Home > Red Queen (Red Queen #1)(9)

Red Queen (Red Queen #1)(9)
Author: Victoria Aveyard

The tide of the crowd takes me down the main avenue, past taverns and cafés. Some Silvers sit at an open-air bar, watching the crowd pass as they enjoy their morning drinks. Some watch video screens set into walls or hanging from archways. Each one plays something different, ranging from old arena matches to news to brightly colored programs I don’t understand, all blending together in my head. The high whine of the screens, the distant sound of static, buzzes in my ears. How they can stand it, I don’t know. But the Silvers don’t even blink at the videos, almost ignoring them entirely.

The Hall itself casts a glimmering shadow over me and I find myself staring in stupid awe again. But then a droning noise snaps me out of it. At first it sounds like the arena tone, the one used to start a Feat, but this one is different. Low and heavier somehow. Without a thought, I turn to the noise.

In the bar next to me, all the video screens flicker to the same broadcast. Not a royal address but a news report. Even the Silvers stop to watch in rapt silence. When the drone ends, the report begins. A fluffy blond woman, Silver no doubt, appears on the screen. She reads from a piece of paper and looks frightened.

“Silvers of Norta, we apologize for the interruption. Thirteen minutes ago there was a terrorist attack in the capital.”

The Silvers around me gasp, bursting into fearful murmurs.

I can only blink in disbelief. Terrorist attack? On the Silvers?

Is that even possible?

“This was an organized bombing of government buildings in West Archeon. According to reports, the Royal Court, the Treasury Hall, and Whitefire Palace have been damaged, but the court and the treasury were not in session this morning.” The image changes from the woman to footage of a burning building. Security officers evacuate the people inside while nymphs blast water onto the flames. Healers, marked by a black-and-red cross on their arm, run to and fro among them. “The royal family was not in residence at Whitefire, and there are no reported casualties at this time. King Tiberias is expected to address the nation within the hour.”

A Silver next to me clenches his fist and pounds on the bar, sending spider cracks through the solid rock top. A strongarm. “It’s the Lakelanders! They’re losing up north so they’re coming down south to scare us!” A few jeer with him, cursing the Lakelands.

“We should wipe them out, push all the way through to the Prairie!” another Silver echoes. Many cheer in agreement. It takes all my strength not to snap at these cowards who will never see the front lines or send their children to fight. Their Silver war is being paid for in Red blood.

As more and more footage rolls, showing the marble facade of the courthouse explode into dust or a diamondglass wall withstanding a fireball, part of me feels happy. The Silvers are not invincible. They have enemies, enemies who can hurt them, and for once, they aren’t hiding behind a Red shield.

The newscaster returns, paler than ever. Someone whispers to her offscreen and she shuffles through her notes, her hands shaking. “It seems that an organization has taken responsibility for the Archeon bombing,” she says, stumbling a bit. The shouting men quiet quickly, eager to hear the words on-screen. “A terrorist group calling themselves the Scarlet Guard released this video moments ago.”

“The Scarlet Guard?” “Who the hell—?” “Some kind of trick—?” and other confused questions rise around the bar. No one has heard of the Scarlet Guard before.

But I have.

That’s what Farley called herself. Her and Will. But they are smugglers, both of them, not terrorists or bombers or whatever else the broadcast might say. It’s a coincidence, it can’t be them.

On-screen, I’m greeted by a terrible sight. A woman stands in front of a shaky camera, a scarlet bandanna tied around her face so only her keen blue eyes shine out. She holds a gun in one hand, a tattered red flag in another. And on her chest, there’s a bronze badge in the shape of a torn-apart sun.

“We are the Scarlet Guard and we stand for the freedom and equality of all man—,” the woman says. I recognize her voice.

Farley.

“—starting with the Reds.”

I don’t need to be a genius to know that a bar full of angry, violent Silvers is the last place a Red girl wants to be. But I can’t move. I can’t tear my eyes away from Farley’s face.

“You believe you are the masters of the world but your reign as kings and gods is at an end. Until you recognize us as human, as equal, the fight will be at your door. Not on a battlefield, but in your cities. In your streets. In your homes. You don’t see us, and so we are everywhere.” Her voice hums with authority and poise. “And we will rise up, Red as the dawn.”

Red as the dawn.

The footage ends, cutting back to the slack-jawed blonde. Roars drown out the rest of the broadcast as Silvers around the bar find their voices. They scream about Farley, calling her a terrorist, a murderer, a Red devil. Before their eyes can fall on me, I back out into the street.

But all down the avenue, from the square to the Hall, Silvers boil out from every bar and café. I try to rip off the red band around my wrist but the stupid thing holds firm. Other Reds disappear into alleys and doorways, trying to flee, and I’m smart enough to follow. By the time I find an alleyway, the screaming starts.

Against every instinct, I look over my shoulder to see a Red man being held up by the neck. He pleads with his Silver assailant, begging. “Please, I don’t know, I don’t know who the hell those people are!”

“What is the Scarlet Guard?” the Silver yells into his face. I recognize him as one of the nymphs who was playing with children not half an hour ago. “Who are they?”

Before the poor Red can answer, a hammer fall of water strikes him in the face. The nymph raises a hand and the water rises up, splashing him again. Silvers surround the scene, jeering with glee, cheering him on. The Red sputters and gasps, trying to catch his breath. He proclaims his innocence with every spare second but the water keeps coming. The nymph, wide-eyed with hate, shows no signs of stopping. He pulls water from the fountains, from every glass, raining it down again and again.

The nymph is drowning him.

The blue awning is my beacon, guiding me through the panicked streets as I dodge Reds and Silvers alike. Usually chaos is my best friend, making my work as a thief that much easier. No one notices a missing coin purse when they’re running from a mob. But Kilorn and two thousand crowns are no longer my top priority. I can only think about getting to Gisa and getting out of the city that will certainly become a prison. If they close the gates . . . I don’t want to think about being stuck here, trapped behind glass with freedom just out of reach.

 

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