"You will stand there until we are finished and be quiet," Romeo said.
I stood in the door and looked at him. The Sheriff had said that Romeo was Fate infested. I wondered if that was true. If he and Joseph were truly Fate-infested, then I wasn't sure I would really be killing anyone. I mean, I'd be killing two bodies, but the humans were already in Aphter and the Fates would live on when the bodies died. I had to find out of this was really a Fate with which I dealt.
"Wait," I said. "How do I know I can trust you?"
He looked at me with a puzzled look. "I am not a violent man," he said. "I do only what I have to do for Glory. If you listen to me, no one will be harmed."
"But maybe you are lying to me," I answered. I knew what this would mean to a Fate.
"I always keep my word," he said coolly. "I may deceive, but I would never make a false bargain. My word to you is this: Wait until the song is over. Follow these instructions," he touched the paper in his pocket again, "and no more harm will come to these women nor to your other young lady friend."
"People lie," I said. "Men are not like the Fates. Men lie all the time. Men make false bargains."
Romeo stared at me calmly, studying my face. Then he smiled a gentle smile. "You know much," he said. "I am no man. This man has passed away. I am one of the Fates, the servants of Glory."
"Tell me your name," I said, "and I will take your word."
At this his smile faded. "You know much indeed," he said. "It's no matter, however. I tell the truth, and I will bond myself by my name. I cannot lie about my true name, and I cannot break a bond made in my name. You know this, I'm sure."
"Very well. My name is Saet. I give you my bond in my name."
I was satisfied. Fates never broke their bond. It was their source of pride. "I believe you," I replied.
"Good," he smiled again. "Now be silent. My brother is waiting. We must proceed."
I leaned against the door frame and pretended to relax. The sick dread in my stomach told me my enemy was still near at hand. Closing my eyes as if to rest, I looked within again and saw that he had not moved. He was just a few feet to my right. He was huge. I tried to remember what I knew of their shape. The torso was long like a snake, but with six limbs. Back legs were short, only about a foot long. Forelegs were slightly longer than human legs. Arms were close to the head and slightly shorter than human arms but stronger. Head was human-like, but with a wider mouth that jutted forward slightly from the face. There was no hair, and the skin from just above the legs down and back was scaly like reptile skin. The skin of the arms, upper torso and face was human-like in texture, though it varied color. The body extended about four feet past the back legs and tapered into an extremely quick and strong tail. They looked like monsters, like lizard people. Physically, they were more than a match for an untrained human.
I was glad I was not an untrained human. Again I committed to memory everything I could about the Dread's size and position and then I opened my eyes just as Romeo-Saet began to speak.
"All of my life, and that is a long time, I have studied the path to Glory we Fates call The Maker Song," he said. "Much was known, but much more has now been revealed and proven by our new friend, k'mek." Romeo-Saet glanced briefly over to where I knew the Dread stood, but looked quickly away. "For this knowledge, if it proves fully true, as I expect that it will, we are in his debt. Now I will tell you a brief version of the story, so that you will understand what is expected of you, Beloved Reborn." He addressed Amy. "The Maker, because he was lonely, came from Glory made the world and everything in it. The Maker lived for many years in the world, fellowshipping with Humans and Fates and, we now know, also the pa'shok." Again Romeo-Saet glanced quickly at the Dread.
Pa'shok? I wondered at the word. I had not heard it before. Was this what they called the Dread?
"At length, the Maker fell in love," he continued. "As it happens, the Maker fell in love with a Human. We do not record her name, but she is remembered as Beloved. The Maker laid with her, and she became pregnant. When the child, a daughter, was born, Beloved died, as was common in those days. The Maker made all things, but he could not control the life within them. His heart was crushed. In tears, it is said, he took the child in his arms and sang her a song. The song became a part of her, buried deep within her. Then, the Maker called his servant, the Fate Phael, and told him that he was going away. He was returning to Glory. Phael was grieved with the news and begged the Maker to stay or, if he could not stay, to return. The Maker told Phael that he would return when Beloved was reborn and sang back to him the song he had sung to their daughter. Phael asked when this would happen, and the Maker told him that 400 daughters would stand before Beloved before she would be reborn. All of these things happened almost 8,000 years ago as we reckon time here on Earth. Do you understand me, Beloved Reborn?" Again he spoke to Amy when he said this.
"Me?" Amy asked. She turned her head and looked back at me, desperation in her eyes. Looking at Romeo-Saet, I tried to calculate whether or not I could get move quickly enough to try something bold. I'd have to kill the Dread first, or he would flee and then there was no telling what might happen to Sam. Then I'd have to slash that fence and cut that rope. Taking care of Romeo-Saet would be a simple matter, unless he was armed with a gun. I had no way to know that. He might shoot me. He might shoot Amy, though he wouldn't be likely to if he believed the story he'd just told. Then, once he was dead, how would I find Sam? I had his bond that no one would be hurt if we cooperated. Everything I'd ever been taught told me that I could trust that bond. It was probably the only chance for everyone. I looked Amy in the eye and then bowed my head and looked down.
"No," I heard her say with tears in her voice, "I don't understand."
"You see," Romeo-Saet said, "our friend k'mek has learned secrets. The pa'shok are masters of study and lore. He brought these to us, the keepers of the lore of the Maker Song, so that we could see, once again, our Maker who has gone to Glory. These secrets trace a line, from mother to daughter, back to the mother of your blood. You, Amy Renee Montagne, are Beloved Reborn. Four hundred daughters stand between you and the Maker's Beloved. You are Beloved Reborn. Yours is the power and the right to sing the Maker Song. You hold the keys to Glory. You are Beloved Reborn. Do you understand?"
"But," Amy said, "I don't know any songs."
"You do," he said.
"No I don't," she yelled.
At her rage, Romeo-Saet gave a light tug on the rope. The chair beneath Darla, whose legs were trembling with fatigue, shook and creaked beneath her. She screamed through her gag.
"No!" Amy screamed. She jumped from the chair and ran to the fence, grabbing it with her hands. I took a step forward, ready to draw and run if Romeo-Saet pulled the chair. There would be no time for the Dread in that event. Sam would probably be lost. "Please!" Amy screamed. "I don't know it! I don't know the song! Please!"
"You do know it," he said calmly. "Go back to your chair, compose yourself, and sing the song. Do it now."
I couldn't stand it. I started to walk toward Amy.
"You stay back," Romeo-Saet said threateningly. Amy turned around to look at me.
"I'm just going to help her back to her chair," I said. "She's just a little girl."
"She can manage," he answered coolly. "Get back to the door."
I stopped, but I didn't move back. Amy looked from me to Romeo-Saet and back to me. Then, slowly, she sniffed and wiped her tears on her sleeve and stood to return to her chair. I was just a three feet from the chair at this point, so close. When Amy got to the chair, she didn't stop. She walked past the chair to me and threw her arms around my waist, hugging me. I almost cried for her, but I couldn't miss the opportunity. I needed to be clear.
"Get to your seat," he said. The chair beneath Darla creaked again and Darla screamed. At this Amy jerked, but she did not let go.
"She just needs a hug," I said. "We're not going anywhere." Kneeling down, I used Amy to shield from Romeo-Saet and my own body to shield from the Dread. I slipped the GPS phone, making sure it was turned on, from my pocket to hers. She was perfect. She did nothing to betray the exchange. "It's going to be okay," I said into her ear. "I promise. Okay."
"Okay," she whispered tearily. She let go of me and sat in her chair, wiping her eyes again and sitting up straight to face Romeo-Saet.
"Back!" he snapped at me. Without turning my back, I stepped back to the doorway.
"What do I do?" asked Amy.
"Sing," he replied.
"Just begin to sing," he said. "It will come to you."
"Okay," Amy said. She relaxed her posture a little and, eyes on her mother, began to sing. "Fa la la la," she started. Her voice was small and shaky with tears. She meandered around notes with "la's" and "fa-la's" and "doh's." It sounded like gibberish, no melody or tune. She stopped. "It's not coming to me," she said.
"It will," he said. "Do not stop again. Sing."
Amy swallowed and, her voice cracking, started again, "Da da dee da," she sang. Again she meandered around the notes without melody or rhythm. She didn't stop, however. She stared at her mother and continued her song.
Then the song shifted. It took on a familiar tune and rhythm. "I've heard this," I thought. "What is this?" I couldn't place it. Was it from the radio? As she settled into the familiar tune, her voice grew stronger. I could feel the melody. I knew when it would dip and when it would rise. Without realizing it, I closed my eyes and began to nod my head slowly with the rhythm. I breathed deeply and felt the song wash over me. "Is someone singing with her?" I wondered. The voice sounded clear and strong. It dipped richly into the low notes and rang out the high ones. Was it just one voice? Was it many voices? I wondered, but I couldn't open my eyes to see. Without knowing why, I bowed my head and let the music wash over me. The song was beautiful, just as it had always been. I knew this song. I had always known this beautiful song. Where had I learned this song? Who was singing this song?
I have no idea how much time had passed when I heard the voice call my name. "Simon!" Amy screamed. Jumping to my feet and drawing my blade in one motion, I opened my eyes. Amy was tearing at the chain on the fence. As though in slow motion, the chair beneath Darla was hitting the floor. Her hands were tied, so she could not reach up to grab the rope and keep her neck from absorbing the force of the plunge. Moving as quickly as I could, I swung my blade up and around my head and, as I began to run, released it. It sailed true and hard. I watched it spin and slice through the flimsy fence wire and then cut like a razor through the rough rope between the two roof supports. The blade plunged into the far wall as Darla tumbled roughly to the ground.
"Mommy!" Amy yelled.
As I got to the gate I saw that most of Darla's fall was absorbed by her legs and then, as she tripped on the flimsy chair and fell backwards, her bottom. She'd be sore, but at least she had not fallen head-first on the cold, concrete floor. If I'd had my blade, I'd have sliced through the chain easily, but it was buried in the wall. Instead, I set to work on the padlock and, after several long seconds, had it opened. I opened the gate and let Amy in.
Only then did I have a chance to wonder what had happened. Looking over, I saw Romeo's body collapsed, face-first on the floor, the rope still clutched in his hand. As Amy removed Darla's gag I climbed past the two of them and knelt beside Romeo's body. Feeling his throat I was surprised. He had a pulse. I rolled him over. His eyes were closed. I pulled up his right eyelid. His pupils were fixed and dilated. Romeo's body was alive, but there was no one home. Saet was gone.
Then I remember k'mek, the Dread. Closing my eyes, I swept the room with my inner sight. He was gone. He'd gone, no doubt, to tell Joseph what had happened. Still using inner sight, I looked down at Romeo di Marti's body. Nothing there was no life there.
"Is he dead?" It was a woman's voice I didn't know. It was Darla. I turned toward them. Darla was leaning back against the wall hugging Amy to her chest.
"No," I told her, "but Saet, the Fate, is gone. So is Romeo. This body is alive, but it's empty."
Darla looked at me and fought back tears. "What the hell is this?" she asked. "What the hell are you talking about it?"
"Look," I said, "don't worry about it. It's over. We found you." I smiled at her.
"Who are you?" she asked.
"He's my friend, Mommy," Amy said. "He came and got me after you disappeared. We've been looking for you."
Darla didn't know what to think of me, and I didn't blame her. "Thank you," she said finally, and she hugged Amy tightly.
I looked back at Romeo's body on the floor. Then I saw the yellow paper in his pocket and my stomach sunk, "Oh, God," I said. "Sam." I reached and took the paper from her pocket.
"Sam!" Amy said. She sat up from where she had been leaning against her mother. "We have to save Sam! That Joseph took her!"
"We?" Darla snapped at Amy. "WE don't have to do anything! HE can do whatever he needs to do, but YOU are staying with me and WE are going home." Darla climbed to her feet and pulled Amy up after her. One of her ankles was tender, and her legs were undoubtedly very sore, but she was able to stand and walk.
I stood with them looked down at the folded paper in my hands. Amy walked looked over at Romeo's body.
"What happened to him, Simon?" she asked.
"I don't know," I said. "What do you think happened?"
She thought for a minute and then said, "I sang the song." She looked up at me. "Did you hear it?"
"I did." I couldn't remember the song, but I could remember the feeling. She had sung the song.
"Maybe," she said, "it worked. Maybe he's in Glory. Maybe he's with the Maker."
I looked down at her and then up at Darla. Darla didn't know what to think, but she must have heard the song too. There was no denying that something had happened. I tried to remember, but I couldn't. I looked down at Romeo di Marti's face. There was the trace of a smile.
"Maybe so," I said. "Who knows?"