The priestesses soared over the mountains. From the air, Drahaven’s layout became apparent. The buildings were all lined up in an orderly, even fashion. They were built upwards to make efficient use of space. At least, those that were relatively undamaged were. Sylvie couldn’t help but wonder if there was more to the city underground, like the shelter Michael had shown them. She couldn’t help but wonder how he’d found it.
That was when she noticed it. Barely visible from the air, nestled snugly into the mountainside. She pulled Demure alongside Blitz and gestured for Inés. Inés looked at the spot she was indicating and nodded. Sylvie turned towards Serena and motioned for her to follow. Serena nodded.
The trio descended. The structure they found themselves in front of appeared to be a frame, constructed of the same, strange metal as they’d seen in Drahaven. Surrounding the frame were eight pedestals. Seven of them had small statues of a reptilian winged, tailed Athena. The eighth was empty but had an indent, seemingly to hold another statue.
“Weird,” Inés stated.
“It’s clearly draconian,” Sylvie said. “Looks to be a shrine, with the statues and everything. But why the frame?”
“It looks almost like a doorway,” Serena observed. “Could they have been building something up here when they were killed?”
“I doubt it,” Sylvie said. “Starting with a door frame makes no sense. There’s no foundation. No building materials. No skeleton of a structure.” She shook her head. “No, this is what it’s supposed to be. But why?”
“Too bad Michael isn’t here,” Inés said. “He could tell us.”
“How would he know exactly?” Sylvie asked.
“Well… he… He found their desert base,” Inés answered. “He probably knows stuff about them.”
“You’re a terrible liar,” Sylvie said. “But I won’t press you. You’d tell us if you could. What do you think happened to the statue?”
“The likely explanation is that one of the draconians had it in their city,” Inés said.
“Because a thief wouldn’t have left the rest of them, right?” Serena asked.
Inés nodded. “Now you’re getting it.”
Sylvie moved behind the frame. “What is this?” She held up a thin cable. One end was attached to the frame.
“No idea,” Inés said. She walked over. They followed the cable. After a short distance, it split into two, they each followed one end.
“It’s attaching the frame to the pedestals!” Sylvie declared.
“It must be some kind of device,” Sylvie said. “But it’s hard to tell how it works or what it does. At least, without a draconian to explain it. There isn’t any kind of control mechanism that I can see and, of course, no written clues.”
“It’s certainly a puzzle,” Serena agreed. “But can we really afford to stick around and look at it? I mean, Athena did say that we should wait on the coast.”
“No,” Inés said. “We should make note of its location, though, report it when we get back to the Temple.”
“Agreed,” Sylvie said. “I’ll draw up a map. It won’t be super detailed, but it’ll suffice.”
They mounted their pegasi and returned to the air. They made their way to the coast. At the moment, it was barren.
“So, how long do we have to wait?” Inés asked.
Sylvie shook her head. “Don’t be impatient. We can only trust the Goddess. For the moment, let’s set up camp. We can get fish and you can gather edible plants from the ocean. That should keep us fed. You do know which ones are edible, don’t you?”
“I have gills and I used to spend time underwater whenever I wanted to be left alone,” Inés said. “Of course I know which ones are edible.”
“That’s so cool!” Serena declared. “I could never figure that out.”
“You would if you were in my position,” Inés said. “Trust me. You’re probably smarter than me.”
The three spent four days on the coast. Gathering and catching their own food. Having long conversations. Always waiting, alert, knowing that Camila would find them. Wondering if any reinforcements that Athena sent would reach them first.
That afternoon they got their answer. She came in, riding the waves themselves. Carrying a jewelled trident in her hands. A twisted smile was on her face.
Camila had arrived.