Chapter no 58

A Darker Shade of Magic

“I could try and take you back,” Kell was saying. “To your London.”

He and Lila were walking along the river’s edge, past the evening market— where people’s eyes still hung too heavy and too long—and farther on toward the docks. The sun was sinking behind them, casting long shadows in front of them like paths.

Lila shook her head and pulled the silver watch from her pocket. “There’s nothing for me there,” she said, snapping the timepiece open and shut. “Not anymore.”

“You don’t belong here, either,” he said simply.

She shrugged. “I’ll find my way.” And then she tipped her chip up and looked him in the eyes. “Will you?”

The scar over his heart twinged dully, a ghost of pain, and he rubbed his shoulder. “I’ll try.” He dug a hand in the pocket of his coat—the black one with the silver buttons—and withdrew a small parcel. “I got you something.”

He handed it over and watched Lila undo the wrappings of the box, then slide the lid off. It fell open in her hand, revealing a small puzzle board and a handful of elements. “For practice,” he said. “Tieren says you’ve got some magic in you. Better find it.”

They paused on a bench, and he showed her how it worked, and she chided him for showing off, and then she put the box away and said thank you. It seemed to be a hard phrase for her to say, but she managed. They got to their feet, neither willing to walk away just yet, and Kell looked down at Delilah Bard, a cutthroat and a thief, a valiant partner and a strange, terrifying girl.

He would see her again. He knew he would. Magic bent the world. Pulled it into shape. There were fixed points. Most of the time those points were places. But sometimes, rarely, they were people. For someone who never stood still, Lila still felt like a pin in Kell’s world. One he was sure to snag on.

He didn’t know what to say, so he simply said, “Stay out of trouble.” She flashed him a smile that said she wouldn’t, of course.

And then she tugged up her collar, shoved her hands into her pockets, and strolled away.

Kell watched her go.

She never once looked back.

Delilah Bard was finally free.

* * *

She thought of the map back in London—Grey London, her London, old London—the parchment she’d left in the cramped little room at the top of the stairs in the Stone’s Throw. The map to anywhere. Isn’t that what she had now?

Her bones sang with the promise of it.

Tieren had said there was something in her. Something untended. She didn’t know what shape it would take, but she was keen to find out. Whether it was the kind of magic that ran through Kell, or something different, something new, Lila knew one thing:

The world was hers. The worlds were hers.

And she was going to take them all.

Her eyes wandered over the ships on the far side of the river, their gleaming sides and carved masts tall and sharp enough to pierce the low clouds. Flags and sails flapped in the breeze in reds and golds, but also greens and purples and blues.

Boats with royal banners, and boats without. Boats from other lands across other seas, from near and far, wide and away.

And there, tucked between them, she saw a proud, dark ship, with polished sides and a silver banner and sails the color of night, a black that hinted at blue when it caught the light just so.

That one, thought Lila with a smile.

That one’ll do.

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