Reign of Beasts

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Authors: Tansy Rayner Roberts
Crane said indignantly. ‘You’re — we’re not going to suddenly stop being your sentinels, you know.’
    â€˜I don’t see why not,’ Velody said. ‘I stopped being your King. I wasn’t here. And now you have loyalty to three Kings to juggle.’
    â€˜Wouldn’t be the first time,’ said Macready. ‘Don’t fret about us, lass. We never expected to have you back with us at all.’
    Velody hugged them both, impulsively. ‘I didn’t think I would make it, either.’
    â€˜Where were you?’ Crane asked. ‘I mean — I saw sandstone in the theatre.’
    â€˜Tierce, you said,’ Macready repeated.
    Crane flinched at that.
    â€˜I was in the sky,’ said Velody. ‘It looked like Tierce, but it was a shadow of the city I remember.’ She did remember the city at least now, clearer than ever before. ‘I never saw … them.’ The dust devils, vicious and fast and unlike anything they had faced before. ‘Did they come back?’ she asked.
    Both sentinels shook their heads. ‘Not since the sky swallowed you.’
    â€˜I suppose there’s a lot to catch me up on.’ She managed a smile. ‘Like how you talked Delphine into being a sentinel.’
    Macready wasn’t smiling. ‘It was in her all along. All it took was —’
    â€˜Blood, sweat, yelling,’ Crane chipped in.
    Macready cuffed him lightly. ‘Aye, that.’ He was still sombre. ‘There’s something else you should know. About Rhian — and Ashiol.’
    Velody frowned. ‘He hasn’t been bothering her about this Seer business, has he? How has she been coping with it all?’ Apart from going missing for a whole day after a near-death theatre experience.
    â€˜Let’s go back to the house,’ Macready muttered. ‘Discuss it there.’
    They headed up the back alley together. As they entered the yard, a figure on the doorstep stood up suddenly. Macready swore.
    Velody fell forward. ‘Rhian!’
    Her friend looked ragged around the edges, more of a mess even than on that horrible Lupercalia nearly two years ago. At the same time, her eyes were bright and she seemed more alive, more Rhian, than she had been in years.
    â€˜Velody,’ Rhian said calmly, ‘you have to go to the train station, right now.’
    â€˜What happened to you?’ Velody asked. ‘Are you … have you been all right?’
    Macready and Delphine had been so strange about Rhian. She had missed something vital, she knew it.
    â€˜If you don’t get to the station now, Priest will leave the city,’ Rhian said, still sounding so serene.
    â€˜The futures came to you?’ Macready demanded, sounding oddly attacking.
    Rhian paused, then nodded. ‘Priest is catching a train, with Fionella and Damson.’
    Velody barely knew the names of the courtesi. How did Rhian know them? It felt like Rhian was more a part of the Court now than she was.
    â€˜Where is he going?’ she asked.
    â€˜The clockwork city,’ said Rhian.
    â€˜Bazeppe,’ said Macready. ‘Feck, the early train leaves in an hour.’
    â€˜I’ll go,’ said Velody. ‘The rest of you need to get some sleep.’
    â€˜No,’ Crane said suddenly. They stared at him. ‘No more going off alone, Velody. It’s not fair to any of us.’
    â€˜It’s morning,’ she pointed out. ‘I think I can resist the urge to hurl myself into the sky again.’
    â€˜I’ll go with you.’ Kelpie appeared at the gate. She arched her eyebrows at Velody. ‘Or don’t you want my help?’
    â€˜I’d welcome it,’ said Velody. She poked Crane in the chest. ‘Sleep. Thank you for your help this nox. You, too,’ she added to Macready.
    â€˜All part of the job,’ he said.
    How intriguing that he was devoting so much energy into not looking at Rhian. Velody

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