Home > Red Rising (Red Rising Trilogy #1)(17)

Red Rising (Red Rising Trilogy #1)(17)
Pierce Brown

“The lamb card simply looked too good not to eat,” I say.

“Perfectly understandable.”

The red in his eyes twinkles and he sets the bowl aside. Warmth of character returns to him, as if he’d never been a menace. “Do you know why we call ourselves Sons of Ares, Darrow? To the Romans, Mars was the god of war—a god of military glory, defense of the hearth and home. Honorable and all. But Mars is a fraud. He is a romanticized version of the Greek god Ares.”

Dancer lights a burner and hands a second one to me. The generators buzz freshly and the burner fills me with a similar haze as its smoke curls through my lungs.

“Ares was a bastard, an evil patron of rage, violence, bloodlust, and massacre,” he says.

“So by naming yourselves after him, you’re pointing to the truth of things within the Society. Cute.”

“Something like that. The Golds would prefer for us to forget history. And most of us have, or were never taught it. But I know how Gold rose to power hundreds of years ago. They call it the Conquering. They butchered any who contested them. Massacred cities, continents. Not many years ago, they reduced an entire world to ash—Rhea. Nuked it to oblivion. It was with Ares’s wrath that they acted. And now we are the sons of that wrath.”

“Are you Ares?” I ask, voice hushed. Worlds. They’ve destroyed worlds. But Rhea is so much farther out from Earth than Mars. It’s one of Saturn’s moons, I think. Why would they nuke a world all the way out there?

“No. I’m not Ares,” he answers.

“But you belong to him.”

“I belong to no one but Harmony and my people. I am like you, Darrow, born to a clan of earth diggers, miners from the colony Tyros. Only I know more of the world.” He frowns at my impatient expression. “You think me a terrorist. I am not.”

“No?” I ask.

He leans back and takes a drag on his burner.

“Imagine there was a table covered with fleas,” he explains. “The fleas would jump and jump to heights unknown. Then a man came along and upturned a glass jar over the fleas. The fleas jumped and hit the top of the jar and could go no farther. Then the man removed the jar and yet the fleas did not jump higher than they had grown accustomed, because they believed there to still be a glass ceiling.” He breathes out smoke. I see his eyes glow through it like the ember tip of his burner. “We are the fleas who jump high. Now let me show you just how high.”

Dancer takes me down a rickety corridor to a cylindrical metal lift. It’s a rusty thing, heavy, and it squeals as we rise steadily upward.

“You should know that your wife didn’t die in vain, Darrow. The Greens who help us hijacked the broadcast. We hacked in and played the true version over every HC on our planet. The planet, the clans of the hundred thousand mining colonies and those in the cities, have heard your wife’s song.”

“You tell tall tales,” I grumble. “There aren’t half that many colonies.”

He ignores me. “They heard her song and they call her Persephone already.”

I flinch and look over at him. No. That is not her name. She is not their symbol. She doesn’t belong to these brigands with trumped-up names.

“Her name is Eo,” I sneer. “And she belongs to Lykos.”

“She belongs to her people now, Darrow. And they remember the old tales of a goddess stolen from her family by the god of death. Yet even when she was stolen, death could not forever keep her. She was the Maiden, the goddess of spring destined to return after each winter. Beauty incarnate can touch life even from the grave; that’s how they think of your wife.”

“She’s not coming back,” I say to end the conversation. It is futile debating with this man. He just rolls on.

Our lift comes to a halt and we exit into a small tunnel. Following it, we come to another lift of sleeker metal, better maintained. Two Sons guard it with scorchers. Soon we’re going upward again.

“She will not come back, but her beauty, her voice, will echo until the end of time. She believed in something beyond herself, and her death gave her voice power it didn’t have in life. She was pure, like your father. We, you and I”—he touches my chest with the back of his index finger—“are dirty. We are made for blood. Rough hands. Dirty hearts. We are lesser creatures in the grand scheme of things, but without us men of war, no one except those of Lykos would hear Eo’s song. Without our rough hands, the dreams of the pure hearts would never be built.”

“Cut to the point,” I interrupt. “You want me for something.”

“You tried to die before,” Dancer says. “Do you want to do so again?”

“I want …” What do I want? “I want to kill Augustus,” I say, remembering the cold Golden face as it commanded my wife’s death. It was so distant, so uncaring. “He will not live while Eo lies dead.” I think of Magistrate Podginus and Ugly Dan. I will kill them too.

“Vengeance then,” he sighs.

“You said you could give it to me.”

“I said I would give you justice. Vengeance is an empty thing, Darrow.”

“It will fill me. Help me kill the ArchGovernor.”

“Darrow, you set your sights too low.” The lift picks up speed. My ears pop. Up and up and up. How far does this lift rise? “The ArchGovernor is merely one of the most important Golds on Mars.” Dancer hands me a pair of tinted glasses. I put them on tentatively as my heart thuds in my chest. We’re going to the surface. “You must widen your gaze.”

The lift stops. The doors open. And I am blind.

Behind the glasses, my pupils constrict to adjust to the light. When at last I’m able to open my eyes, I expect to see a massive glowing bulb or a flare, some source to the light. But I see nothing. The light is ambient, from some distant, impossible source. Some human instinct in me knows this power, knows this primal origin of life. The sun. Daylight. My hands tremble and I step with Dancer from the elevator. He does not speak. I doubt I would hear him even if he did.

We stand in a room of strange makings, unlike any I’ve imagined. There is a substance underfoot, hard but neither metal nor rock. Wood. I know it from the HC pictures of Earth. A carpet of a thousand hues spreads over it, soft under my feet. The walls around are of red wood, carved with trees and deer. Soft music plays in the distance. I follow the tune deeper into the room, toward the light.

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