“We may as well get this over with,” the muscle boy had said, even as they’d left the generals and the politicians continue observing the enemy and plotting.
“There’s no ‘I suppose’, Kyrus snapped. “He gave us a direct command.” He was slouching along like some kind of street Illiterate, almost cleaning his nails with a knife, tough.
“He’s your father, he wouldn’t punish you very severely, would he?”
Kyrus rolled his eyes over his veil as if he beseeched the sky something. “No, he’s HIS RADIANCE and if I, as a warrior, in a state of war, defied him, he’d be in his rights to expose me for a day.”
“Expose you? What do you mean?”
“Xanadu man… do you not see the empty cages along the edges of the bridges? My father is a tender and sensitive man and has had someone put floor bars in them all. For Lainz’s sake? I wouldn’t push him.”
Terence stared at him. “You’re… not joking.”
“Light and Dark and all my little ancestors, no.” He turned to look back at him. “Are you up for a scramble, Terence?”
The use of the name startled him into straight honesty, when he’d been expecting Kyrus to continue calling him other things. “Sure.”
“I’m sick and tired of all this fancy prance, click your claws and call it mica nonsense.” He looked two ways as if he were going to do something he shouldn’t. “Follow me. You need to hear what I’ve got to say and I’ve got to say it in a way you can hear it.”
Kyrus turned sideways and slid between two walls, vanishing between the buildings like a water droplet under the sun. “Hey!” Terence made to follow him, found himself sticking and heard Kyrus hiss from the stark shadow beyond.
“Exhale and suck it in, Xanadu.”
It was probably something he shouldn’t say. He could hear Agador begin to say something but his mouth just opened. “Stuff a veil in it, you Hinnemon Illiterate.”
He realized the instant the words fell out of his mouth he’d made a mistake. Out of the darkness something manifested, a weapon of some kind that wrapped around his head like a cage, knocking it back into the stone behind him, his hat tipping to fall off his head completely.
He could feel Kyrus trembling through the weapon as if he could see it. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.”
There was another long silence and then the weapon vanished. He didn't dare reach for his hat, trapped between the walls. “I know where to start with you then,” Kyrus said, his clothes hissing against the stone as he eased through the rest of the crack and stepped out onto a street that Terence had never seen before. He grabbed his tophat and followed to find Kyrus pulling a banner aside to raise a grating in the street.
“Where are we going?” Terry couldn’t hide his sudden panic. He could have just killed me and no one would have known… *I would have witnessed,* Agador whispered in his head. *And I,* Mom added from behind her privacy wall.
He followed Kyrus down and down and down, each tunnel getting narrower and darker and… suddenly damp. Damp in a season of dry. It was coming up on the next rains but everything was bone-dust dry, wasn’t it?
“We’re here,” Kyrus said abruptly. There was a single beam of light bouncing down to where they were from somewhere above. The dragon flies that showed up everywhere that Kyrus was zipped past Terry’s head with a tearing noise in the air. He stopped himself from ducking.
“Where is here?” He looked around at the old water stains and the broken bits of stone platforms, uneven floor and… the water stains were on the walls at around head height.
“You can leave your clothes here,” Kyrus said. “Piss in the sand pot over there. If you piss in the water I’ll beat you myself.”
“Water? In what water? What are you talking about?” He stood flat-footed as Kyrus stripped off his clothes… everything, even the veil, in the dim light of this ruined little room.
“I wanted to bring you down here, so we can sit in the water left in the Basin… and be cool while we talk. This way.”
“What? Take my clothes off?”
“Or not.” The pale shadow that was Kyrus vanished into the dim… down a rickety looking ladder. Far below there was light bouncing in from the rim of the whole city, wavering spikes of water light. “You can soak your clothes in the water if you want.”
“Oh ink it!” Terry tore off his clothing and tried not to think about it all as he followed Kyrus down to the surface of the water below.