Chapter 66
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They emerged back into the world a quarter of a mile away. No one paid them the slightest attention. Every human for miles was looking at the crashed bulk of Traveler, framed by the greenery of Hyde Park.

Fiona teetered unsteadily on her feet, then fell into a sitting position. Quin and the Young Dread knelt by Shinobu, who lay unconscious on the sidewalk. Quin tied up his wound with a strip of wool from her cloak. He had blistering burns across both cheeks, his leg was broken and also badly burned, and she was certain he had other broken bones as well. But he was breathing and his heartbeat was strong.

She looked up, at the chaos of emergency vehicles near the crash site. Grabbing her mother by the shoulders, she pulled her closer to Shinobu.

“Stay with him,” she ordered. “Don’t let him move.”

It took her mother a moment to understand, but at last she nodded.

“I’ll be right back!”

Quin had a splitting headache, but she found she was able to jog. She started off toward the mess in the distance, searching for the closest ambulance. Halfway there, she noticed the Young Dread running along with her. When they came to the edge of the crowd, they both stopped, hunting for someone who could help.

“Look,” the Young Dread said quietly, pointing through the mass of people.

In the distance, near the ship, a man was being loaded into an ambulance. Tall, strong, and wild-looking, he was thrashing around furiously as the medical personnel pushed him into the vehicle. It was Briac. Her father had survived.

The Young Dread put a hand on Quin’s arm and pointed in another direction. Quin followed the girl’s gaze to an alley off to their left, below the park. As they watched, the figure of John Hart, just recognizable at this distance, slipped into the darkness between buildings and disappeared.

“Here we part ways,” the Young Dread said softly.

Quin nodded.

The girl withdrew from her cloak the athame of the Dreads and held it loosely in her hands.

“Where is your master?” Quin asked.

“Sleeping,” the girl said. “It is past time.”

There was something different about the Young Dread’s cloak. It seemed too large for her and also more threadbare than the last time Quin had seen it. Its interior pockets appeared to be crammed full of hidden items whose bulk she had not noticed before.

Before Quin could wonder about this change, there were sirens behind them, and she turned to find several emergency vehicles heading their way. She waved her arms.

“My master says I am Young, Middle, and Old now,” the Young Dread told her, her eyes downcast, looking at the athame in her hand. “Or perhaps I am none of those. We shall see.”

An ambulance pulled to a stop by Quin, drawn by the sight of Shinobu’s blood, which covered half her body. She moved toward the vehicle, but the Young Dread caught her arm.

“You will have this,” the Young told her.

Quin watched as the girl placed the athame into her hands. She looked down at the stone dagger’s slender shape, saw the symbols lined up along its dials. Her thumb went to the back of the blade, where the thin lightning rod was fitted neatly into place. This athame was far more delicate and somehow, she sensed, more powerful than her own.

She noticed the design carved into the pommel. It was not an animal. It was three interlocking ovals. It was a carving of an atom. Quin’s heart began to beat more quickly.

“Why?” she asked.

“It is my choice,” the Young Dread said. “The gift is not permanent. But this athame’s power does not solely belong to me. You will take it for a while. I have a debt to pay, and business with the other athame.”novelbin

“John has it.”

“Yes. John has it,” the girl agreed. Then she put out a hand, as a modern person would upon being introduced. “You are Quin,” she said. “I am Maud.”

“Maud,” Quin repeated, shaking the girl’s hand. The name fit. “I’m pleased to meet you, and sorry to say goodbye.”

“Not goodbye,” Maud replied. “We will meet again. Soon. Be sure of it.”

Something about the way the girl said this was not entirely pleasant, as though the next time they met, they might or might not be on the same side. Then Maud, the Young Dread, the fifteen-year-old girl who was nothing like a fifteen-year-old girl, was gone, weaving through the crowd in the direction John Hart had been running.

Quin returned with the ambulance, and the medics swarmed over Shinobu. When they’d loaded him into the vehicle, she took a seat beside him, with Fiona next to her. She gripped Shinobu’s hand tightly. He was unconscious, but she could feel his warmth and the steady beat of his heart.

It had taken her too long to realize that he was half of her, as she was of him. It had been that way since they were nine years old. She would not be whole until he was out of danger.

As they pulled away from the chaos, Quin could feel her own future lining up clearly in front of her. At one side of her waist was the athame, at the other her whipsword. On her left wrist was the brand that marked her.

Without turning away from Shinobu, she spoke.

“What am I, Mother?”

The answer was obvious, but still, Fiona took a moment to respond, as though made uneasy by the words she would say.

“You are what you were always meant to be,” she said carefully. “You are a Seeker.”

“Yes,” Quin agreed.

John had taken the leather journal. But Quin had studied it again as they’d prepared to come to London, and she knew some of what it held. There were ten images drawn in sequence, and among these had been a fox and an eagle. The fox was John’s athame, the eagle Shinobu’s—the one that had been destroyed. And there was a diagram of three interlocking ovals—that was the athame hanging at Quin’s side. That left seven other symbols. If each one represented another athame, and each athame belonged to a separate family …

Catherine, and many others, had been gathering knowledge for a long time, and the book was a trail a Seeker could follow … But to where?

Quin looked out the back window of the ambulance. The streets were getting quieter the farther they traveled from the crash site. London was growing dark around them.

“I am a Seeker, as we were in the beginning,” she said. “What do I seek? The truth. The beginning and the end. Our knowledge began somewhere, sometime. And one day it will end.”

Before they’d left Hong Kong, Quin had taken pictures of every page of the leather journal and each folded piece of vellum tucked within it. The pictures were safe, a complete copy, waiting for her. And now she had an athame as well, one that no one would be trying to steal, at least for a while.

“Seekers have lived long before you, and they’ll continue to live long after you die,” Fiona murmured. “We don’t have a choice in that, Quin.”

It was like a chant, the way her mother said it, or like a prayer she’d been taught as a girl. Quin imagined generations of Seekers all saying the same thing, all assuring their children and their children’s children that they could survive anything, that their power over life and death would last until the end of time. That killing whomever they chose to kill was within their rights.

“No,” Quin said, lacing her fingers through Shinobu’s. “We have a choice. I’m going to put an end to it. Starting with John.”𝓷𝓋.

The source of this content is 𝒇𝓻𝔀𝙣𝙫.