“So this is the place.” Aladdin perched midway up a maple with Morgan and Maria, staring at the dark rukh circling the stone tower. And it was dark rukh; not black, not life-destroying….
But it was sad, and angry, and full of screams of agony. How could any magician stand to live like this?
Al-Thamen did. And worse.
Yet for all the shadowed rukh, there was a thin stream of moon-bright wings, rising from the top of the tower like a twisting coil of starlight. Aladdin felt some of the weight ease off his shoulders. “He’s alive.”
Maria buried her face in her hands, sobbing silently.
Morgan put a hand on her shoulder, face calmer than it had been for hours. “You’re very brave.”
“Brave!” Maria spat a host of swears Aladdin really hoped Morgan didn’t understand. “I can no’ even tell you-”
“But you helped us find their lair,” Aladdin said firmly. “Even though you know how dangerous they are.”
It hadn’t been easy, especially not for Maria. Morgan had followed Alan’s scent as far as she could, until the sensory mess of diesel smoke and other people’s bodies left them to realize the Toolmakers must have taken Alan off in some kind of truck. Then they’d had to cast about like playing hot and cold, counting on Maria’s gnawing, unconscious terror to tell them when they were headed in the right direction.
And Maria had done a lot more than that. She’d told them everything she knew about Pablo, where to find his crew, and how to talk to the one guy Ramos they’d caught as Morgan hung him upside down from a fire escape by his ankles.
“What’d you expect us to do, scary lady?” the sweating gang member had yelped. “The Toolmakers – they’ve got Consuela! Pablo don’t give them a favor to get her back, bad things happen. Really bad things!”
“Bad things you let happen to Alan!” A hint of sparks flared around Maria’s fingertips.
“Yeah, yeah – screw you, witch! If Ebola didn’t kill that little bastard, what will?”
The greasy-haired gangster paled. “What the hell are you?”
“Alan’s friends,” Aladdin had stated.
Which had put Ramos into the kind of panic Aladdin hadn’t seen since he’d first called Ugo out to help Alibaba save people from the Desert Hyacinth. The same kind of, this can’t be happening, the whole world just went insane, and is it going to kill me next?