“I’m not going anywhere with you.” “And how dare you have the indecency to be look shocked! The fact that I stand here at all this morning is as much an astonishment to me as it appears to be to you. I’ve been nearly done-in for this game tonight.”
“It was no game, Amelia. It was never a game. No one ever…” Indeed, the Professor’s grave face bore an excessively earnest expression as though she had misunderstood him entirely. It was striking, so much so that she would have liked to be able to calm herself and speak sense. However, her fury, so rarely ignited, was held her well beyond that.
“You know good and well that it’s game enough to those boys, a hunt, a bit of liveliness to chase down some book just on the edge of inaccessible for coin to pay for their meals until the next one. They never expected to pay their lives for your patronage, I never expected…
A swirl of light started at the center of the room, as bright and white as sunlight scalding a snow-filled street. There were no gentle violins this time to distract her from the crackling noise. It sounded of a fire that had just been fed fresh kindling, snapping away as it devoured. It just as it was the night of the dinner when all this began.
She stepped back, feeling her face contort in horror. Willoughby had not died, but the memory of the theatre was as present as if he had.
“No!” He pulled at her arm, moving her towards him.
“If you pull away, I will let you go and I cannot bear what will follow for the both of us.”
“You speak nonsense, you’ve only ever spoken nonsense.
“We traffic in worlds now. No longer just ours, no longer just our mysteries, and we intended to help them with what we knew so that they could help us in return. It has gone…wrong. We must do what we can to correct it. He requires that we correct it.” He hissed as if his words could possibly implant and effect meaning in Amelia’s exhausted brain.
“If I am to believe
“There is not time, there are but minutes, Miss Crevecoeur, until the portal bursts forth. Once we arrive, I can explain myself, though by God, I do not wish the truth upon you now any more than I once wished that mark.”
“The mark. It was branded on us the last time we stood here, agog, at your portal.”
“They are…passports of flesh…made by being bound to what lies on the other side. The acid etches a symbol so they know you are a traveller of the portals. It’s a nasty sort of stuff, but without it, we will not be trusted.”
“You can’t take her back there.” Willoughby’s voice was clarion, as he emerged, as ever, from the shadows. Nearly as essentially, the tea service steamed beneath his fervently jutted chin.
“If you have any feelings for the woman, Ammon, any at all, you will not take her across the Channel.”
Amelia repeated it to herself, bemusedly, Willoughby’s tone twisting the otherwise straightforward meaning. The Channel?
Ammon held out his hand. She noticed his hand scarred with the falcon.
“Do you trust me?”
“No! Not in the slightest!”
“Do you want to know where all your finds have been going? What all of this has been about?”
“Of course, I want to know, but I’d be perfectly satisfied by a simple explanation.”
“Of course not.”
“No. Of course not.”
“I warn you, Ammon. Come and sit here with Amelia and I, and we will drink this tea. We will let the portal close. You need never go there again.”
“I have seen such things…Laurence, my soul would never rest if I were to do that.”
“You would feed her to that monster.” His
The rictus wretched itself open as if in reply. The Professor nodded, as if he had mourned her a thousand times before and was mourning her again. “I won’t let it come to that.”