Nightshade Page 77


THE NEXT MORNING SHAY WANDERED INTO homeroom with a haunted expression on his face. When the bell ending the period rang, I waved Bryn off, heading over to Shay, who remained at his desk and watched me approach.

“Hey, Cal.” Dark shadows lay under his eyes; it looked like he hadn’t slept at all. “Can I convince you to skip your next class?”

“If it’s important,” I replied, fear settling in my bones.

I walked alongside him to the school’s student lounge, which was quiet and empty. He sat down, pulling up another chair next to him. When I sat down, he put his face in his hands and sat silently for a moment.

“What happened?” I could barely hear my own whispered question.

“You know how you told me that Searchers killed Ren’s mother in an ambush?”

I nodded.

“Was her name Corinne Laroche?”

“Yes.” Why is he asking about this?

His jaw tightened briefly. “I went through the Haldis Annals for the year after you and Ren were born. I wanted to know if anything had been recorded about that attack.”

I watched him in silence, feeling a bit irked that he’d ignored my request to leave the books alone but curious about what he’d discovered.

“There was no attack,” he said quietly. “Corinne Laroche was executed.”

It felt like time slowed, as if the air had been sucked out of the room, making any reaction impossible.

“It’s true, Calla.” He spoke in hushed tones. “She and some of the other Banes planned a revolt against the Keepers. The Searchers were helping her. The Keepers discovered the plot and she was punished.”

My muscles slowly came back to life, shaking.

“They killed her, Calla,” Shay said. “And they laid a trap for the Searchers who were coming to aid the rebellion. When the Searchers showed up, the Keepers had a force assembled that slaughtered almost all of them.”

“But Ren . . .” I choked, unable to finish the horrifying thought.

“They lied to Ren about what happened,” he murmured, sounding like he might be sick himself. “From what the entry said, it sounds like they lied to all the wolves who weren’t involved in the plot and eliminated those who were.”

“It can’t be true.”

“There’s more.” He took my hand. “When I read about Ren’s mother, I went back through the War of All Against All looking for other revolts. That’s how I learned about your history. Your real history.”

Clasped between his warm fingers, my skin felt cold and lifeless. “What do you mean my ‘real’ history?”

“I worked through the later sections of the De proelio, the part that described that last major conflict in the Witches’ War, the one you call the Harrowing.”

“But I know all about the Harrowing,” I said, frowning. “It was a terrible time of bloodshed, many Guardians were lost, but it was still an important victory for the Keepers. One that almost rid us of the Searchers.”

“No, Calla. That isn’t what happened.” He took my other hand in his, forcing me to meet his eyes. “The Harrowing wasn’t the annihilation of the Searchers. It was when the Keepers quelled a Guardian revolt. The Searchers attempted to aid the rebellion, and the Keepers staged a devastating counterattack. They culled Guardians and Searchers alike. And the Keepers created a new weapon that helped turn the war in their favor, something called the Fallen. I’m not sure what it was, but it made the rebellion fall apart. Any Guardians and Searchers who managed to escape went into hiding.”

I pulled my hands from his grasp, wrapping my arms around my chest.

“The revolt instigated a new policy with regard to Guardians,” he continued, not taking his eyes off my face. “Smaller packs, no turning of humans, closer regulation, with more-severe punishments for disobedience and the production of strong family ties so as to prevent the likelihood of revolt. The Keepers believed that Guardians wouldn’t risk their families, even for the cause.”

“What cause, Shay? Why did so many Guardians revolt in the last century?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

“Freedom,” he said. “The Guardians revolted because they could no longer bear to be slaves.”

“We are not slaves,” I whispered, digging my nails into my sides. “The Guardians are the Keepers’ loyal soldiers. We serve and they provide everything for us, education, money, homes. Everything. Our calling is sacred.”

“Open your eyes, Calla,” Shay snarled, pacing through the room. “It’s called hegemony. Antonio Gramsci. Look it up. A system of rule whereby the oppressed are convinced to support the system of oppression, to invest in it, believe in it. But it still means at the end of the day, you and the other Guardians are slaves.”

“I don’t believe you,” I said, rocking back and forth. “I can’t believe any of this.”

“I’m sorry,” he murmured. “But you can read about what happened to Ren’s mother yourself the next time you come to Rowan Estate. As for the rest of it . . .”

I heard rustling. When I opened my eyes, he held out a stack of pages ripped from a notebook. “I knew it would be hard for you to hear. I stayed up all night and transcribed the entire section so you could see it word for word. I’m telling the truth.”

I held up my hand. “I can’t take those. Keep them.”

“Why would I lie about something like this?” He pushed the papers toward me again, eyes filled with anger. “We already know they executed Ren’s mother. It’s who the Keepers are, Calla; this is what they do.”

I opened my mouth, ready to scream at him, but then I was sobbing. “I know it’s true, Shay. I know you’re telling the truth.”

He knelt beside me, pulling me forward into his arms. My body shook as tears seared along my cheeks. Shay cradled my head against his chest, stroking my trembling shoulders and back. His lips pressed gently against my hair.

“It’s going to be okay, Calla. I’m going to find a way to get you out of here. I promise.”

I laid my face against his neck and sobbed again. His arms tightened around me.

“What exactly is going on here?” Lana Flynn’s voice lashed from the double doors that led to the commons.

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