Serafin flopped down on the innâ€™s hard bed and leaned back, stretching out. â€œHm. Not bad, for such a small town. Guess theyâ€™re used to having rich foreigners visit.â€ She looked across at her two companions. Gwydion had shed his cloak and was leaning against the wall. Mortal eyes might easily mistake him for human, masked as he was by the Silver Oath, but her practiced gaze knew his form perfectly, and he was tense as though prepared for battle. Alakazar, on the other hand, could never be mistaken for mortal â€“ however, he too was guarded by the oaths he had sworn towards Creation, and had he walked the streets as he was now dressed, the mortals would have seen him not as a fae, but a god.
All things considered, she mused, it was best that he stayed covered up. She turned her attention towards the Grey. â€œTell us, Gid. How did your hunt go?â€
Gwydion was long past feeling actual irritation at her shortening of his name, but he maintained an annoyed expression for a moment in memory of it, before turning serious. â€œI have learned three things. Two of them are disturbing.â€
â€œThen we will hear those two first.â€ Alakazar nodded solemnly, glancing out the window. Outside, the people went about their business, like a hive of ants heedless of the river flooding beside them. â€œIs the enemy here?â€
â€œYes.â€ Gwydion nodded solemnly. â€œThe Infernal that we have tracked has come here, though I know not why. The traces are identical to those I followed from your battle in Greyfalls. It has been here for at least three days, and has not yet left.â€
Serafin sat up, with a feral smile. â€œFinally. Howâ€™s that disturbing?â€
â€œThe only other time it remained stationary was at Gethamane. We all know what occurred there.â€ Gwydionâ€™s voice was mildly reproving, and Serafin nodded after a moment, her enthusiasm dampened. They still didnâ€™t know what the akuma had stolen in Gethamane, having arrived only days after it departed, but dozens of innocents had died during the chaos it had spread to cover its trail. â€œThe second, more worrisome fact, is that the City Father of Eagle Lake has yet to appear to reproach me. He could not fail to sense me â€“ I was practically on his doorstep. I stood within his temple, and fully expected a challenge. But nothing.â€ He shook his head worriedly. â€œIt is possible that the Oath has guarded me from him, butâ€¦â€
â€œMm.â€ Serafin nodded. Deception was not in Gwydionâ€™s nature, and the Oath didnâ€™t cover him as well as it did some other members of the Court. Even a very few rare mortals could sense his true nature. For the City Father to not have, he would have to be very obliviousâ€¦ or removed. â€œSomething for me to look into, I guess. Or Alakazar. Even his mask is something the Father would have to respond to. And the good news?â€
â€œA familiar scent whose trail I crossed. I couldnâ€™t quite place it, but itâ€¦â€ Gwydion broke off, looking abashed. â€œIt reminded me of Little Ghost.â€
Alakazar made a thoughtful noise. â€œA Sidereal, in Eagle Lake? What are the chances?â€
â€œIf theyâ€™ve finally tracked that murderous bastard down, pretty good.â€ Serafin stood fluidly. â€œAlright. Honey, why donâ€™t you take Gid and try to find the City Father. Iâ€™ll go hunt down my fellow Exalt. Maybe he â€“ or she â€“ can offer us a bit of help.â€
â€œYou donâ€™t think weâ€™re enough?â€ Alakazar looked offended. â€œThis is a great challenge, true, but we are more thanâ€¦â€
â€œItâ€™s not about that.â€ Serafin quickly intervened before her husbandâ€™s pride overcame his sensibilities. â€œBut they were here first. You wouldnâ€™t step into their territory without a formal announcement, would you?â€
After a moment, Alakazar nodded. â€œOf course. We are, after all, in their lands right now. It does behove us to follow their rules.â€ He stepped forwards with a smile. â€œVery well, dearest. We will, as always, play this game by your rules.â€
â€œRight.â€ Serafin chuckled, and nodded to him. â€œRemember to stay veiled. We donâ€™t need another cult developing â€“ they really upset the gods.â€
â€œOf course.â€ Alakazar began to shrug himself back into the heavy cloak that he had entered with. â€œI must learn to restrict my glory enough to seem mortal.â€
â€œMight help.â€ Serafin winked, and stopped Alakazar just before he raised his cowl. Leaning in, she gave him a long kiss. â€œFor luck.â€
â€œYour blessing is, as always, welcome.â€ Alakazar smiled, and raised the cowl. He gestured towards the door, and Gwydion moved to open it. â€œBe well.â€
Serafin nodded, waiting until Alakazar left in order to leave the room. Once in the hallway, she glanced around to ensure that no inquisitive servants might be watching before using her own Knacks, changing her figure and colouring until she seemed a different woman from the one who had entered. Carefully concealed, she started down the stairs, heading towards the marketplace. Eagle Lake was a small town; if there was someone here she was looking for, she imagined she could ferret him out just by following the train of unremarked coincidences.
Five hours later, she was beginning to think otherwise. After a long day of flirting, spying, and generally ingratiating herself with everyone in town, she had yet to come across any of the signs that she had learned to look for. Sighing, she leaned against a wall to rest.
â€œA storm is coming.â€
Serafin shot bolt upright, her eyes snapping open. For just a moment, she saw the outline of Mela hovering around her, looking insistant. A moment later, she realized that it was simply smoke hanging in the air from a nearby cookfire. Serafin shook her head worriedly. She hadnâ€™t even fallen asleep â€“ sheâ€™d just let her thoughts drift. Why was thisâ€¦
It was at that moment that a man carrying a load of heavy packages walked through the smoke. Cursing faintly, he raised one hand to clear the air, and thus distracted, he walked directly into Serafin. Packages cascaded to the ground, and the man almost fell over.
â€œI am terribly sorry! I didnâ€™t mean to, I meanâ€¦â€ As the man babbled, Serafin knelt to help him recover his packages. For a moment, their eyes met. A spark of shocked recognition passed between them.
Serafinâ€™s voice was faint with surprise. â€œThetram Nash?â€
For a moment, the Siderealâ€™s eyes went as wide as dinner plates. Then, with a squack of fright, he reached into the possibilities. Serafin felt fate twist around her, and the Sidereal had abruptly never been present. Instead of packages lining the ground, there was only the dissipating smoke and a vaguely confused-looking dog that had bumped off Serafin.
The Lunar clenched her jaw, and set off in pursuit.