sacrificed those people for Mal’s life, for my freedom, and in the end, they’d died for nothing. We were back in the Darkling’s grasp, and he was more powerful than ever.

Genya laid her hand over mine. “You did what you had to, Alina.”

I let out a harsh bark of laughter and yanked my hand away. “Is that what the Darkling tells you, Genya? Does that make it easier?”

“Not really, no.” She looked down at her lap, pleating and unpleating the folds of her kefta. “He freed me, Alina,” she said. “What am I supposed to do? Run back to the palace? Back to the King?” She gave a fierce shake of her head. “No. I made my choice.”

“What about the other Grisha?” I asked. “They can’t all have sided with the Darkling. How many of them stayed in Ravka?”

Genya stiffened. “I don’t think I’m supposed to talk about that with you.”


“Eat, Alina. Try to get some rest. We’ll be in the ice soon.”

The ice. Then we weren’t headed back to Ravka. We must be traveling north.

She stood up and brushed the dust off her kefta. She might joke about the color, but I knew how much it meant to her. It proved she was really a Grisha—protected, favored, a servant no more. I remembered the mysterious illness that had weakened the King just before the Darkling’s coup. Genya had been one of the few Grisha with access to the royal family. She’d used that access to earn the right to wear red.

“Genya,” I said as she reached the door. “One more question.”

She paused, her hand on the latch.

It seemed so unimportant, so silly to mention it after all this time. But it was something that had bothered me for a long while. “The letters I wrote to Mal back at the Little Palace. He said he never got them.”

She didn’t turn back to me, but I saw her shoulders sag.

“They were never sent,” she whispered. “The Darkling said you needed to leave your old life behind.”

She closed the door, and I heard the bolt click home.

All those hours spent talking and laughing with Genya, drinking tea and trying on dresses. She’d been lying to me the whole time. The worst part about it was that the Darkling had been right. If I’d kept clinging to Mal and the memory of the love I had for him, I might never have mastered my power. But Genya didn’t know that. She had just followed orders and let my heart break. I didn’t know what that was, but it wasn’t friendship.

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