Into the Still Blue (Under the Never Sky, #3)(2)

“I suppose you want to see Peregrine,” Molly said, leading Aria past a row of tents.

Immediately, Aria thought. But she said, simply, “Yes.”

“You’ll need to wait a little while, I’m afraid. We had word of people entering the territory. He’s gone out with Gren to meet them. I’m hoping it’s Roar and that he’s brought Cinder with him.”

Just hearing Roar’s name brought a rawness to Aria’s throat. She worried about him. She’d only been separated from him for a few days, but it was too long.

They came to an open area, wide as the clearing at the heart of the Tide compound. At the center spread a wooden platform surrounded by tables and chairs—all packed with people gathered around lamps. Dressed in browns and grays, they blended into the dimness, but their chatter drifted toward her, their voices tinged with anxiety.

“We’re only allowed to leave the cave when it’s safe outside,” Molly said, noticing Aria’s expression. “Today there are fires burning close by and a storm just south, so we’ve been stuck here.”

“It’s not safe to be outside? You said Perry was out there.”

Molly winked. “Yes, but he gets to break his own rules.”

Aria shook her head. As Blood Lord, he needed to take risks, more like.

By the stage, people began to notice them. Sun-bleached and salt-scrubbed, the Tides were an aptly named tribe. Aria spotted Reef and a few of his strongest warriors, a group known as the Six. She recognized the three brothers: Hyde, Hayden, and Straggler, the youngest. It didn’t surprise her that Hyde, a Seer like his brothers, spotted her first. He lifted a hand in a tentative greeting.

Aria returned a shaky wave. She barely knew him, or any of these people. She’d only spent a few days with Perry’s tribe before she left the Tide compound. Now, standing before these almost strangers, she felt a powerful longing to see her people, but she didn’t. Not a single person she and Perry had rescued from Reverie was there.

“Where are the Dwellers?” she asked.

“In a separate portion of the cave,” Molly said.


But Molly’s attention had moved to Reef, who left his men and stalked over. In the darkness, his features looked even harsher, and the massive scar that cut from his nose to his ear appeared more sinister.

“You’re finally up,” he said. His tone made it sound like Aria had been lazing around. Perry cared for this man, she reminded herself. Trusted him. But Reef had never made any attempt to befriend her.

She stared into his eyes. “Being injured is boring.”

“You’re needed,” he said, ignoring her sarcasm.

Molly wagged a finger at him. “No, you don’t, Reef. She just woke up and needs a chance to get acclimated. Don’t put this on her so soon.”

Reef squared his shoulders, his thick eyebrows drawing together. “When should I tell her then, Molly? Every day brings a new storm. Every hour, our food stores dwindle. Every minute, someone else comes closer to going mad inside this rock. If there is a better time for her to know the truth, I’d like to know when it is.” He leaned in, a few of his thick braids falling forward. “War rules, Molly. We do what’s needed, when it’s needed, and right now that means she needs to know what’s happening.”

Reef’s words shook any last wisp of fuzziness from Aria’s mind. They brought her back to where she’d been a week ago, alert and tense, a little breathless, with a sense of desperation curling inside her like a stomachache.

“Tell me what happened,” she said.

Reef turned his intense gaze on Aria. “Better if I show you,” he said, striding away.

She followed him from the gathering area, deeper into the cave, where it grew darker and quieter and darker still, her dread mounting with every step. Molly let out a sigh of exasperation, but she came along.

They wove through the melting formations—a forest of stone that dripped from the ceiling and rose up from the ground, gradually molding together—until Aria walked through a natural corridor. Here and there, the tunnel opened to other passageways, which breathed cool damp drafts against her face.

“Down that way is the storage area for medicines and supplies,” Molly said, gesturing to the left. “Everything that’s not food or animals. Those are kept in the caverns at the south end.” Her voice sounded a little too cheerful, like she was trying to compensate for Reef’s gruff manner. She swung the lamp gently as she walked, causing the shadows to tilt up and back along the cramped space. Aria found herself growing slightly light-headed and seasick. Or cavesick.

[page]Where were they taking her?

She had never known darkness like this. Outside there was always Aether, or sunlight, or moonlight. In the Pod, within the protected walls of Reverie, lights always blazed. Always. This was new, this suffocating pool. She felt the pitch black fill her lungs with every breath. She was drinking the dark. Wading through it.

“Behind that curtain is the Battle Room,” Molly continued. “It’s a smaller cavern where we brought one of the trestle tables from the cookhouse. Perry meets with people in there to discuss matters of importance. The poor boy hardly ever leaves.”

Walking silently ahead of them, Reef shook his head.

“I worry about him, Reef,” Molly said, with plain irritation. “Someone has to.”

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