The First Spell has been found.
Leilan had never heard that sentence spoken, or ever thought that he would, so he had to turn it around in his head a few times. Some news didn’t process easily. While he was still in the middle of wondering if he’d heard Favia correctly, Shane had clearly figured it out already.
“The First Spell?” Shane asked, sounding just as breathless as Favia had been. “As in, the artifact known as the First Spell? Not something else with the same name?”
“No, it’s the name of a new clothing brand that just got launched,” Kaja murmured, but her awe undermined her sarcasm.
“The very one,” Favia confirmed. “You all know the implications of that.”
Leilan’s brain was just getting to unpacking them. It would have to mean that the First Spell didn’t only exist in a legend that was plausible but removed from reality. He’d heard the story of the powerful item, an artifact in uncertain form, but hadn’t ever truly believed that any artifact could wield control over all of Aphirah’s magic supply. But if it was out there… A race for it must have already begun, with everyone scrambling to get that information for themselves.
It was a race that some of them would probably want to get in on.
“We would like to know about that, yes,” Kasumi said, with an interest that confirmed Leilan’s guess.
“Here’s the thing,” Favia said, lowering her voice slightly. “The word is that it got discovered by accident. From what I’ve heard, two thieves were hired to steal a different artifact in the same place, and they happened to see it there. All I know about them is that they’re called the Stormguide and the Specter. They had to film the theft for who they stole the item for, I think as part of proving that they weren’t up to anything else. When someone reviewed the video, they saw a different artifact that the two focused on, and although the thieves didn’t realize what they were looking at, something clued them in on what it was.”
“So everyone’s going to be trying to reach the two of them, because they know where it is,” Kaja mused. “Could we?”
Dawn elbowed her. “I don’t think it’s in our business to hire criminals,” she whispered.
“Come on, the government’s always gotten mercenaries to do their dirtiest work,” Kaja replied, undeterred.
Leilan could almost hear Favia’s frown through Shane’s communicator. “There won’t be any hiring. We’d probably want to get police to take them into custody and hear it from them, however. They’re wanted by everybody, and under threat, as that explosion proved. If we want to make sure no one else gets the knowledge, and that no one can make a successful attempt on them either, there’s not a lot of time.”
“I’m sure the police will take care of it with plenty to spare,” Kasumi muttered.
“Favia, how are you coming by all of this?” Leilan asked. “Is this casino seriously the spot where everyone seems to know everything there is about crime as it unfolds?”
“I agree, it’s suspicious,” Favia said. “I don’t know what it is about here.”
“Do you think you could do some more investigating?” Shane asked. “It could help speed things up.”
There was no reply from the bodyguard, just soft, indistinct sound picked up from her communicator’s microphone. It could have been plenty of noises— the brush of clothing, a footstep, someone nearby clearing their throat— but Favia’s silence was clear.
“Did you hear us?” Shane said, louder now, but Leilan could tell from his voice that he believed she hadn’t.
The silence went on a little longer before the speaker crackled, and he heard Favia’s voice, speaking like her teeth were clenched together. “Hold on,” she grumbled, and the call abruptly ended a moment later. Shane pulled back his wrist, frowning like he wasn’t quite sure what had happened.
“That doesn’t seem good,” Dawn said slowly, and Kasumi nodded.
“Something probably just got her attention. She’ll be okay,” Leilan promised, and he watched the concern on their faces shift into relief. “I bet she’ll call us back within the hour.”
“What kind of casino did she end up at, anyway?” Kaja asked.
Shane pulled up Favia’s location on his screen, pointing at the dot on the other side of the closest ravine. “Just one on the Capitol mountain,” he said with a shrug. “There are so many casinos here that I couldn’t tell them all apart.”
To Leilan’s surprise, Kasumi caught Shane’s wrist, zooming in on the map until she had a closer view of the city block and the address. She stared at it for a long moment, her face blank and unreadable to him. “I know that one,” she announced finally.
“You do?” Leilan asked doubtfully. “What is it about it then?”
“I don’t know that much,” Kasumi said distantly. “There’s a movie theater in front of it.”
“Never mind,” Kasumi said, shaking her head like she hadn’t quite been listening to her own words. “I’m not sure how I know it, just that I do.”
“You don’t gamble,” Dawn said, confused.
“No,” Kasumi admitted, letting go of Shane’s wrist, and he pulled his arm back with a baffled expression. “Anyway, maybe we should find her.”
“It’s not safe, and not our responsibility either,” Leilan told her. “If we don’t hear from her soon, we’ll report it to Acelin. In the meantime, we really should leave for dinner.”
Kasumi nodded, but she didn’t look entirely convinced.
“Let’s all get ready for that,” Dawn suggested, walking towards the hallway to their rooms. “I should be good to leave in five minutes.”
Leilan and Shane followed behind, while Kaja went back to the couch and Kasumi crossed to the entry room. Since Shane was already dressed and ready to go, it didn’t surprise him that his friend followed him along the hallway and into his room, where Leilan knelt beside his suitcase and unzipped it again. “You might have to help me pick out a coat,” he said as he threw open the lid. “They gave me too many options.”
Shane’s green eyes sparked with amusement as he sat down next to him. “Let’s see it.”
Leilan pulled out the three coats that were packed for him and spread them out, pointing at each one as he described it. “Red parka, green down jacket, and black fur-lined.”
“I think the fur-lined one is warmest, but red’s your color.” Shane lifted the parka’s sleeve, flashing him a grin. “So, how did eight consecutive hours with Kaja go?”
“Oh, Saints, it felt more like nine,” Leilan said, rubbing his eyes while Shane laughed. “That was a true test in Heir management.”
“At least you had Marius there.”
“She was more polite for it,” Leilan agreed. “It’s hard to be mean to him. Speaking of management, how was your supervising?”
Shane blew out a sigh, turning unexpectedly sober. “Difficult. You know I like Kasumi and Dawn, but I had some regrets in the moment.”
“Like what?” Leilan frowned.
He shrugged. “Getting here. Having to be in this role and inherit the responsibility that comes with it. Not pushing harder for what I wanted for myself.”
“You’ve had it for a few years now,” Leilan said softly. “It still doesn’t feel right?”
Shane shook his head, running his fingers through his dark hair to smooth it back. “It probably won’t ever,” he said. “I’ll get used to it with more time, I bet, but I think it won’t ever be for me.”
You could still try to change your uncle’s mind someday, Leilan wanted to say. It’s not like Flint wants to see you in a spot that’s bad for you.
But he had the feeling that the discussion was already a common one between the two most powerful of the Hawkings.
“You don’t have to want it,” he said instead. “It’s okay that being an Heir doesn’t match your plan for life. It’s fine that you’d rather contribute to how our existing history is understood than create more of it.”
Shane blinked, staring down at the coats. “It just feels like there’s something wrong here,” he said with a tired laugh. “You had to fight for it, and I didn’t. I wasn’t even asked.”
Leilan found himself pressing his lips together instead of responding. It deserved a reply, but he wasn’t sure what to say. He knew it wasn’t intentional on Shane’s part, but the reminder stung a little too much, and he silently struggled with the words for a few moments until he was saved by Dawn and Kaja showing up in the doorway.
“Oh, hi,” Dawn said, biting her lip like she was worried, as she poked her head in the room. “So, Kasumi—”
“Marshmallows,” Leilan managed to say while still distracted in his speech, scrambling to grab the package from his open carry-on and toss it in her direction.
Dawn instinctively moved aside instead of catching it, and the bag hit Kaja, who was just behind her, in the hip. She stared down at the projectile as it bounced off her with an indifferent and bored look, as if she had been attacked by something so small and puny that it wasn’t even worth her time, then shook her head and picked it up for Dawn.
“Why is everyone deciding to throw food instead of just handing it over normally?” Shane asked confusedly, and Leilan had to look away awkwardly.
“Thank you, Leilan,” Dawn said, as she took the bag from Kaja. Her words were genuine, but her voice was distracted, and Leilan noticed she was fidgeting with the package in her hands. “Anyway, we might have a problem—”
“Kasumi’s left on her own,” Kaja interrupted.
Leilan really wasn’t doing well with responding to things that caught him off guard today. “Wait, what?”
“She’s gone in the same direction as the casino,” Kaja said, with dry irritation. “We couldn’t find her here, and her location is moving in that direction. It seems like she snuck off.”
Shane groaned, getting to his feet as Leilan scrambled to pull the parka on. “No one saw or heard her calling the elevator?”
“I did,” Dawn admitted. “She said she was calling it so it’d be here when we were ready and wasn’t happy about long it took to get to the top floor, which wasn’t out of the ordinary for her. I didn’t think she’d get in alone when it arrived.”
Leilan mumbled a curse under his breath as he got to his feet and rushed through the hallway with them. “Did either of you tell a bodyguard?”
“Not yet,” Dawn said. “We told you both first.”
He resisted the urge to sigh and pressed the button for the elevator. He glanced at the three Heirs standing side by side in a line behind him, all tight-lipped and serious. “Shane, let Acelin and Daphne know we’re cancelling dinner. We can still catch up to her.”
“So we’re following?” Shane asked with a frown.
“She’s going to have to catch the monorail over the ravine, right?” Leilan said, gradually feeling his confidence returning to him as a plan quickly formed in his mind. “Our goal is to reach her before she can get on one, and then get her back here quickly. If we’re swift enough, it won’t be dangerous, and none of us will get in a report or in trouble with our bodyguards.”
The elevator doors opened, and Kaja moved next to him when they all stepped in. “Didn’t you disapprove of them walking back without Favia?” she whispered. “And now we’re going without a bodyguard?”
“This has to be fast, and I care more about Kasumi’s safety than whether she gets the appropriate scolding for doing something badly thought out,” Leilan whispered back. “Also, I don’t think anyone will mess with us if you’re there. You look scarier than any of our bodyguards.”
Kaja nodded in satisfaction. “I knew I didn’t need one of those.”
The elevator sped downwards, out-racing even his spinning thoughts. In the midst of the ache in his ears and slight dizziness from the descent, Leilan managed to pin down one of them. The responsibility that comes with this isn’t always expected.