CHAPTER SEVEN: Silver Moon (part 1)

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In the Nightshade's spacious forecourt, Samuel stood beside the Resident's black tram

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In the Nightshade's spacious forecourt, Samuel stood beside the Resident's black tram. The rain had stopped and the clouds had cleared. Silver Moon hung in the sky among stars, its blue-grey light gleaming down, cold and clean. The atmosphere was refreshing, but the temperature would continue to drop, and soon Samuel's old bones would ache from the chill.

Clara was still inside the Nightshade, but she would join him shortly, as soon as Van Bam had found her more fitting attire than a simple gown. For the time being, Samuel was glad for the moment of solitude.

The last time Fabian Moor was seen in Labrys Town, Samuel had been in his late twenties, Van Bam a little younger, and Marney scarcely older than Clara. They had been considered the rookies of the Relic Guild, the youngsters of the group. Gideon had been the Resident, of course, and the Resident always led the guild. Van Bam had not been blind back then, but Samuel struggled to remember what his eyes had looked like. Now, standing before the Nightshade, beneath the cold light of Silver Moon, Samuel could remember the agents who had died because of Fabian Moor, and it made him shiver. With stark clarity, he could see their faces and hear the sound of their voices.

Only he, Van Bam and Marney left now. This night was the first contact Samuel had had with either of them in almost forty years. The last three survivors of the Relic Guild ... were they really so old?

Shrugging off his reverie, Samuel fished the spirit compass from his coat pocket. He crouched and laid the compass upon the wet cobbles of the Nightshade's forecourt, and then produced the phial containing the dried blood and tiny pieces of skin that he had scraped from beneath Clara's fingernails.

As he was laying the phial down beside the compass, Clara appeared. Now dressed in black leggings, a thick, hooded jumper, and heavy, calf-length boots with silver buckles down the sides, she carried a cloth satchel that hung from her shoulder. She stopped beside Samuel, but didn't acknowledge him. Her expression was distant, lost to thought, as she stared down the tunnel that led out of the forecourt to Resident Approach.

Samuel said nothing to her at first. Still crouching, he watched as Clara produced a small and dented tin from which she took a little white tablet which she popped into her mouth. As she chewed, she ran a hand through her short, red-streaked hair. Then her attention was caught by a monument on the far side of the courtyard.

It was a large stone archway, standing fifteen feet high and twenty feet wide. It was situated several feet from the forecourt wall, a standalone structure, dull, lacking aesthetic character. Yet Clara was mesmerised by it.

'It's a portal,' Samuel told her. 'The last one standing in Labrys Town.'

As if realising for the first time she wasn't alone, Clara looked down at Samuel with a start.

'A portal to the Aelfir?' she said.

Samuel nodded. 'And our sole remaining link to them. They use that portal to send us rations and supplies. If it wasn't for their charity, Clara ...' Samuel didn't finish the sentence.

After a short pause, he stood, and motioned to the satchel hanging from her shoulder. 'Is that for me?'

She looked at the satchel as if she had never seen it before, and then shrugged it off into Samuel's hands.

'Van Bam said we'd need it,' she said.

He loosened the straps of the satchel, exposing several glass balls filled with liquid. He picked one out and shook it. The liquid glowed with faint green light.

'What are they?' Clara asked.

'Everything and nothing,' Samuel replied, replacing the glass ball back in the satchel. 'As the mirror in his study suggests, Van Bam is an adept illusionist.' He handed the satchel back to her. 'Those are spell spheres.'

'Of course they are,' Clara said sarcastically. The satchel clinked as she looped it over her shoulder again. Then she shook her head wistfully. 'You're the Relic Guild – or what's left of it. You're all magickers, and not as dead and buried as people believe you to be.'

Samuel didn't reply.

Clara rubbed her eyes. She seemed tired. 'I don't know how, but I remember you, Samuel. I remember Van Bam and Marney, too ... There are others, but it's all so vague, I ...'

'Clara,' said Samuel. 'About what Marney did to you tonight—'

'Van Bam has already asked me, Samuel!' she said, frustrated. 'I don't know what Marney did to me.'

'And I can't pretend to, either,' Samuel admitted. 'But that kiss is something to be grateful for. In part, I'm guessing Marney wanted to help you, to make the transition a little smoother.'

'You mean the transition into the Relic Guild,' Clara scoffed. 'So being a changeling automatically makes me an agent?'

'It certainly makes you dangerous enough to be a candidate.'

'But do I have a choice, Samuel? Can I say no?'

'I suppose you could. But then Van Bam would never allow you to leave the Nightshade.'

Clara's eyes flashed yellow, exhibiting some of her inner wolf's anger. 'What's that supposed to mean?'

Samuel sighed. 'Magickers are a danger to Labrys Town, Clara, and if you're not serving the Relic Guild then ... well, you've met Hamir the necromancer, right?'

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