The balloon simply dropped like a stone. The fire went out, and the silk immediately came down on Magnus and the queen. Magnus was almost out of strength, but he managed to find enough to rend the silk in two so it didn’t trap them. He swam on his own power, pulling her under his arm to the bank. They were, as he’d hoped, quite close to the Tuileries and its dock. He got her over to the steps and threw her down.
"Stay here," he said, dripping wet and panting.
But the queen was unconscious again. Magnus envied her.
He trudged up the steps and back up onto the streets of Paris. Axel would probably have been circling the area. They had agreed that if anything went wrong, Magnus was to send a blue flash into the sky, like a firework. He did it. Then he sank to the ground and waited.
About fifteen minutes later a carriage pulled up-not the simple, plain one from before but a massive one, in black and green and yellow. One that could easily carry half a dozen or more people for several days, in the grandest of possible styles. Axel hopped down from the driver’s seat and rushed to Magnus.
"Where is she? Why are you wet? What has happened?"
"She’s fine," Magnus said, putting up a hand. "This is the carriage? A berline de voyage?"
"Yes," von Fersen said. "Their Majesties insist. And it would be unseemly for them to arrive in something less grand."
"And impossible not to be noticed!"
For the first time von Fersen looked uncomfortable. He had clearly hated this idea and had fought it.
"Yes, well . . . this is the carriage. But . . ."
"She’s on the steps. We had to land in the river."
"It’s a long story," Magnus said. "Let’s just say things got complicated. But she is alive."
Axel got to his knees in front of Magnus.
"You will never be forgotten for this," Axel said in a low voice. "France will remember. Sweden will remember."
"I don’t care if France or Sweden remembers. I care if you remember."
Magnus was genuinely shocked when it was Axel who instigated the kiss-how sudden it was, how passionate, how all of Paris, and all the vampires, and the Seine and the balloon and everything fell away and it was just the two of them for one moment. One perfect moment.
And it was Magnus who broke it.
"Go," he whispered. "I need you to be safe. Go."
Axel nodded, looking a bit shocked at his own action, and ran to the dock steps. Magnus got up, and with one last look started to walk.
Going home was not an option. Saint Cloud’s vampires were probably at his apartments right now. He had to get inside until dawn. He spent the night at the petite maison of Madame de –, one of his more recent lovers. At dawn he returned to his apartments. The front door was ajar. He made his way inside cautiously.
"Claude!" he called, carefully staying in the pool of sunlight by the door. "Marie! Ragnor!"
"They are not here, monsieur," said a voice.
Henri. Of course. He was sitting on the staircase.
"Did you hurt them?"
"We took the ones called Claude and Marie. I don’t know who Ragnor is."
"Did you hurt them?" Magnus said again.
"They are beyond hurt now. My master asked me to send his compliments. He said they made for excellent feasting."
Magnus felt sick. Marie and Claude had been good to him, and now . . .
"Master would like very much to see you," Henri said. "Why don’t we go there together, now, and you can speak when he wakes this evening."
"I think I’ll decline the invitation," Magnus said.
"If you do, I think you will find Paris a most inhospitable place to live. And who is that new gentleman of yours? We’ll find his name eventually. Do you understand?"
Henri stood, and tried to look menacing, but he was a mundane, a darkling of seventeen.
"What I think, little darkling," Magnus said, stepping closer, "is that you forget who you’re dealing with."
Magnus allowed some blue sparks to flick between his fingers. Henri backed up a step.
"Go home and tell your master that I’ve gotten his message. I have given offense that I did not mean to give. I will leave Paris at once. The matter can be considered closed. I accept my punishment."
He stepped away from the door and extended his arm, indicating that Henri should exit.
As he’d expected, everything was a shambles-furniture overturned, burn marks up the walls, art missing, books shredded. In his bedchamber wine had been poured onto his bed and his clothes. . . . At least he thought it was wine.
Magnus didn’t take long to pick through the wreckage. With the flick of his hand, the marble fireplace moved away from the wall. He retrieved a sack heavy with louis d’or, a thick roll of assignats, and a collection of wonderful rings in citrine, jade, ruby, and one magnificent blue topaz.
This was his insurance policy, should the revolutionaries have raided his house. Vampires, revolutionaries . . . it was all the same now. The rings went on his fingers, the assignats into his coat, and the louis d’or into a handsome leather satchel, which had also been stored inside the wall for this very purpose. He reached back farther into the opening and produced one last item-the Gray Book, bound in green velvet. This he carefully placed in the satchel.
He heard a tiny noise behind him, and Ragnor crawled out from under the bed.
"My little friend," Magnus said, picking up the frightened monkey. "At least you survived. Come. We’ll go together."
When Magnus heard the news, he was high in the Alps, resting by a stream, crushing some edelweiss under his thumb. Magnus had tried to avoid all things French for weeks-French people, French food, French news. He had given himself over to pork and pounded veal, thermal bathing, and reading. For most of this time he had passed his days alone-with little Ragnor-and in the quiet. But just that morning an escaped nobleman from Dijon had come to stay at the inn where Magnus was living. He looked like a man who liked to talk at length, and Magnus was in no mood for such company, so he’d gone to sit by the stream. He was not surprised when the man followed him there.
"You! Monsieur!" he called to Magnus as he puffed and huffed up the hillside.
Magnus flicked some edelweiss from his fingernail.
"The innkeeper says you recently came from Paris, monsieur! Are you my countryman?"
Magnus wore a light glamour at the inn, so he could pass as a random noble French refugee, one of hundreds that were flowing over the border.
"I came from Paris," Magnus said noncommittally.
"And you have a monkey?"
Ragnor was scampering around. He had taken to the Alps extremely well.
"Ah, monsieur, I am so glad to find you! For weeks I have not spoken to anyone from my land." He wrung his hands together. "I hardly know what to think or do these days. Such terrible times! Such horrors! You have heard about the king and queen, no doubt?"
"What about them?" Magnus said, keeping his face impassive.
"Their Majesties, God protect them! They tried to escape Paris! They made it as far as the town of Varennes, where it is said a postal worker recognized the king. They were captured and sent back to Paris. Oh, terrible times!"
Without a word Magnus got up, scooped up Ragnor, and returned to the inn.
He had not wanted to think of this matter. In his mind Axel and the family had been safe. That was how he’d needed it to be. But now.
He paced his room, and finally wrote a letter to Axel’s address in Paris. Then he waited for the reply.
It took three weeks, and came in an unfamiliar hand, from Sweden.
Axel wishes you to know he is well, and returns the depth of feeling. The King and Queen, as you know, are now imprisoned in Paris. Axel has been moved to Vienna to plead their case to the Emperor, but I fear he is determined to return to Paris, at the risk of his life. Monsieur, as Axel seems to hold you in high esteem, won’t you please write to him and discourage this enterprise? He is my beloved brother, and I worry for him constantly.
There was an address in Vienna given, and the note was signed simply "Sophie."
Axel would return to Paris. Of that, Magnus was sure.
Vampires, fey folk, werewolves, Shadowhunters, and demons-these things made sense to Magnus. But the mundane world-it seemed to have no pattern, no form. Their quicksilver politics. Their short lives . . .
Magnus thought once again of the blue-eyed man standing in his parlor. Then he lit a match and burned the note.