Beyond the great blue expanse, the coast of Avalon sat like a circlet atop the waves. It was so far away already Cyprus couldn’t make out any buildings, only the greenish ups and downs of hills. “There she goes,” Kaz said cheerfully, noting the change in Cyprus’s expression.
A goat screamed above. The smell of blood and urine rolled down the stairs. Cyprus and Shay clung to the net and each other, shaking.
Soon, echoes began to shush their footsteps and salty humidity began to coat their tongues. The ground became slippery. Orlaith emerged first beneath an outcropping sharp as canine teeth, set into the side of a plunging cliff. The rock met the sea in a short band of pebbles and pink sand.
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.
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.