The Writing on the Wall CH14The first thing I did when we were able to dissemble the line was rush to stand by Noni. Her hair and face were as composed as one ought to expect with cosmetic magic, but she was still pale. Shaking as well. I was not one to offer hugs in general, but she was one to take them. I tried not to feel awkward.
"Is it the dark or the closeness?" I asked, not sure of what else to say.
She shook her head and shuddered. "The dark. I know I ought to like it underground, there are so many plants reaching down with their roots, but it's so horribly dark. Could you see your hand in front of you?"
I admitted that I could not.
"Isn't that the worst thing imaginable?"
I attempted a disarming smile and shrugged. "We've both been through worse. What about falling into the sea?"
To my relief, she laughed and hooked arms with me, once again so much herself that I could barely see a shadow of her passing fea
The Writing on the Wall CH13Being lead through the mansion had a different feel every time, depending on the guide. It irked me that Dr Cordet was of such authority that she could lead us to anything more significant than a matchbox.
Where Demetrius had flexed his professional muscles or teased, and Noni had flounced with the air of a starlet, Dr Asclepia Cordet walked with the arrogant confidence of a soldier over a defunct battlefield. The grandmaster had dismissed us all, leaving me in her custody like giving a train passenger a luggage with barely the motion of asking for a ticket. Then he had just gone. Barely a word to his son, the temporary fugitive.
It was not possible to melt to the back of the small crowd as Soterios did, but I could almost choose my company. Noni would have been my first choice, of course, but she latched onto Demetrius without a word, and he dictated his own pace. She still looked saddened and defeated.
Rather than dist
The Writing on the Wall CH12There was not very much to be said on the way back to the Trevino mansion. I thought of a few things I would have liked to say, but it was all nonsense. I wasn't even sure of who I wanted to say it to, only vaguely aware that I was thinking far more than was strictly healthy.
When the driver pulled up in front of the foreboding building, I found myself shrinking away from the window. This was not a fair thing to do, in the crowded backseat, but it was a largely involuntary action.
Soterios gave me a reassuring smile. "It will be all right," he said, with that surety held only by the truly naive.
My door was opened for me. Demetrius held it, a grim parody of a gentleman, still wearing the lingering leftovers of satisfaction. It didn't suit him. "I won't let Dr Cordet trick you again," he said as I stood, testing my feet against the anxiety of the moment.
"Of course you won't," I said, not looking at him. &
The Writing on the Wall CH11I clung to Chrysander, not because I wanted to touch him at all--for any other reason but to strike him, hard--but because we were sitting atop an albatross. Although it was certainly bigger than I had ever believed one to be, it was barely of a size to fit two adult people.
Laughing, he looked down and shouted some kind of cheerful obscenity down through the clouds. Obviously aimed for Demetrius. Then, one arm still curled protectively around me, he reached up and touched the back of his head. "What a charmer you are," he said, as lightly as if we were two nobles chatting in a parlour. "Young men all fall about to aid you. Like a little queen."
I slapped him, and immediately regretted it. Soterios had hit him far harder, but it had knocked out his hold over the elephant construct. There was no way of knowing how well the albatross would hold if I did something to Chrysander at this height.
The Writing on the Wall CH10The thought of going back to that horrible house, by the front gates or otherwise, made me want to pull at my hair and break out in hives. It was not possible to bring about the latter on command, and though I could have managed the former right there in the car, I would have likely thumped Soterios in the back of the head with my knobby elbow. And that would have been a pity.
So there I sat. Sullen as a baby denied a favourite plaything.
Safe from my erstwhile wrath on the opposite side of the backseat, Demetrius contemplated. Occasionally he would sit up straighter and make as if to speak, but then he would glance at me out of the corner of his eye and relax back in the seat.
I knew this because I watched him like a hawk the entire time. Just to unnerve the bugger. It was the least I could do to make him as uncomfortable as I possibly could.
At last, I gave him a break. Rolling my eyes that anyone his appare
The Writing on the Wall CH9Once we hit the main road, everyone's moods improved. The skies were clear, as if the rain of the previous day had been a fluke rather than a sign of summer. I had already given up on my idea of imparting wisdom to Soterios. His life in Zurhykeh had been more useful and well-spent than mine had been. It was embarrassing to realise that for all the time I had spent out of it, I had nothing valid to offer.
He'd tried asking me questions about the city and what was expected of the people who lived there, but I didn't actually know. Not in finite terms that would have meant anything.
It didn't help that he asked absurdly practical things, such as what jobs were generally available or what the cost of living was. Rather than turn to Demetrius or even Noni for help, I slumped my shoulders and said, "I guess I have been a bit spoiled. I attend university."
"What does that mean?"
"It means that her life is paid for by
The Writing on the Wall CH8Everything looked different in the morning. Or rather, I felt less annoyed. That helped my perception a good deal. My first thought was that my back hurt. My second was that someone's arm was in my face.
Then I remembered where we were, and sat up far too quickly. The arm ended up in my lap, and my torso gave me what for. Gingerly holding a hand over my side, I stared blankly at the hand in my lap. It belonged to Demetrius.
I scowled at it and slapped it aside. Unfortunately, this petulant act woke up, and he was sitting up and stretching as if he had already been doing so before I'd even moved.
He mumbled a good morning, smiling like an absolute fool. His eyes were bright in the guttering candlelight. Like tiny blue mirrors. I could actually see myself, tousled and annoyed. "Why were you sleeping next to me?" I asked, not sure why I cared.
A shrug. &