Book five of The Order of Shadows is coming very, very soon, and in the meantime I thought I’d share the cover for The Shadow Rises, as well as a sneak-peek of this epic conclusion to The Order of Shadows.
Here’s the first four chapters, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them!
Snowflakes swirled like volcanic ash through the dark evening sky. They looked grey and intricate and as they drifted down in the late November moonlight. It seemed winter had arrived early.
I fastened my coat and blew a warming breath into my hands as I glanced from the slow, frigid lapping waves along the shoreline to the silent, empty dockyard. “Where are you Dauple?” I muttered, wincing as the breeze stirred up another fetid whiff of fermenting seaweed and dead fish.
It had been less than an hour since he’d called, pleading with me urgently to meet him in this forlorn corner of the city. I’d already had important plans but I’d never known him to ask for help, not if it wasn’t truly serious. His voice had been riddled with fear and desperation yet something in the way he’d spoken had almost made each word sound as if he’d been reading it from a script. “What’s the problem?” I’d asked. He’d muttered something about a demon and the phone went dead.
As I stood alone, waiting in the dark along the eerie, desolate beach, I wished I’d taken Samuel up on his offer to come with me.
We’d been planning on meeting Astrid as she left the care of the witches. Then I got the call. Making sure at least one of us was there for her had seemed far more important, and if I could have figured out a way to have been there myself, that one of us would have been me. But at least I’d been able to speak with her for a few moments the night before. It had been great to hear her voice and she’d assured me she’d fully recovered from Stroud’s vicious curse, much to my relief.
A growl issued from the gloom, breaking my thoughts, followed by a clatter like falling tin cans. As I walked toward the din, a starved, mangy dog ran past me and vanished into the murk. A false alarm.
I trusted Dauple implicitly, but something about this situation was beginning to feel very wrong. Like I’d walked into a trap… I shivered and blew another fleetingly warm breath into my hands. A slow wave broke upon the shore and I turned back to regard the old pier where Dauple had told me he’d be. I’d already checked it for signs of him, but there’d been nothing definitive. No bodies, no signs of a struggle, just the slow, relentless lap of the tide and a nagging sense that Dauple had gotten himself into some serious trouble. I pulled my gun and checked the chamber, as if the round might have somehow magically vanished since I’d last looked. It hadn’t, it was locked and loaded, and my sword was still secured under my coat.
So why did I feel so strangely vulnerable?
“Come on, Dauple,” I whispered as I turned back and headed toward the dry dock. As I made my way up the beach, the rusted remains of a fishing boat towered overhead and I took care to avoid the tangled nets strewn among the abandoned anchor and engine parts.
The echoing din came from the vast gloomy structure in the boatyard ahead, and was followed by a rattle of chains, and a voice crying out, its tone high and strained.
I dashed through the narrow path between the rows of dilapidated vessels stowed in the dry dock, moving as silently as I could.
When I’d checked the tall hangar-like structure earlier, it had clearly been locked down for the winter, but I paused as a flash of light came through the high barred windows on one side of the building.
Someone was in there.
I tried to call Dauple but his phone went straight to voicemail.
Something shifted behind me and I spun around, my breath frosting the night air and obscuring my view.
Was someone lurking by the skeletal remains of the old trawler? No, just a trick of the shadows and snowfall.
I turned back to the building and checked the doors. They were still locked. I pulled a crystal from my bag and dissolved the locks to rust. Pushing the door open, I swept my gun to the corners before stepping inside. The place was crammed full of boats, their silhouettes gave the place the air of a maritime graveyard, adding to the already sinister atmosphere.
I glanced up, and followed the voice until it was abruptly cut off.
A gleam flashed in the murk above, like a small pair of flashlights held close together, but it was far too intense to have been powered by any battery. I inched forward, checking the floor for obstacles, my gun held before me. Then I paused as another muffled cry rang out, followed by a groan that very much sounded like Dauple.
Someone whispered, their voice a low, insidious hiss. It put me in mind of… rattlesnakes.
A metal staircase at the end of the hangar led up to a narrow platform that ran around the circumference of the place and there… two silhouettes, one crooked and hunched over, the other tall with fiery glowing eyes…
I swept my gun up but eased my finger away from the trigger. I couldn’t shoot, not without the risk of hitting Dauple. I had to lead Rhymes away from him.
“You’ve kidnapped the mortician, Rhymes? What are you after?” I called, my voice echoing in the emptiness as I glanced back to make sure there weren’t any other agents concealed in the darkness.
“Just you, Morgan,” Rhymes called with a soft hiss. He sounded at ease, happy even, as if he was about to tell me some good news. “Show yourself.”
“No. Not until you let Dauple go.”
“Why would I give him up?” Rhymes asked, his voice almost playful.
“Because he’s one of us.”
“Is that so?” Rhymes asked. His voice was worryingly close, even though he hadn’t moved. “Do you know, I’m not so certain he is. You see there’s been a bit of a shake-up within the Organization. New blood to replace the old after our cull of those who were loyal to compromised elements, like your friend Erland Underwood. And of course rogue agents, such as yourself. You do realize you’re still wanted for the murder of that poor old man, don’t you?”
I kept my silence as I moved through the gloom and ducked behind the ruins of a trawler for cover.
“Why have you gone so quiet, Rook?” Rhymes asked, “Are you trying to sneak up on me?” He laughed. “I’d advise against it if you want to see your friend again.”
Dauple’s scream was unhindered now. “Please…” he cried, and then his voice was cut off.
“I asked you politely, Morgan,” Rhymes called. “Don’t test my patience.”
“Come on down, I’m happy to talk,” I said. I was close enough to the stairway to see the obscured glow of Rhymes’ eyes from below his customary shades and wide-brimmed hat. He chuckled and lifted his glasses to shed some light on Dauple’s bruised and bloodied face.
“Run, Morgan!” Dauple cried. “Go!” Then he whimpered as Rhymes poked a black gloved finger into his throat.
“Hush, you silly little corpse disturber,” Rhymes hissed. As he turned back toward me shadows danced across his face, unaffected by the blazing light of his eyes. He smiled, revealing stark white teeth. “This was fun, but I’m beginning to find myself growing irritable, Morgan. Reveal yourself before I bite off your friend’s hooked nose and force him to eat it.”
I stepped out from behind the trawler and Rhymes reached into his long coat faster than a striking snake, sweeping his revolver my way. With a flash, gunfire roared in the gloom and I heard the bullet’s piercing whine just before it hit me.
I stumbled back into the boat as the round struck my chest. My coat absorbed most of the impact, but it still hurt like hell. Then Rhymes’ gun roared again as I dove behind another boat.
Bright light from a handful of crystals filled the gloom as I consumed their power and fragments of wood flew past my face as another bullet splintered the hull.
I forced myself to slow my breath and focus. In one swift motion I swept around the bow, zeroed in on the light of Rhymes’ eyes and took aim. My bullet clipped his arm. He cried out, dropping his gun. It clanked along the metal landing and fell to the ground with a thud. Rhymes recovered fast and loped toward Dauple who was trying to shuffle away.
“No, no, no,” Rhymes said as he snatched Dauple up, spun him around and stepped behind him, using him as a shield. The light of his eyes lit Dauple’s harried face as Rhymes grinned down at me. “Another shot, Morgan? Go on. Who knows, you might get lucky.”
I shook my head and ran across the hangar, scooping up Rhymes’ gun as I went. I realized my error as the temperature dropped and the world around me darkened far more than it should have. The gloom rumbled and darkness crawled at the edge of my vision. I spun around.
Rhymes loomed, right before my eyes, his teeth blazing in a sick white, psychotic grin. He swept a gloved hand toward me and a flash of silver caught me off guard.
I jumped away as his flick-knife caught the fabric of my coat, causing it to crackle and flash with blue light.
“Ah,” Rhymes said, as he stepped back and tensed to pounce again. “I’ve heard tell of your magical coat. What a wondrous gift!” He removed his sunglasses, dousing me in a blinding glare as he prepared to strike. I fired, but the bullet ricocheted in the distance.
I threw a punch. It connected with cold, taut flesh. Rhymes groaned, and I heard the scuffle of his shoes as he leaped toward me. I clasped my hand over my face, shielding myself from the glow and fired again. This time he cried out and his eyes flickered like bulbs on a faulty circuit. Before I could shoot again, he grabbed my hand and twisted. My gun clattered to the floor. I stumbled back, pulled the sword of intention and held it between us.
Rhymes clasped a hand to his side, his fingers slick with green-grey ichor.
I leaped forward, taking a stab at his heart but he evaded me and seized my wrist. He lunged fast, trying to bite my face. I head-butted him, wriggled free and hobbled out of reach.
Rhymes’ eyes grew brighter. He stared, his gaze loitering at my chest.
A whiff of smoke filled my nostrils. I looked down. The smoldering glow of his eyes was focused, right where my heart was. I brought my blade up flat and gave it a refining twist, reflecting the fiery light right back at him.
Rhymes howled and blundered back. I closed the distance between us and lunged. The sword tore through his chest. He grabbed my hand and held the blade steady. His eyes were dimmer now, and instead of flinching away from his gaze I began to absorb the powers he had hidden within.
Snapshots of his life appeared in my mind…
The squalid apartment in which he’d been brought up, as a stranger in an alien world. The cry of his mother’s voice. She was a bent, broken blinkered woman, and his father a demon, scales and all. I caught glimpses of the abuse Rhymes had endured as a child, spurred by his father’s refusal to accept his half blinkered bloodline. The cruel games, the casual sadism, the beatings so routine and consistent they almost became mundane.
Until the night his demonic father had gone too far and finally broke whatever humanity Rhymes had had left within him. And after the torrent of mad fiery fury had consumed Rhymes’ soul, it had burst forth from his eyes as he’d slaughtered his parents, daubing the walls with their remains.
I broke his gaze as I continued to drain away his powers.
“You’re stealing my essence,” Rhymes said. His eyes flickered again. “How?”
“It’s my new party trick,” I said. “Like it?”
“No one does that,” Rhymes stepped away and retreated to the shadows. “No one.”
“Seems I do,” I said. A flash of sadism surged through me as his eldritch power coursed through my veins, teeming alongside the darkness I’d stolen from Stroud and Talamos Gin. I felt my other shiver. The sensation was exquisite, I almost enjoyed his discomfort as much as the growing terror on Rhymes’ face. And to think, I’d actually feared this demon once, not so long ago.
The gloom began to build around Rhymes. It was a darkness that could not legitimately exist, not in this world. I summoned the magic racing through me and cast it, forming black flames that danced upon my palms, drawing Rhymes’ gaze. “That’s right,” I said. “I’m going to show you some real power.”
The darkness surrounding him drew in, swaddling his form like a blanket. He was about to move, and fast.
I hurled the fireballs.
One raced by his head, roaring into the yawning gloom. The other streamed toward his face. He threw up a hand and screamed as the flames struck his gloved palm and caught the side of his face alight.
He cried out, uttering words of power as he began to fade into the darkness that drew around him, spinning faster and faster, like a whirlwind. It formed a shadowy column, still alight with black flames, as it rose up and settled upon the platform above. Right next to Dauple.
Dauple’s eyes grew wide as he watched the spinning black pillar spit out Rhymes.
He staggered along the platform, as the devil clutched one hand to the wound in his side and fumbled inside his coat with the other.
I ran, taking the stairs two at a time, reaching the platform as Rhymes lurched toward Dauple, knife in hand. Before I could close the gap, he seized Dauple and held the blade to his throat. “Stop, Rook,” Rhymes growled, “stay back.”
“You hurt him, and I’ll eviscerate you and everything you hold dear,” I promised. “Let him go. Now!”
Before I could move, Dauple began to squirm. Rhymes clasped him harder, but Dauple’s hand struck the wound in his side, causing the half-demon to scream with agony. He released Dauple and his pointed white teeth gritted in pain, but as Dauple staggered across the platform, Rhymes brought up the glinting knife clutched in his black gloved fingers.
Before I could move he threw it, and I could only watch as the blade spun around and around, handle to tip, tip to handle in a grim shimmering circle.
It hit Dauple square in the back. He froze before he fell, and gave a strangled gasp that vanished into the gloom.
Rhymes grinned at me as he clutched his wound and shuffled back toward the wall. Then the darkness enveloped him, and then he was gone.
I ran to where Dauple lay, the bloody knife protruding from his back. His hands were sprawled before him, gripping the platform as if it were dear life itself.
“Hold still.” I clasped the hilt and carefully, slowly, drew it out. I examined the blade for inscriptions, runes or hexes. It seemed to be a normal weapon, except for a slight discoloration of the metal, which suggested it could have been tainted with some kind of toxin.
I set the weapon down, pulled back Dauple’s coat and ripped open the hole in his shirt, revealing the wound. My medical knowledge was limited but it seemed clear, by the spasms passing through his body, that his injury was serious. Very serious.
He groaned as I delved into my bag and pulled out a vial of healing water. I poured it over the wound and tried to bandage him up. He cried out as the cloth touched his flesh and his fingers gripped the metal struts. “No good,” he said. He grimaced and turned onto his side before I could stop him. “Poisoned. Maybe Cyamorth. The wound’s mortal.” His teeth were stained with blood as he added, “I’ve seen it before.”
“I’m not going to let this happen…”
Dauple shook then convulsed with such force he flipped onto his back. His eyes grew wide as he stared up at the ceiling. “Not long,” he said.
“I…” I gripped his hand and fought back my tears. Despite his strangeness and grotesquerie, he’d been one of the few people in the Organization who had been loyal. And while he was mildly insane and undeniably odd, he was my friend. I wasn’t going to give up on him.
He was dying. That was as clear as day, and I didn’t have a cure but a thought, a memory, shot through my mind. The dealer from Copperwood Falls, the one I’d pursued into death’s domain. “I saved someone before,” I said. “I can do it again. But… I don’t have any black crystals.”
Dauple gave a bittersweet smile. “I do.”
“Really?” I asked. “You said you were addicted. I thought you’d quit?”
“Yeah. I… carry one to remind myself that I have power over it. That they don’t rule me.”
“Chest pocket. Close to my heart.” Dauple grinned but his eyes were beginning to roll back. He was fading fast.
I reached into my bag and grabbed a handful of crystals and used their energy to cast a protective spell around, in case Rhymes returned. Motes of golden light shimmered in the surrounding air as the shield manifested. It wasn’t perfect, but it would do.
My hands were shaking. I took a slow, deep breath as my prior, nightmarish experience with the black crystals leapt to the forefront of my mind. Forcing my apprehension aside I reached into Dauple’s shirt pocket. He shuddered, coughed and squirmed but I found it; a small leather pouch, bound with an enchantment to seal in the dark magic. Its embroidered inscription read:
RIP 2001 – 2006
Presumably the years he’d lost to his addiction. My fingers tensed as I loosened the knot and reached inside. A jolt of power rushed through me as I brushed against cold, polished stone. Then I pulled it from the bag.
The shard was long and jagged and its blackness shimmered like a trail of coal dust on a moonlit night. A low hum thrummed from the stone; a shattering echo of the suffering that had been inflicted on the poor soul who’s life force had been stolen when the crystal was charged. The resonance of pure, black evil.
The stone pulsed like a living thing as I wrapped my fingers around it and drew in its power. The magic scorched my skin, my blood, and my very cells. I shuddered as it flooded me with malevolent power and my dark other shivered deep within.
“God Damn it!” I cried, as the power from the stone collided with the black magic I’d stolen before, turning everything to darkness.
What had I done? What would I become? I forced the thoughts from my mind as Dauple gave a final gasp, gripped my hand, and slipped away.
The platform faded around us as I gripped Dauple’s lifeless wrist and heavy clouds of darkness whirled in thick plumes of black and gray as the world lost its substance.
I grasped the sword of intention in one hand and willed it to travel with me.
The mist swirled faster and faster and when it broke, we were in a strange, incorporeal limbo. An icy breeze scented by deathly things blew around us. I clutched Dauple’s cold fingers in my hand and as the swirling gloom shifted we passed from our world to another. The mist continued to churn and I caught glimpses of the golden motes of light gleaming along the shield I’d conjured with Rhymes’ power.
Slowly, the fog thinned revealing heavy black stone walls that reached up into the boundless shadows above. As my consciousness settled into this gloomy new place, light from a row of dark candles twinkled from a line of hollows carved into the wall of the corridor. I checked Dauple hoping something, anything, had changed but his eyes were sightless and his body still.
The air grew icier as I stepped out from under the magical shield, and a ripe hollow breeze laced with the scents of carrion, must, and rot wafted past me. Voices whispered along the short corridor and I followed them to a chamber with the statue of a cowled woman surrounded by clouds of green-tinged light.
I’d seen her stony countenance before, as well as the circle of seven swords that were laid upon the ground near her gray feet. As I stooped to examine one, I noticed a short tunnel in the wall and followed it to an immense room filled with corpses. Some lay on stretchers, some on stone plinths, and around them were figures dressed in black silken robes.
Bright blue fire flickered in a nearby brazier. I stepped toward it in the hopes of finding some warmth but my movement drew the gaze of a man attending to the corpse of a shriveled old woman. He was tall and powerfully built and his brow lowered as he moved toward me.
I turned and rushed back to Dauple.
“Who are you?” the man called as he followed, his accent heavy but its origin unfamiliar. “Why are you here?”
“I need help,” I said, and nodded to where Dauple lay, “my friend needs…” The man shoved past me and reached for Dauple but hissed and withdrew amid a burst of golden light as he struck the shield.
“What is this?” the man demanded. He drew a sword he’d had been concealed beneath his robes. “Remove the spell, he must be anointed.”
“Are you denying us our duty and purpose?”
“He doesn’t belong here,” I said, “not yet at least. He has to come back with me.”
The man shook his head. “Return to where you came from. Now, while you still can.”
“I’m not leaving him here, he’s not ready.”
“You’re dictating the laws that govern mortality now, are you?” The man raised his blade. “Go back. This is your last chance.”
“No.” I pulled the sword of intention. “Not until you help me wake him.”
The man’s eyes glinted as he examined me closer. “You’re the one, are you not? I’ve heard tell of you.” He reached for the disc of bone suspended on the silver chain around his neck and rubbed its center.
The circle of swords that surrounded the statue glowed and the air in the chamber flickered as an ethereal figure slowly materialized in its midst.
I saw the raven black hair and I knew it was her, the priestess I’d encountered the first time I’d come to this place. Her eyes narrowed as they focused on me and she hissed as she stepped from the circle. “You’ve returned,” she said as she pulled a sword from the sheath by her side, “that was a grave mistake.”
“It wasn’t like I had a choice,” I said, doing my best to appear unfazed as I gestured to Dauple. “He needs help, this is not his time.”
“That’s not for you to decide, otherworlder,” She nodded to the man and they raised their swords.
I brought my own up and stepped toward her. “We’ve danced this one before. I’m happy to do it again if we must, but I’ll hurt you. You and anyone else with ill intent toward my friend. But if you heal him, we’ll leave in peace.”
“We are not healers.” the woman said, her words filled with scorn. “We merely attend to the dead, and that man,” her eyes flitted to Dauple, “is dead. He belongs here.”
“That’s not true,” I said. “I left here with someone before, you remember?”
“No. You abducted him against his will and escaped, but you won’t manage it again.” She nodded to the man beside her and he traced a finger around the disc of bone at his neck. The air shimmered above the circle of swords and another robed figure emerged, a lean and well armed man. As he stepped forward, another man emerged and then a woman, and soon the corridor was blocked.
I held my head high, conveying a confidence I didn’t feel.
One of the men, gaunt and elderly, approached Dauple. He reached for him but withdrew his bony hand as the shield shimmered and singed his fingers. I’d used almost all the magic I’d had casting the spell; it was still holding, but it would only last so long.
I took a defensive step back as a slight priestess with bright eyes thrust her blade at me and tried to twist the sword from my hands. I tightened my grip on the hilt and took a step forward, disarming her then gripping her by the throat. I gazed over her shoulder toward the woman with raven hair. She watched keenly, her eyes unreadable.
“I’ll kill her.” I said, “along with the rest of you, I promise. You’re priests, not warriors. That’s plain enough to see.”
“You know nothing of us,” the woman with the raven hair said. She strode forward and swung her sword, forcing me to meet it. I released my hostage as I deflected the blow. Sparks flew from our locked blades and the dark priestess stared me down.
I stepped away, breaking eye contact. “That’s not true,” I said, “I know at least one thing about you.”
“That you’re looking for my father. When we first met you told me he’d cheated you.”
“He cheated our master.”
“And you want to find him.” I said.
“We will find him. Just as we’d have found you, given time.”
I lowered my sword and offered my other hand. “Morgan Rook.”
“I know who you are.” She gave my hand a dismissive glance.
“And you are?” I asked, doing my best to seem at ease with the throng of deathly priests surrounding me.
“Temperance, not that my name is any concern of yours. Now, my brother offered you a chance to leave, and you refused it, which means you will remain within our domain.”
“Not without a fight,” I said, “and judging by your attempts to subdue me so far, I’m guessing combat isn’t your strong point.”
“Don’t be so certain,” Temperance said. “You’ve invaded a sacred space, and this violation will not go unpunished.”
“Of course not, but there are many ways to repent.” I said, noting the whisper of their robes as they surged toward me. I held my sword out, glad for the crackle of fire fizzling around its silver blade. “Let’s think about this, before things get bloody and painful. You’d rather take this man, who has done nothing to you,” I gestured to Dauple, “as well as myself, instead of Rowan Stroud, the man who cheated your master. Is that right?”
Temperance held up a hand and brought the other priests to a halt. “We’ll get Stroud eventually, and in the meantime we’ll have his son.”
“Eventually? Don’t be so sure. Are you aware he’s a shade?” I said, “A phantom caught between life and death. I expect he can remain in that state for as long as he chooses and there’s nothing you can do about it, or you’d have done so already. Why wait around with your hands tied when I can deliver him directly to you?”
Her gaze continued to bore into mine, but her sword lowered. “Where is he?”
“Right now? I’m not entirely certain. But I’m on his trail and I’ll find him quicker if you don’t hold me up. So what will it be? Would your master prefer two mediocre corpses, or Rowan Stroud?”
“If it came down to a choice, he’d want Stroud. But how can you possibly deliver him to us?”
“I intend to kill him.”
“Why should I believe you? You stole from us before and fled like a thief in the night.”
“True,” I said, “but I keep to my word.”
“If we agree to your terms, you’ll deliver Stroud, with no games or trickery?” Temperance asked. “On your life?”
I could see her naked ambition and the urgent need to serve and please her master. I could have used it to my advantage and lied, but I didn’t. “Yes, but I’ll be honest, I don’t know how long it will take. I could find him tomorrow, or it could be in years to come. But I will find him. Or perhaps he’ll find me; after all, I have something he wants.”
“The other within you,” Temperance said, and as I saw the flicker of apprehension in her eyes, I realized he was probably the only reason I was still alive.
“Exactly.” I sheathed my sword. “Now let’s make our deal, heal my friend and let him leave with me and I’ll-”
“Him?” Temperance bared her fangs. “He’s dead. He belongs here.”
“No, I’m taking him back, he belongs in the blinkered world with me. Restore his life, there’s more than enough power within these blackened walls to get it done.”
She stared at me for a moment, before giving a slight nod. “Very well, but you must remove the shield.”
“Sure.” I hid my relief. The spell fueling the shield was moments away from collapsing anyway. I made a show of sweeping a hand over it and withdrawing the magic. Then the air twinkled with golden light, as it melted away.
Temperance inspected the wound in Dauple’s back, placed her fingers over it, and began to hum in a low, off-key tone. The other priests and priestesses’ joined her, filling the passage with a sedate, ominous chorus that shifted from discordant to deeply melodic. It was the sound of angels and second chances. The mysterious rhythm of life welling up and blooming. A sacred song I should never have witnessed, but was glad to the deepest depths of my heart that I had. Slowly, it swelled and built into a crescendo that was so raw and beautiful that it brought tears to my eyes and I let them fall.
I watched in silence as Dauple’s flesh knitted itself together and soon the wound was sealed. Temperance turned him onto his back, and leaned over to kiss each of his eyes, before placing a hand upon his chest.
Dauple coughed and grimaced, gritting his blood-stained teeth. His eyes opened, and he stared at the ceiling with a grave look. And then he gazed from Temperance to me. “What…”
“Everything’s okay,” I said. “Just stay still.”
Temperance’s fangs protruded from her lips as she turned my way. “Take him back with you and don’t let us down. Because if you do, I’ll destroy the spirits of those you’ve loved the moment they appear before me.”
I nodded as I took Dauple’s hand and using the last of the black crystal’s power, willed us to pass out from the charnel realm back to the blinkered world. The stones blurred and ran like ink as Temperance’s eyes locked onto mine. And then they vanished amid billowing columns of smoke as we passed into the terrible limbo between places.
“Where are we?” Dauple asked.
“Nowhere.” I gripped his hand and focused my thoughts on the shipyard. The air wavered and the last of the morbid scents disappeared as we found ourselves kneeling upon the platform once more. Dauple breathed deeply and took a moment to gaze around before turning to me. “I was dead wasn’t I? Right here. And you saved me.” His eyes glinted with tears.
“Never mind that.” I clapped his shoulder. “Just get yourself out of the city. Find somewhere safe to go to, somewhere no one knows. Okay?”
“Okay.” Dauple gave me a weak, yet almost beatific smile, as he added, “I’ve been meaning to visit my brother for a while now.”
Brother? There was two of them… I suppressed a shiver. “I didn’t know you had a brother.”
“Yes, Alfred. He lives in the north. Not too far from the city, but far enough not to be noticed.”
“Good. Go there, keep your head down and tell Bastion to do the same, if you haven’t already.”
Dauple gave me a curious look. “Bastion’s gone, Morgan.”
“What do you mean gone?”
“They were going to fire him. Humble sent Osbert and a pair of mercenaries to bring him in. I warned Bastion, told him to flee. He left at once, along with Madhav.”
“Good,” I said, “although I really need to restock, and sooner rather than later.”
“Snarksmuth’s taken over the armory now.”
“Has he?” I reached into my bag for my remaining crystal and soaked up its power. “I can deal with that little shit, you just get out of here, okay?”
“I will. But where are you going?”
“I’m going hunting. For Rhymes, Stroud, Lampton. Every last one of them.”