They ate in public, at a popular restaurant specializing in cuisine from Danava. Danava was a mortal country the fey shard visited on a regular schedule: someone had worked it out to “every 6,859 days”, for stays of 198 days. It was one of the few worlds where the schedule had been reliable for the entire time since the Sundering. The food focused on a variety of meats, some real, barely cooked and flavored only with their own juices, others made from aether and steeped in sauces and spices. Side dishes were likewise mixed, from aether breads to authentic vegetables, rice and cheese. The assorted dishes floated about the cafe on huge platters, and guests plucked off whichever ones they wanted.
“I almost want to sleep in public,” Ardent said. They’d gotten the books she wanted from the Archive, and were sitting at a booth that afforded verbal privacy, but not visual. “Fallen’s much bolder than I’d expected her to be about wrecking private places. She, or her cronies, might be more hesitant to attack when there’d be lots of witnesses. And if even that doesn’t give her pause, then maybe it really is too late.”
Miro rested his chin against his hand. “It would be…unorthodox, at any rate. You know, I’m disappointed we didn’t track anyone back to a location where the phoenix rose could be held. She must have someone tending to it. I suppose she could use golems, but…you’d think she’d want fey eyes on it. Golems and aether are more vulnerable to deception and assault.”
“Maybe she trusts her wards on it more than she trusts any person,” Ardent said. “I admit, I’d been hoping we might find something interesting. Time to take our data gathering to the next level.” She hooked the tracer out of her locket, and put a full privacy bubble around it to shield it from the view of any onlookers. Then she expanded the space it was in, gave it a fat new notebook, and fed it fifty-eight aether signatures.
Miro stared as the little golem wrote furiously. “It can trace that many people at once?”
“Can now.” Ardent grinned. “One of the things I used the power channeled from you to do. I’ll plot all the locations out on a map later. If any of ’em go to a place where the phoenix rose could thrive, we’ll check it out. Anyway, getting out of the Etherium does have some disadvantages. Like making Fallen wonder what I might be up to while she can’t watch me. I don’t want to draw her eye to Second Chance. Which brings us to another matter. I think maybe you should go to Second Chance.” ‘Second Chance’ was the code they were using for Verdant Generosity’s location.
“Ardent, how many times must we have this argument? You need a channel. Now more than ever. Without sun aether, you’d not have been able to overpower that ruffian, nor take his toy away. For that matter, you should channel from me again tonight.”
“Sugar, there’s no need. I don’t have another use in mind.”
“One will come to you, probably in the form of some cretin attempting the theft of that locket. Or me. You have ample reasons. I am quite well and recovered from earlier. There is no reason not to.”
Ardent made a face at him. “You’re changing the subject. You’ll be safe outside the Etherium, and I still need someone for Second Chance.”
“Then pull in a favor from someone else. What makes you think I’ll be safe outside of the Etherium? You’ve already proved that you can bypass fey evasion and render a fey unconscious. Send me away, and Fallen can track me down and capture me in the Broken Lands. And drag me back here for her channel. Her Sun High Court channel.”
Ardent sat back, stricken. Miro let it sink in, rather than stressing the point further. She glanced around them. “We probably shouldn’t be having this argument in public.” Then she pursed her lips and cupped her chin in one hand, thoughtful. “Or we should be having it much more in public, maybe.”
Miro frowned. “How do you mean?”
She pointed at his plate. “Finish eating. We’ll talk about it elsewhere.”
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