Chapter 17

Drake said kindly, “We have swords, thank you.”

“That’s reassuring,” he returned just as kindly.  “Okay, what do you want from me?”

Jay sat down on the white rock bench, and one of the dragons walked up and looked over the back as if it intended to keep an eye on him. It made a snuffling noise. He tried to ignore it. Marek, sitting over by a column and paying no attention to the dragon at all, said, “You’re here because we need a Lombardo. It’s not based on quality.”

She shook her head. Marek didn’t flinch but at least he shut up.

“This place,” she told him, “the world and the moon, are six companies bound together. We were an open world market, many worlds, many peoples, then a thousand years ago something happened and the power we had before no longer worked. Viridium powered flight. Now it burns like soft wood. The passages do not open, the cities fell into ruin, and we took what we could and live with it.”

It was the description of an apocalypse. Energy itself no longer working the way it should made it kind of an unusual one, not that he had any experience with apocalypses. He could see the connection now though.

“You think Kenley Dirac can turn the lights back on. Right?”

She got quiet. “Yes,” she said finally, “but there is another problem.”

The fire in the bowl whined, a sound more like a little motor than burning wood, and it was the only motor they apparently had. Tired and blank, Jay sat there and listened to it and waited for her to explain about another problem. She still hadn’t explained what he was supposed to do about the first problem.

She turned her attention away from him, looking directly at Fiona now.

“One of the companies, Pirene, seems to have discovered a way out. We don’t know how, and it leads only to your world and back, and they might have only one. Somehow they discovered what Kenley and Luca could do, and they want it. They went through the thing they have and brought her to Pirene to force her to tell them how to open all the doors, but for them only. She would not. They took her eyes.”

Jay sat on the white stone bench and looked through the fire and was struck down into horrified silence.

Fiona said it for him. “Nothing they could do to her would force her to give them one single thing she wanted to keep. She’s dying anyway.”

“This is nothing new,” Drake told them. “It is what they are and have been. With what Kenley and Luca can create though we can build a thousand passages into Pirene, and we can destroy it from within. Ten years ago we tried to stop them without power, with the useless swords you want to offer. We couldn’t. We’re still fighting, but now we have a chance to win.”

“Atropos is still fighting,” Marek said, hard voiced. “We’re surviving, and losing.”

He stood up.  “Pirene is searching for Kenley. We took her from them. If they find her again, and find her here, they’ll take her back and kill everyone else.”

Marek looked down at him. “Kenley says there is another Lombardo here, and Vaun has heard that he has something you don’t – he can come and go through the arches, go where he wants and stay as long as he wants. No one else can do that.  Evidently he doesn’t want to be found or he doesn’t realize we’re looking for him – I don’t believe that.  Luca and Kenley are searching for him and want you to follow. I’ve never met a Lombardo, none of us here have until now. It’ll be interesting to see what you choose to do.”

Another Lombardo.

Across the pavilion, Fiona stood up. She stabbed him with a glare. She was absolutely silent. She didn’t need to be anything else but absolutely silent. There could be only one other Lombardo running around here – the one that Kenley Dirac had somehow let out the door.

Gabe.

Jay looked away. The land rolled up and up into the dark sky and the great moon and the strange lights hanging in the black air.

Not going to work Jaegar Lombardo, he told himself morosely. There was only one person in his long family line who would walk away, and he’d spent his life trying not to turn into him. That one.

He was going to have to hunt for Gabe.

He stood up, back to the moon, in possession of no plan at all to try to catch the cat that Kenley let out the door. Maybe if he put out some cat food…

Fiona calmly came up and draped her right arm over his left shoulder and shoved him and tightened her grip. It took him a couple of seconds to realize that this was the equivalent of that kiss at the lake – she was making a statement. The two of them were together. Nobody was going to leave her behind.

“Jay and I work together,” she informed them at large. “We know who they’re looking for, and we will find all of them. I’ll want food, clothing, maps, and any information about a place named Twelfth Street.”

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