Lorcan bolted up, hitting his head on the ceiling of the carriage. He didn’t realize he had fallen asleep.
Faye smiled. “The drugs are still having an effect on you. You passed out for a bit.”
He grunted a response but didn’t think it possible he’d passed out at the crucial point when he’d seen the shallow surface, a way to escape the deep water. But he said nothing.
He glanced out the window. The architecture of the buildings was beyond anything he’d ever imagined. Every building had holes where doors and windows should be, and the merfolk swam in and out of them. The structures themselves seemed delicate and in danger of collapsing. The water made it the rock more buoyant, and that had to be what was keeping the buildings up.
“Is this Nepolymbus?”
“No, we’re on the outskirts. You can see it’s still underwater. In the city, there’s both land and air. Like what you have on Earth.”
“Have you been anywhere above the water?”
Faye turned and looked him in the eye. “I don’t want to lie to you. So don’t ask.”
Shortly, they entered an area where the water was clearer. Lorcan could see the city from the outside, and it seemed the water simply stopped at the magnificent stone arch, as if banking up against a glass wall. It looked like the water he’d seen from the inside of the hospital room.
The city was magnificent—light, bright, and bursting with activity. It seemed like he was entering a modern version of Rome, Greece, or even New York. Lorcan shook his head and chuckled to himself. He should have been able to come up with more places to compare it to, but those were the places he’d visited. Perhaps he should travel more when he went back to Earth.
The dolphins, as they had done before, swung the carriage around so that it parked inside the air area.
Lorcan opened the door and jumped out. He couldn’t help but gawk at the magnificence around him.
Nobody seemed to pay attention to the new arrivals. A few more carriages arrived, and the passengers disembarked just as they had. Lorcan sighed. This was, apparently, an everyday activity. The people were beautiful. They seemed human in shape and size with a few slight differences, such as their angelic figures, porcelain skin, and striking blue eyes.
A few more had just arrived on foot—well, kind of. They actually swam up from the water and then simply walked into the air dimension without benefit of a carriage.
Reading his mind, Faye smiled. “It’s much more efficient to travel between sections yourself than by carriage if you’re not carrying too much.”
“Plus, Miracle and Flipper need to get paid, right? They’re like cab drivers on Earth.”
Faye laughed and nodded. He got the impression she hadn’t laughed for a long time, and he was pleased.
“What if the sharks find us?”
She shook her head. “No need to worry. They don’t come near Nepolymbus. If they didn’t get us out there, their master will kill them.”
“But we killed the doctor. Isn’t he their master?”
“No, the doctor and the shark-elves were somebody’s pets.”
“P-pets? You mean, like domestic animals that people cuddle with on their laps?”
Faye looked at him, her eyes as cold as steel. “A pet is a trained creature that a master can use for whatever he wants. I know humans separate human beings and animals into different classes. But in our world, we’re all creatures.”
“So what differentiates the species?”
“Power,” she said bluntly and turned and walked away.
“Look out!” He pushed Faye to the ground. His spy instincts had kicked in. A shadow rolled around a large arena that looked surprisingly like the Roman Coliseum.
A steel arrow hit the statue behind them, collapsing it.
Lorcan stood up and reached his hand behind him to pull out an arrow.
“Don’t!” Faye pulled him back so hard he almost fell over.
The arrow exploded, shattering the statue into thousands of pieces. There was no pressure created by the explosion, but he inhaled some of the dust before Faye could pull him away far enough that she could speak with a hand covering her mouth.
“Don’t breathe the dust in,” she told him.
But it was too late. He felt dizzy, and he could feel his throat closing up. He couldn’t breathe.
Other bystanders were now paying attention because of the commotion the attack had caused. They rushed over as Lorcan collapsed to the ground, gasping for air. He heard the buzz of strange voices he couldn’t understand. The people spoke a language he didn’t understand.
He heard Faye’s voice, speaking the strange language. Then he was lifted. There were sounds of a struggle. His body was shoved and then pulled. He heard Faye shouting. She must be angry, he thought.
Someone sat him up, and his head lolled in the familiar crook of Faye’s neck. She turned and whispered into his ear.
“I know your name is Lorcan Brodie, and you’re a citizen of Earth. You were on a job for a client when an accident happened. You aren’t here by chance. The sea creatures are now out to get you. You have no choice but to trust me, Lorcan. Give me a sign that you understand what I’m saying.”
He wanted to respond, but his body wouldn’t obey.
Faye shouted to the crowd, saying something in Nepolymbian. Then she said to Lorcan, “I can’t wait for your consent. I have to do this, or you’ll die.”
How? He could hear himself screaming the question in his head.
He felt the prick of a needle in his neck. Cool liquid streamed into his vein, instantly opening his throat and freeing his muscles. He moved his head away from Faye’s neck, opened his eyes, and saw Faye secretly spit the needle from between her lips down to the ground.
He sat up, and then stood up. The crowd of about twenty people backed away, observing him with caution.
Faye said something to them.
“What did you just say?”
“I said you’re the keeper of the Key of Pisces. That’s how you survived the poison.”
“What the heck does that mean? What key?”
She looked him in the eye, but before she could say anything more, someone in the crowd shouted. The rest of the mob turned to look at Faye.
“What is it? What do they want now?” Lorcan asked. Faye’s face had turned pale. This is bad, he thought.
The group of people approached them slowly.
“Run where? I’m not going to leave you here. You have to tell me what’s going on.” He pulled her behind him, although he wasn’t quite sure how he would be able to protect her.
A man charged at them. He didn’t exactly look like the type for combat, so with a couple of mixed martial art movements, Lorcan was able to take him down easily.
The rest of the men rumbled, prepared to move toward him.
A man charged past Lorcan and then stood in front of him. He was tall and formidable with long black hair. He wore warrior armor and held a spear in his hand. The formality of the man stopped the attacking crowd in their footsteps.
He turned and cast a cold glance at Lorcan. No, he glanced at Faye, who was standing behind him.
“Look out!” Lorcan shouted as he saw a man in the crowd throw a knife.
Without even looking, the warrior raised a shield in one hand to block the knife. The knife hit the shield and dropped to the ground.
The crowd roared, about to attack.
“Run this way!” Faye shouted, tugging Lorcan’s hand and withdrawing in another direction.
He yanked his hand away. “We can’t leave him behind, Faye,” he said.
“He can handle them.”
“I said no.”
He returned to the warrior, pulling out one of the daggers he kept tucked in the small of his back.
The crowd charged at them with whatever weapons they had—knives, swords, spears, and daggers. There were more than twenty of them. One of them pulled out something that looked like a gun.
A tall man threw a spear in their direction. Lorcan turned and saw that Faye had returned and stood by his side, and that the spear was heading her way. The warrior darted over and sued his shield to block the spear, leaving his back unguarded.
The man with the gun aimed at the warrior’s back and pulled the trigger. Lorcan threw a dagger at the gunman. He jerked his hand back, and the bullet hit the warrior’s shoulder.
The warrior turned and looked at the crowd. He roared and then charged at them. Soon, the crowd was nothing but body parts. He returned to Lorcan and Faye, his body covered in blood.
He pointed to a small alley and said something in Nepolymbian. Then he slid his arm around Faye’s back and scooted her in that direction. Lorcan followed. Not too long after that, they had settled in a cart, a square, rusted container with an engine of some sort sticking out the back and skis instead of wheels.
The warrior started the engine, and the machine shuddered to life. It skied up about ten feet in the air and then zoomed around the strange ancient town.