Into the Still Blue (Under the Never Sky, #3)(5)

Their debate continued as they headed into the cave, Hyde’s temper lifting, just as Perry had hoped. He needed to keep morale up, or they’d never get through this.

“Find Marron for me, and get him to the Battle Room,” he told Hyde as they stepped inside. “I need Reef and Molly there as well.” He nodded to Roar, who stood a few paces away, staring across the cave with his arms crossed. “Get him water and something to eat, and have him join us right away.”

It was time for a meeting. Roar had information about Cinder, and Sable and Hess. In order to reach the Still Blue, Perry needed Dweller ships—he and Aria had taken one from Reverie, but it wouldn’t carry enough people—and he also needed a precise heading or the Tides wouldn’t go anywhere.

Cinder. Hovers. A heading.

Three things, and Sable and Hess had them all. But that was going to change.

Roar spoke with his back still turned. “Perry seems to have forgotten that I can hear his every word, Hyde.” He turned to face Perry—and there was that dark stare again. “Whether I want to or not.”

Anger washed over Perry. Nearby, Hyde and Gren tensed, their tempers spiking red, but Twig, who’d been with Roar for days, moved first.

He dropped the horse lead in his hands and darted to Roar, taking a fistful of his black coat. “Come on,” he said, giving Roar a nudge that was almost a shove. “I’ll show you the way. Easy to get lost around here till you get used to it.”

When they’d left, Gren shook his head. “What was that?”

Answers flipped through Perry’s mind.

Roar without Liv.

Roar without a reason to live.

Roar in hell.

“Nothing,” he said, too rattled to explain. “He’ll cool off.”

He headed for the Battle Room as Gren went to tend to the horses. Anxiety built inside him with every step he took, pressing on his lungs, but he fought against it. At least the darkness of the cave didn’t bother him, as it did most everyone. By some twist of fate, his Seer eyes saw even better in low light.

Halfway there, Willow’s dog, Flea, charged up, jumping and barking like he hadn’t seen Perry in weeks. Talon and Willow arrived right behind him.

“Did you find Roar?” Talon asked. “Was it him?”

Perry grabbed Talon, holding him upside down, and was rewarded with a belly laugh. “It sure was, Squeak.” Roar had shown up—in appearance, at least.

“And Cinder, too?” Willow asked, her eyes wide with hope. She had grown close to Cinder. She was just as desperate to get him back as Perry.

“No. Just Roar and Twig so far, but we’ll get him, Willow. I promise.”

Despite his assurance, Willow let loose with an impressive stream of curses. Talon giggled and Perry laughed too, but he felt sorry for her. He scented the way she hurt.

Perry set Talon down. “Do me a favor, Squeak? Check on Aria for me?” She’d been drifting on pain medication since they’d arrived at the cave, the wound in her arm refusing to heal. He went to see her whenever he could, and spent every night with her in his arms, but he still missed her. He couldn’t wait until she woke.

“Sure!” Talon chirped. “Come on, Willow.”

Perry watched them dash away, Flea loping after them. He had expected the cave to frighten his nephew, but Talon had adapted—all the kids had. The darkness inspired them to play endless games of hide-and-seek, and they spent hours on adventures exploring the caverns. More than once, Perry had heard kids in hysterics over the echoing of sounds— some best left unheard.

He only wished the adults had the same spirit.

[page]Perry stepped into the Battle Room, nodding to Marron. The ceiling was low and uneven, forcing him to duck as he made his way around the long trestle table. He fought to keep his breathing steady, telling himself the walls weren’t caving in; it only felt like they were.

Roar had arrived before him. He leaned back in his chair, his boots kicked up on the table. He held a bottle of Luster, and he didn’t look up as Perry entered. Bad signs.

Bear and Reef nodded at Perry, in the midst of a conversation about the red flares that had appeared in the Aether. Bear’s walking stick rested lengthwise on the table, spanning the distance occupied by the three men. Whenever he saw that cane, Perry remembered dragging Bear from the rubble of his house.

“Any idea why the color is changing?” Perry asked. He took his usual seat, with Marron on his right and Reef on his left. He felt strange sitting across from Roar, like they were adversaries.

Candles burned at the center of the table, the flames steady and perfect; there were no drafts back here to make them flicker. Marron had ordered rugs hung along the perimeter to create false walls and the illusion of a real room. Perry wondered if it helped the others.

“Yes,” Marron said. He began twisting a gold ring around his finger. “The same phenomenon happened during the Unity. It signaled the onset of constant storms. They held for thirty years in those days. We’ll see the color continue to change until it’s entirely red. When that happens, it will be impossible to go outside.” He pursed his lips, shaking his head. “We’ll be confined here, I’m afraid.”

“How long do we have?” Perry asked.

“The accounts from those days vary, so it’s difficult to say precisely. It could be as long as a few weeks, if we’re lucky.”

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