Chapter no 10 – JUNIPER

Lightlark (The Lightlark Saga Book 1)

The night tasted of salt. Wind blew the scent of the sea up and over the cliffs and trees, to where Isla crouched, on the outskirts of the agora.

Patterns formed for the patient, Isla knew, and she had learned to be a very special brand of persistent while trapped within her glass castle. It had been five days since Azul’s demonstration. Celeste was busy sourcing the gloves. No other trials had been announced. So Isla had focused on her part of their plan. She had visited the agora almost every night, watching. Waiting.

She knew the nobles who frequented a storefront that sold art during the day but turned into a secret brothel past midnight. She knew the shops that had back entrances and exactly what time they truly closed. She counted the number of songs the band played before packing up for the night—always fourteen—and noted the members who would go to a bar before setting off for home.

The important information was gleaned when the Sunlings were long gone, lest they burst into flames with the rising sun. When the first rosy hint of day coated the horizon and the only people left in the marketplace were too full of drink to notice her, she would walk the back streets, paying attention. Listening.

That was how she learned about the barkeep.

The man locked his door for the night with a key he kept in the pocket of his immaculately pressed light-blue pants. There was a strange rhythm to the jingle of his lock—it took five turns to get it right.

He turned around and startled.

Isla sat on an unsteady stool, hands clasped in front of her. The place reeked of alcohol. Sharp, pure, concentrated liquor. She had never tried a sip, thanks to Poppy and Terra, but she knew the smell well.

Your head is already in the clouds, they said. No need to cloud it even more.

“It seems business is booming,” she said, motioning at the dozens of empty glasses left discarded on the tables, the leftovers from a euphoric


The barkeep grinned, making his strangely shaped mustache curl upward on either side. “Well, the years haven’t been kind. But bad times are good for business.”

Isla wasn’t wearing her crown, or any of her brighter colors, but the barkeep stared at her eyes. “You know who I am, then,” she said.

The Skyling’s gaze remained fixed upon her as he made his way to the other side of the bar. He uncorked a bottle, poured it directly into a glass, and took a sip of the honey-colored substance, eyes never leaving hers. “Of course I do, Wildling. The question is . . . do you know who I am?”

Isla had watched countless islanders walk in and out of this bar, too quickly to have had a good time, without any drink in their hands. Some left without smelling of alcohol at all. She had followed some of them, brushed past them, seen there was nothing new in their pockets. Which meant the barkeep was selling something other than liquor. Something invisible, yet priceless. Gossip on the street had all but confirmed it.

“You’re the person islanders come to for information.”

The Skyling pursed his lips, considering. Finally, he put his drink down and bowed. “Juniper, at your service.”

“What is your price?” she asked. She had arrived prepared. Without waiting for him to answer, she dropped a handful of precious gems on the counter, next to a large pile of coin. Ready to pay whatever she needed to for the right information.

Juniper looked at the display and grinned. “I require a different sort of payment . . .” he said.

Her breath hitched. What was he implying?

He must have seen her tense, because he added, “I deal in secrets, dear.” “Secrets?”

Juniper nodded. “Give me one of yours . . . and I would be happy to provide you with any information you require.”

The mention of secrets made her blood go cold. Her secrets would mean death. Isla straightened her spine. “I have none,” she said steadily.

Juniper only smiled. “We both know that’s not true.” She swallowed. What exactly did he know?

Panic rose in her chest, bile up her throat. Part of her wanted to flee.

But to get into the Moon Isle library, Isla needed information. She took a steady breath and, before she could stop herself, said, “I let the king win during the first demonstration. I could have bested him—but didn’t.”

Juniper took a deep breath, as if the secret invigorated him, then said, “That will do. What is it you wish to know, Ruler?”

Isla leaned in so she could whisper and he would hear her. “How do I get past the guards on Moon Isle?”

He put a finger against his lip, considering. “There are no guards during the full moon, when the Moonling curse is at its strongest. All Moonlings retreat to the safety of their castle then.”

Good. “And when is the next full moon?”

Juniper answered immediately, as if he’d known that would be her next question. “The twentieth day of the Centennial.”

That was in a week.

She nodded. “Thank you.” Part of her wanted to ask about all the remaining libraries. Where they were. Tips on getting inside them.

But she couldn’t trust the barkeep with any more of their plan. Doing so would be foolish. Dangerous.

Isla turned to go.

“Oh, and, Wildling?” Juniper said, thrumming his fingers against the


She froze. Looked back at him over her shoulder.

“The tailor is missing clothing. You wouldn’t know anything about that,

would you?”

Isla’s stomach twisted into a braid. But her face revealed nothing.

Poppy’s training ensured her emotions were always left off her face.

This was a game. For all of them. The islanders’ lives were also at risk. She needed to remember that. Needed to remind herself she couldn’t trust anyone. Especially not Juniper.

She grinned. “A secret for another time,” she said before leaving through the back door.

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