Chapter 4: Without Lucy

  1. Without Lucy

1.

Lucy was gone, that much was sure. They hadn’t seen her two suitcases come in, but here they were, one full of clothes befitting a young-looking nonagenarian, the other, smaller one holding a mix of dirty clothes, toiletries, books, papers and assorted souvenirs. The three detectives sorted through it all and repacked, under the nervous eyes of the secretary.

“Is this all on the up and up?” asked Marius. “I mean, what if she—?”

“I’d be delirious if she did,” said Lilah, looking through a brochure. “She was definitely at a conference in Llanduvar.”

“But really,” said Marius.

“Look. You wanted detectives. We’re detectives. This is what detectives do. Well, Rob’s new to the job, he wasn’t really a detective before, but he’s picking it up, aren’t you, Robby?”

“What was he before?” asked Annelise.

“I was a criminal,” said Rob. “Then I was a sort of undercover double agent type of thing.”

“For the frickin’ Elves of North Land,” said Lilah. “So it’s a similar kind of milieu.”

“Well, if you’re sure,” said Marius.

“Tell you what. You could help by going out there and bravely having another cup of coffee. That way if she comes back from, I don’t know, the souvenir shop, you can intercept her before she discovers us rifling her undies. This place have newspapers? Do we get a newspaper?”

“I’m afraid not. I wish it did, I always liked the newspapers in Kalain, they were great for a laugh and also an excellent way to wrap one’s fried fish or bacon. Here, I doubt the hilarity would be the same without Kalain’s famously interesting politics.”

“Thought you were from Tympest,” said Lilah, holding up a girdle.

“I’m serious,” said Lilah. “Why don’t you go on out there and keep an eye out? Thanks.”

“Nothing in the undies,” said Annelise as Marius shrugged, smiled defensively and went out.

Ten minutes later the three detectives were out in the front office as well. “We didn’t find anything we didn’t expect to find,” said Lilah. “She was packed for a conference. She was packed for going home from a conference.”

“No, ah, signs of an extramarital tryst or anything?” asked Marius. “I mean, since you looked.”

“Nope. And we were looking for that.”

“She was very normal,” said Rob. “I didn’t get any feeling that wasn’t what you’d expect with a successful older alchemist and scholar.”

“So,” said Lilah, “we’re planning on heading off on a fact-finding trip, the three of us. You stay here? In case she comes back?”

“That is, uh, consistent with my plans for the day,” said Marius. “You’re going with just the two of them? You don’t want to think about hiring a couple more?”

Lilah looked at Annelise and Rob. “Two’s enough for now,” she said. “When I find out what these guys don’t do well, I’ll know what else we might need. Hey, I could use some spending money too. Got anything along that line?”

“Here,” said Marius, reaching into that jacket pocket of his. He tossed her a little sack with a cloth tie. It held a few dozen gold and silver pieces, dirty or tarnished enough not to attract attention.

“Okay, that’s all fine. You guys ready?”

“Excited,” said Annelise. She looked at Rob. “You excited?”

“Sure,” said Rob.

“And off we go,” said Lilah. “Gonna have a look at pre-Lucy Olvar. Toodles!”

“Toodles,” said Marius without enthusiasm.

Lilah, Rob and Annelise stood in a circle, or a triangle. They held their joined hands up and looked at their rings. Lilah looked at Marius. “These things work—how?”

“Look into the little gem,” said Marius. “Try and see the place. Can you—? It may help to—!”

“Ohhh,” said Annelise. She was looking into Rob’s ring, as was Rob. “He’s got a picture of Lucy and now he’s sort of running it backwards and—!”

“And that’s how the Elves taught me to—!” said Rob, but before he finished, they were gone.

2.

“Do that,” said Rob. They dropped hands and looked around. They stood in a town square. A square stone-walled well stood in the middle, and all around were two and three story buildings, mostly mud brick and wood with a little stone and wood. The smells that were absent in the city were working overtime here. The crowds that were absent there were here, covered in dirt. Lilah wondered if they had bathrooms or just used the alleys. There was a languid and chaotic market going on around the square, and along with the random way streets entered the square, this made for languid and chaotic traffic. It was mostly carts, about half of which were pulled by something other than people.

“What?” said Annelise.

“Just, uh, finishing my sentence,” said Rob, gazing nonplused at the people around them, who were equally nonplused at him.

“Walled town,” said Lilah. “Olvar’s a unitary kingdom, right?”

“Yes, it is,” said Rob. “It’s the only nation on its world. The capital, which I guess must be where we are, is called Oloren.”

“I think the smell is partly just horses,” said Annelise. “They sure have a lot of them.”

“They have a lot of winos too,” said Lilah. “Well, okay. Any idea when we are? Compared to, say, the time Miss Lucy came from?”

“I’d have to say this is pretty early,” said Rob. “I mean, given the level of, um, technology—!”

“Yeah,” said Annelise, taking a few steps around the other two and then stopping to examine her shoe, “no technical alchemists here. Well, all right, where do we start? We know no one, we don’t know what year it is, we can’t ask about Lucy because she hasn’t been born yet. Ugh.”

“You gotta watch where you walk,” said Rob.

“Or get over it,” said Lilah. “Okay. Hoping that this is Oloren, let’s find the Institute. Shall we?”

“Where do you think that’ll be?” asked Annelise.

“Hey,” said Rob, “I have a hunch.” Flashing a smile at the two women, he headed off across the square and up what seemed a major street. Lilah and Annelise pursued him. In two minutes they came around a shallow turn and saw the town gate ahead of them, and before that, an impressive and clearly very defensible stone church. They chased Rob all the way to the church steps, and then he veered to the right and into the beer garden next door. The women tarried, then followed. He threw himself down on a bench near a couple of men who looked rather settled in. They turned to him and greeted him like an old friend, in spite of the fact that they were both wearing leather pants and rough wool tunics and lots of their own hair and beards, and he was well-groomed and dressed for a job interview in a world centuries more advanced than theirs.

Lilah and Annelise backed out and had a try at the church. It was empty except for one old nun, who was napping on the front pew and refused to wake up. After a few minutes they came back out and stood looking around, and presently Rob came out of the beer garden with another man, one who looked about as young as Rob looked, and was about as well-groomed as the other men in the village.

“Okay, yeah,” said Rob, “Lilah, this is Dar. Dar, Lilah, she’s me gov’nor. Dar here says he’ll sell us horses that can get us to Oloren by tonight.”

“Surely I shall,” said Dar in a surprisingly hunky voice. “Is it sooth you arst wizards?”

“Yeah, it’s sooth, Dar,” said Lilah. She looked at Annelise. “Know anything about horses? I’m a city girl myself.”

“I do, actually,” said Annelise.

“Okay, Dar,” said Lilah, “let’s have a look at these fine steeds of yours.”

3.

Dar sold them horses, for an amount of gold that didn’t seem exorbitant to Lilah. She was not used to the gold piece economy, which in her Padva lay four or five generations in the past, but she felt pretty good about her intuition that Dar did not feel like he’d gotten the better of them. In any case, thirty minutes after arriving in ancient Olvar, Lilah and her comrades were in the saddle and on the way out of whatever that village was called.

Lilah, city girl, gritted her teeth and hung on, and the other two led her a merry chase for two hours in the sunny countryside. Rob was actually quite the horseman, and Annelise was no slouch. The countryside was mostly flat—for more than half the way they followed a river valley. Mountains rose in the misty distance; every five or ten kilometers a castle guarded the Great Road. They were not stopped at any gates, nor were the delayed much passing through the walled villages.

The sun was setting when they came to the low stone out-walls of Oloren. They found an inn just inside the much more serious walls of the Old City. The inn, with a sign depicting a cute dozing dragon, exuded comfort. It seemed to be run by hobbits.

“I trow your worships will wish to attend the Common Room this night,” said the merry little lady in a peasant dress who showed them their suite. “It looks to be really keen. There’s folk from all compass points, and some that ain’t even properly folk, if you see.”

“Okay, sure, we’ll go,” said Lilah. The little lady bowed and went out, and they looked around. “Nice digs,” she said. “I doubt we’ll be here tomorrow night.”

“Where will we be?” asked Annelise.

“Decades into the future,” said Lilah. “I hope. Okay. One bed, but it’s big. Annelise, you and me get the bed. Rob, you get the ottoman.”

“Where’s the ottoman?” asked Rob.

Guf thuk tev jin,” said Annelise, flicking her wand. She gave the tip a back twirl and then swinging left. A brownish ottoman appeared out of nowhere. “What do you think?”

“I can sleep on that,” said Rob. “You and Mr. Marius both know that spell?”

“I just picked it up,” said Annelise. “It’s my first try. Hence the color.”

“He’s only sleeping on it,” said Lilah. “Let’s hit the common room.”

The Common Room was a busy place tonight. There was no organized entertainment but plenty unorganized: dwarves singing as they got drunk, a fellow with the head of a hound singing in his own way, three groups of drunk humans in three different parts of the big room singing and playing more than three different songs, a couple of men shouting at each other, a couple of bears waving mugs and growling out a tune, a big man and a woman just as big slugging it out between tables. Alcohol was involved.

“We going to get any intel here?” asked Rob.

“I’m not,” said Lilah. “Annelise isn’t. Rob, you’re going to go absorb some general info about the system here, who the king is, what’s up with the Institute or whatever, that sort of thing. Can you do that?”

“I’m sure I can,” said Rob. “Just pull me out if anyone decides to hit me.”

He sauntered off and plopped down on a bench half the room away, among a group of human and dwarvish warriors. Lilah and Annelise managed to snag a jug of wine and settled in to observe. This didn’t last long. After a minute, a teenage blond girl plunked onto the bench opposite them.

“You wizards?” the girl asked.

“Who’s asking?” Lilah replied.

“I’m Elien,” the girl said. “I go to the Institute.”

“First year?”

“Just started two weeks ago,” said Elien.

“Yeah, we’re wizards,” said Lilah. “What tipped you off?”

“You dress,” and the girl giggled. “You dress like you don’t care what people think.” Lilah and Annelise both raised their eyebrows. They were both dressed in dark shirts and dark pants, Annelise’s a little more formal, Lilah’s a little more comfortable. Elien was wearing a long dress of pale cloth, with a belt cinched up high and a sort of miniature version of the conical hat, in dark blue, on her golden hair. “You see, I need people to know I have spells. Otherwise I get hassled. You dress like you don’t need anyone to know what you are.”

“Exactly,” said Lilah. “Smart girl.”

“Smarter than most around here,” said Elien, which, Lilah reflected, was hardly boasting. “Those boys I was with, they all think you’re some sort of jungle girl because your skin is dark.”

“Do they.”

“Like jungle girls just happen into Olaren and buy mugs of the local crap wine. No, but wizards happen through and might not want to look like wizards.”

“Elien, huh? Yeah, we’re big ol’ wizards. Tell you what. We’ll buy another bottle of wine, and tomorrow you can take us to school with you.”

4.

The three detectives made sure their guide knew how to find their suite. Then they bade her good night and locked the door behind them. Lilah laid down an eight word seal.

“Do you really think we need that?” asked Annelise.

“Old habits die hard.” She pulled a bottle of liquor out of her jacket. “Last round, while we discuss how much progress we’ve made?”

“Right,” said Annelise.

“Well,” said Rob, accepting a mug with a little local malt whiskey in it, “the King’s name is Gerulf, Second of that name, he’s the brother of old King Brang, who died mysteriously. The dynasty goes back about a hundred years, and before that apparently the Gods ruled the land.”

“Did they,” said Lilah.

“First the Older Gods, then the Younger Gods, then the Dragons made war on the Giants, and I guess the Younger Gods got run out of town, and Osbard or whoever pulled the Crown from the mouth of the Great Dragon and that was the first King of Olvar.”

“So that’s the political situation,” said Annelise.

“That’s all you found out?” asked Lilah.

“Oh,” said Rob, “and Endweith, it’s some guy, he’s a Warrior Duke, he’s been sent to carve out new provinces on the frontier.”

“So there’s no town of Endweith?”

“Not yet, but there will be.”

“Yeah,” said Annelise, “the question is, will Lucy be there?”

The next morning Elien got them into the Institute, which occupied an old castle, standing next to the new improved castle where the King now lived. The three guards at the gate house seemed inclined to skepticism, but Elien’s explanations bored them and they waved the group through.

“So what do you want to see first?” asked Elien, who was dressed in a full, hooded dark robe and carried three huge books and a pile of parchment. A little of her golden tresses managed to escape the hood.

“Do you have a class in time mechanics?” asked Rob.

“No, no,” said Lilah, “just take us to see your favorite old professor. You have a favorite old professor?”

“I have a favorite old professor,” said Elien, “and also a least favorite old professor.”

“The first would be the one,” said Lilah.

So Elien led them up to the second floor inside the massive keep, and to a classroom with a class just letting out. The teacher, a white-haired woman in black, was reminding students—first years like Elien, varying between fourteen and twenty years old—to practice their glyphs. “I’m in the next class,” said Elien. “But come on in, I’ll introduce you, it’s ten minutes before class starts.”

Lilah said something to Annelise, who said something back, and then Lilah and Rob followed Elien into the classroom while Annelise drifted off in another direction. Lilah took in the room, with its twenty wooden desks and wooden chairs and its long black chalkboard festooned with glyphs. She knew a few of them offhand and struggled with the familiarity of the rest: they were familiar but she couldn’t quite put a name to them. It was a feeling she was getting way too familiar with. The white-haired lady in black turned to smile at Elien and at the strangers in their strange clothing.

“Professor Pinza,” said Elien, “these are, um, Lilah and Robert, they’re investigators. They’re investigating something. They wanted me to introduce them to you. Lilah and Robert, this is Professor Pinza.”

Hands were shaken and greetings spoken, and all the while students were filing in and taking seats, and then Professor Pinza said, “I’m afraid I don’t have a lot of time just now. How much time do you need?”

“Maybe not long,” said Lilah, “but maybe when you have time to yourself?”

“All right,” said Pinza, “perhaps in an hour, right here?”

“Professor,” said Rob, “do you have anyone on staff who might have gone to a conference in a place called Llanduvar recently?”

Pinza skipped a beat, and then smiled and said, “Well, in fact, um, did something horrible happen there? Is our dear Salagon in trouble for something he did at Llanduvar?”

“No, no,” said Lilah. “He just might know someone, or have met someone, that’s all. Where can we find him?”

“He’s four doors down from this very room,” said Pinza. “Room XIX.”

“Thanks,” said Lilah. “Thank you, Elien.”

“See you!” said Elien, who then turned to ask something of Professor Pinza.

“Well, you’re catching on quick,” said Lilah out in the hall.

“I just thought,” said Rob, “it might be a shot in the dark, but we were sort of following Lucy’s echo or something, it might have brought us here. Um, Lilah.”

“Yeah?”

“People out on the street, like our friend Dar, they spoke differently from people in here, but it isn’t quite wizard speech either. What’s that about?”

“We’re back in the past,” said Lilah, “when there used to be such a big class difference between your wizard types and your warriors and druids and clerics. Oh, the clerics. They speak all kinds of their own languages. Now this Salagon. He’ll be an alchemist.”

They came to Room XIX. A dozen students, in their third or fourth years at the Institute, were mixing substances over low flames. A small but handsome man with bushy brown hair and a bushy brown mustache was supervising.

“How did you know?” asked Rob.

“It was an alchemy conference,” said Lilah. She smiled at Professor Salagon as he looked up and saw them. He said a few encouraging words to the pair of students he had been talking with, and then he headed toward the two women at the door.

5.

Salagon, for it was he, followed them out into the hall. “Professor,” said Lilah, “do you have a moment for us to ask a few questions?”

“What can I do for you?” he asked. “I have a few minutes.”

“I’m Lilah Bay, and this is Rob Ashtree, and we’re investigating a phenomenon you might know something about, and we were wondering if we could ask you a few questions.”

“That’s fine,” said Salagon. “Anything you want.”

“We’re investigating,” said Lilah, “trying to find out what happened with a lady who was at a conference in Llanduvar. We heard you’d been there and we wondered—?”

“Yes, I was at a conference in Llanduvar,” he said.

“The woman’s name was Lucy. Anything?”

“Lady Lucy of Endweith, the full title, I think,” said Salagon. “Am I right? Nice lady. You’re looking for her or something? Weird what happened. Yeah, she came back here with me, she tried some time stuff, time travel, no one from this end knows a thing about that, and I don’t think Lucy did either, but she tried. No dice.”

“Do you know how far in the future she was trying to go?” asked Rob.

He raised his eyebrows, got a blank look and shook his head. He laughed. “She said she didn’t know much about time travel,” he replied. “We don’t know anything about it. It’s not even taught here yet.”

“Yet?” asked Lilah.

“We’ve seen time travelers,” Salagon replied. “Just like you, right? They come here because there’s no place else in this day and age where they can get themselves understood, or even taken seriously. So we see ‘em. But we don’t know what it’s about, or I don’t, and I don’t know anyone else who does. Where or when are you guys from, anyways?”

“Well,” said Lilah, “we’re from a couple of places, but outside your universe. Anyway—!”

“So,” Salagon went on, “I don’t know how to put this nicely, but, uh, on whose behalf are you doing this investigating? I just want to know, you know, in case someone else comes in here and—!” He paused as if expecting to be interrupted. Lilah didn’t. “Asks,” he finished.

“Actually, Professor Salagon, we are here pretty much on Lady Lucy’s business. I gather you know at least the basic details. She’s trying to get home. We’d like to see that happen.”

“Oh, me too, who wouldn’t?” Salagon replied. “She contacted you?”

“She came to see us,” said Lilah. “So. Anything to help, right? So maybe you could tell us just how far in your future is her time?”

“I dunno,” said Salagon. “I’m not up on the details of how time work can mess things up. All I know, she was from the future and she came back here and went out again into the future, and I know one or both of those things can lead to major screw-ups. I don’t want someone with a big ring to come in here later and tell me I told someone the wrong thing and the result was that someone’s their own great grandpa or something. See what I mean?”

“No,” said Lilah.

“That’s not the way it works at all,” said Rob. “You see, actually—!”

“Well, I can’t take the chance,” said Salagon. “So I’m afraid I can’t help you. Now if you had Lucy’s say so, or her husband or something, I could maybe see my way clear. But anyway, I don’t know anything more than what I told you anyway.”

“So you can’t help us,” said Lilah.

“I don’t think I can.”

“Well, thank you anyway. Have a great class.”

“Ha ha! I will.” He grinned at them, victorious, went back into his classroom and shut the door behind him. They could immediately hear him teaching up a storm in there.

“So that wasn’t very nice of him,” said Rob. “Is he genuinely freaked out about time paradoxes or is he—?”

“I’d have to bet he’s just a butthole,” Lilah replied.

They found Annelise in the lobby, seated in an out-of-the-way spot. She held in her hand a crystal with some metal pieces clamped onto it.

“Whatcha got there?” asked Lilah.

“I’ll show you,” said Annelise. “Maybe we should find an empty room. Um, but how did you do?”

Lilah grinned at Rob. He said, “It was interesting. Informative, would you say?”

“We should find a room,” said Lilah.

No one seemed to be watching. Presumably, the Institute of Magic of the World of Olvar, in this century, was considered secure just on the basis of its being the Institute of Magic. The three detectives went to the end of the pillared lobby and took the hall to the left, doing their best not to let their footsteps echo.

The first room on the left was a conference room, and there was a conference going on in it. The door was open and they could see students, and a couple of people who must have been professors, sitting around a table, which was littered with paper, and also a couple of dead birds. The first room on the right was a lecture hall, and the mesmerizing drone of a really bad old professor came stealing from its half-open doors.

The second door on the left was shut, so they listened, and then Lilah said “Ar ra,” her hand on the door handle. After a moment she opened the door.

“Handy spell,” said Rob.

“I don’t like shadow scouts,” said Lilah. “I had one get turned on me once.” She shut the door behind them and stood against it. They were in a lab of some sort, with counters set up with mortars and pestles and small cook pots and cutting boards and racks of knives and spoons and weirder implements.

“Turned on you?” said Annelise, setting the device down on the teacher’s table.

Lilah raised her eyebrows. “Yeah. I’ll tell you all about it when I remember any more of it myself. So what does this thing do? See traces?”

“It’s primitive,” said Annelise, “but yeah, that’s the concept.”

“Where’d you get the materials?” asked Rob.

“I borrowed them from a store room,” said Annelise, bending to look at the thing straight on. She was adjusting the metal clamps, moving a wire out and bending it back, watching. The other two didn’t see anything, and then they did. There was a glow all of a sudden, not as if the light level had increased, but as if the crystal was emitting, faintly, a new type of light that hadn’t existed before. She stood back and looked at it. “It’s doing something,” she said. “I’m just not sure—!”

“Look at it through your ring,” said Lilah. Annelise did, and so did Lilah and Rob, and they all emitted little wows. They gazed, they weaved their heads about to get better views, they squinted and laughed when they bumped into one another. Finally Lilah and Rob stood back, while Annelise was still going wow and squinting.

“Well,” said Rob, “I guess we know which direction to go.”

6.

Lilah, Rob and Annelise held hands, Lilah in the middle. Annelise held her crystal gadget in her left hand; Rob had his wand in his right hand. Lilah raised her hands up, her right hand holding Rob’s ring up. She focused her eyes and her mind on her own violet gem, held in her dark hand and framed by Annelise’s pale one. She squinted a little; Annelise brought the crystal gadget around into Lilah’s view, and things got more obvious.

“Thanks, Annelise,” she said. Already the empty classroom was evaporating around them, and in an instant they were standing on the top of a steeply slanted rock face under a sky of hurrying clouds. The tumbled land below hid a few fields and groves, and, further down, almost hidden in a rocky valley, a hamlet of stone houses with a prominent stone church.

“Well,” said Rob, “wherever we are, we sure are there.”

They took another minute to fully accept where they were. Lilah said, “Okay. So the trace led us here. That just means Lucy came here from the Institute. Where’d she actually leave from, anyway? Not that particular classroom.”

“No,” said Annelise. “I would guess she left from your Professor Salagon’s classroom.” She held up the crystal with her left hand and twiddled the wire on top with her right. “She would have come right here, actually. Huh.”

“Huh?”

“I think there’s a trace of hers leaving from that village down there.”

“Well, let’s head that way,” said Lilah. “By the way, how many years downstream are we?”

“Um, a hundred and twenty,” Annelise pronounced. “So, how do we go about climbing down?” She looked down the slanted cliff and out to the only somewhat less slanted sides of the ridge.

“Silly,” said Lilah. “Take my hand. We sight jump.”

“Silly me indeed,” said Annelise. She took Lilah’s left hand and Rob took her right, and Lilah used her thumb to push the gem of her ring a little.

In an instant, they were standing, holding hands, on a lane of white gravel between vineyards. Far behind them was the dome of rock they had stood on, and right in front of them was the gate of the village, standing open and unguarded. They smiled at each other in their cleverness, dropped hands, and headed into town.

An hour later the three of them were sipping a greenish soup in a rustic bistro on the town square. They had learned two things about the situation.

“So this is Endweith,” said Rob. “Nice town.”

“Except,” said Lilah, “for a total lack of any knowledge of a Lady Lucy. Or a Lord Henry. Or anything like an Endweith Hall.”

“But they do know this is Endweith,” said Rob.

“Well,” said Lilah, “we could just follow the outward trace. Right, Annelise?”

“Sure,” said Annelise, gazing disconsolately at the crystal gadget.

“What?”

“I have a, um,” she said, “bad feeling about this.”

“What kind of bad feeling?”

Annelise stood up. “Well, let’s just find out, huh?”

“Well,” said Lilah, as she and Rob also stood, “okay, let’s move on to the next item on Lucy’s itinerary.”

“Where do you think it’s going to be?” asked Rob, taking her hand.

Lilah took Annelise’s right hand, and Annelise held the crystal up, and Lilah gazed through her gem at it. They vanished from Endweith Village, and arrived somewhere else.

7.

Lilah and Annelise and Rob were standing in a public square, but it was not to be confused with Endweith Village on semi-ancient Olvar. Tall glassy buildings rose about the vast plaza, spectacular fountains shot up, fell back and shot up again, blue under the blue sky in the light of a very golden sun, there was an ocean on the left side of their view complete with unclad adults and madcap children, crowds of the bourgeoisie moved about, food carts hovered wheel-less here and there. It smelled wonderful, in several different ways. The three, dark-clad and puzzled, stood out, at least to themselves.

“Llanduvar,” said Rob.

“The trace came exactly here,” said Annelise, “then went away again from here.”

“She didn’t move about at all?” asked Lilah.

“I can’t tell you anything about that from this,” Annelise replied. “All I can tell you is she arrived exactly where you’re standing,” and Annelise moved three steps forward and one to the right, “and she left from exactly here.”

“How long? How long was there between when she arrived and when she left?”

Annelise squinted into the crystal. “I can’t say exactly,” she said. Then she said, “Huh. Yeah. Not long.” She looked at Lilah. “Not more than a minute or two. That’s the best I can tell you.”

“That’s actually great to know,” said Lilah. “Well, where did she go? Are we ready?”

“I am,” said Rob. They took hands again and were off. The sunlight was gone in an instant, replaced by the opposite. The wonderful scents of Llanduvar were replaced only slightly more slowly by their opposites.

They were in an alley, in no city Rob or Annelise had ever been before. The alley was dark but they could hear and smell things, or people perhaps, moving or sleeping nearby. Ten meters away, the alley opened into a street, and the street was thronged with people, and perhaps a few who were not exactly people, shambling from somewhere to somewhere in the benighted city.

They looked at Lilah, but they couldn’t see her expression. She said nothing. Finally, Annelise said, “The trace comes here but it doesn’t leave here.”

Lilah still didn’t say anything. Rob waited and said, “So what you’re telling us is that Lucy came to this alley but then walked somewhere else?”

“Let’s try that door,” said Annelise. “Lilah? Okay?”

“Yeah,” said Lilah. She strode the five paces to the only door they could make out, a sturdy metal thing which opened with a little Lilah Bay shoulder work. Inside, there was a big store room about ten percent full of crates and things covered by tarps or blankets. They looked around, and then Lilah led them to the left, and in the far wall they found another steel door. This one was magically locked, but Lilah tossed her six word pass spell and they were in. Up a short hall, left, in another door, and they were in a room with a table and a bottle and two glasses. Lilah looked at Annelise.

“She left from here,” said Annelise. “How did you—?” She looked at Lilah with a mix of awe and exasperation. Lilah gave back her flattest expression. “Fine, never mind. Shall we—?”

“Well, I sure don’t want to stay here,” said Lilah.

So they took hands one more time and disappeared, and reappeared zero seconds later, with a pop that was the crystal breaking into three uneven pieces, in a hallway near a door.

Outside the door was a lovely plaque with three names on it. The names were their names.

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