The Gilded Wolves (The Gilded Wolves, #1)(10)

“Voilà,” said Séverin, handing him the compass.

Enrique ran his fingers over the cold metal, gently tracing the divots in the silver. Ancient Chinese compasses did not look like Western ones. They were magnetized bowls, with a depression in the center where a spoon-shaped dial would have spun back and forth. A thrill of wonder zipped through his veins. It was thousands of years old and here he was, holding it—

“No need to seduce the thing,” cut in Séverin.

“I’m appreciating it.”

“You’re fondling it.”

Enrique rolled his eyes. “It’s an authentic piece of history and should be savored.”

“You might at least buy it dinner first,” said Séverin, before pointing at the metal edges. “So? Is it like what we thought it’d be?”

Enrique weighed the half of the compass in his hand, studying the contours. As he felt the ridges, he noticed a slight deformity in the metal. He tapped on the surface and then looked up.

“It’s hollow,” he said, breathless.

He didn’t know why he even felt surprised. He knew the compass would be hollow, and yet the possibilities of the map reared up fast and sharp in his head. Enrique didn’t know what, specifically, the map led to … only that it was rare enough to send the Order of Babel into a furtive clamoring. His bet, though, was that it was a map to the lost treasures of the Fallen House.

“Break it,” said Séverin.

“What?” Enrique clutched the object to his chest. “The compass is thousands of years old! There’s another way to pry it, gently, apart—”

Séverin lunged. Enrique tried to snatch it away, but he wasn’t as fast. In one swift motion, Séverin grabbed both sides of the compass. Enrique heard it before he saw it. A brief, merciless—


Something dropped from the compass, thudding on the hansom’s floor. Séverin got to it first, and the minute he held it up to the light, Enrique felt as if a cold hand had pushed down on his lungs and squeezed the breath out of him. The object hidden within the compass certainly looked like a map. All that was left was one question: Where did it lead?



Zofia liked Paris best in the evening.

During the day, Paris was too much. It was all noise and smell, crammed with stained streets and threaded with hectic crowds. Dusk tamed the city. Made it manageable.

As she walked back to L’Eden, Zofia clutched her sister’s newest letter tight to her chest. Hela would find Paris beautiful. She would like the linden trees of rue Bonaparte. There were fourteen of them. She would find the horse chestnuts comely. There were nine. She would not like the smells. There were too many to count.

Right now, Paris did not seem beautiful. Horse shit marred the cobbled roads. People urinated on the street lanterns. And yet, there was something about the city that spoke vibrantly of life. Nothing felt still. Even the stone gargoyles leaned off the edges of buildings as if they were on the verge of flight. And nothing looked lonely. Terraces had the company of wicker chairs, and bright purple bougainvillea hugged stone walls. Not even the Seine River, which cut through Paris like a trail of ink, looked abandoned. By day, boats zipped across it. By night, lamplight danced upon the surface.

Zofia peeked at Hela’s newest letter, sneaking lines beneath every shining lantern. She read one sentence, then found that she could not stop. Every word brought back the sound of Hela’s voice.

Zosia, please tell me you are going to the Exposition Universelle! If you do not, I will know. Trust me, dear sister, the laboratory can spare you for a day. Learn something outside the classroom for once. Besides, I heard the world fair will have a cursed diamond, and princes from exotic lands! Perhaps you might bring one home, then I will not have to play governess to our stingy stryk. How he can be father’s brother is a mystery for only God to ponder. Please go. You are sending back so much money lately that I worry you are not keeping enough for yourself. Are you hale and happy? Write to me soon, little light.

Hela was half-wrong. Zofia was not in school. But she was learning plenty outside of a classroom. In the past year and a half, she had learned how to invent things the école des Beaux-Arts never imagined for her. She had learned how to open a savings account, which might—assuming the map Séverin acquired was all they’d hoped it to be—soon hold enough money to support Hela through medical school when she finally enrolled. But the worst lesson was learning how to lie to her sister. The first time she had lied in a letter, she’d thrown up. Guilt left her sobbing for hours until Laila had found and comforted her. She didn’t know how Laila knew what bothered her. She just did. And Zofia, who never quite grasped how to find her way through a conversation, simply felt grateful someone could do the work for her.

Zofia was still thinking about Hela when the marble entrance of the école des Beaux-Arts manifested before her. Zofia staggered back, nearly dropping the letters.

The marble entrance did not move.

Not only was the entrance Forged to appear before any matriculated students two blocks from the school, but it was also an exquisite example of solid matter and mind affinity working in tandem. A feat only those trained at the école could perform.

Once, Zofia would have trained with them too.

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