This cave has spidercrabs. None of them have been too investigative so far, which is good, but it does mean that I’m not getting any sleep. As if I needed any additional impediments to my beauty rest. Lithe needs rest too. His fever is worsening and I’m afraid about what will happen if it takes him over completely. We started as absolute adversaries. Ironically, the very thing Heqet told us would be solved by our set-up suicide mission actually did get solved. Lithe and I set out as enemies, but became fast friends. I don’t want to lose him.

I don’t want to lose any of them. Lithe. Iara. Pincoy. These are my Atlantean family. And the deaths of Jailer, Girlfriend, and Goliath are as painful for me as those of Nessa, Jo, and Lin.

Iara brought good news this morning, though. Somehow she has gotten word to Pincoy, and the Consort has agreed to bring us food and medical supplies. Iara won’t let us leave the cave—it simply isn’t safe—but she tells me Pincoy promises to keep nosey folk away.

I felt a great swell of hope at the prospect of Pincoy coming. Heqet may have been willing to experiment with Jonah, but Pincoy would have reservations. Jonah was only a couple months old. Darkly imagining the things being done to my son was sufficient torment for a lifetime. And I couldn’t stop them. Those who harm little children should be tied up and thrown into the sea. Those who find their home in the sea should be tied up and thrown into a minimum security prison in Alabama and labeled “child-abuser.”

Hours I wept and waited for Pincoy. I waited for news of my wife and son. I replayed all the moments in which my fatherhood was a disappointment. There were enough for me not to have to repeat them. I prayed to God for grace. For strength. For mercy. For forgiveness. But mostly, I prayed that God would spare my little boy.

After many hours, Pincoy finally arrived, but his arrival was different than we’d anticipated. “Pincoy!” I called out, relieved to see my friend.

“Hello, David,” he said, breathless. He looked pale.

“Are you all right?”

“Please—a moment.”

Iara was beside him, rubbing his back with visible concern. “I am scared,” she said. “There is bad.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“There has been a murder, David,” said Pincoy. “The first ever in Zebulon.”

“Murder?” The taking of life is the most heinous crime in any culture, but especially here.

“Yes,” Pincoy continued. “Iara got word to me of your arrival. She contacted her brother, Enki. He found me. That was very dangerous for them both. They had no way to know I would not have you arrested.”

“What about the murder, Pink?”

“I am coming to that.” He gathered himself. Lithe was still obviously unwell, lying on the floor, but he also gathered himself. This was his kingdom, and this news was of grave importance to the prince regardless of his exiled condition. “One of the Knuma, my bodyguard, was with me on our way here,” Pincoy continued. “In secret. We were attacked out of the capital combs. We were in the shadows and I was knocked down. Khalnn, my guard, came to my aid, but as he bent over to check on me, someone pulled off his helmet. His head was unprotected, and they stung him.”

“What do you mean, ‘stung’?”

“They had a spinefish needle. They stuck it into Khalnn’s neck. He fell over, and the attacker kicked me in the ribs. I crawled away. I am a coward. But I did not run. I hid only.”

“What happened next?”

“The attacker tied Khalnn’s hands and feet together, behind him–”

“–he was hogtied?”

“I don’t know. But yes, he was tied up. Khalnn began to transform. To change. He was infected. But the attacker just sat there, watching.”

“Who was the attacker, did you see him?”

“It was a man, but I could not see him. He was wearing gloves, to protect himself, I am sure, against the needle. When Khalnn’s transformation was complete, the man took a rock and killed him. He beat the rock into his face. My friend is dead.”

“That is bad,” said Iara.

“That is not all,” said Pincoy. “Heqet knows you have returned. They have seen your boat. She will blame this murder on you, my friend. She will tell everyone you are a killer.”

“Bad,” Iara said.

“You’re not kidding, sister,” I said, still in disbelief. “Pincoy, I know you’ve been through a lot,” I said, trying to keep the urgency out of my voice. I didn’t wait for him to say anything. “But I have to ask you some questions. Where is Liz? Is Jonah alive? Is he okay?”

“That is why I came so quickly, David.” Pincoy was breathing hard, but he looked up at me and there was a new energy coursing through him. “They can fix it. The spinefish. We have found a cure.”