Rain twisted around. “What – how did she teleport? How did she teleport Fallen? Did she—”
Ardent did not stay to listen. She ported back to her room at the Underground. The tracer golem was on one of the giant mushrooms in the meadow setting, scribbling furiously. “Trace Shadow of Fallen Scent only,” she ordered it. “Drop everyone else. Give me her current position.”
The tracer wrote quickly: not once a minute, but every few seconds. Fallen was twenty-eight miles away. Forty-two miles. Fifty-six miles. Ardent closed her hands into fists and slammed them against the mushroom. It dented like a squishy cushion at the impact. The area’s wards asked if Whispers Rain still had permission to enter. “Yes!” she snapped. Then, “Trace Never Breaks, in this form.” She showed the tracer Miro’s homunculus.
He was in the exact same place as Fallen. They were halfway to the Sun Etherium. “What’s going on?” Rain asked, appearing beside her.
“I’m an idiot.” One-hundred seventy-seven point three-two-seven miles. The tracer stopped writing. Ardent summoned up a map, but knew what she’d find before she plotted it: they were in the Sun Etherium. “Trace Jinokimijin,” she said, and described her as best she could. The tracer whuffled and shook its head, ears flopping: it couldn’t find her.
Rain looked at the tracer’s work, perplexed. “Ardent, how could they get there so quickly? This doesn’t make any sense.”
“The phoenix rose. That bird we wrested away from Fallen’s possession. It’s a phoenix rose. Jinokimijin’s been researching it for years. Decades. She knew how to get it to teleport across the Broken Lands.” Ardent turned and slid to the meadow ground, grabbing fistfuls of hair. “How could I be so stupid? I gave it right to them.”
“Ardent, what are you talking about? Why did Fallen have a phoenix rose? Justice.” Rain clapped a small brown hand over her mouth. “She had a phoenix rose and you went to fight her?”
“Yes,” Ardent growled. Maybe Miro didn’t know. He almost died. He might still die. Surely that can’t have been part of his plan.
His voice echoed in her head, swearing three times that he didn’t want the phoenix rose for himself or for the Sun Queen. But he never swore he didn’t want it for his father. She punched an ineffectual fist against the spongy ground. The moon aether around them shifted, as if its natural currents had changed abruptly. It swirled inwards, towards the center of the Etherium with a curving motion.
“What’s happening to the aether?” Rain asked, watching it.
“Fallen.” Ardent leaped to her feet. “Jinokimijin’s channeling from her. We have to see the Queen.” She took Rain’s hand, and they teleported to the Palace of the Moon.
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