The Saguins say that everyone is connected, invisible tethers of history, personality, and fate binding us together: past, present and future. Some of these tethers hang slack and dormant. Others stretch across time and space, taut as harp strings. Even the slightest touch can start them singing. This is the music that Jax’s people cannot help but hear, and to which my people are largely deaf.
Even so, a note shivered its way up and down my spine when the Captain walked in.
She was tall, and younger than I expected, though I knew her history. The rumors say she slept her way into flight school. If that was true, she proved herself in the end, beating out her fellow cadets for a coveted position in the Corps alongside the Adjutant-General. One of only two female pilots, she flew rescue missions during the war, including a famous last-minute run to Verdure before the flames consumed the spaceport. She left the Corps after that, after the fire ended the fighting.
On one level, the connection between us was obvious: we both left the green city behind to burn and came to this scorched place for succor. But our paths had never crossed, to the best of my knowledge. I had been only ten years old when we fled; the Captain would have been twenty or more. I looked at Jax, who shrugged.
I stood by the window, my back to the painted sky. “Captain…”
“Anna Verril?” She took control of the conversation before I could finish. Her voice was cool and sharp. “I am Belyn Morrow, captain of this airship. Tell me why I shouldn’t arrest you right now.”
I blinked. “I’m sorry?” I asked, stupid with confusion.
“A man – an employee of mine – was found dead in your cabin. You’re telling me that’s not suspicious?”
“That man took a poison that was meant for me,” I snapped. “But I didn’t put it there.”
The Captain scrubbed her forehead with the heel of her hand. “I know that,” she admitted. “But a dozen people saw the porters carry a body down the hall, and now I’ve got Garma running around telling people that a demon killed a man in first class. Half my crew are Northerners, you know.”
“I’m getting quite the reputation,” Jax murmured in my ear. He hopped down to the table and sat back on his haunches. “This isn’t going to be a witch hunt, is it, Captain? Flickering torches, holy symbols etched on our door, and all that?”
“Let’s just say that people are on edge.” She looked him over. “But I think I have it under control. You are Jax denVerril?”
Jax nodded. “At your service.”
“And you have been with the Verril family for how long?”
“Indentured servitude, or free agent?”
“The former, for the first seven years. I signed on freely after my term was up.”
This was news to me, but I did not have leisure to contemplate it before the Captain turned her attention to me. I filed it away for later.
“You’re the daughter of Emmion Verril? The chemist?”
“Yes, I mean, no.” My confusion returned. “My father was Emmion Verril. He was a soldier, killed in the war. My brother is the chemist.”
It was the Captain’s turn to be perplexed. “Killed during the war, perhaps,” she said. “But Emmion Verril was no soldier, at least, not in the traditional, gun-toting sense.”
I stared at her blankly. The harp string hummed.
“Your father created the compound that was used to incinerate Verdure. He was a traitor, Miss Verril. They hung him from the balustrade at the palace and left him to burn.”