âTheyâre out there now, arenât they? Theyâve gone after the black book. I can feel it.â A small, cruel smile curved her lips. âIs it true that scavengers overrun the city?â
âAh.â It was not so much an acknowledgement, as a purr of satisfaction. âSo I was right. The magic of Pernicus remains strong.â
Keegan eyed her curiously. âIf you wanted the black book, you could have given the dark map directly to the mapmakerâs sons. Yet you brought both the map and the key to me.â
She gave a cool nod. âYes. I did.â
âDoes it matter?â
âIt shouldnât. But I find I have a curious nature.â
âVery well.â Vivienne trailed her hands along the length of her skirts. As she moved, Keegan heard a subtle sound, a vibration that fell somewhere between the tinkling of ice and the chiming of high-pitched bells.
âBlack Book of Pernicus,â she said. âThey will bring it to you. But Umbrey, the one-legged one, he knows too much. He studied too long at the elbow of the Hero Twinâs father. He would never willingly allow the book to fall into my hands. Neither would Marrickâs chosen, that boy king.â She turned, facing him directly. âYou, however, you are reasonable. We understand one another.â
âYes. We do.â Keeganâs gaze narrowed. âAs long as I get what I want from the bargain.â
âOf course. Control of your little kingdoms. You shall have it.â
âAnd you? What will you get?â
Icy brilliance shimmered in her eyes. âEverything else.â
The statement hung in the air between them for a long moment, then she moved toward the chair. âNow that all is in place, I will ensure that nothing goes wrong.â She stroked the crimson bird, then lifted her arm and pointed toward the sky, giving an order in a language Keegan had never before heard.
The bird lifted its enormous wings, pumped them once against the air, and soared off into the sky. Keegan followed its path over the Cursed Souls Sea.
When he turned back, Vivienne was gone. The only sign sheâd been there at all was a single crimson feather, which drifted from the sky and landed on the ground beside his boot.
F LAG S ACRIFICE
continued its steady passage, the helmsman steering cautiously through the Straits of Dire. Within the galley cabin, Tom took up a position at one end of the rough pine table, while Porter stationed himself at the opposite end. The island of Arx had shown itself earlier, giving them a general idea of the direction in which they needed to travel, but now they needed specifics. Exactly how were they supposed to get there?
At Porterâs nod, they brought their fingertips to rest on the edges of the map. The instant Tom touched the parchment, a sharp tingle rushed up his forearms, shooting past his elbows and zinging across his shoulder blades.
Heâd once seen a cat nibble on a live extension cord. Although he could never know exactly how the cat had felt as the electric current had zipped through its nervesâhe had only seen the startled feline arch its back, hiss, and run awayâTom had a strong suspicion that the unpleasant sensation heâd just experienced was exactly the same.
At least this time he didnât feel seasick. The pitch and gentle rolling of the
helped counter that effect. He watched as the sea depicted on the map sprang to life, waves crashing against each other in a whirling, writhing mass of cross currents, riptides, water spouts, and treacherous ocean swells. Just below the turbulent surface of the water Tom caught glimpses of slithering nests of follies, their serpentine bodies twisted together like snakes, schools of thrashing sharks, stinging jellyfish, enormous octopi, and two-headed eels with glistening fangs.
All interesting, but not what he was looking
Roy Street, Alicia Street