“I swear I didn’t mean it,” Morgani said to Xaxac as they huddled around the fire in the cave, “I didn’t mean to do this… I didn’t know it would fall.”
“Yeah,” Xaxac said, “I mean… you did fuck that up about as bad as anybody could fuck up a thing.”
“I can’t stay here,” Morgani said, “He’s still out there. He’s looking for me. He’ll find you, and… I don’t know what’ll happen then.”
He stared into the fire, and Xaxac thought his eyes were less offputting once you got used to them.
“I got the rest of them,” Morgani said, “Thesis is the only one left. It’s too much… I can’t… I need to find the draken. They’re the only ones who can help me now.”
“Who?” Xaxac asked, and looked around the room at the others, finally fed and asleep. He was alone now, but Quizlivan had always been good with people, and he trusted the strange man they had found stumbling in the snow. He was lost; he was cold; and he had shared everything he had.
“But she’s gone,” Morgani said, “She… I… I’ve never… never felt like that before… I just… I wanted…”
He began to cry, and Quizlivan wrapped an arm around him and pulled him towards him, pulled him to his chest.
“Hey,” he said, “It’s ok. Everything’s ok. I mean, not ok, but like… listen. We’re alive. And as long as you’re alive, there’s hope, right? We… we gotta believe that. Because it’s gettin rough out there.”
“I’ll always be alive,” Morgani said, “Nothing ever… I don’t… Quizzy I’m sorry. I swear I was trying to save you.”
“I don’t know anybody could predict the moon would fall,” Xaxac said.
“I just… we… we aren’t supposed to be here,” Morgani explained, “This isn’t our world. It’s yours. They put us here. But… I’ll leave. In the morning I’ll leave. I have to go somewhere he won’t find me, but… he can see me. He can always see me. We aren’t supposed to be here.”
“If he kept you locked up,” Quizlivan said, “I can see why you left. You can’t keep people locked up like that. Especially for no reason. Look… it’s cold, and everything is dying. But winter will pass. And you’re free. Hey, look at me,” he pulled Morgani away, just a little, to stare into those colorless orbs that seemed to absorb the world around him, “You’re among friends here. We look out for each other.”
“As long as Thesis goes free,” Morgani explained, “he can activate the demmigorge. And… I have to stop him. If he does that, more will come. A legion will descend upon us. He may have already…”
“Nobody’s showed up,” Quizlivan reasoned, pulled Morgan back to his side and continued, “He’s looking for you?”
“He won’t rest until he finds me, not now,” Morgani said, “I tried to find him, after the crash. But I couldn’t. So now I know I’m being hunted.”
“What’d you do with the rest of them?” Quizlivan asked.
“I trapped them,” Morgani explained, pulled away a little and dug around in his bag. Then he began to pull out objects, which he set on the ground before the fire.
A shimmering green ceremonial sword.
A long red mage staff.
A white medallion on a gold chain.
And a blue cup.
They were all made of the same material, like the moon that had fallen.
Xaxac took the cup, inset with beautiful sparkling crystals, and studied it.
“Xaxac,” Lapus said, and Xac looked up from the cup to see the beach stretching before him, and turned to look at the ocean stretching infinitely into the horizon. The sky was on fire, so he looked up and saw the moon, frozen as it had been when it had hit the firmament.
Nothing in the world moved.
“Please,” Lapus begged, “Help me! I can give you anything! You just have to find it.”
“I… I don’t think you can,” Xaxac said, “I don’t want anything.”
“Anything,” Lapus implored.
“I want my family,” Xaxac said, looked at the cup with its beautifully polished surface and its sparkling jewels. He could see himself reflected there, and he was himself again.
So he held out his hand and dropped the cup into the still water.
Xaxac opened his eyes and stared up at the sixty flowers on the ceiling.
It was still dark outside, but he could hear Lee moving around in the next room, and knew that dawn would come soon, and then they would be leaving.
They were going back to Basilglen.
He was getting out of the house.
He was going to think about that, not about all the people who were still missing.
He crawled under the blanket completely and cuddled into Agalon’s side before he had what he thought was an ingenious idea and slid down even further to position himself between his legs.
Agalon was going to wake up in a good mood, and maybe it would carry them through the day.
The morning went fairly well, and Xaxac had been right. Agalon had been in a great mood, and he was fairly sure he was the cause of it. He was beginning to acquire the skills Alex had said he would, was beginning to judge Agalon’s moods and plan accordingly. Agalon loved his son, and he had the potential to be upset until he received news that he had arrived safely at school, so for everyone’s sake, Xaxac had to work extra hard. It was the primary job of a pleasure slave to keep the master happy.
Xac kept the smile on his face even as his mood fell. When they went downstairs to address the house staff before their departure, there were still people missing.
But there wouldn’t be any answers, at least not until they could get back, maybe not until he could talk to Jimmy again. Maybe not ever.
Maybe his mother had been reassigned. That happened sometimes, people who got too old to do a particular job were moved to a new one. There were older women, like Hattie May, who watched the babies too young to work. Maybe his mother had been reassigned.
Maybe Alley had gotten too sick to work and had to take off until it passed. That was rare, and it had to be hidden, but he had heard of it, heard tell of people who had spent as long as a week on bedrest, getting other people to cover for them, but he had never seen it done in the house. Didn’t pregnancy make people prone to illness? He seemed to remember hearing that. If that was what had happened, it would explain why Jimmy had been so upset. If his wife was sick and he couldn’t go to her he had a right to cry.
Agalon turned as the doormen opened the door for him, and Xaxac hastily grabbed his arm to snuggled into his side.
He didn’t expect the sight that greeted him.
There was a soldier standing by the carriage, not the one that had been in the house before, but he wore the same uniform and Xaxac expected he did the same job, keeping the law. The vet stood with him, looking ecstatic, but Xaxac wasn’t particularly interested in the elves. His attention was on the humans.
The fighters were lined up in two rows behind the carriage, each wearing a heavy metal shackle around their neck, through which was woven a metal chain, attaching them to each other and to the carriage. They looked up at Agalon as he approached, but none of them said anything.
Xaxac released Agalon’s arm with one hand, without thinking about it, and ran his palm against the brand on the back of his neck.
“Welcome, Aymar!” Agalon said to the soldier, who fisted one hand over his heart and the other in the small of his back, bowed, then stood to his full height.
“It’s an honor to work for you, Your Grace,” the man said, “Are we still picking up Omylia at the Leohorn estate?”
“That’s the plan,” Agalon said with a smile, “It’s an easy gig. We don’t normally have no trouble. Thieves tend to stay out the way. But… you can’t never be too careful.”
“Absolutely right, sir,” Lee said.
Xaxac stared at the dark metal chain and wondered how strong it was. It took so long to get to Basilglen. Surely they weren’t going to be walking the entire time? Their bodies were Agalon’s bet, the thing he needed to win the contest they were going to. Wouldn’t he want them to be well rested? The chain and the collars looked heavy.
“Well, we might as well get on the road,” Agalon said chipperly.
Lee held open the door and Agalon motioned for the vet to enter, then followed after him. Xaxac watched the soldier climb onto the box at the back of the carriage.
He watched Billy watching him as he took Agalon’s outstretched hand and stepped into the carriage with the elves.