“I thought I would find you up here. Couldn’t sleep?” As the wild haired fey emerged from the twisting stairwell and into the lantern room of the great Sanctuary Island lighthouse, Alice turned from the window and shrugged off Muffy’s concern with a tired smile. “Nerves, that’s all. Is everything ready for tomorrow?”

“Should be. There’s only one way to find out.” Muffy gave a hopeful sigh and placed one hand on the elegantly carved glass-like Otraresin lens. Despite the intense light, the rainbow surface remained cool to the touch. “It’s good to see the beacon lit again. I never could sleep through the night without its beam filling up my window every few minutes. It’s been so awfully dark here since it was broken. I’ve had such terrible nightmares.”

“So have I.” Alice gave a nod and squeezed her friend’s free hand. Muffy squeezed back, a smile of fierce determination on her face. “This is just the beginning,” Muffy promised. “We’ll set things right, you’ll see. With the light lit, they’ll start making their way home. They have to.” Alice felt a wash of grateful affection for the strong, stubborn girl at her side. What would I have done without her? she wondered. You would have fallen long ago, a voice responded deep inside her, and then all of this would have been for nothing. You need her. You need all of them. But will they come?

“…Alice…” The sudden fear in Muffy’s voice raised the hair on the back of the captain’s neck and shook her from her introspection.

“What is it?”

When Muffy did not respond, Alice followed the line of her gaze. Muffy stared stiffly out one storm pane, fingers suspended in the air as if drawn to something but afraid to make contact. For a moment Alice couldn’t make out what had set the girl on edge, but as the beacon rotated and flooded the window with light she saw them: nine words scratched into the glass of the storm pane, thin and jagged. As if carved by a hook, thought Alice, an unsettling shiver crawling up her spine. But no, that’s impossible. We would have known if she were on the island. She would have tripped the defenses. We would have known. I would have known.

“What does it say?” Muffy asked, though both had read the words. Alice said nothing for a moment, hesitating to give voice to the strange note. When she did speak, the words tasted of gunpowder and ash in her mouth.

“Night, shaded Wren:
all men’s dread
haven’s fatal ill”

“…what does it mean?” Muffy whispered as the two girls stared at the ominous message. Alice shook her head and turned away to let the hot white beam of the lighthouse wash over her chilled skin, but the words had robbed the light of its comfort.

“I don’t know.”


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