“Hello,” the newcomer said. “Will Stark?” “Yes,” Will said. “What’s your name?” “India VeBnari.” They shook hands. “I’m an aDorney.”
Spencer looked at his cards and smiled. “I’ll also see if I can introduce you to my grandson, Teagan. He’s been saying he’d like to meet you before this whole business started.”
“So, you’re asking me to break Will out?” “PreDy much. You and anyone else we can get.” Arthur paused. “Do you think it could work?”
“You’ll need to hide,” one of the twins explained to Will. “And nobody’s beDer at ﬁnding a place to hide than the simselves,” the other twin said.
“No.” Will shook his head. “I am not going back to college.”
“You see the way you’re refusing?” Lily asked. “That’s how we know Piper will never look for you there.” “Those were the worst years of my life. Except for—“ Really, which was worse? Life in a windowless, ﬂoor‐less box without anything he needed, or Piper?
Will looked at himself in the bathroom mirror. Lily had deﬁnitely done a good job assembling his disguise. He sBll had the same face, but they had changed everything about him that they could feasibly change without the assistance of a creepy‐sounding device called a plasBc surgery machine.
“Her name is Nymeria,” he heard De say as if she spoke through a fog. “She’s the reason I’m living here now. The simself house…Bme doesn’t move the same way when you’re there. It’s not good for a child. And Spencer didn’t want me to be alone.” “He’ll be a beDer father than me,” Will said. He sobbed again, fully understanding everything Piper had taken from him.
This wasn’t the ﬁrst Bme that Meg had seen a vision like this. Occasionally, the tangible world would drop out from around her, giving way to a jumble of images that ﬂashed by in seconds. Almost all of them seemed to have something to do with Meg and her family, but beyond that, she didn’t always understand the visions. She also hadn’t consciously realized that they would stop her from hearing in addiBon to seeing. It didn’t maDer. She had seen her daddy, and he was back home with them!
Considering that it looked like they were preparing to kick down the door, Sabriel opened it. “We have a warrant—“ Kevin started to say. “Didn’t I just tell you that the only way you’re searching this place is over my dead body?”
“—to arrest Will Stark and to arrest anyone who may be harboring him,” Ellen conBnued. “And in case you were thinking about going over our heads again, we have been given all authority from the Law to conduct this search and to take anyone who obstructs it into custody.”
Jan had discovered one of the listening devices in each room, even in the bathrooms. The searchers hadn’t been very creaBve about hiding them. In every room with a bedroom, they were under beds. In the bathrooms, the devices lurked behind toilets. In each of the other rooms, the searchers had put them into drawers. One by one, Jan disabled them.
“Are they all turned oﬀ?” Sabriel asked her over breakfast a]er Gemma and Meg had gone to school. Jan nodded. “Good. Because it’s Bme for us to have a coup of our own.”
Arthur smiled. “I don’t know how long I’ve been waiBng for you to say that.” “We have to stop trying to work with a system bound to work against us,” Sabriel explained. “Uncle Brandon didn’t try to work with the old order. He wrote a whole new code of laws and told everyone, ‘this is how it’s going to be from now on.’ We need to do the same thing.”
“Ursula couldn’t come today because they’re watching the house,” Teagan reported, “but she says to make Piper wish he’d never been born and that she hopes his head is exploding already.” Arthur smiled at her message. “Is she all right?” “Fine. Being in hiding can’t knock her down.”
To distract Piper on the day that Ferd and Mag helped Will escape, Ursula had walked into Piper’s empty oﬃce and declared herself the Law. Piper responded by charging Ursula with being an accomplice to criminal escape and sending her to the local jail. Of course, she didn’t stay there for very long, because Ferd and Mag also helped her escape, but she also had to hide.
“I’m surprised it took them this liMle Nme to realize they weren’t picking anything up on the microphones,” Sabriel said. “Jan disabled them...someNme early this morning? And then at noon, Ellen Bolton’s standing on the corner staring at the house.” “Just in Nme to see who you were going to call when the phones went up,” Indy pointed out.
Sabriel considered potenNal trouble, then shook her head. “It’s Tuesday. Nothing’s suspicious about large numbers of people showing up on Tuesdays. Everyone has their friends over whenever it’s possible.” “But they are going to noBce if we keep coming around here all the Bme. So we’d beDer do what we need to do today, if it’s possible.”
The six of them worked in near‐silence for the next ﬁVeen minutes, reading over the document and occasionally making marks on it. “How’s the play coming along?” Teagan asked Arthur. “PreMy well. I’ve got one of the supporNng roles, so I’m sNll working my way up. Sabriel’s doing beMer, though. She got named Most Valuable Player on her team.”
“SNll nowhere near where I should be, though.” She crossed through a sentence on her page. “That under the criminal law, we presume that all arrested are innocent of the crimes charged unBl an oﬃcer of the Law proves them guilty. That needs to be rewriMen. Who wrote that pack of gibberish?” “That was you,” Arthur said.
She looked up, surprised. “Me? No way. That sounds ridiculous.” “Well, it wasn’t me.” “Maybe it was Uncle Brandon and one of us just transcribed it without thinking.”
“Or maybe you always wanted to write like you were born in another century,” Mag joked. “It looks like you haven’t started capitalizing random leMers or replacing your s’s with f’s, though,” Ferd conNnued. “That’s good.”
“The line does need to stay in, though,” Sabriel said. “Just as something that makes sense. Innocence unNl proven guilty was always important. It seemed to have gone missing when the goons arrested Will.”
“I like this part,” Teagan said. He cleared his throat. “The Law will be appointed by the previous Law and is subject to approval by a majority vote of the people of Winterfell. Between one and three individuals can serve as Law simultaneously. The Law will serve for life, unless removed by majority vote.” “Especially the part about how you stop being the Law,” Mag said. “Yeah. That’s the whole reason why you’re doing this.”
“What is the reason you’re doing this?” Indy asked. “To get rid of Piper, obviously,” Sabriel said.
Indy paused before responding. “I get that. But you’re trying to make people follow you, and they might not follow you just for that. Piper holds onto people not just because of apathy, but because he has a theme that hooks them in: Even if you’re not a Stark, you have a part to play moving forward from the Apocalypse. We need a theme, too.” “What do you mean by ‘theme?’” “Something that tells people why they should care about what you’re wriNng. One sentence, maybe just one phrase or word, that they remember when they’ve forgoMen just what this document says.”
“Free Will,” Arthur said. “But that doesn’t mean anything to anyone but us.” “Hey, it does to us!” Ferd protested.
“Because we’re beMer,” Sabriel said. “Why?” Indy asked her. “For starters, we’re not a bunch of corrupt, twisty, sons of—" “That’s not going to help. They should know what we’re not, but they don’t know what we do stand for.”
Upstairs, Lyra started crying. Sabriel rolled her eyes. “This is why I always hated wriNng. And with Lyra hollering—isn’t Jan supposed to be looking aVer the kids?” “Their sleep schedules are all ruined,” Arthur said. “She probably just put Lirael to bed.” “These two are going to grow up and start sleeping at night like the rest of us, right? SomeNmes I wonder. Okay. We need to focus.”
The kids also took advantage of the phones being up. Meg went inside to call ValenNne while Gemma stayed outside with Kay Morgan, who Meg had brought home from school.
She tried talking to him, but he acted nervous. “What’s the maMer? Do I scare you?” Gemma decided it’d be kind of fun if she could scare someone. “No,” he lied. “I—I don’t have enough body points to be here. My mum says I’m going to get aMacked by bad guys and I won’t be able to ﬁght them unNl I have ten body points.” “That’s stupid,” Gemma told him. “You don’t need body points to ﬁght real bad guys.” She leV out the part where she didn’t know how to ﬁght real bad guys.
Kay crossed his arms. “Did you just call my mother stupid?” “Yeah. Has she even seen a real bad guy?” “My mother’s way smarter than you! You’re just a baby!”
“You don’t want her to get any older,” Meg informed ValenNne. “My liMle sisters were quiet when they were babies, but now they cry all the Nme and Mom has to teach them to walk and stuﬀ. And Aunt and Uncle are always busy.” “Well, she’s gebng older today, and I have to be at her birthday party.” “A birthday party! That means cake! Will you bring me some?”
“Maybe. Depends on whether Mom manages to invite anyone else to eat all of it.” “But I brought cake for you yesterday.” Meg scratched her head. “That’s not fair.” “You had two cakes. That’s twice as much cake,” ValenNne said, demonstraNng her knowledge of the lower end of the mulNplicaNon table. “It’s easier for you to bring me cake.” “But if there’s less cake, then it means you’re a beMer friend if you save a piece for me.”
“I’m not a baby!” they heard Gemma yelling at Kay. Meg thought fast. She quickly formed a snowball, took aim, and threw. It hit Gemma on the back.
“Come and get me!” Meg ran. Gemma and Kay followed, but ValenNne stopped to start on a stash of snowballs.
They didn’t have any teams at ﬁrst, but Kay decided he wanted to be on ValenNne’s team because she had more snowballs. Then Gemma decided to be on their team because Meg was too nice to be any good in a ﬁght. Kay immediately switched to Meg’s team because he sNll hadn’t forgiven Gemma for insulNng his mom.
It was only a maMer of Nme before one of the snowballs accidentally‐on purpose hit Ellen. “Hey!” She turned around, grimacing. “Which one of you did that?”
They stood silently for a while. Then ValenNne pointed at Kay. Kay pointed at Gemma. Gemma pointed at Meg. Meg realized she didn’t have anyone leV to point at.
“I don’t know who did it,” she said, “but it wasn’t me. I was making more snowballs.” “One of you must have done it.” Ellen looked at the four kids, then focused on ValenNne and Kay. “What are your names?” “I’m CarloMa,” ValenNne told her. “What’s yours?” “El—that’s not—“
“Why are you here?” “It’s about their father.” Ellen gestured in Gemma and Meg’s direcNon. “Then why do you care if one of us threw a snowball at you?” ValenNne’s eyes got very big. “And it wasn’t me.”
“Because I am an oﬃcer of the Law,” Ellen told them, “and I deserve your respect.” “No—ow,” Gemma complained as Meg stepped on her foot.
“I thought throwing snowballs wasn’t a crime,” ValenNne said. “It’s not.” But she wanted it to be. “Why don’t the two of you just go home to your parents. And as for you two—“ Ellen looked at Gemma and Meg.
“She said to tell you that we need to learn proper respect for law,” Meg reported. “And some other useless—“ Gemma began. “Oh, and that we might become good ciN—ci—a big word—“ “Stop interrupNng me, Meg!” “Sorry.”
Jan paced back and forth. “You need to be more careful when oﬃcers are watching you. Even when you can’t see them watching you, you need to be more careful.” “When are we going to be safe?” Meg asked. “When your daddy comes home.” It was easier than saying she didn’t know.
Jan paced back and forth. “You need to be more careful when oﬃcers are watching you. Even when you can’t see them watching “And when’s that going to be?” Gemma scoﬀed. “You keep saying he’s going to come home. I don’t see him.” “But you sNll have to be careful!” Jan looked at Meg for support, but saw her other daughter staring into space again. “Meg? Are you even listening to me?”
“You threw the snowball?” Meg asked. “Yeah, I did. And I’m not sorry.” Gemma threw up her arms as if to ask what else she was supposed to do. “Then why did you point at me when that woman asked who threw it?”
“Because it’s none of her business who threw it at her ugly ass!” “Gemma! Language!” “Aunt Sabriel says worse.”
“Just go upstairs and do your homework,” Jan told the kids. She shook her head once they had disappeared. Gemma’s mouth was gebng worse and worse, and Meg just plain unnerved her. Were the toddlers going to grow up to be any beMer? Right now, it didn’t seem like it.
Will did look older than the other students, but not old enough to turn any heads. Times were sNll hard. People didn’t always leave for college when they were supposed to. They didn’t always return from college when they were supposed to, either.
Lily had set Will up in a mostly blue one‐story house on the edge of campus with all the necessary furniture and not much else. There were two single beds, so she must have given Will a roommate. He wanted to trust Lily’s judgment, but couldn’t do it completely. Just one roommate would be enough to give him away if it was the wrong one.
Will looked around again to check that no one had followed him. He had locked the door, but locks didn’t always protect you. Maybe they had decided to wait unNl he felt safe to spring out of the shadows and haul him back to Winterfell. No, the house pracNcally sparkled. No one had set forth in it before Will, unless they hid their tracks‐‐
The doorbell rang. Will jumped. He realized he should probably answer it. But what if Piper’s henchmen had ﬁnally come for him? He needed to calm down. He could look out the window to check who had come to his door. But if you could see someone, then that person could see you. Calm down, he told himself. No one has recognized you except for the people who you want to. But they always ﬁgure it out. And who can see past the disguise beMer than the one who stared you in the face for two whole days?
The doorbell rang again. Will looked out the window. Short red hair and a yellow jacket. No one he recognized as working for Piper. Just because he didn’t recognize— No. Lily wouldn’t send him someone who was going to betray him. Not intenNonally.
Enough. Will made himself open up the door. “Are you—my roommate?” “I guess so.” The redhead extended his hand. “Sullivan Livingston.” “Sean Cooper.” He had pracNced that in the mirror. Now what? “Er, come in.”
“Thanks.” Sullivan took oﬀ his coat and changed into a yellow llama top. Will knew he had seen this guy before. So he must be okay, right? “Do I know you?” “I don’t know,” Will answered. “Probably not. I just got here.” “What’s your major?”
“Physics.” When he arrived, Will decided that he would use college to learn the things he hadn’t managed to pick up the ﬁrst Nme around. A beMer understanding of electricity would help him work through the problem of the phone lines. “Yours?” “Drama,” Sullivan told him. “So you want to be an actor?”
Sullivan shook his head. “That’s my ﬁancé’s department. I thought I wanted to do that, but I discovered I’d rather learn to cook. Haven’t changed majors, though. My advisor said I sNll have to know how to market myself if I’m going to be a celebrity chef.” It was a good thing that Sullivan had kept talking. Will had been about to say, Yeah, my brother’s an actor. Wait.
Will took a closer look at Sullivan. Sullivan. Fiance who was an actor. Of course. Of all the students at this university, Lily had chosen Will’s future brother‐in‐law to be his roommate. Maybe everything was going to be okay.
“Four feet, ﬁve and a half inches.” Arthur smiled. “You’re going to be tall!” Meg frowned. “How tall is Daddy?” “Five foot nine, I think. A liMle taller than me.”
“So I have…” Meg tried to work out the math and ﬁgure out how much shorter she had been than her dad in her vision. “About a foot to go. Maybe more. Can’t I grow faster?” Arthur shook his head. “It’s not good for you to grow too fast. Once you’re about fourteen or so, you’ll probably be as tall as you want to be.” “But I want to be tall now so Daddy will come back.”
Arthur changed the subject: “Does everything that you see in the future happen?” “I don’t know yet. There hasn’t been Nme. But I know it will.” “So—“ He stared. “I’m a kid now. I can’t tell you if something is going to happen if I’ve seen it happening when I’m a teenager. But I just know it’s going to happen.”
“Okay.” Arthur didn’t know any more about raising a kid with special powers than Jan did, but it wasn’t any weirder than people coming back from the dead when you stopped and thought about it. As for Sabriel, she just wanted to know if Meg ever saw anything that would help them beat Piper.
“I think I saw Daddy today,” Meg mused. “But I wasn’t sure.” “Was it happening now?” “Yeah.” “If it is him, we can’t know where he is, Meg,” Arthur reminded her. “Otherwise the authoriNes might ﬁnd out from us.”
Meg slumped. “Okay.” “TesBng. TesBng. Is this on?” they heard Gemma say from downstairs. “It shouldn’t be on,” Meg complained. “It’s 6 am.”
“It’s not fair,” Gemma proclaimed. “Nobody pays aMenNon to me. Aunt Sabriel’s always at the computer, and she says it’s important and she can’t take a break. Whenever Lyra and Lirael cry, one of the grownups comes running, but they don’t care if I want to play! “But they all like Meg! They all come running when she wants someone to measure her again, like she’s grown a foot in the last day, because she thinks Daddy’s going to come home tomorrow because of her stupid visions.” Gemma took a deep breath, then shouted, “DADDY’S NOT COMING HOME! STOP LYING!”
Arthur shook his head. “I’ll go talk to her.” “It’s okay,” Meg said, trying to keep the frown oﬀ her face. “I knew she didn’t like me.” Arthur was about to say something about how siblings should get along. Then he remembered the way Sabriel used to ﬁght with Will. “She’s doing this because she wants aMenNon. I’ll go talk to her.”
“It’s you?” Gemma asked Arthur. “I thought someone was going to come yell at me.” “I wasn’t going to yell at you,” Arthur said. “Yeah, because you can’t yell at anybody.”
“But I was going to ask you to turn the microphone oﬀ,” Arthur conNnued. “You were supposed to hear me.” Gemma crossed her arms again. Doing that made you look tough. “What do you want?” her uncle asked.
Gemma could have said so many things. She wanted to be queen of Winterfell, so everyone would listen to her and pay aMenNon to her and have to do what she said. She wanted to not have sisters. She wanted to be a sports star like Aunt Sabriel. She wanted everyone to be telling the truth when they said her dad was coming home. “I want you to tell me a story,” she said. “A true story. Not one of those once upon a Nme stories.” “Okay,” Arthur said. He sat down next to the podium. “And you have to ﬁnish it.” Gemma sat down.
Arthur thought about what story to tell. “Your aunt wanted to be the heir of this family,” he began. “What’s an heir?” “The leader of the family.” “But Aunt Sabriel is the leader of the family.”
Gemma had a point. “The heir is also the one who gets married and has kids.” This might not be a good Nme to talk to Gemma about moving out. “Oh. So…Daddy was the heir?” “He sNll is the heir.”
Gemma frowned. “I said, no once upon a Nme stories.” “But he is,” Arthur said. “You don’t stop being heir. Once you have it, you keep it unNl you give it to one of your kids.”
“But he’s not here to be heir.” Gemma got up. “This story’s stupid. I’m going to eat breakfast.” Arthur watched her go. He had thought he was ﬁnally gebng through to Gemma, but he’d hit a dead end again when it all turned back to Will being away. It all turned back to Will being away in the end.
Arthur stared at the computer. “It all turns back to Will…” he repeated, trying to vocalize the idea. Then, he sat down and started to write. To the people of Winterfell. Your freedom is at risk. Your families are at risk….
“Natalie!” Silence. Where was— Right. Piper had ﬁred her. Of course he had ﬁred her, he told himself, quashing the voice that said you just got rid of her because she was the bearer of bad news. She had let Ursula Fitzhugh take her in and let Will escape, aVer all. Someone had to be punished.
Now Piper needed a new assistant. He had too much work to do on his own and too few he could trust the work to. Lucia needed to stay where she was as the new EducaNon Minister. Piper might have a beMer‐qualiﬁed media person in Edward Grey, who was watching Arthur Stark as a bonus. Even then, that couldn’t replace an assistant. The Boltons weren’t good for much beyond simple tasks. Maybe the Starks had it right with two people to do the work of the Law. Perhaps he had gone too far. Maybe he should have stayed in poliNcs instead of trying to do both poliNcs and law at the same Nme. Maybe arresNng Will for Sansa’s murder hadn’t been necessary. He could have just as easily arrested one of the others. For plumbbob’s sake, why did they have to kill her in the ﬁrst place? They were supposed to be too nice to bloody their hands. True, Piper had planned for it, but it would have been so much less messy the other way. Except for having Sansa yapping in his ear about her delusions of grandeur.
No. Piper had to go this far. He had to keep going. As long as the Starks were around, they would try to stop him. They always had. They would throw around the weight of their family name to shut down any idea that came out of his mouth. Brandon Stark had never listened to Piper if he could help it. The plan could sNll succeed, he told himself. Their heir might not be broken, but he was on the run and in disgrace. The Boltons would ﬁnd Will eventually. Once they did, it would all be over.
Someone knocked. Who was it? Then he remembered that Ellen was supposed to report. “Come in.” She entered and closed the door. Piper asked the quesNon that he always opened with: “Have you found him?”
“No. I’ve tried the Amanas, the Fitzhughs—“ “And is Kevin watching the Stark house now?” “Yes.” “Good. ConNnue.”
“We’ve tried the Amanas, the Fitzhughs, and the Morgans,” Ellen conBnued. “No sign of Will anywhere. They all denied having seen him.”
“And you believed them. See if the wires turn up anything. Did you try the simselves?” “When I went to their house, they started going on about interdimensional law.” Did she have any spine? “Simselves have no authority to refuse to cooperate with law enforcement. What are they going to do? Drag me into interdimensional court? Search their house anyway.”
“Fine,” she said. “And start searching all the houses. You don’t have to wire them up like you did the others. Just search. I don’t care if they’ve ever had anything to do with Will or the Stark family. I want you to ﬁnd him.” “Piper—” “I believe those were suﬃciently clear instrucNons. I have a press conference. If you need more help, I’ll be back aVerwards.”
A few minutes later, Piper surveyed the crowd. Well, at least Ursula Fitzhugh was missing. But there were sNll too many people present. Priya Ramaswami was sNll there represenNng the feckless Winterfell Times. She wouldn’t report on anything. Piper might even be able to bring her in. But who was the teenage boy sibng in the middle? And—simselves. Three simselves in the front row.
“Good aVernoon,” he addressed them. “The fugiNve Will Stark is sNll at large. As you recall, he was taken into custody ﬁve days ago for the murder of Sansa Stark. RegreMably, he escaped three days ago. If you see—“ Then, Piper had to duck to avoid gebng hit in the head by a baseball.
When he looked up, he saw the teenager glaring at him. “That’s for scaring my mom!” the boy yelled before running from the room.
Piper scanned his memory for anything he could charge the kid with. Disorderly conduct would do. But who was the kid? It didn’t maMer now. Keep talking. “We are conducNng a city‐wide manhunt for Mr. Stark. Photographs of him are being distributed to all your homes. If you see a dark‐skinned man, a liMle taller than average, with about chin‐length red hair, keep tabs on him and call law enforcement. Do not approach him. He is extremely dangerous.”
Should he menNon the home visits? No. That might warn Will. “I urge you all to fully cooperate with law enforcement in this invesNgaNon. Remember that we need your assistance to make Winterfell a safer community. My work in this oﬃce is nothing without your help. “No quesNons today.” Who knew what the simselves might say? “Have a good aVernoon.”
Lily rose from her chair. “Interdimensional law—“ “I said, no quesNons,” Piper interrupted. “Not a quesNon. There is an interdimensional court. And they don’t tend to assume you’re innocent over there. Look up what happened to Joe Grundstrom someNme.”
“Joe—I don’t care who he is. You live here. You’re subject to my law. You should concern yourself with whether you’re complying with it.” They had to be hiding something in that house. “Goodbye, Miss Simself.”
ValenNne liked to think that she was always in the know. She wasn’t Meg, but she had her ear to the ground, and she knew that people liked to say things when she was around. When they saw pigtails and a preMy pink dress, they didn’t think that the girl wearing them had a mind of her own. They didn’t think she would turn out to be anything but totally nice. But that didn’t mean she understood everything that she heard. Like, if her mom wanted to be a policewoman, and the people who came to the house were also police, then why was her mom scared of them?
“Just because people are cops doesn’t mean they’re good,” BriMany explained. “Actually, a lot of them are bad.” “Like the ones who wanted to look at our house?” ValenNne asked. “Yes.” “Why are so many of them bad?“
“Because it’s roMen at the core. The Law is bad, so the people who enforce the law are also going to be mean. He’s not even supposed to be the Law,” BriMany told her. “Your cousins were supposed to do it.” “The grown‐up ones?” “Right.”
“But he killed that woman,” ValenNne said. “No.” BriMany shook her head. “Will was never going to be the Law. And he never killed anybody, ValenBne.” “Then who did? Because kids at school are saying he did it.”
BriMany shook her head. She didn’t like to think of Julian as a killer. She didn’t want to teach ValenNne that murder was okay. “I don’t know. But Will’s innocent. That poster they sent around isn’t true.” “Maybe they made the whole thing up!” ValenNne proposed. “Because they’re mean liars!” “They did.” BriMany nodded. “And that’s why you have to be careful around any of them. Will’s innocent, and he’s coming back, but we have to pretend that he’s not while all of them are around.”
“So what if they ask you to do something bad when you don’t want to?” ValenNne asked. BriMany thought about it. “Depends on how bad. I sNll haven’t given up on working for them aVer you and Carla are old enough. I’ve always wanted to be a policewoman, and I can’t change that. But the Starks are the only other family we have. I can’t turn on them.”
Unfortunately, they hadn’t been careful enough.
A few hours later, Meg walked up to the Amana house and rang the doorbell. She had been pubng this oﬀ, but it was Nme to tell ValenNne.
ValenNne came outside and gave her a hug. “Hi! I didn’t think I’d see you today!” “I wanted to come over and say hi before your birthday,” Meg answered, hugging her back. “I can’t believe you’re almost a teenager!” “Me neither! I want you to grow up with me. You’re my best friend.”
“You’re my best friend, too.” Meg’s smile widened. She had a best friend! It didn’t maMer whether Gemma liked her or not now, because ValenNne Amana was her best friend. And it was happening just as she had seen it! The universe could be so out of joint someNmes. Things that didn’t make sense happened daily. But whenever an event happened according to Meg’s foresight, she felt the world snap back into its proper order, as if her fragmented vision formed a complete whole. A lot of Nmes, the proper order of things wasn’t fair.
At the chess table, Meg scratched her forehead. “I have to talk about your future.” “You couldn’t have told me that people were coming to search my house?" ValenNne asked her. “Or that the teacher was going to yell at me for talking in class?”
“I didn’t see that. I don’t see everything. But I know you were—or will be hiding upstairs with Carla. You looked scared. And you were a teenager.” “Did I have good clothes?” ValenNne asked. “How am I supposed to remember what you were wearing?”
“Meg, this is important. If I was in a chicken suit or some kind of goth thing, I’d want to know.” “I thought it was more important to tell you something scary was happening,” Meg said. “But you don’t know what was going on, do you?” ValenNne asked.
“No,” Meg told her. “It just feels bad.” “Great.” ValenNne looked at the chessboard. “I’m going to be hiding upstairs, and I don’t even know why so I can change it.” “You can’t change it.” “Then why are you telling me?” Meg frowned. “I thought you wanted to know.”
While Meg played chess with ValenNne, Gemma played Mary Mack with Nymeria Fitzhugh. “I like your house,” Nymeria said. “Why?” Gemma asked. “I bet you it’s just like your house.”
“It’s…it’s just cool.” Nymeria wondered what it was like to live here. Her mom had told her that her other dad (not the one who taught her to walk, but the one who she didn’t remember) used to live in this house before the police lied about him killing someone and took him away. The people in the house were her family, just like her mom and dad and baby brother. “Yeah, it is. Want to see the mahjong table?” “Yeah!” Nymeria exclaimed.
They went upstairs, where Jan was holding Lyra and talking to her about something that sounded science‐y. “Are you Gemma’s friend?” she asked. Nymeria nodded. “I’m Nymeria.” “I’m Gemma’s mom. Lyra and Lirael are growing up tonight,” Jan reminded Gemma. “Can you stay for cake, Ny—“ “Nai‐meria,” she sounded out. “I have to go home before it’s dark.”
In the next room, they saw Sabriel typing on the computer. “What are you working on?” Gemma asked. “Can I help?” “Finishing the consNtuNon,” Sabriel answered. She looked away from the computer. “It should be ready to go out tonight.” “Can I help?” Gemma repeated.
“Have you done your homework?” Sabriel asked. “No. I just got home.” “Gemma, you need to do your homework before you can help me,” Sabriel told her. “But Aunt Sabriel—“
“And it’s not nice to bring people back to your house to play and then ignore them,” Sabriel conNnued. “A couple of red hands games, birthdays, and homework. Then you can help me with the spelling.” “But I don’t want to help with spelling! I can write!” Sabriel tried to put this in a way that her niece could understand. “Proofreading is important, Gemma. Think about how stupid it’d look if it went out with a bunch of spelling mistakes. Now, why don’t you play with your friend?” Gemma didn’t have any friends, as far as Sabriel could tell. Maybe a friend would help her.
ValenNne decided that being a teenager had stopped being fun once her mom had decided it meant she was old enough to take care of the baby. At least Carla was ﬁnally toilet trained, but her sister sNll wasn’t ﬁnished learning how to talk, and ValenNne didn’t want to play charisma bunny with her.
She put on a happy face. “It’s okay, Carla. You don’t have to cry.” The toddler kept on shrieking. ValenNne liVed her from the crib. How was the kid so heavy? “Come on, want to play—“ The doorbell rang. ValenNne’s thoughts ﬂashed to Meg’s vision. The nursery. With Carla. Scared. What was about to happen? She decided to stay in the nursery and listen, if she could with Carla shrieking.
“Mrs. Amana.” Piper walked in without so much as a by‐your‐leave. “You have a lovely home.” “Thank you,” BriMany said. “Er—why—what brings you here?”
“To discuss your potenNal candidacy as a member of Winterfell’s police force.” Piper smiled. “Given your childcare responsibiliNes, I thought it would be best to have this meeNng at your home.” “I—“ That made sense, and yet at the same Nme, it didn’t. How had he found out she wanted to join the police?
“For the most part, you seem like a good candidate, Mrs. Amana. ConscienNous. CommiMed to changing Winterfell for the beMer. But I have one major concern: your loyalty.” “Why?” “I should have thought it obvious. Your family.”
BriMany didn’t say anything. She was caught between wondering how Piper knew and quesNoning her lifeNme ambiNon to enter the police force. Could she possibly do good from within a group as bad as this? “What about them?” “You do believe Will is innocent. Don’t you?” “I—“ She hesitated.
“If I were to give you an order to arrest him, would you do it?” What if she said no? That would just get BriMany and her children further into trouble. “Yes.”
“Good. Now, I won’t be giving you any orders to arrest him. But I will need you to keep an eye on his family for me and report back. Can you do that?” She nodded. “Then welcome to the police force, Mrs. Amana.”
“Mr. Morgan?” The pounding came on the door. Jocelyn opened it. “Mr. Morgan? What do you want with my son?” “I want you to teach him beMer manners,” Ellen Bolton told her. “He should know beMer than to be so disrupNve and unruly.”
“What’s going on?” Kay asked, entering the room. “Kay, what did you do at the press conference today?” Jocelyn asked him. “Kay Morgan, you’re under arrest for assault and disorderly conduct.” Ellen handcuﬀed Kay. “Come with me. A night in lockup might teach you manners.”
“I’m only sorry that the baseball didn’t hit him!” Kay shouted as he followed Ellen oﬀ.
Meanwhile, Kevin was on the run. AVer three hours of watching, two ghost scares, and one bladder accident, he had had enough of Starks for the night. Someone else could take over.
Once he disappeared, Ferd and Mag walked around the corner, whistling. “I wish we’d goMen to try the new bombs, Ferd.” “We will, Mag. This was more fun.”
They opened the mailbox and siVed their way through the papers, leaving the bills behind and picking out the unmarked manila envelope that contained the copies of the new consNtuNon. “Let’s give them hell,” they both said.
Next Nme on An Apocalypse of Ice: + Taking an interlude from the Piper plot to focus on a big problem that will confront gen 5. + Will doesn’t seMle into life at college as easily as he had hoped. + Heirship announcement!
Guest starring: + Ferdinand Penguino (The Penguino Legacy) + India VeNnari (The VeBnari Dualegacy) + Magellan Penguino (The Penguino Legacy) + Spencer Fitzhugh (The Fitzhugh Legacy) + Teagan Fitzhugh (The Morgan Legacy) + Ursula Fitzhugh (A Villainous Apocalypse) Thanks to Rose, Pen, and De for helping me with the draV of this chapter!
“WE WON’T HAVE OUR SNOWBALL FIGHT ON THIS SIDE OF THE HOUSE!” You will if I reload the game. :P Happy Simming!