The return journey to the upper city is an eternity of running and hiding. Despite the sounds of people fighting, laughing, making love and screaming, our footsteps on the wooden walkways are like thunder to my ears. Every moment I expect to be waylaid. Worse, though, is the expectation of a knife in my back.
Damin’s urgency puts wings to my feet.
At the deadhouse we crouch in the shadows. Ahead is the switchback path to the plateau. It is well-lit and there are too many negotiating the steepness.
Damin swears. “They come down already.”
“Who?” I dare.
“Lawmen. Tonight the lower city will feel the brunt.”
“Damin, what happened?” I gesture at his bloodied hands and clothes.
“Assassins, two of them. I lost three of my men at the alehouse and barely got away. Those,” and he gestures at the forms on the path, “will now retaliate for losing two of their own.” He glances at me. “Lyra, they will kill us if they find us.”
Both of us jerk around and I nearly leave my skin. The old man from the deadhouse peers around the corner and gesticulates wildly. Damin glances at me, nods, and we swiftly make our way to him.
As a host of boots thud upon the planks and those shudders transmit into the island, the old man shoves us into the darkness inside. “Coffins,” he hisses, and locks us in.
There is no time for choices. We hear loud voices outside. Damin finds two empty coffins, and almost breaks my arm in his haste to get me into one. The cover closes. I hear scuffles and then the low sound of another lid closing.
The door crashes open. The old man shouts his ire.
I feel as if I am already dead.