“Did you just say what I think you said?” Talan asked, startled.
“That’s right,” Hexla said. “I did it!” She beamed at the party, then her expression went stiff when she spotted Tarsem. “Have we met?”
“This is my, well, my brother,” Sheen said awkwardly.
“We had an interesting trip, to be sure,” Haden added.
“The kitchen’s finally done,” Yolette remarked, leaping out of her armchair as though it had goosed her.
“Oh, good job,” Sheen said. “I’m exhausted. Three days on horseback.” She sat down with a sigh. “What are we going to do next? Look for Lady Margone?”
“The best place to start looking for my mother is probably Honorgard. Felise knows a lot more about the family finances than I do. But we should really find a buyer for those poor animals first,” Haden suggested.
“I like my horse, I may keep him if I can find proper accommodations,” Kalenthor said.
“There may be stables at Honorgard that you can use, I’m not sure. In any case, we should head there soon.”
“Agreed,” Talan said. “Did you notice that someone was watching us from the street when we came in?”
“Is it unusual to be watched here?” Kal asked.
“I saw the man,” Mal intoned. “Lir is following him. He is most likely returning to his demonic liege to report.”
“That reminds me, a tiefling woman came by looking for you,” Hexla said, gesturing vaguely in Haden’s direction.
“What? Who?” Haden queried.
“She had catlike eyes. I’ve got the name written down somewhere, I think it started with an N.”
“Right. She said she’d call again.”
Haden shrugged. “I told her I’d try to find her a place to stay.”
“Speaking of places to stay,” Kal said. “Can you recommend a good inn?”
“Chirper’s is one of the better places we’ve seen here, but it’s a good hike. Vander’s or the Black Sail are closer, but they’re also kind of . . . seedy,” Sheen pondered.
“Well, I’m sure . . .” Kal began, but he was interrupted by a loud rapping on the front door. Joris turned the handle and peered outside.
“Firil?” he said, startled. “Is something wrong?”
“It’s Numeledes, Joris, he’s . . . um, who’s this? Have we met?” she asked, staring over Joris’ shoulder at Kalenthor. “Is that a moonblade?”
“Yes, yes it is,” Kal said proudly. “I am Kalenthor Nailo, recently of Silverymoon.”
“Firil Starwing, late of Arvandor. I’ve never seen a real moonblade before.”
Joris cleared his throat. “Numeledes, Firil?”
“Yes! He needs you, Joris, he’s dying.”
“Oh!” Joris said, looking grim. “Will you all excuse me, I’d better . . .”
“You don’t have to ask, Joris,” Haden said, amused. “Off you go.”
Joris grabbed his cloak again, but by the time he returned Firil was deep in conversation with Kalenthor about moonblades. The cleric was forced to wait several minutes to get her attention and then herd her forcibly out the door.
“How that ditz got to be a renowned scholar I’ll never understand,” Haden said, laughing.
“So, am I the only one concerned with the demons following us?” Mal asked.
“I’m a little more curious to know if they are real or imagined, actually,” Kalenthor said.
“I certainly didn’t see them,” Haden added.
“Well, the one that was lurking across the street is headed to the Lady’s Ward right now.”
“Isn’t that where Honorgard is?” Sheen asked a bit dubiously. “He could be a spy for Lady Margone.”
“He’s gone into the Temple of the Abyss now,” Mal grumped.
“It wouldn’t be my mother, then,” Haden said. “She’s infernal, not abyssal. She’d be about as welcome at the Temple as a plague of locusts.”
“Can you think of any demons who might be interested in us?” Sheen asked.
“I don’t know,” Haden said. “Maybe something to do with that Pazuzu fiasco?”
“Pazuzu?” Mal asked. “Kelisatreanugori? Asmodeus?”
“Gesuntheit,” Sheen told him.
Mal waved his arms and conjured an image of another place in the center of the room. It was readily recognizable as the Temple, seen from somewhere high in the rafters. A man with vaguely fiendish features, perhaps a tiefling, was speaking to another rotund tiefling with umber-hued scaly skin.
“That fat one looks like the High Priest, Noxana’s father,” Haden said. “Nashtoreth.”
“The other tiefling looks familiar,” Talan said. “Really familiar.”
“Hmm,” Sheen said. “I don’t think this is of major importance right now. Let’s get some rest and go looking for Lady Margone tomorrow.”
“Agreed,” Haden said. “I’m sure we’ll find out what’s going on when Noxana shows up again. If you see the tiefling again, we’ll jump him and let Mal scare the truth out of him. Come on, I’ll take you to Chirper’s.” Haden gathered Kal, Tulio, and Tarsem up by eye and led them out into the street.
“You wanted to see the real Cage, Kal, this is your big chance,” Tulio remarked. “We gotta go through the Hive to get to Chirper’s.”
“What?” Tarsem asked. “Is that bad?”
“The Hive is what you’d call the Slums here on Sigil. We’re armed and it’s still daylight, so it’s not that dangerous. Won’t hurt to stay alert, though.”
“Got it,” Tarsem said.
Chirper’s was much the same as ever, with Sigrund manning the door and Marlowe waiting tables. Kal began chatting with the bariaur while Tulio vanished into the crowd looking for Thea. Haden turned to look at Tarsem again.
“You seem like you have good sense, but just in case I’ll warn you that you should NOT wander around this city alone,” Haden said.
“I wouldn’t dream of it.”
Haden set his lips in a thin line and stared into the distance. “Only two types of people wander alone in this city—easy marks and people with powerful protection. It’s impossible to fake inclusion in the latter group. Still, after you’ve been seen with us for a while, you’ll be upgraded.”
“You seem like you have something on your mind,” Tarsem ventured. Haden sighed.
“You’ll find out eventually, and it’s probably better if you form your own judgment,” the bard explained. There was a loud squeal from the other end of the room as Thea encountered Tulio. “Uh oh. Will you keep an eye on Tulio for me? He and Thea don’t have a spoonful of common sense between them.”
“Sure thing,” Tarsem said.
“THANK YOU!!” Thea shouted, trying to flag Haden down.
“That’s my cue to leave before she tries to squeeze the life out of me. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Haden dawdled on the way home, reaching the door well after dark. Sheen was standing outside trying to figure out how to put the key into the lock.
“Are you all right?” Haden asked her, startled. He opened the door to let her inside.
“I feel dizzy. They wouldn’t let me leave! They made me drink like . . . I don’t know how many tankards?”
“Who?” Mal asked. “Demons?”
“No, no, the dwarvesh. Dwarves!”
“Demons and dwarves? Now we’ve really had it!”
“Why do you smell like a tavern?” Talan asked.
“I sh-suffered a massive attack of dwarven hosh-hospitality,” Sheen slurred. “And don’t laugh at me,” she told Haden severely.
“I wasn’t laughing.”
“Yesh you were, I could tell.”
Haden chuckled. “All right, all right so I was.” He picked her up and carried her up the stairs. “Good night, all.”
Kal found his way back to the house very early in the morning, startling Mal and Sheen who were variously meditating and fixing breakfast. It wasn’t long before Haden and Talan joined them.
“Do you still have that fan you took from the enclave?” Haden asked while they were eating.
“Somewhere,” Sheen said, grabbing her bag and rummaging through it.
“Good, I just hope you haven’t handled it too much. May I see it?” Haden accepted the fan and cradled it in his palms for a long time. “It looks like Mother is definitely involved with Betzalel. He told her to go back to her ‘summer house’ . . . but I don’t know where that is. It’s probably in the records somewhere.”
“I met your mother once, right?” Mal asked.
“Once,” Haden said.
“Do you know which plane her summer house would be on?” the warlock continued.
“I don’t know. It could be in the Nine Hells for all of me.”
“The Hells, really? Also,” Kalenthor said, “I’m now a Sensate!”
“We know,” Sheen told him. “Oh, do you mean officially?”
“Well, as official as they seem to get, anyway. I guess I’m what you’d call a Namer for now. So were you just joking about the Hells?”
“My mother’s half-fiend,” Haden explained. “And that’s the good half.”
“Do you know what type of fiend?”
“Grandmother was an erinyes. I don’t know anything about my maternal grandfather, but I suspect she ate him.”
Suinjes opened the gate when they stepped out of the cab. “Welcome back, Master Haden.”
“Is Felise still in residence?”
“For now,” the githzerai said. “Your father’s lawyer is inside as well.”
Haden sighed. “I should probably talk to him and get it over with. Thanks.”
“How is he holding up?” Talan asked Sheen as they filed through the gate.
“What do you mean?” Sheen asked, startled. “He seems fine, why shouldn’t he be?”
“It’s his mother,” Talan said. “You don’t think he’s upset?”
“He hasn’t said anything.”
“Hello, Sly,” Haden said, walking into the study. A tiefling with bone-white skin and no discernable nose glanced up at him.
“Haden! Good to see you, rascal. Sorry I haven’t been by to meet you, but the Court of Woe’s had me tied up for weeks.”
“You’re calling me a rascal? Everyone, this is Sly Nye, he’s Father’s lawyer. Or he was. I suppose he’s my lawyer now.”
“If any of you ever need legal representation, don’t be afraid to consider a Xaositect lawyer. We achieve not just the impossible, but the unthinkable.”
“I assume you’re working on settling the estate?” Haden asked.
“I am, and it’s a good thing you came by when you did.”
“I just assumed everything went to Mother.”
“Not as such.”
“What do you mean, ‘not as such’?”
“Well, you get the house on Smith Street, Cerellis added that just before he passed away. There’s also a warehouse in the Clerk’s Ward that went to a bardic academy, I’d never heard of it before I saw it here. But Honorgard and nearly everything else have been left to an outfit called the ‘Winter Concern’. Oh, there a couple of charities that get this and that, but your mother gets only a pittance.”
“Did you talk to her about all of this? Wait, what am I saying, of course you didn’t. You still have all your limbs attached.”
Nye grinned, displaying pointed yellow teeth. “Very astute. I haven’t seen her since your father passed away.”
“I need to find her, though, we have some unfinished business,” Haden said. “Do you know anything about her properties? Does she have her own lawyer?”
“Of course, she employs an erinyes by the name of Enlilil.”
“Do you know if she has a summer house?” Haden asked.
“Summer house?” a voice said behind him. He turned to look at the blue-skinned Felise, who had come in quietly while they were talking. “I’ve heard her talk about a summer house. She was telling that man, Gyderic, about it while he was here.”
“What?” Sheen demanded. “When did Margone meet with Gyderic?”
“Oh, a couple of times, before Lord Cerellis was taken from us.”
“Before Gyderic KILLED him, you mean,” Haden snarled.
Felise gasped. “Yes, that’s what I mean. She had all kinds of strange folk in here at all hours of the night.”
“What did she say? Tell me everything you remember,” Haden demanded.
“She said that if their ‘usual meeting place’ ever became unavailable, to go there instead. There was something about a portal and a key.”
Kalenthor sighed. “That approaches being useful without ever crossing the line.”
“I’m sorry,” Felise said, “I’m trying to remember. She said it had two keys, one for each direction.
Sheen jumped as a sharp bell-like tone rang out in her mind and grabbed Haden’s hand. “No!” she yelled, pulling his fingers away from Felise’s face.
“I was just going to help her remember!” Haden declared.
“You were going to make her remember! There’s a difference!”
“Rod of Law, Haden, what’s gotten into you?!” Felise demanded.
Haden looked down at Sheen, then took a deep breath and subsided a little. She relaxed her grip on his wrist. “I’m sorry.”
Felise coughed. “Believe it or not, I think you helped me anyway. The portal is in the Shattered Temple, an archway leading out to a balcony just off the stairs on the second floor. The key on this side is a lillend’s scale, and the key to get back is an avoral’s feather. It leads to the Elemental Pland of Air.” She backed away. “Now, if you’ll excuse me . . .”
“Wow,” Kal remarked. “That went from vague to specific very quickly.”
Sheen rubbed Haden’s arm. “Are you all right?” He looked at her without saying anything for a long time. Sheen looked over at Kalenthor. “So what do you know about the Elemental Plane of Air?”
“It’s really quite breathtaking,” the elf said cheerfully. Talan groaned and rolled his eyes.
Haden wrapped his arms around Sheen and pressed his face into her hair. “I won’t hold you to that fiancé thing if you’d rather not,” he whispered.
“Don’t be stupid,” she told him severely.
“She loves you, Haden,” Talan said.
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