Home > King's Cage (Red Queen #3)(14)

King's Cage (Red Queen #3)(14)
Author: Victoria Aveyard

The Colonel’s eyes narrow in on part of the message. “She’s been interrogated.”

Cal stands so quickly he knocks over his chair. “Merandus?”

A tremor of heat pulses through the room, and I feel a ripple of sickness in me. Not because of Cal, but because of Mare. Because of the horrors happening to her. Upset, I knit my hands together behind my head, pulling the curly dark hair at the nape of my neck.

“Yes,” the Colonel replies. “A man named Samson.”

The prince curses quite colorfully for a royal.

“What does that mean?” Bree, Mare’s burly eldest brother, dares to ask.

Tramy, the other surviving Barrow son, frowns deeply. “Merandus is the queen’s house. Whispers—mind readers. They’ll pull her apart to find us.”

“And for sport,” Cal murmurs with a low rumble. Both Barrow brothers flush red at the implication. Bree blinks back fierce, sudden tears. I want to take his arm, but I stay still. I’ve seen enough people flinch away from my touch.

“Which is why Mare knows nothing of our operations outside Tuck, and Tuck has been thoroughly left behind,” the Colonel says quickly. It’s true. They abandoned Tuck with blinding speed, casting off anything that Mare Barrow knew of. Even the Silvers we captured from Corros—or rescued, depending on who you ask—were left at the coast. Too dangerous to keep hold of, too many to control.

I’ve only been with the Scarlet Guard a month, but I already know their words by heart. Rise, red as the dawn, of course, and know only what you need. The first is a battle cry, the second a warning.

“Whatever she gives them will be peripheral at best,” he adds. “Nothing important about Command, and little about our dealings outside Norta.”

No one cares, Colonel. I bite my tongue to keep from snapping at him. Mare is a prisoner. So what if they don’t get anything about the Lakelands, Piedmont, or Montfort?

Montfort. The distant nation ruled by a so-called democracy, an equal balance of Reds, Silvers, and newbloods. A paradise? Maybe, but I have long since learned that paradise does not exist in this world. I probably know more about the country than Mare now, what with the twins, Rash and Tahir, always squawking about Montfort’s merits. I’m not stupid enough to trust their word. Not to mention it’s pure torture holding a conversation with them, always finishing each other’s thoughts and sentences. Sometimes I want to use my silence on them both, to sever the ability that binds their thoughts into one. But that would be cruel, not to mention idiotic. People are already wary of us without watching newbloods ability-bicker.

“Does what they get out of her really matter right now?” I force through gritted teeth. Hopefully the Colonel understands what I’m trying to say. At least spare her brothers this, Colonel. Have some shame.

He just blinks, one good eye and one destroyed. “If you can’t stomach intelligence, then don’t come to control. We need to know what they got out of her in interrogation.”

“Samson Merandus is an arena fighter, though he has no reason to be,” Cal says in a low voice. Trying to be gentle. “He enjoys using his ability to inflict pain. If he is the one to interrogate Mare, then . . .” He stumbles over the words, reluctant to speak. “It’ll be torture, plain and simple. Maven has given her to a torturer.”

Even the Colonel looks disturbed by the thought.

Cal stares at the floor, silent for a long, stoic moment. “I never thought Maven would do that to her,” he mutters finally. “She probably didn’t either.”

Then you’re both stupid, my brain screams. How many times does one wicked boy have to betray you people before you learn?

“Did you need something else, Cameron?” Colonel Farley asks. He rolls up the message, spooling it like a circle of thread. The rest is clearly not for my ears.

“It’s about Corvium. Farley says it’s on the edge.”

The Colonel blinks. “Those were her words?”

“That’s what I said.”

Suddenly I’m no longer the focus of his attention. Instead, his eyes sweep to Cal.

“Then it’s time to push.”

The Colonel looks eager, but Cal could not seem more reluctant. He keeps still, knowing that any twitch might betray his true feelings. The lack of movement is just as damning. “I’ll see what I can come up with,” he finally forces out. That seems to be enough for the Colonel. He ducks his chin in a nod before turning his attention to Mare’s brothers.

“Best let your family know,” he says, putting on a show of being gentle. “And Kilorn.”

I shift, uncomfortable watching them digest the painful news of their sister and accept the burden of carrying it to the rest of their family. Bree’s words stick, but Tramy has strength enough to speak for his older brother. “Yes, sir,” he replies. “Though I don’t know where Warren gets to these days.”

“Try the newblood barracks,” I offer. “He’s there more often than not.”

Indeed, Kilorn spends most of his time with Ada. After Ketha died, Ada took on the arduous task of teaching him to read and write. Though I suspect he sticks with us because he has no one else. The Barrows are the closest thing he has to family, and they are a family of ghosts now, haunted by memories. I’ve never even seen her parents. They keep to themselves, deep in the tunnels.

We take our leave of the Colonel together, four of us trooping out of the control room in awkward, stilted single file. Bree and Tramy peel away quickly, stomping their way toward their family’s quarters on the other side of the base. I do not envy them. I remember how my mother screamed when my brother and I were taken away. I wonder what hurts more—to hear nothing of your children, knowing they are in danger, or to be fed news of their pain piece by piece.

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