Zea woke that morning from dreams that held only the normal strangeness and discontinuity of all dreaming. She and James were quarreling, but they had to stop to fight a gelatinous cube that had stuck itself to the ceiling above his chair. Then they were at Gunnir and she was talking to Glykeria about what a stupid little human girl she was, and Glykeria asked Zea, "What about you?"
The dream stopped there, and Zea was walking with John. Had he halted it? Perhaps. Where were they going? Away from the living, he said. It would be just them and the dead. Easy for him to say. The dead hated him. So much easier to be hated by the dead than loved by them. They walked a long time. Then she woke up.
Everybody looked better, and most surprising of all was Michael. It seemed to Zea that everyone here was having a harder time adjusting to him than he was to himself. Solis was predictably uncomfortable, and Zea didn't know what to do for him. Her head was still a little fuzzy, and things tended to shift and blur a little at the edges of her vision. If she'd been alone she would have ridden on horseback for a while just so that she wouldn't have to try so hard to balance. But no one else was complaining, and Zea wouldn't either.
"Michael wasn't meant to die," Zea told Solis. "Which means that if this was the only way to save him for the only person who could, then this was intended as well. There is no alternative." Zea recalled that Michael was also here, and also a person, and might require some comfort as well. "Though that does not mean we can't change it. It just means that right now things are as they must be."
Perhaps that degree of fatalism was less comforting for those who were not devotees of death, but it's what Zea would have wanted to hear.
"Anyway, I'm going to go see if I can't get hold of a map. This is the route I took a couple of years ago, but that was a couple of years ago. I'll be back later. John, stay here so I can find them." John's silent grumbling was so profoundly put out that it was very nearly audible.
With that, Zea swung onto her horse. She needed either a mapmaker who wouldn't notice her marking his merchandise and stealing it later, or an archive with information about the area. She reached the library, tied her horse outside, and to her amusement found that one of the children from the night before was there. She turned to the girl and asked, "Afternoon. How did you get here so fast?"
The girl lifted a feathered duster in one hand and a rag in the other. "I'm gonna be here now. I keep things clean and check for bugs."
Zea blinked, and then nodded. In retrospect it made sense that there wouldn't be too much room in this town for all those kids unless they could find someplace quickly to apprentice themselves off. "Have you done the maps yet? I'm looking for one of the area north of here."
She shook her head. "No. But I know they're not over there," she noted, pointing toward one end of the building. "What's your name?"
"Zea Mazuo. You?"
The girl grinned. "Joey. But I gotta go!" She ran off, her bare feet pounding against the wooden floor. "Seeya!"
And then Zea was left alone. "Weird." She headed off to the other end of the library to start her search for some assurance that old landmarks and trails would still be here when she needed them. A lot had surely changed in the two years since she left home, but she hoped not too much.