Illumination 1.9: Shadow Music

Like a ghost, Jehane drifted through the Tower. Seth had hidden from her, and she was to find him. He called it hide and seek, but it was just another tracking exercise, like so many they’d done before. Fighting, she was awful at, but seeing and listening she did very well. She’d learned to hear the shadow music during the bad time, her own poor defense against what her keepers could not imagine.

She listened to it now, although she was in no hurry to find Seth. The Tower was a distant orchestra, murmuring sweetness to itself. Minor keys threaded lightly through the song, here and there, but the music was not frightening, just confusing. If she focused, she might pick out a particular leitmotif and follow it, but she did not. She would look and see what there was to see. Seth preferred that she close her eyes and use only the music as her guide, but that reminded her too much of the hunting dogs the Prowlers used in the land outside the Tower. And Jehane did not like to be just a dog, so she tried to use her brain as well.

She passed through the dining hall. Sometimes she ate her meals there, when the walls of her room closed in on her and she did not feel comfortable invading the hospitality of her friends. She rarely felt comfortable doing that. She was not like them, so how could she tell when it was all right to impose?

Today, her new neighbor, Ajax, was there. He was very tall, with olive skin and dark hair and dark eyes. His music was dark, too: defiant and angry. He was not like her either, but she felt sorry for him. It was hard to adjust to the Tower, even when it was so much better than what you left behind.

She almost wanted to stop and sit with him, but he wasn’t alone. Rohan and Elian lurked at the table right beside his, watching narrowly as a cluster of three girls sat at Ajax’s table and tried to get his attention. Ajax’s shadow music dominated the room, but he kept his head down, focused on his sketchbook.

Seth wasn’t there, in any case. Jehane moved on.

She passed by the gardens, by the core, by the amphitheater and the Council chamber. Seth wasn’t there, not this time. In the Portalry, she slowed. He hadn’t yet hidden from her on Earth, but she knew one day he would, and he would think he was so cunning to do so. But she was not a dog; she had a brain.

Jake Ward and another Council administrator spoke with a pair of frayed-looking Nightlights. Tense music skipped around the quartet, and they did not notice her. She was very like a ghost, sometimes.

“Eight days ago?” said Jake. “I wish you’d reported in then. You should have.”

“We had a lot going on,” said one of the Nightlights, whose arm was in a sling. The music sped up for a moment, and Jehane wondered if she ought to run away.

But Jake said soothingly, “Never mind. I understand. But if it was eight days ago, that fits in with Natalie’s battle.”

The other Councillor said, “I don’t know. This makes the third sighting, including Natalie’s. If it’s all the same Cambion, it was incredibly mobile.”

Calmly, Jake said, “We’ve never really had a chance to gather comprehensive information on what Cambions are capable of, have we? Besides, what’s the other option? That there are multiple people becoming Echthroi at the same time? There hasn’t been the kind of crisis in the real world to provoke that. Somebody would have said something.”

“Or they’re coming from another source,” said the other Councillor. “As you said, we don’t understand the limits of Cambions. Kentigern thinks it’s possible.”

Kentigern said, “Many things are possible.” He addressed the two Nightlights. “I’ve started airing out your rooms, and I’ve notified the infirmary of your injuries. They’d like to see you as soon as possible.”

Jake knocked on his own head. “Sorry about that, guys. This is just so worrying.”

“No shit,” said one of the Nightlights, before helping his companion out of the room.

“The roll-call is giving us needed information. We’ll figure this out,” Jake reassured his own companion. He turned, and Jehane quickly moved on. She didn’t think Seth would be able to escape to Earth right under his father’s nose, even if he convinced Kentigern to open the gate as part of a training exercise for her. He was still grounded, and Kentigern had a brain, too.

She went upstairs, to the storerooms. It was a terrible place for Seth to hide, because the shadow music of the Tower was different there. The songs of the people were muffled, distant. Alien chords skittered along the walls and under the doors, along with the ever-present rhythms of Kentigern himself.

And Seth’s playful, careless leitmotif. She followed it above the ramps, taking one of the little lifts to the first circle of storage. Here the storerooms stacked on top of each other like cells in a beehive, sealed not with the wooden doors of the human homes below, but with white irises that slid open and closed. A light sculpture followed her along the hall, crawling along the ceiling, and the words of the antecessors chased her in the walls.

She found Seth in one of the storerooms. She only knew he was there from the music, and she sighed. “Kentigern, is Seth allowed to be here?”

“The Council locks the storage cupboards that aren’t approved for general access, with keys they control.” There was something in the rhythms under Kentigern’s bland voice that she couldn’t quite understand.

At least, not until the door irised open, and she saw Seth standing in front of a large, heavy wooden closet, the door wide open, a sliver of metal sticking out of the lock. “Seth,” she scowled. “Do you use these games only to get where you’re not supposed to be?”

He turned to look at her. “No, cabbage, I use these games to get you places you don’t want to go. I’ve been here plenty of times.”

“So what are you doing in that cupboard?” she demanded.

“Dad confiscated my luminator, so I’ve got to get another one, haven’t I?” He held up the little black box with the crystal lens. “There’s all sorts of good stuff in here. Gate projectors. And these things.” He held up a little doll made of rags tying stones together. “Do these have their own shadow music?”

Jehane listened intently, then hugged herself. “Yes. Creepy music. I don’t like them. Why do they have music?”

“Kentigern calls them twilight proxies. He says they were used for training a long time ago. Tucked away in here because they turned out to be a bit dangerous. Kind of like the animals in the land outside.” He tossed the doll into the air and caught it again. “But I bet if we don’t activate them, it’d make a pretty good training tool for you. I could hide them all over.”

“No,” said Jehane flatly.

“Just one, then,” he wheedled. “You need to practice tracking things you don’t know really well.”

“I’m not a dog, Seth! I don’t need to be trained!”

He gave her a skeptical look, one eyebrow raised in a gesture that Natalie had once told her he’d spent days perfecting. A little smile moved over his mouth as she frowned at him. “Show me your Stage 3 weapon, then. No? I’ll make it easy on you. Stage 2.”

Jehane wrapped her arms around herself and did not try. Maybe it would work, maybe it wouldn’t. She understood his point. She’d feel better about it if it didn’t always feel like… like it was a game for Seth, a way of amusing himself and teasing her. If the teachers spent time thinking about ways to use her gifts, she’d feel quite differently, she was sure. But they treated her as an invalid.

But for better or for worse, Seth was nearly the only one who ever pushed her to improve herself. And no matter how much she disliked them, she always found herself playing his games.

He leaned against the cupboard, tossing the doll up and down, watching her in silence. He knew her so well. She scowled. “Fine. You win.”

“Of course.” He grinned and tucked the doll away in his back pocket. “Now, tell me about what you overheard in the Portalry when you looked there.”

 

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