Chapter 15

The Gathering Place

“Shell?”

Shelley lay on the bed, face paler than usual, her blue eyes wide with fear. Her mouth opened with a silent cry. Emily clasped her hand and smiled. “Come on, Shelley Eoghan, I know you’re in there.”

Names were an anchor, her mother had taught her. That was why they were so important. Pulled back from whatever nightmare had threatened to claim her, Shelley glanced around the room, then breathed a sigh of relief.

“Welcome back,” said Emily, helping her friend to sit up.

Shelley pushed hair from out of her face. “Fer a moment there, I thought ye were that bloody seer.”

Emily hid a frown at the thought of a possible relative working for the Sophists. “I figured that was you out there,” she said. Shelley’s projections were not nearly as obvious as Dante’s, but then Shelley knew what she was doing.

“Aye. I wanted tae spy on the Director, but…” Her eyes dropped with disappointment.

“If it makes you feel any better, we couldn’t have got here without you. Those Sophists had us flanked, and if you hadn’t caused a distraction when you did, I’m not sure what would have happened.”

Shelley wrapped her arms around her chest. “Did Seelie send you here?” she asked.

“Seelie? Nah, this was Dante’s idea. I don’t know what came over him. He just grabbed my hand and off he went. He said something about this place being safe?” That was about all he had said, though—his burst of adrenaline had petered out almost as soon as they entered the building. “He’s been acting a little odd today,” she added. “You’ll never believe it, but we caught him projecting just before we came here.”

If Shelley’s eyes grew much wider, they would have consumed her face.

“I’m serious,” said Emily. “You should give him some tips.” Anything to get the two of them talking again. “Probably not right now, though. He’s already back to his moody old self.”

Shelley replied with the flicker of a smile and a grunt of amusement. It would take a lot of effort to repair that bridge. It might have helped if Emily had some idea of what burnt it in the first place. All she knew was that Shelley and Dante had been childhood friends until the night Dante lost his mother. The Sophists had a lot to answer for.

And now they were outside—perhaps the very same ones who set Torhout Forest ablaze—watching, waiting. Emily slipped out of Shelley’s room for a quick scan of the situation. The house they’d found shelter in was of modern design, with clusters of private rooms arranged around open-plan communal areas, not unlike her own apartment. Unlike Lucretia House, however, this place had a large hallway that connected its numerous floors with a winding stairway. Shelley’s room was on the second floor, a short distance from the hallway. Peering over the balcony, Emily could see Dante pacing and Alonie stood glowering at the front door. Katrina, meanwhile, was sitting on the stairs, keeping watch over the detoxing Lance Algar while Chris Shaw busied himself with some ‘investigating’. Byron had followed his example. It was, as he’d put it, a riddle of a house, lost within a mystery of a fog and trapped beneath an enigma of a shell. And he was not the only one who wanted answers.

As previously mentioned, there was a whole bunch of scenes involving Team Kat (as I referred to them in my notes) making their way into the Scar, including some nice rants from Byron and further details on the memorials (and their purpose). I ended up cutting it out because of pacing issues, and also because it messed with the continuity of which characters were where and when.

Yeah, I have a spreadsheet listing where they all were at a specific time…