"Look,” Athellus said, feeling his headache coming back, “putting that aside, the fact that he was having these dreams at all makes me nervous. I know they led you to me, and believe me I’m grateful for that, but he says he dreamed about the Zodiac Engines too. That’s not good. This – it feels a lot like interference, like someone’s trying to mess with our mission somehow.”

“And you think they might be using Dax to do it?”

“Maybe. All the more reason to get him out of harm’s way. The man saved my life, Kaire, I owe him more than a stray bullet or an Earthborn’s jaws.”

Kaire thought it over and finally nodded. “I suppose we’ve paid our debts to each other. I… maybe you’ve got a point. We need to finish our mission.”

“Yeah. Hopefully we can avoid any more Evinthei interference.”

“Well, there’s some wishful thinking...”

Athellus grinned at her. “Getting scared? Want to abort and Gate out somewhere nice and safe?”

Kaire took a playful swing at him. “That’d mean you running along with me. And I’ve never seen you run away.”

“No.” Thoughtfully, Athellus reached under his jacket to the scabbard strapped to his chest and pulled out his knife, turning it over in his hands before holding it up. “We swore oaths to each other on this once.”

The light glinting off the blade was reflected as points in Kaire’s eyes. “I remember.” She held out a hand. “So let’s do this.”

Shoving the knife back into the scabbard, Athellus got to his feet and helped her up. “You’re on, partner.”


* * *


Dax had already woken and started putting breakfast together, both to keep himself busy and to avoid eavesdropping at the bottom of the iron staircase. He sensed it would be much harder to get away with it in daylight. Besides, after what he had heard last time, he wasn’t sure he wanted to know what they were talking about.

When he was finished he pulled one of the heavy cathedral doors open; not far, just enough to get some fresh air into the Chapel. Outside, it was clouding over, with the breeze smelling cool and clear after the rain. Dax leaned against the door and breathed it in, enjoying the way it felt in the back of his throat, closing his eyes. He had a feeling Kaire and Athellus were going to have something to say when they finally came down, and he had to try and put forth his plan in a way they would understand, but for now that worry had gone.

I thought I was going to die right then and there on Lailenus Street. True, I’m not exactly sprinting away from the grave as it is… but there’s something about going toe-to-toe with danger that makes you appreciate being able to take the time out to just breathe and think, and smell the roses.

He opened his eyes and thought he saw something, out across the street. In the shadows of one of the buildings there seemed to be something…something darker than the shadows, something very large. It could either be crouching or lurking, but Dax didn’t think so. He had a feeling that whatever was watching him had tucked itself down like a cat, enjoying the show immensely.

I’ve never liked humans at the best of times… especially those who don’t know their rightful place…

That had been part of a dream, hadn’t it? One of the dreams he’d had about Nones, but somehow changed and more intense. There had been a word along with it, some long word he couldn’t quite bring to mind.

Dax rubbed at his eyes, then took a closer look at the shadow and saw it for what it actually was. He had to smile: it looked like the building had once been someone’s home, and when the attack had come, a large sofa had fallen through the roof and lodged at an angle, creating a tucked-down animal shape.

All those stories Athellus was telling you – war machines, battles, monsters – I guess they’ve finally got to you, eh, Dax? In a ruined city full of darkness, you’re spooked by an old sofa.

That’s if it was a sofa when I first saw it. If something else wasn’t using it for camouflage.

No longer smiling, Dax went back into the Chapel. It was still stuffy in there, but he decided he could live with it.



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