XXVI

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[JASON]

"KYRA!" JASON YELLED AS HE grabbed her from the ground, "Kyra! Wake up!" The other two woke up to see what was going on,

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"KYRA!" JASON YELLED AS HE grabbed her from the ground, "Kyra! Wake up!" The other two woke up to see what was going on,

"Jason?" Piper scooted over, "What happened?"

"She... she was trying to get my memories back." He answered, searching for a pulse. He calmed down slightly when he found one. If she died because she was trying to heal him, he would never live that down.

"She's breathing. All we can do is wait." Piper stated, pouring some nectar into Kyra's mouth. She didn't even stir,

"Um... not to be the bearer of bad news, but I don't think we can." Leo replied,

Piper nodded and turned back to Jason, "Can you carry her? We should at least see what's at the end of the tunnel."

Jason sighed, "Yeah." He mumbled, "Yeah, I can do that."

While the other two cleaned up camp, Jason continued holding Kyra. She felt warm... too warm, "Why did you do that?" He asked her, even though he knew she wasn't going to reply,

As soon as the camp was packed up, they began moving. Leo carried Jason's pack while Piper carried Kyra's.

The sewers twisted and turned and seemed to go on forever. Jason wasn't sure what to expect at the end—a dungeon, a mad scientist's lab, or maybe a sewer reservoir where all Porta-Potty sludge ends up, forming an evil toilet face large enough to swallow the world.

Instead, they found polished steel elevator doors, each one engraved with a cursive letter M. Next to the elevator was a directory, like for a department store.

"M for Macy's?" Piper guessed. "I think they have one in downtown Chicago."

"Or Monocle Motors still?" Leo suggested, "Guys, read the directory. It's messed up."

Parking, Kennels, Main Entrance: Sewer Level

Furnishings and Café M: 1

Women's Fashion and Magical Appliances: 2

Men's Wear and Weaponry: 3

Cosmetics, Potions, Poisons & Sundries: 4

"Kennels for what?" Piper questioned, "And what kind of department store has its entrance in a sewer?"

"Or sells poisons," Leo continued, "Man, what does 'sundries' even mean? Is that like underwear?"

Jason took a deep breath, adjusting Kyra in his arms, "When in doubt, start at the top."

The doors slid open on the fourth floor, and the scent of perfume wafted into the elevator. Jason stepped out first,  "Guys," he said. "You've got to see this."

Piper joined him and caught her breath. "This is not Macy's."

The department store looked like the inside of a kaleidoscope. The entire ceiling was a stained glass mosaic with astrological signs around a giant sun. The daylight streaming through it washed everything in a thousand different colors. The upper floors made a ring of balconies around a huge central atrium, so they could see all the way down to the ground floor. Gold railings glittered so brightly, they were hard to look at.

Aside from the stained glass ceiling and the elevator, Jason couldn't see any other windows or doors, but two sets of glass escalators ran between the levels. The carpeting was a riot of oriental patterns and colors, and the racks of merchandise were just as bizarre. There was too much to take it at once, but Jason saw normal stuff like shirt racks and shoe trees mixed in with armored manikins, beds of nails, and fur coats that seemed to be moving.

Leo stepped to the railing and looked down. "Check it out."

In the middle of the atrium, a fountain sprayed water twenty feet into the air, changing color from red to yellow to blue. The pool glittered with gold coins, and on either side of the fountain stood a gilded cage—like an oversize canary cage.

Inside one, a miniature hurricane swirled, and lightning flashed. Somebody had imprisoned the storm spirits, and the cage shuddered as they tried to get out. In the other, frozen like a statue, was a short, buff satyr, holding a tree-branch club.

"Coach Hedge!" Piper exclaimed. "We've got to get down there."

A voice said, "May I help you find something?"

All three of them jumped back.

A woman had just appeared in front of them. She wore an elegant black dress with diamond jewelry, and she looked like a retired fashion model—maybe fifty years old, though it was hard for Jason to judge. Her long dark hair swept over one shoulder, and her face was gorgeous in that surreal super-model way—thin and haughty and cold, not quite human. With their long red-painted nails, her fingers looked more like talons.

She smiled. "I'm so happy to see new customers. How may I help you?"

Leo glanced at Jason like, All yours.

"Um," Jason started, "is this your store?"

The woman nodded. "I found it abandoned, you know. I understand so many stores are, these days. I decided it would make the perfect place. I love collecting tasteful objects, helping people, and offering quality goods at a reasonable price. So this seemed a good ... how do you say ... first acquisition in this country."

She spoke with a pleasing accent, but Jason couldn't guess where from. Clearly, she wasn't hostile, though. Jason started to relax. Her voice was rich and exotic. Jason wanted to hear more.

"So you're new to America?" he asked.

"I am ... new," the woman agreed. "I am the Princess of Colchis. My friends call me Your Highness. Now, what are you looking for?"

Jason had heard of rich foreigners buying American department stores. Of course most of the time they didn't sell poisons, living fur coats, storm spirits, or satyrs, but still—with a nice voice like that, the Princess of Colchis couldn't be all bad.

Piper poked him in the ribs. "Jason ..."

"Um, right. Actually, Your Highness ..." He motioned with his head to the gilded cage on the first floor. "That's our friend down there, Gleeson Hedge. The satyr. Could we ... have him back, please?"

"Of course!" the princess agreed immediately. "I would love to show you my inventory. First, may I know your names?"

Jason hesitated. It seemed like a bad idea to give out their names. A memory tugged at the back of his mind—something Hera had warned him about, but it seemed fuzzy.

On the other hand, Her Highness was on the verge of cooperating. If they could get what they wanted without a fight, that would be better. Besides, this lady didn't seem like an enemy.

Piper started to say, "Jason, I wouldn't—"

"This is Piper, this is Leo." He motioned to the girl in his arms, "And this is Kyra. I'm Jason."

The princess fixed her eyes on him and, just for a moment, her face literally glowed, blazing with so much anger, Jason could see her skull beneath her skin. Jason's mind was getting blurrier, but he knew something didn't seem right. Then the moment passed, and Her Highness looked like a normal elegant woman again, with a cordial smile and a soothing voice.

"Jason. What an interesting name," she said, her eyes as cold as the Chicago wind. "I think we'll have to make a special deal for you. Come, children. Let's go shopping. But first, let's put the girl somewhere... safe."

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