“That’s quite a tale,” said the Marshal.
“It’s not a tale,” said L’Horloge tersely, “That implies that we made it up.”
“While it might seem fantastic, I can assure you it is true,” added Arpin.
The Marshal regarded L’Horloge, Arpin, Maxi, and Nikita over her desk.
“Time is repaired? There will be no further surprises?”
“Not as far as time is concerned,” said L’Horloge as he laid a hand on the box containing the Penultimate Device.
“Then this will be counted as a triumph.”
“The Unexpected Chevalier gave her life so we could succeed, as well as the Repairperson.”
“Unexpected will be enshrined in the Salle Des Morts, with full honors,” said the Marshal.
“You don’t seem saddened by her death,” stated L’Horloge.
Arpin could smell winter rain on stone off the Marshal, a mix of sorrow and anger.
“I have had to send Chevaliers to their deaths before and will do so again. We all know that death walks alongside us. Unexpected knew this and she will be honored for her deeds.”
“The Repairperson gave her life as well,” L’Horloge pointed out.
“Let her people weep for her if they are capable of sorrow. I will waste no tears on her,” stated the Marshal.
“We all stand here because of her bravery!” declared L’Horloge.
“If the League of Spiders had done as they promised, she would still draw breath,” countered the Marshal.
L’Horloge’s eyes narrowed.
“Pardon,” interrupted Arpin, “With respect, bickering honors no one. Would you not agree?”
“D’accord,” said the Marshal and L’Horloge nodded.
“The most pressing issue is what to do with this,” the Sergeant Gendarme asked as he tapped the box holding the Penultimate Device.
“That is simple, the Coterie du Honor will take custody of it,” said the Marshal with finality.
“No, you will not,” replied L’Horloge with equal conviction.
“Your adventures have made you bold, watch-master,” said the leader of the Chevaliers, “But this is not up to you.”
“Nor to you,” added Arpin.
Maxi, who had been watching and listening to all this, attempted to suppress a smirk.
“This is far too dangerous a machine to be floating about the world.”
“Oh, I completely agree,” said Arpin amicably.
“There is no place safer than the Tower Cerulean.”
“Perhaps, but you do not have the authority to claim the Penultimate Device.”
“Should we meekly return it to the League of Spiders and trust that they have the best interests of the Arrondissement in mind?”
Arpin shrugged and said, “No, but provoking them will benefit no one.”
The Marshal strode over to the Sergeant Gendarme and said quietly, “They are monsters. Chevaliers slay monsters, that is all the authority we need.”
As if on cue, a letter in the form of winged hare slid under the door and flew into Arpin’s hand. He unfolded it and read.
“Monsters or no, a parley has been called,” he said as he handed the letter to the Marshal.
Her face grew grim as she read.
“Is this a trick?”
“No. We are to meet the leader of the League in the Jardin des Gens to discuss what to do about the Penultimate Device.”
“Clearly an ambush.”
“I must disagree, it is signed by the Prefect of Gendarmerie as well as the First Minister.”
Waving the letter in an aggressive manner, she said, “Signatures can be forged.”
“Check the watermark.”
The Marshal held the letter up to a lamp, rotating under the paper was the elegant baton topped with a sharp lily. The symbol of the First Minister’s office. It also gave off the faint scent of springtime flowers, proving its authenticity.
“How?” asked the Marshal.
“I had sent a message to my captain while en route to the Tower Cerulean. Clearly, she regarded it as a high priority.”
“You might’ve mentioned that earlier.”
“I was unsure of the outcome.”
Handing Arpin the letter, she said, “Let it never be said that the Coterie du Honor failed to serve the interest of the Arrondissement. We shall go. Accompanied by three Banners of our deadliest Chevaliers.”
“Of course,” said Arpin.
“You are extremely clever,” she said staring at him.
The Marshal exited and immediately began barking orders.
“That’s weird,” said Nikita who had been rather intimidated by the Marshal, “She was furious but then she gave you a compliment.”
“That was no compliment,” said Maxi.