“Does your mom have these kinds of fainting spells often?”
“Not really,” Adam grumbled as he sipped his soda. I had taken him to Nervi’s, but our food hadn’t arrived yet. “I mean, yeah, when we went mountain climbing last year, we had to get airlifted out, and then there was the time when I was a kid that she passed out in the pool…” He shrugged. “Maybe. I guess.”
“I’m sure she’ll be fine,” I said. He clearly didn’t want to talk about his family, so I changed the subject. “But I wanted to talk to you about the reason I brought you to the Zero Forge in the first place.”
My roommate winced. “That’s…I’m not really sure what you wanted to see there. It just looked like another factory to me.”
I had wanted him to see the beating heart of the city, the majesty of it. I had wanted him to understand what made Domina tick, both in a very real and philosophical sense.
“Let’s leave that for now.” If he wasn’t getting the message, trying to hammer it into his head wasn’t going to help. I wasn’t sure whether it was because he wasn’t a native, or if it was because he was a sociopath. “Let’s talk about the fey.”
He eyed me wryly. “Are we actually going to talk about them this time, or is this going to turn into another philosophical rant?”
“Hey, I didn’t rant—”
I cleared my throat, unwilling to concede the point. “Anyway, yes, this seriously is about the fey. You know about their attacks Tuesday, right?”
My roommate nodded. “Of course. The entire city knew five minutes after it happened.”
I didn’t, but anyway…
“And then you said they declared themselves a culture or whatever? I hadn’t heard about that part.”
“Right. But what you might not realize is that the fey have been a bit…quiet since then.”
He took another sip of his drink, frowning. “Didn’t they slaughter everyone that raided their outposts?”
“They fought off most of the attacks, but they only slaughtered one of the teams. We still don’t know exactly how they did it.” I waved my hand. “Anyway, that’s not what I mean. With one exception—Maeve—none of the fey have been seen for three days.”
He bit his lip. “Maeve is…” Then he shook his head. “Yeah, no, I don’t remember which one Maeve is.”
“The Maiden of Winter,” I reminded him. “I can’t remember her full title. Anyway, she only popped up long enough to use a homunculus as a bomb. Other than that, it’s like they’ve disappeared off the map.”
“Is that so odd? It’s only been three days.”
I leaned forward to emphasize my point. “You don’t understand: The fey have always been very big on public appearances. Every district was guaranteed at least two nice, flashy showings each day. Once for Day’s court, and then again for Night’s. There’s been nothing.”
I leaned back and nodded in thanks as Ezio Nervi, Gloria’s son, sauntered over and placed our food on the table with a forced smile.
The smile wasn’t forced because of us. It was just that everyone was still worried about the Composer—even though she had been captured—and adding the fey on top of that…
Everyone was staying inside. It was disturbing, really, seeing the streets pretty much completely empty. Every few minutes I’d see a small cluster of armed civilians rushing by on their way to some destination, but other than that nothing.
Which was the reason the owner of Carne Sandwiches was serving us personally. Not only were we his only customers, but all his help had declined to show up for work today.
Speaking of which, that reminded me. “Adam, is Lily still going to her jobs?”
He nodded. “She said something about setting a good example. Of course, half the places are closed, but that just gives her a little more free time.”
“She’s coming by in about an hour,” Ezio put in, his fangs slurring the words only slightly. He slid into one of the empty seats at the table, which went a long way towards showing just how dead his business was at the moment. “My daughter is supposed to come by at the same time, but considering my other daughter is supposed to be here right now…” He sighed. “Sorry. Been a long day.”
I thought for a second. “Celistina is…thirteen now?”
The ghoul didn’t look up. He just rubbed his forehead, trying to knead out a headache. “Fourteen. She turned just last month.”
“Right, so Rafella is thirteen.”
Adam looked at Ezio a little oddly. “And…how old are you?”
My roommate bit his lip. “So…you were fifteen, sixteen when your oldest was born?”
Ezio finally looked up, a confused expression on his face. “Yeah, so?”
“I’m just a little surprised, is all.”
Adam shrugged and took a bite of his sandwich. “Sixteen is young, that’s all,” he said around the mouthful.
“Sixteen is about the average age for your firstborn,” I noted. “I think it’s closer to fifteen, actually.”
He stared at me. Then he turned to Ezio, who immediately nodded in confirmation.
“That can’t be right,” he muttered, putting down the sandwich. “No one I know has any kids.”
“Sure they do,” I said with a laugh. “You met Simon and Seena, right? Simon has two sons, and Seena has a boy and a girl.”
He blinked, very slowly.
“Then there’s their friend Delphie—have you met Delphie?” He shook his head. “Well, she’s our age too, and she has triplets. Then Jelena—”
“Back on topic,” Adam said quickly, clearly not wanting to hear any more. “What was that about the fey being quiet?”
Ezio looked like he wanted to talk more about kids and so on, but I spoke up before he had a chance. “You’re right, sorry. The point is, the fey must be up to something.”
“Aren’t they always?”
“Well…yeah, but this is something new. They’re a culture now. Apparently.”
My roommate nodded. “Fair enough. So, what’s the plan?”
I thought about it for a minute. I hadn’t spoken with any warlords about it directly, but I could make some reasonable assumptions. “Attacking them outright didn’t work, and got a lot of people killed.” I winced. “So I guess…just wait and see?”
Adam rolled his eyes and took another bite of his sandwich. “Inspired.”
Behind the Scenes (scene 158)
Short, yes, but an unfortunate necessity.