“Where, exactly?” Seraphia asked.
“A section of the city wall, but where precisely…I’m not sure.” I closed the leather cover, still feeling the pull from the city wall, and stood. “I think I can find it.”
Seraphia jumped off the couch. “I’m coming.”
I nodded at her and grabbed the book, holding it away from me. Just touching it made me feel queasy.
“Let me get a bag.” I hurried to my little bedroom, which was already cluttered with clothes. The books that my dead friend Beatrix had given me had pride of place on the bedside table.
Quickly, I rifled through the old armoire that Mac had found at a car boot sale—only magic could fit an armoire into a car boot—and found the leather messenger bag inside. I stuffed the book into it, grateful to feel the magic dim.
I returned to the living room, and the three of us hurried down the stairs, spilling out onto the street. Fortunately, the rain had slowed to a faint drizzle, and the early afternoon sun was trying to peek through the clouds.
“So all you could see was a section of the city wall?” Seraphia asked.
“Yeah. I don’t think I was even supposed to see that much. There’s a spell on this book that’s meant to stop a seer’s vision, I think.”
“But you’re not a seer,” Mac said.
“I think that’s why I can see part of what the book wants to hide.”
“What are you, exactly?” Seraphia asked.
She held up her hands, an apologetic look on her face. “Sorry, sorry. It’s rude of me to ask.”
“The truth is, I don’t know what I am, exactly.”
“Let’s get a move on,” Mac said.
I smiled at her, grateful for her ability to deftly move the conversation off me.
Seraphia nodded enthusiastically.
I turned and headed down the street, following the tug of magic that pulled me toward the edge of the city. We hurried along winding streets dotted with a variety of shops built hundreds of years earlier, their Tudor fronts—dark wooden beams, white plaster, and glittering mullioned windows—holdovers from the age of Elizabeth I. The windows of these businesses displayed potions, weapons, spells, books, and restaurant tables set with smoking cocktails. People laughed and talked inside, magic sparking around them.
Here and there, huge trees grew out of the pavement, ancient relics of the past that had remained undisturbed for centuries. Fairy lights glittered around the branches.
The vision of the wall directed me to the gate preferred by my friends and me—one of many entrances to the city, a magical portal that led directly to the Haunted Hound pub, where Mac worked with Quinn. Before we reached the gatehouse, I was drawn to the right, and I made for an alley that was dim and dusty despite the watery sunlight.
“I don’t go down here much,” Mac said.
“Me neither.” Seraphia stuck close to us as we entered the narrow space.
I led the way down the seemingly endless passage of brick and stone. The cobblestones beneath my feet were uneven, and the walls were without windows or doors.
“This must be the narrowest street in town,” I said.
“And long.” Mac moved closer to me and peered around my shoulder.
We hurried down the corridor, the walls of the buildings on either side nearly scraping against my jacket. About fifty meters later, we arrived at a clearing that separated us from the city wall.
“Ah, No Man’s Square,” Mac said.
“What is that?” I inspected the space. There were many clearings around town, most of them situated in front of the guild towers that punctuated the city walls at irregular intervals. In most such areas, shops and restaurants filled the buildings at the edge of the clearing, but here, the buildings were abandoned and boarded up.
“There’s no guild tower in this square.” Mac pointed to an empty expanse of wall that pulled at me strangely. “This area is deserted. There may have been shops and restaurants here once, but not in my lifetime.”
The grass in the square was damp and scraggly, with wildflowers blooming in patches. The vegetation looked weak and limp, as though struggling to suck nutrients from the oppressive air.
The city wall, constructed of massive stones, rose tall and beckoned. “Where are we in relation to the gate that leads to the Haunted Hound?”
“Not far,” Mac said. “It’s to our left a few hundred meters, as the crow flies.”
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