Witch's Pyre (Worldwalker #3)(6)

Questioning glances were quickly followed by averted eyes as the busy people went about their day. Occasionally, Lily would catch a glimpse of a Warrior Sister perched high on top of a building, but they seemed to stay away from street level. They were there, though. Lily could feel their presence echoing down the scrubbed streets, like the mounting pressure of a storm that had yet to break.

Lily wondered how large the city was. She glanced up the street, but couldn’t see an edge to it. She noticed that the grid system curved ever so gently in a pleasing fashion, rather than adhering to boxy ninety-degree angles. It struck Lily as being a more organic, although still highly structured, way of building a city. Rather like a honeycomb.

“Is anyone tired? Do you need to rest?” Grace asked.

Lily shook her head. She just wanted them to get wherever it was they were going so she could be alone for a few moments. Her frustration passed to Juliet.

I think she’s taking us the scenic route, Juliet said in mindspeak.

I have a feeling this whole city is the scenic route, Lily replied.

After a few more minutes of striding by manicured buildings and down immaculate streets, they came to a large plaza with a huge fountain in the center. Skirting around the plaza were a number of gracefully columned buildings, the largest of which had a sprawling staircase. Many groups of people stood on the steps, talking in clusters.

“This is our Forum,” Grace told them. “Where we make government policy. Or try to, at any rate. Mostly we just argue.”

All eyes seemed to turn toward them and conversations stopped as they entered the plaza. Grace led the newcomers up the grand staircase, and as they passed, the chatter struck up again in urgent undertones. Lily nodded to herself, finally understanding why Grace had chosen to walk a bunch of battle-weary, shocked, and grieving people through the city. She and her coven were on parade. This wasn’t about them. It was for the people of Bower City.

Lily glanced up and tried to make eye contact with the members of the closest cluster, but they all looked away nervously. They were playacting. Pretending that this was just another day, but their forced nonchalance carried more tension than if they had gathered around, pointing and staring.

Grace and her attendants brought the coven through a forest of marble columns, and into a huge domed room. It was a colossal building, something that belonged on top of a hill in Italy or Greece.

Lily craned her neck to look up at the oculus in the center of the dome, which flooded the room with air and sunlight. Something large flew past, sending a swift shadow across the gleaming marble floor. The faintest hum followed, tickling the back of Lily’s neck.

They’re watching us, Una said in mindspeak.

Lily nodded, and glanced at Caleb, who was eyeing the oculus warily.

“This is the Governor’s Hearing Hall,” Grace told them.

“Nice office, Gracie,” Breakfast muttered under his breath. The acoustics of the room amplified his voice, and his mutter came out loud and clear to everyone in the room. Breakfast cringed.

“And we call it the Hearing Hall because you can hear even the slightest whisper,” she continued, smiling at him. “So even the smallest voice matters.”

They crossed the circular expanse of the Hearing Hall and went through one of three doors that were evenly spaced along the curved back wall. They walked down a long hallway, through another door, and into a private home.

Finally, Juliet said. The rest of the coven echoed her relief.

“You’re welcome to stay with me for as long as you like,” Grace said as she led them into a palatial living space. “I’ll give you a chance to clean up and rest, and we’ll speak later.”

“Thank you,” Lily replied, finally stepping forward to stand next to her sister.

“My pleasure,” Grace said, and left them with one of her emissaries.

It was the same young man who had chased after her and Tristan. He stepped forward and smiled at her. Now that they were no longer running for their lives, Lily couldn’t help but notice that he was extremely attractive.

“We have two rooms ready for you upstairs, if you’ll follow me,” he said in a pleasing voice.

“I didn’t catch your name,” Lily said, looking at his willstone. It was a deep rose color—almost burgundy. He’s a healer, she thought. A powerful one.

“My name is Toshi Konishi,” he replied. “And I’m up here,” he said, pointing to his face. Lily tore her gaze off his willstone and met his amused eyes, her face flushing.

“Sorry,” she stammered, “I’m just surprised by the color of your willstone. Is it common here for a rose stone to be so pigmented?”

“No,” Toshi replied. A slow smile crept up his face as he held Lily’s eyes. “Bedrooms,” he said, turning suddenly, “are this way. We’ve readied one apartment for the men and one for the women, but you’re welcome to make your own adjustments to the sleeping arrangement as you like.”

Toshi pushed the doors open to the first suite of rooms and revealed a common area with deep-seated leather club chairs and furniture made of dark, glossy wood.

Lily and her coven looked at the wealth and comfort around them blankly.

“The two sitting rooms are connected,” Toshi said, leading the girls through the man cave and opening up a set of double doors.

The girls’ sitting room had a large white couch and a velvet settee, and it was made bright and airy by a large balcony and many fresh flower arrangements.

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