Dax turned and looked over his shoulder. Athellus was sitting upright on the bed, the blanket pulled around his shoulders, watching him. There were dark circles under his eyes, but he looked much more alert than he had last night.

“They’re sad, aren’t they?” he said again, his voice quiet but audible over the rain. “The statues, I mean.”

Dax pointed a shaky thumb towards them. “Those…they’re – they look too detailed to be statues.”

“Well spotted.”

“But then –“

“Their names were Merriad and Roscher,” Athellus told him, “and don’t panic, they’re not going to come back to life just because you’re standing there.”

Dax’s reply was muffled by the hands over his face. “I hate this place. I hate it. Everything here’s just designed to scare the shit out of me –

“Watch it,” Athellus cut in, with a tired grin. “You’re talking about my home town.”

Dax drew his hands down. “Well, no offence, but you don’t seem to be too popular around here.”

Athellus nodded, ruefully, then looked up at him again. “I didn’t get a chance to say a proper thank you last night for what you did.” He offered a hand. “Athellus Marc Borden.”

Dax returned the handshake. “Any time. And I’m Dax. Dax West.”

“Where are you from?”

He found it oddly hard to settle on an answer to that one. He’d come from another world. What should he say? Finally he just shrugged and replied: “London.”

Athellus leaned back, looking thoughtful. “City on the river Thames, isn’t that right? It’s got a Tube network?”

Astonished, Dax stared at him. “Yes! Yes, that’s it! How – how do you know that?”

"I’ve been there. Would have been…a few years ago.”

Dax sat back on the edge of his bed. “How could you have gone to London?”

“I Gated there.” He must have seen Dax’s blank expression. “Gating is how you usually travel between worlds. You use the ambient Gating energy in wherever you are and you – just go. There’s a knack to it.”

Dax let out a shaky laugh. “I’d never have imagined hearing someone describe travelling between worlds as a ‘knack’.”

“Well, it’s like any other talent. You have to learn, and it takes practice afterwards. I can do it, but it takes a lot out of me. Kaire can do it as easily as stepping through a door.”

“Really.” A thought occurred. "Did you ever go to a club called Ouroboros while you were in London?"

"I could have done. I don't remember. That time's a bit of a blur. Why do you ask?"

"No reason." Dax glanced up, towards the bell tower. “That partner of yours…she’s – um -“

Athellus pulled the blanket around his shoulders. “About two doors down from the mental ward?”

Dax flushed. “I wasn’t going to –“

“It’s okay,” Athellus laughed. “She’d probably admit as much if you said that to her.” He added quickly: “Don’t, though.”

“I won’t.” Dax thought of the way she had grabbed his throat when they had first met. He didn’t doubt that if she had actually thought he had hurt Athellus, he’d be a smear on the wall. “Athellus…what is she? She said she isn’t human, but she looks human – well, sort of, apart from her hair and her face, and when she’s fighting…”

Athellus laughed again, silently. “All you need to know is that Kaire is a good person unless you upset her or get in her way.”

“I've... got that impression. At least, I've seen what happens when people upset her.”

“She’s banru, like me,” Athellus told him. He nodded towards the statues under the stained glass window. “Like them.”

Dax scratched at the back of his neck. “That would be helpful if I knew what the word meant."

 

 

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