(13-4) The weight of the words they wished to earn

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Silas didn't respond to Samuel's voice. He was still on his knees, with his head bowed and his hair spilling over half of his face. There were tears in the young man's eyes, and the hands resting on his bent knees shook.

"I don't feel a thing for them," Silas muttered. "What else is gone?"

"Do you still care about Amanda?" Samuel asked, crouching down about a yard in front of Silas.

"Leave him here to burn," Amanda said, her voice twisted into an angry rasp.

"Yes," Silas admitted, quietly. "Yes I do."

"That's still something," Samuel insisted. "Use it. Cling to it. Stand up, and help me get us out of here."

"So that I can die politely, like a good little used up reject?" Silas asked.

The temptation to get into an argument with Silas was pronounced. As was the urge to leave him. Samuel, however, was not content with either course.

"Honestly, I'd like to spend my last hour alive dropping a wrench into the cogs of whatever conspiracy killed my mother," Samuel retorted. "I can't promise I'll catch whoever did the deed, or who ordered it. But my odds are worse if you don't do this."

"Right," Silas said bitterly. But the young man stood up and dusted off his coat. Samuel could see the stains and burns in it, as well as the gash in the shoulder where Bertram had landed a throwing knife.

"This deal of yours is a damn sight better than anything most rejects get before they're killed," Amanda added. "And it's a lot better than you deserve."

"Is it really better than what most rejects get?" Samuel asked.

"By a mile," Amanda insisted. "No trial, but he's getting a proper hearing, and a clean execution. Most rejects just get a knife to the back after being worked to exhaustion over a few years."

"Like you," Silas said.

"Like me," Amanda admitted, and her scowl softened a little as she looked at Silas again.

Samuel opened the door and glanced down the hall, towards the stairwell. "Hallway's clear. Shall we get going?"

Silas nodded and stepped through the doorway first. Amanda only followed after Samuel. Her gait was vigorous, which both surprised and relieved Samuel, who had only otherwise seen her recovering in a bed.

The trio marched down one flight of stairs in silence, and then another. It wasn't until they made it to the second floor that they began to the familiar orange glow of firelight, but too brightly to be the torches meant to give off light.

"Someone's setting fires over here," Silas said, as he ran ahead to the next doorway. "They're taking a torch to the grain stores. If this keeps up, it could level the whole tower."

Samuel cursed and stopped on the other side of the door. "Who is it with the torch?"

Silas peered through the doorway. Samuel could see the reject's eyes widen in shock when he seemed to recognise what he was looking at. "It's Quentin."

Samuel began to push the door open, but Silas stopped him. "He has a sword, and he's not alone."

"I have a gun, and the two of you can Craft. I like our odds," Samuel replied.

"He's a hair's breadth from madness," Amanda warned, jabbing her finger in Silas' direction. "As for me, one of the side effects of what I do is it damages my resistance to the Craft's damage. I can help still, but I can't burn holes through people for you."

"Do they know all of this?"

"The rejects with Quentin know about Silas."

"Drellan," Silas whispered. "He's a reject. Silas' right hand. He's a first-year reject."

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