12: The Fogs of Agnoia
Where it came from, Astrid did not know, but the word spoke direct to her thoughts: Run.
So they ran, even as the fog reached up, tried to root them in place so it could invade their thoughts and their minds and their dreams. Vesperia led the way, glancing every so often at the Scar’s ceiling to gather her bearings. One street, then another, each awash with the living shadow…
And then they were free, safe in the light of another glowing obelisk. It sat on the edge of a plaza, one of three memorials, whose lights converged, blue, green and red, on a desolate fountain beneath the Scar’s ocular eye. As Elizabeth and Astrid gasped for breath, Vesperia, strong and fit, marched ahead. Two figures watched them from the other side of the fountain. They held shining crystals in their childish hands.
“Yo,” said Lysander Goodfellow. “You girls look like you could use a break.”
“Very much so,” said Vesperia, crouching to observe the fountain’s contents. As Astrid approached, Elizabeth at her side, she realised that this was where Seelie had deposited their crystals. Vesperia located Elizabeth’s first, then her own, and finally Astrid’s.
And that was it. Save for their escape, the challenge was over — yet there was no sign of the Founding Father or his loyal executives, the Paladins. Astrid counted the remaining crystals. There were twenty-two — and the Second Class had thirty-two recruits.
“Who else has been here?” she asked the young boys.
“You just missed Horatio and his lady friends,” Lysander replied.
Elizabeth found her voice, though it was hoarse, strained with emotion. “And they got out? They escaped?”
Lysander shrugged. “Guess so. What do I look like? A fairy princess?” Angelo Foley nudged him in the ribs, but his grin only widened. He reached up and grasped the back of his head. “What’s the matter? You pissed ‘cause we made you Sophists look like amateurs? Please…”
If Elizabeth wanted to argue, she hadn’t the energy. Astrid only frowned. They were only teenage boys, after all, and not worth the effort.
“How did you get inside?” asked Vesperia. It was an honest question.
Lysander thumbed back to a bright red machine, hovering at the edge of the light. It was some kind of personal transport of Malkuthian origin, a levitating chariot that the Aristocracy would happily outlaw, had they the chance.
“I’m guessing you took the long way in,” he said, summoning the machine with a click of his fingers. Vesperia detailed their descent through the cracks in the Scar as he and Angelo climbed on board. “Sounds like fun. You ladies fancy a lift outta here? You can sit on my lap!”
Elizabeth’s furrowed glowering was enough to dissuade his offer and, with a hearty laugh, he lifted his machine into the air and sped off into the streets beyond the light. The mists ignored him.
Elizabeth trembled. “How could he?”
“They are only children,” said Vesperia, although she was only a year their senior.
“Not them! The Founding Father! What happened to his orders? To the trap?”
“There was no trap,” said Astrid, as she studied the nine shards glistening inside her crystal. The Theatre’s staff implanted them with a touch, as if by magic. Or, indeed, by magic. She figured they must have done the same with the guards, implanting the idea of the Founding Father’s orders into their minds — just as they had implanted the idea to run from the fog, the directions to their goal, and, now, an urge to escape it before the fogs grew worse.
Don’t worry, Lysangelo will be back soon enough!