Leilan barely noticed anything through his haze of moving upwards. Even the ache in his arms felt muted, and he was dreading the moment where his adrenaline would wear off. Scaling the final distance to the edge of the cliff and getting a hand from Shane so he could stand on the surface was the greatest relief he’d ever felt.
“That looked terrifying,” Kasumi whispered as the Heirs huddled around him. Shane put an arm under Leilan’s shoulders to help him stay standing. Kaja was farther away from the group, her gaze turned away from the drop in the ice with her jaw set, and he remembered the shriek he’d heard when his rope had been struck. He wasn’t completely sure it was her. He’d never heard Kaja shriek before.
Leilan cracked a thin smile. “Imagine how it felt doing it.”
“You managed quite well,” a teasing voice said behind him, and he turned to see Cyrin standing on the cobblestone. Leilan had expected that they were a fast climber, but the speed at which they’d managed it surprised him nonetheless. He’d had a great head-start on them. “Not a lot can prepare you for that.”
“Nothing I’ve seen before this has,” Leilan agreed.
Cyrin smirked, moving to stand to the side. “You might even remember it as fun someday.”
He might, but it would be a long time.
Equally swift, Mireya clambered up a few moments later, dusting herself off by the side of the Fall. “Not too bad for your first heist,” she said to the Heirs. Leilan guessed that she was happy enough to be done that she was briefly forgetting her resentment.
“Do we get a discount for participating, or are you adding a five-person gratuity fee for us getting in the way?” Dawn asked.
Mireya snorted. “They seem to cancel out, so the deal stays the deal.”
“You’re completely sure you got the First Spell, right?” Shane asked.
“Oh, it fell out of my pocket just before we left through the shield. My bad,” Mireya said casually, and after a moment of complete silence, she grinned as she lifted the scroll from her coat. “I’m sorry, I have it. I just wanted to see the looks on your faces.”
“Not funny,” Kaja grumbled.
“Sorry, sorry. I have a few other exciting things on me that you didn’t see if you weren’t in the vault, including that earring you said I’d never get back, Cyrin—” Mireya paused, the mushroom dangling from its hook in her fingers. “Cyrin?”
Cyrin was turned away from the group. Their lowered head and the waves of their hair kept Leilan from reading their face, but the way they were standing so utterly still raised alarm in him even before he saw that their wrist was raised, and they were looking at their communicator, reading something. Dimly, he realized they should have service up here now.
“Has anyone got something they feel like sharing?” they asked quietly, turning, and Leilan couldn’t decipher whatever was in their voice.
No one answered them. Cyrin’s gaze went to Mireya.
“So, you work for the government,” Mireya said. “We don’t know in what way you do, though. You might not even be important. It might help you to tell us.”
“What proof do you have of that?” Kasumi retorted.
Mireya pointed at Dawn, Leilan and Kaja. “These three felt guilty enough to confirm it for me after I guessed. Is that enough proof?”
Kasumi closed her mouth and lowered her chin.
Cyrin looked at Leilan. “You said your families were close,” they said. Realization was dawning on their face. “You told me that you meet when you like to, but you don’t like each other, so there’s another reason for it.”
Leilan swallowed. “Cyrin, I know what I said, but—”
“No, I think I get it,” Cyrin said with a laugh. The laugh was bitter in some way, but he couldn’t tell if it was bitterly angry or bitterly upset. “Five families, all in the government. I even heard what regions you’re from, and they match the distribution of the Houses. You know each other, but you’re not all friends, because your relationship is for work. And of course, you’re looking for power. Stop me when this sounds too familiar.”
At least the others were too busy staring at the ground to glare Leilan’s way.
“There’s five of you, but you’re not Leaders,” Mireya said. “At least, I would really hope not.”
Shane cleared his throat, and all attention swiveled to him. “We’re Heirs,” he said, his voice so hushed that his words nearly faded like his breath into the cold air.
Whatever was on Cyrin’s face didn’t change— he must have put it together once he had started talking— but Mireya recoiled, her expression twisting into something like disgust. He could have been imagining it, but he thought he saw some hurt too, a sign that she’d still thought they were better than this. If he was imagining it, he was hoping for it, and he didn’t know why he would be hoping for that.
“I never thought I’d say this, but I really would take the stuck-up rich kids any day over this,” Mireya muttered.
“What’s it to you?” Kasumi asked. “What kind of assumptions are you making about us from this that you didn’t already assume when you thought we weren’t Heirs? The only difference I see is that we’re really meant to have power.”
“And if you abuse it, the whole world’s going to feel it,” Cyrin argued. “Don’t you know what the First Spell places in your hands? What’s different is your motives and how you could speak anything into law— you could enforce it with this, do anything with magic that you wanted to. Saints, you could get rid of it forever, since you’ve been taking issue with how it’s used. And no one’s going to cast the last spell, not on my watch.”
“No one’s going to get rid of magic,” Leilan said. “We wouldn’t.”
“Are you going to listen to someone who asks you to, though?” Mireya demanded. “Or maybe you’ll be merciful, make magic a privilege that only your allies can enjoy while denying it to the rest.”
“Anyone with it could do that, or worse,” Kaja remarked. “You just sound like you have a vendetta.”
Mireya straightened, her eyes flashing. “Only because I know what you do and wipe your hands clean of for magic.”
“Stop!” Dawn exclaimed, in possibly the loudest voice Leilan had ever heard her use. She flinched under the angry looks that came her way, but stood tall, her lips pressed into a fierce line.
“You have our attention,” Kasumi said dryly after a few moments.
Dawn shook her head at all of them. “This isn’t the time or place for this,” she pointed out. “It’s late at night, we just escaped the most secure location in Aphirah, we’re exhausted, and we’re still trespassing on the museum with stolen items. No one’s going to have a constructive conversation right now, just an argument, and I have the feeling that if one of us gets their way right here, whoever’s unhappy isn’t going to accept that outcome.” She raised her chin. “So, we’re going to have to come to an agreement once we’re all clear-headed.”
Without waiting for an answer, she turned and started walking towards the exit, back to the regular museum exhibits.
“Where are you going?” Mireya asked, some of her anger melting into confusion.
“We’re all going to the hotel,” Dawn said, not breaking her stride or calling over her shoulder. “I have an idea for how we’ll wait until we resolve this. There was plenty of time to think of it while you were all arguing.”