Old sacks were piled in the corners of the tower, along with stacks of planks and splintery wooden boxes. The smell of dust and rain was almost palpable. Overhead, ropes hung down from the ancient iron bell, indistinct in the rafters. Athellus had never heard that cracked bell ring, but now he thought he could hear the faintest possible sound, a vibration emanating from it. The motes of dust on the planks of the floor, the curve of the iron rail under his hand as he climbed, seemed to be reverberating to some unheard song. The shadows of the room seemed oddly deep and sharp, sinister and strange despite the pale rose-yellow light outside.

Kaire was kneeling by the open archway, her hair white as bone and her eyes tightly shut. Her presence was filling the room.

She had not left the bell tower since going up there, and Athellus doubted she had eaten or slept. She was deeply in contact with the Greater Powers and was completely focused on strengthening her mind, even beyond its already considerable force, completely attuned to –

Without opening her eyes, Kaire said: “If your legs are still shaky you could break your neck on those stairs.”

Athellus clambered up into the tower and came to sit next to her. Now she looked at him, candidly, with those dark indigo eyes. “I finished about an hour ago.” She put a cool hand on his forehead as if to test his temperature. “You look better. How long has it been?”

“Three days.”

“That’s a good number.” She stretched like a cat. “I’m hungry. Have you and Dax eaten breakfast yet?”

“No.” He caught her arm before she got to her feet. “Actually, before you go downstairs I want to talk to you. About him.”

“Why? Is something wrong?”

“You need to send him home. Back to London.”

Kaire frowned, then shook her head a little. “I thought we’d already discussed this.”

Athellus knew he needed to explain this properly to her, to explain the idea he had formulated over the past few days, ever since mentioning it to Dax. “I’ve had a chance to speak to him, about the city, about himself a little. And…I like him, Kaire. He’s got guts. He’s a complete stranger, and he was alone, but he picked up a weapon and he went along with you to rescue someone he’s never met. I’ve got a lot of time for someone like that. But he can’t stay here. He’s an outsider, he’s naïve…Ember’s blood, you know what this city does to people, especially good people. We’re practically in a war zone. I know you want to help, and the best thing would be for him to go back where he came from.”

Kaire folded her arms. “You say he rescued a stranger – he didn’t. He had dreams about Nones. He had dreams about us, ‘Thel! You and me! Don’t you think that’s a little strange, that he has all these visions and then ends up here?”

She gave him a so-contradict-me look, which Athellus glumly recognised. He and Kaire had been partners for years and they usually meshed as well as two puzzle pieces, but on the subject of destiny they would never agree. Athellus claimed that fate was an idea that insulted people’s ingenuity and was just a convenient scapegoat when things went wrong. Kaire argued that events often followed a pattern that couldn’t be ignored, and it was obvious when you looked back over history that there was some form of guiding force.

Athellus retorted that of course history had a pattern with hindsight, because it was easy then to see how individual decisions had affected each other, but the idea that people were just chess pieces in the Big Game was insulting. Kaire countered that she wasn’t contesting free will, only that free will could act as a function of –

 

 

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