The fountain sat at the bottom of the valley, not too far from the temple of Avelot—barely a stone’s throw from their temple of Eponine. Shay dragged his feet after Lonan, but bounced the bucket between his knees with the ease only a young boy and diligent rock-climber could manage.
After the first pirate attack there were the humiliating murmurs, the way Neils would gently separate them after that. He’s meant for Cypress, people tried to explain to Lonan. Then Xan got the seashell tattoo, pearl-white on his chest.
Just then the windchimes banged together and Lonan appeared with a gull feather tucked behind his ear. He broke in between the three of them, hoisting Meredy and Merle up like cats by the scruff.
Xan turned and watched him until he misstepped, overturning the driftwood and tripping into the sand. “If that’s what you want,” he said.
As Xan ducked away to unstick the candle, Lonan heard a creak from the old table. He bit his cheek. He was sure the Acolytes saw past the space Xan had occupied to the child in the house. With their hoods raised against the cold, Lonan couldn’t tell where they were looking.
In the pale wash of the cracked window, his clipped hair shone almost white. He’d changed since he and Lonan had been bathed together and scolded together—he was built like a swordswoman’s son now. His mother’s spitting image.
The flutist stood at the railing of the ship, playing a cheery jig over it all. The song died when Lonan skidded to the water’s edge. He looked Lonan up and down.
The pirates still in the street—excluding the man who’d taken the swords, with the blacksmith and the Rune-reader dead at his feet—bristled towards the newcomers. One of them seized Lonan by the upper arms and hauled him against the wall with everyone else.
Everyone had abandoned the street by the time Lonan returned to it. Doors still hung open. All the people were turned out of their houses, and continents of pottery shards were scattered outside Serafina Fiamma. There was no fire this time, no scorched feathers.
A thin lump protruded from beneath a glued sheet over the book’s inside cover. Feeling his nails around the edges, Cyprus peeled the paper away from the leather.