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.
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.
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.
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 runners bolted at the signal. Their feet pounded the rock, all Serafina’s teenagers galloping through the crevasses. Jeanie with the leg she’d broken summers ago lagged, but her torch was the first to find kindling. The long fronds of a fescue patch ignited.
Cyprus touched the remnants of the decal. He could make out very faint impressions of white trees, their leafless branches enclosing blue-green globes. Silver-dabbed snakes cradled them, eyes set from trimmed malachite.
He jogged down the trail to the temple, ignoring the windows of the apothecary shop. The grove was shaken clean to its bones from winter. When Lonan knocked on the door, all the birds inside—crows, seagulls, martins, finches, and swallows—exploded into a ruckus. Wind-catchers clacked wooden music on either side of his head.
Gilliana sat herself down by the fire, mottled brown robes bagging around her. The cage clanked to the floor. She handed him a warm, slightly muddy seagull egg from a brass bowl and pillowed the martin in her lap.
Shay crouched down next to the small fire, mesmerized by feeding wood inside and watching it be eaten at. He showed no sign of moving.