Chapter 27:


Mylo and the Summoned Hero

Mylo ascended the sturdiest ladder he'd ever met. It was rock solid, coated with some rubbery substance that gave sweat and rain no quarter. A shame he should make its acquaintance so late.

But as far as the day was concerned, it was early. 5 in the morning and the sun had been up a few hours, but only now started to pull away from the horizon.

Humming as he went, Mylo climbed the new spotting tower.

At the top, he brought himself level with the platform and peered. The deck stood windswept and empty, only a large aerial, whose purpose he couldn't guess, rose to greet him.


From somewhere close at hand, Mylo heard a muffled cry of: "First rule!"

The aerial stretched up another fifty feet. And it was wide enough. Mylo checked around the other side. He found more empty platform and a view of Old Edule.

Don't tell me she can turn invisible now.

He called again, and the hairline seem of the aerial's access panel clamshelled open. The grumpy pearl within said, "If you're going to insist on my real name, can't you start with my last name and an honorific?"

Mylo thought about it for a moment. "Then why did you chose a first name for your alias?"

"That was a screen name. It's different."

He stumbled over a little—not the name, but the enforced distance. "Miss Hoshino...."

Kasumi sighed. "Close enough."

They failed to match gazes for a while. For his part, Mylo found he couldn't stay angry over their little fight—holding a grudge is easier when carrying a wound, and he was healed now.

"Here. Your fire sword." Mylo unclipped it from his pack and handed it over.

Fascination returned to the hero's eyes. She came out of the aerial so she could unsheathe it and flail about.

"Nice! You are forgiven."

Mylo decided not to ask what for. He had a pretty good guess: probably because he had stopped being fun for a while.

"So what happens now?" Kasumi asked.

"That depends."

They scanned the sky. There should have been some of the Jagai's agents, perhaps armored, perhaps plainly dressed, skimming through the streets and over the walls looking for them. Lydia Wode didn't seem the type to give up easy. But for now at least, it seemed clear—a typically empty Edule.

"Seems you've made some enemies, and they know your base is Edule," Mylo said. "So—"

"Roadtrip!" Kasumi flared. "I haven't done one in years! Are you packed? Can we go now? Let's go!"

He didn't even have to ask. So much for worrying for so much nothing. Mylo smiled.



"So." Lydia Wode appeared and took a seat on the box Paul Etier was about to unpack. "New place, very mod. Not a bad pad, for an exile."

The detective scowled at her. "I thought you would be out hunting down Mylo. Or have you delegated that to your little army?"

"It's the Jagai's army, and no. That little throwdown by the north gate seems to have stirred up something below. Fasral are swarming out of the ruins."

Paul dropped his guard and his brandy.

"They're heading north, towards the open tundra. Until they're over the horizon I'm not taking any chances, though. The infantry are busy protecting the town—these are the Jagai's citizens at stake."

"Thank you."

The priestess turned a searching eye on the detective. "And what of you? Surely a packrat like you keeps his gear and old spells."

It was true, and undeniably so with all of his old inspector hats on the hat rack.

"Yes, but my trying to track Mylo would be futile."

"Oh really?"

"I taught him all my tricks." Partially true, and Lydia raised a doubting eyebrow to let the detective know his little lie wouldn't hold up in court.

Lydia watched him for a while, deciding what to do. "Well. I guess we lose this round."

"Indeed." Paul stifled a smile.

She turned to go—not that she needed to.

The old detective felt the rueful tang of opportunity's door closing and locking and deadbolting. But this was for the best, he shuddered at the memory of dark red eyes full of pain, betrayed. At this point, clinging tighter would only drive Mylo further away.

He bowed her out. "I hope you'll keep the Three Feather Cafe well visited in my stead. It would be a grave loss to civilization were they to cease operations."

"Chin up, inspector. Or didn't you see?"

Lydia fished for something, and Paul did have information to be caught. His eyes were still sharp enough and his mind keen enough to truly see. Mylo's barrier had been brittle and weak when cast from his chest—close to a strobilus's net. But then when the Pelgram brought the buildings down, Mylo had raised his right hand and cast the barrier there. An instinctive move, yes. But cast to far from his net, and with no channels to conduct, it should have been futile. Yet the detective had watched several head-size chunks of rubble hit the barrier, which held.

Oh no, you do not get information out of Paul Etier so easily.

He bluffed, "I do not know what you are talking about."

"Really? Ah, what a shame."

"Farewell, Lady Wode."

"Next time I'll skip the middle man." Lydia smiled and disappeared.


Last night's fight had blocked the rubble dump at the north gate, and what with nearby fasral activity, the carts took bits of unwanted building to the west gate instead, unloading them at the edge of the forest. In this trickle of activity, no one noticed one of the carts dropping a pair of figures off after its cargo.

"Thanks man."

Brendan nodded. "Stay safe you two."

The cart rattled on as Mylo and Kasumi melted into the woods. Kasumi again was—to Mylo—inexplicably bagless. He thought he was traveling light with a single backpack, but Kasumi breezed along in her green robe and brown shoes.

Pine needles rustled under foot. Mylo suggested they stay off the roads for a while—the trees here stood well apart and kept their branches high off the forest floor. Kasumi agreed—at first.

"Kitty's calling!"

Kasumi ran onto the road and waved at a traveler in a long brown hooded cloak, who rushed up the embankment to join them.

"So," Mylo asked, "where were you in the fight last night?"

"Hey, that rhymed!" said Kasumi.

Couzinet grimaced. "I...thought you were going to get killed and didn't want to join you."

The trio set off, picking their way between the pines. A few times Mylo looked back. Edule's skyscraper spires stood impassive to his departure, which was happy, but not the joyous escape he'd once envisioned.

He was about to look away when the sunlight was caught for a moment by something blue and insubstantial as smoke, bending south between Mylo and a cloud. Blinking, he lost whatever it was and couldn't reacquire.

Kasumi tugged at Mylo's sleeve to hurry him along. She and Couzinet were waiting for him. "Hey, keep walking. And stop being so quiet. You still haven't told me about that utility spell you learned."

"Oh, it's just for sending letters long distance."

"A pen pal spell! That's adorable. Got anyone to use it with?"

"Just one for now."

Together they slipped away from Edule, taking Mylo south toward warmer climes, adventure, and, if he was lucky, those shady trees with the broad ribbon leaves which adventurers told him had such good branches to climb and sit upon.

Ataga Corliss
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