“Fair’s fair,” Kaire told him. “Like it or not, I told you what I know. Now it’s your turn. Where’s Athellus?”

Dax tried to bring his thoughts back to the question, back to the man he had hallucinated about in Ouroboros – Kaire’s partner. He firmly put aside the fact that he was taking a migraine-vision to be fact. If the city was real, he saw no reason why this should not be too. And when it came down to it, really, they had nothing to lose by following it.

“When I saw him, it looked like someone had beaten the crap out of him. They’d tied his hands with a belt…”

She swept a hand impatiently, almost the same gesture she had used to kill the Earthborn. “Just tell me where.”

He could almost see that horrible scene again, the look in the man’s eyes – and the scene behind him. Yes. “I saw a signpost. It was messed up but the end of it said ‘ –enus Street’. Does that mean anything to you?”

Kaire stared intensely at the ground – he could almost see her mind working. “Lailenus Street. It must be. It’d be on their patrol route, but…”

She got to her feet. “Come on. I know a way we can cut them off.”

“ ‘We’?” Dax asked, startled.

“Yes, ‘we’.” She was closing the backpack and pulling it onto her shoulder. “I’m going to need your help.”

“But – “

Kaire offered a hand. “Unless you’d rather just stay here?”

Dax swallowed at the thought. “Not a chance.” He slapped his hand into Kaire’s and she pulled him up.

As he dusted himself off, she tucked her hair behind her ears and rubbed the last drop of blood off her wrist. “We’ll have to hurry. Lailenus Street is a hike. You okay to travel?”

Dax nodded, with enthusiasm. Despite the beating he had taken and the pain in his head, he actually felt surprisingly good – no longer shaky and cold as he had before. “Yeah. I’m fine. I – well, there’s something I meant to ask you.“

“What?”

“This city, this place…I mean, just where are we?”

In answer, Kaire reached round to a side pocket of the backpack and brought out a torch, passing it to him. When he turned it on, it was surprisingly bright in the gloom; a bright blue-white beam, lighting up the cracked walls and empty windows, running down the avenue almost as far as the eye could see. At one time this had clearly been a main thoroughfare, with archways standing over it, the road wide enough for a procession. It was all crumbling now, unstable, destroyed. But somewhere in the distance there were buildings that had survived; Dax could see them, almost invisible but tangible, far away, lights blinking at the pinnacles as if to warn passing aircraft.

“This is it,” Kaire told him. When she turned to speak to him, Dax saw with a jolt that her eyes were now glowing very faintly in the dark, like dim pale phosphorus. “This is the city-state and municipality of Nones.”

 

 

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