The Fates Divide – Veronica Roth

LAZMET NOAVEK, MY FATHER and former tyrant of Shotet, had been presumed dead for over ten seasons. We had held a funeral for him on the first sojourn after his passing, sent his old armor into space, because there was no body. And yet my brother, Ryzek, imprisoned in the belly of this transport ship, had said, Lazmet is still alive. My mother had called my father “Laz,” sometimes. No one else would have dared but Ylira Noavek. “Laz,” she would say, “let it go.” And he obeyed her, as long as she didn’t command him too often. He respected her, though he respected no one else, not even his own friends. With her he had some softness, but with everyone else . well. My brother—who had begun his life soft, and only later hardened into someone who would torture his own sister—had learned to cut out a person’s eye from Lazmet. And how to store it, too, in a preservative, so it wouldn’t rot. Before I truly understood what the jars in the Weapons Hall contained, I had gone there to look at them, on shelves high above my head, glinting in the low light.

Green and brown and gray irises, afloat, like fish bobbing to the surface of a tank for food. My father had never carved a piece of someone with his own hands. Nor had he ordered someone else to do it. He had used his currentgift to control their bodies, to force them to do it to themselves. Death is not the only punishment you can give a person. You can also give them nightmares. When Akos Kereseth came to find me, later, it was on the nav deck of the small transport ship that carried us away from my home planet, where my people, the Shotet, now stood on the verge of war with Akos’s home nation of Thuvhe. I sat in the captain’s chair, swiveling back and forth to soothe myself. I meant to tell him what Ryzek had told me, that my father—if he was my father, if Ryzek was even my brother—was alive. Ryzek seemed certain that he and I didn’t actually share blood, that I was not truly a Noavek. That was why, he had said, I hadn’t been able to open the gene lock that kept his rooms secure, why I hadn’t been able to assassinate him the first time I tried. But I didn’t know how to begin.

With the death of my father? With the body we had never found? With the niggling feeling that Ryzek and I were too dissimilar in features to have ever been related? Akos didn’t seem to want to talk, either. He spread a blanket he had found somewhere in the ship on the ground between the captain’s chair and the wall, and we lay on top of it, side by side, staring out at nothingness. Currentshadows—my lively, painful ability—wrapped around my arms like black string, sending a deep ache all the way down to my fingertips. I was not afraid of emptiness. It made me feel small. Barely worth a first glance, let alone a second. And there was comfort in that, because so often I worried that I was capable of causing too much damage. At least, if I was small and kept to myself, I wouldn’t do any more harm. I wanted only what was within arm’s reach. Akos’s index finger hooked around my pinkie.

The shadows disappeared as his currentgift countered mine. Yes, what was within arm’s reach was definitely enough for me. “Would you . say something in Thuvhesit?” he asked. I turned my head toward him. He was still looking up at the window, a faint smile curling his lips. Freckles dotted his nose, and one of his eyelids, right near the lash line. I hesitated with my hand just lifted off the blanket, wanting to touch him but also wanting to stay in the wanting for a moment. Then I followed the line of his eyebrow across his face with a fingertip. “I’m not a pet bird,” I said.

“I don’t chirp on command.” “This is a request, not a command. A humble one,” he said. “Just say my full name, maybe?” I laughed. “Most of your name is Shotet, remember?” “Right.” He lunged at my hand with his mouth, snapping his teeth together. It startled a laugh from me. “What was hardest for you to say, when you were first learning?” “Your city names, what a mouthful,” I said as he let go of one of my hands to catch the other, holding me by pinkie and thumb with all his fingertips. He pressed a kiss to the center of my palm, where the skin was callused from holding currentblades. Strange, that something so simple, given to a hardened part of me, could suffuse me so completely, bringing life to every nerve.

I sighed, acquiescing. “Fine, I’ll say them. Hessa, Shissa, Osoc,” I said. “There was a chancellor who called Hessa the very heart of Thuvhe. Her surname was Kereseth.” “The only Kereseth chancellor in Thuvhesit history,” Akos said, bringing my palm to his cheek. I propped myself up on one elbow to lean over him, my hair slipping forward to frame both our faces, long on one side though I was now silverskinned on the other. “I do know that much.” “For a long time, there were only two fated families on Thuvhe,” I said, “and yet, aside from that one exception, the leadership has only ever been with the Benesits, when the fates have named a chancellor at all. Is that not strange to you?” “Maybe we aren’t any good at leading.

” “Maybe fate favors you,” I said. “Maybe thrones are curses.” “Fate doesn’t favor me,” he said gently, so gently I almost didn’t realize what he meant. His fate —the third child of the family Kereseth will die in service to the family Noavek—was to betray his home for my family, in serving us, and to die. How could anyone see that as anything but a hardship? I shook my head. “I’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking—” “Cyra,” he said. Then he paused, frowning at me. “Did you just apologize?” “I do know the words,” I replied, scowling back. “I’m not completely without manners.” He laughed.

“I know the Essanderae word for ‘garbage’; that doesn’t mean I sound right saying it.” “Fine, I revoke my apology.” I flicked his nose, hard, and when he cringed away, still laughing, I said, “What’s the Essanderae word for ‘garbage’?” He said it. It sounded like a word reflected in a mirror, said once forward and once backward. “I’ve found your weakness,” he said. “I just have to taunt you with knowledge you don’t have, and you’re distracted immediately.” I considered that. “I guess you’re allowed to know one of my weaknesses . considering you have so many to exploit.” He raised his eyebrows in question, and I attacked him with my fingers, jabbing his left side just under his elbow, his right side just above his hip, the tendon behind his right leg.

I had learned these soft places when we were training—places he didn’t protect well enough, or that made him cringe harder than usual when struck—but I teased him now with more gentleness than I had thought myself capable of, drawing from him laughs instead of cringes. He pulled me on top of him, holding me by the hips. A few of his fingers slipped under the waistband of my pants, and it was a kind of agony I was unfamiliar with, a kind I didn’t mind at all. I braced myself on the blanket, on either side of his head, and lowered myself slowly to kiss him. We hadn’t kissed more than a few times, and I had never kissed anyone but him, so each time was still a discovery. This time I found the edge of teeth, skimming, and the tip of a tongue; I found the slide of a knee between mine, and the weight of a hand at the back of my neck, urging me closer, further, faster. I didn’t breathe, didn’t want to take the time, and so I ended up gasping against the side of his neck before long, making him laugh. “I’ll take that as a good sign,” he said. “Don’t get cocky, Kereseth.” I couldn’t keep myself from smiling.

Lazmet—and whatever questions I had about my parentage— didn’t feel as close to me now. I was safe here, floating on a ship in the middle of nowhere, with Akos Kereseth. And then: a scream, from somewhere deep in the ship. It sounded like Akos’s sister, Cisi. CHAPTER 2: CISI I KNOW WHAT IT is to watch your family die. I am Cisi Kereseth, after all. I watched Dad die on our living room floor. I watched Eijeh and Akos get dragged away by Shotet soldiers. I watched Mom fade like fabric in the sun. There’s not much I don’t understand about loss.

I just can’t express it the way other people do. My currentgift keeps me all wrapped up tight. So I’m a little bit jealous of how Isae Benesit, fated chancellor of Thuvhe and my friend, can let herself grieve. She wears herself out with emotion, and then we fall asleep, shoulder to shoulder, in the galley of the Shotet exile ship. When I wake up, my back hurts from slumping against the wall for so long. I get up and lean to the left, to the right, while I take note of her. Isae doesn’t look right, which I guess makes sense, since her twin sister, Ori, died only yesterday, in an arena of Shotet all chanting for her blood. She doesn’t feel right, either, the texture around her all fuzzy like the way your teeth feel when you haven’t brushed them. Her eyes skip back and forth over the room, dancing across my face and body, and not in a way that would make a person blush. I try to calm her with my currentgift, sending out a smooth feeling, like unrolling a skein of silk thread.

It doesn’t seem like it does much good. My currentgift is an odd thing. I can’t know how she feels, not really, but I can feel it, like it’s a texture in the air. And I can’t control how she feels, either, but I can make suggestions. Sometimes it takes a couple of tries, or a new way of thinking about it. So instead of silk, which had no effect, I try water, heavy, undulating. It’s a bust. She’s too keyed up. Sometimes, when a person’s feelings are too intense, it’s hard for me to make an impact. “Cisi, can I trust you?” It’s a funny word in Thuvhesit, can.

It’s can and should and must all squished together, and you can only suss out the true meaning from context. It leads to misunderstandings, sometimes, which is probably why our language is described by off-worlders as “slippery.” That, and off-worlders are lazy. So when Isae Benesit asks me in my mother tongue if she can trust me, I don’t really know what she means. But regardless, there’s only one answer. “Of course.” “I mean it, Cisi,” she says, in that low voice she uses when she’s serious. I like that voice, the way it hums in my head. “There’s something I have to do, and I want you to come with me, but I’m afraid you won’t be—” “Isae,” I cut her off. “I’m here for you, whatever you need.

” I touch her shoulder with gentle fingers. “Okay?” She nods. She leads me out of the galley, and I try not to step on any kitchen knives. After she shut herself in here, she ripped all the drawers out, broke everything she could get her hands on. The floor is covered with shreds of fabric and pieces of glass and cracked plastic and unrolled bandages. I guess I don’t blame her. My currentgift keeps me from doing or saying things that I know will make people uncomfortable. Which means that, after my dad died, I couldn’t cry unless I was alone. I couldn’t say much of anything to my mom for months. So if I’d been able to destroy a kitchen, like Isae did, I probably would have.

I follow Isae out, quiet. We walk past Ori’s body. It has a sheet tucked nicely around it, so it’s just the slopes of her shoulders, the bump of her nose and chin. Just an impression of who she was. Isae stops there, draws a sharp breath. She feels even grittier now than she did before, like grains of sand against my skin. I know I can’t soothe her, but I’m too worried about her not to try. I send airy feathergrass tufts, and hard, polished wood. I send warm oil and rounded metal. Nothing works.

I chafe against her, frustrated. Why can’t I do anything to help her? I think, for a tick, of asking for help. Akos and Cyra are right there on the nav deck. Mom’s somewhere below. Even Akos and Cyra’s renegade friend, Teka, is right there, stretched out on the bench seats with a sheet of white-blond hair sprawled across behind her. But I can’t call out to any of them. For one thing, I just can’t—can’t knowingly cause distress, thanks to my gift-curse—and for another, instinct tells me it’s better if I can earn Isae’s trust. Isae leads us down below, where there are two storage rooms and a washroom. Mom’s in the washroom, I can tell by the sound of the recycled water splattering. In one storage room—the one with the window, I made sure of that—is my other brother, Eijeh.

It hurt me to see him again, so long after his kidnapping, and so small compared to the pale pillar of Ryzek Noavek next to him. You think when people get older, they’re supposed to get stronger, fatter. Not Eijeh. The other storage room—the one with all the cleaning supplies—holds Ryzek Noavek. Just knowing he’s that close, the man who ordered my brothers taken and my dad killed, makes me tremble. Isae pauses between the two doors, and it hits me, then, that she’s going in one of those rooms. And I don’t want her to go in Eijeh’s. I know he’s the one who killed Ori, technically. That is, he was holding the knife that did it. But I know my brother.

He could never kill anyone, especially not his best friend from childhood. There has to be some other explanation for what happened. It has to be Ryzek’s fault. “Isae,” I say. “What are you—” She touches three fingers to her lips, telling me to hush. She’s right between the rooms. Deciding something, it seems like, judging by the faint buzz around her. She takes a key from her pocket—she must have lifted it off Teka, when she went out to make sure we were headed to Assembly Headquarters—and sticks it in the lock for Ryzek’s cell. I reach for her hand. “He’s dangerous,” I say.

“I can handle it,” she replies. And then, softening around the eyes: “I won’t let him hurt you, I promise.” I let her go. There’s a part of me that’s hungry to see him, to meet the monster at last. She opens the door, and he’s sitting against the back wall, sleeves rolled up, feet outstretched. He has long, skinny toes, and narrow ankles. I blink at them. Are sadistic dictators supposed to have vulnerable-looking feet? If Isae’s at all intimidated, she doesn’t let on. She stands with her hands clasped in front of her and her head high. “My, my,” Ryzek says, running his tongue over his teeth.

“Resemblance between twins never fails to shock me. You look just like Orieve Benesit. Except for those scars, of course. How old are they?” “Two seasons,” Isae says, stiff. She’s talking to him. She’s talking to Ryzek Noavek, my sworn enemy, kidnapper of her sister, with a long line of kills tattooed on the outside of his arm. “They will fade still, then,” he says. “A shame. They made a lovely shape.” “Yes, I’m a work of art,” she says.

“The artist was a Shotet fleshworm who had just finished digging around in a pile of garbage.” I stare at her. I’ve never heard her say something so hateful about the Shotet before. It’s not like her. “Fleshworm” is what people call the Shotet when they’re reaching for the worst insult. Fleshworms are gray, wriggly things that feed on the living from the inside out. Parasites, all but eradicated by Othyrian medicine. “Ah.” His smile grows wider, forcing a dimple into his cheek. There’s something about him that sparks in my memory.

Maybe something he has in common with Cyra, though they don’t look at all alike, at a glance. “So this grudge you have against my people isn’t merely in your blood.” “No.” She sinks into a crouch, resting her elbows on her knees. She makes it look graceful and controlled, but I’m worried about her. She’s long and willowy in build, not near as strong as Ryzek, who is big, though thin. One wrong move and he could lunge at her, and what would I do to stop it? Scream? “You know about scars, I suppose,” she says, nodding to his arm. “Will you mark my sister’s life?” The inside of his forearm, the softer, paler part, doesn’t have any scars—they start on the outside and work their way around, row by row. He has more than one row. “Why, have you brought me a knife and some ink?” Isae purses her lips.

The sandpaper feeling she gave off a moment ago turns as jagged as a broken stone. By instinct, I press back against the door and find the handle behind my back. “Do you always claim kills you didn’t actually carry out?” Isae says. “Because last time I checked, you weren’t the one on that platform with the knife.” Ryzek’s eyes glint. “I wonder if you’ve ever actually killed at all, or if all that work is done by others.” Her head tilts. “Others who, unlike you, actually have the stomach for it.” It’s a Shotet insult. The kind a Thuvhesit wouldn’t even realize was insulting.

Ryzek picks up on it, though, eyes boring into hers. “Miss Kereseth,” he says, without looking at me. “You look so much like the elder of your two brothers.” He glances at me, then, appraising. “Are you not curious what’s become of him?” I want to answer coolly, like Ryzek is nothing to me. I want to meet his eyes with strength. I want a thousand fantasies of revenge to come suddenly to life like hushflowers at the Blooming. I open my mouth, but nothing comes out. Fine, I think, and I let out a peal of my currentgift, like a clap of my hands. I’ve come to understand that not everybody can control their currentgifts the way I can.

I just wish I could master the part that keeps me from saying what I want to. I see how he relaxes when my gift hits him. It has no effect on Isae—none that I can see, anyway —but maybe it will loosen his tongue. And whatever Isae is planning, she seems to need him to talk first. “My father, the great Lazmet Noavek, taught me that people can be like blades, if you learn to wield them, but your best weapon should still be yourself,” Ryzek says. “I have always taken that to heart. Some of the kills I have commanded have been carried out by others, Chancellor, but rest assured, those deaths are still mine.” He slumps forward over his knees, clasping his hands between them. He and Isae are just breaths apart. “I will mark your sister’s life on my arm,” he says.

“It will be a fine trophy to add to my collection.” Ori. I remember which tea she drank in the morning (harva bark, for energy and clarity) and how much she hated the chip in her front tooth. And I hear the chants of the Shotet in my ears: Die, die, die. “That clarifies things,” Isae says. She holds her hand out for him to take. He gives her an odd look, and no wonder—what kind of person wants to shake hands with the man who just admitted to ordering her sister’s death? And being proud of it? “You really are an odd one,” he says. “You must not have loved your sister very much, to offer your hand to me now.” I see the skin pull taut over the knuckles of her other hand, the one not held out to him. She opens her fist, and inches her fingers toward her boot.

Ryzek takes the hand she offered, then stiffens, eyes widening. “On the contrary, I loved her more than anyone,” Isae says. She squeezes him, hard, digging in her fingernails. And all the while, her left hand moves toward her boot. I’m too stunned to realize what’s happening until it’s too late. With her left hand she tugs a knife out of her boot, from where it’s strapped to her leg. With her right, she pulls him forward. Knife and man come together, and she presses, and the sound of his gurgling moan carries me to my living room, to my adolescence, to the blood that I scrubbed from the floorboards as I sobbed. Ryzek slumps, and bleeds. I slam my hand down on the door handle and stumble into the hallway.

I am wailing, crying, pounding on the walls; no, I’m not, my currentgift won’t let me. All it allows me to do, in the end, is let out a single, weak scream.

.

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