Neverseen (Keeper of the Lost Cities, #4)(9)

As soon as the woman said the name, a dozen different facts clicked in Sophie’s memory. The Vasari Corridor was a historic walkway the Medicis had built between their palaces, so they could move through the city without having to walk among their people.

“Can you tell us how to get there?” Sophie asked, paying for their gelato as Fitz gathered the cups for Keefe, Dex, and Biana.

“One of the entrances is across the Arno, near the grottos at the Palazzo Pitti,” the shopkeeper told her. “The other is at the Uffizi Gallery. But there’s no point walking to either. All landmarks are closed today because of the fire.”

The sweet melon flavor turned sour on Sophie’s tongue. “What fire?”

“Late last night, at the Palazzo Vecchio. It breaks my heart. All that precious history lost because of some selfish arsonist.”


IT HAS TO be Brant,” Sophie whispered as she watched the firemen rush around the Piazza della Signoria.

They’d ignored the shopkeeper’s warnings, using their obscurer to slip past the police blockades. The fire hadn’t killed anyone, and it had been extinguished before it spread to other buildings. But the famous Palazzo Vecchio’s stone walls were blackened and crumbling, and the clock tower was leaning more than the Tower of Pisa. The crowds behind them were crying, and Sophie understood their grief. She’d felt the same way the day she watched the elves’ capital city of Eternalia consumed by Everblaze.

“That wasn’t the building we needed, was it?” Fitz asked as they jumped out of the way of two firemen. “I thought the entrance to the corridor was in some place with a weird name?”

“The Uffizi,” Sophie agreed, pointing to the arched building next to the ruined palace. “But the police have closed all the landmarks, and an obscurer won’t fool sensors and alarms.”

“Well, I don’t think we should stay here,” Fitz said. “The Neverseen could be watching.”

“How do you know it’s them?” Dex asked. “Don’t humans have fires all the time?”

“Can’t you smell it?” Sophie asked.

Keefe sniffed the air. “It smells like burned sugar.”

“Exactly. I should’ve recognized it earlier. That’s how the San Diego fires smelled. And Brant set those.” She glanced over her shoulder, half expecting to spot a figure in a hooded black cloak.

“But how could it be him?” Dex asked. “He was super messed up when he fled to the ogres. He’d lost a hand and, like, most of his face.”

Sophie shuddered, trying not to picture Brant’s bloody, blistered skin. He hadn’t been able to walk on his own—couldn’t even reach for his pathfinder. He’d forced her to get it for him as part of their deal to save her friends.

“He survived Jolie’s fire,” she said, remembering Brant’s old scars.

She hoped a few of them were left. He deserved to be reminded of the life he’d destroyed.

“Or maybe the Black Swan set the fire themselves,” Dex suggested, “to hide from the Council or something.”

“Do they have any Pyrokinetics?” Biana asked.

“I hope not,” Sophie said. “But even if they do, why would they burn the place they instructed us to go?”

“Because this place wasn’t part of their instructions,” Fitz reminded her. “This is the building next door.”

“But it still makes it ten times harder for us to get to them,” Sophie said.

“Uh, you guys are totally ignoring the much more important question,” Keefe interrupted. He pointed across the courtyard to a weathered marble statue. “Am I the only one who’s noticed that dude is naked?”

Sophie rolled her eyes. “That’s the David.”

“I don’t care what his name is,” Keefe said. “I still don’t want to see his stuff.”

“I’m with Keefe on this one,” Dex jumped in.

“Me too,” Biana agreed, blushing bright pink.

“Yeah, why isn’t he wearing clothes?” Fitz asked, looking anywhere but at the statue.

“Because it’s art!” Sophie said. “Most of the old painters and sculptors did nudes. They were studying the human body or something, I don’t know—why are we talking about this?”

“You’re right,” Fitz said. “We need a plan. Personally, I think we should keep following the Black Swan’s clues. Once we get into that corridor, I bet the rest of their instructions will make sense. We just need to figure out how to get past security and—”

“I’m on it,” Dex said, heading toward the Uffizi.

Fitz grabbed his arm. “We all have to walk together to stay in the range of the obscurer.”

Dex muttered something about “power trips” as Fitz took the lead. They wove carefully around all the firemen and reporters, reaching the entrance of the museum without bumping anyone.

Dex pressed his palms against the stone facade. “You were right about the crazy security, Sophie.”

“Can you disable it?” Biana asked.

“Only temporarily. How do we get to this corridor thing?”

“On the upper floor, through a plain, unmarked door.” Sophie could see it perfectly in her mind, which felt strange, since she’d never been there.

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