Ruthie looked down for a moment and then said, “That’s when something changed in him. Urin found him. Back in those days, we took joy in finding new ones—new immortals. They were always so surprised to find out that there were more of us. We’d bring them in slowly, showing them what we’d done.”
Haley crossed her arms over her chest, “And what was that?”
I barely noticed. I was thinking back to the former supervillain lair and government storage facility where Cassie had read us an account of Urin, possibly the king of the city-state Ur, and how he’d encountered and taken over a group of other immortals. There was even a hint that he’d once seen Lee on a road and felt that indefinable feeling that I felt when I met an artificer.
Ruthie said, “We were everywhere. We had people everywhere. We’d refined our own formula based on information left by the Abominators that unlocked certain human potentials. We and our followers had what you now call superpowers. Some could communicate over great distances. Others were useful in a fight. We didn’t rule, but we were the power behind thousands of thrones, temples, and village chieftains. Nothing in the ancient world could rival us.
“There were a few that tried. Over the millennia, some betrayed us, but Urin led us in putting them down.”
Amy looked in Ruthie’s direction, but her eyes weren’t focused on her, possibly examining someone else’s memories, “What happened? You and what I remember of your followers don’t seem like people who would let Magnus rule the Cabal.”
Ruthie’s face hardened and for a second I thought she might leap out of her chair and use her sword, but then Ruthie laughed, “The same thing that will change you eventually—age. Immortal or not, it changes everyone. We were too powerful for too long. We weren’t alarmed enough when the short-lived began to create machines that matched or surpassed our followers. We didn’t try hard enough to recruit all of the newly powered people who appeared and started dressing up in costumes. You saw the result. The Cabal was exposed and destroyed.”
Thinking back to the Cabal soldiers that we’d fought, they had been overconfident. Despite that, they might have killed us several times over if Lee hadn’t been there to teach us how to handle them.
“If we were going to go up against Magnus,” Haley said, “how do you think we should handle him?”
Ruthie froze and then said, “If you do, I wouldn’t follow my advice. I fought him and lost. I don’t know how he did it, but he found Dominators, the Abominators’ tools for managing their human servants, and turned them to his own use. You’ll never beat him. He can turn anyone against you simply by having his servants talk to them—you, your friends, and even your parents can’t resist it.”
“We have a defense,” I told her. “I worked one up years ago when we were fighting the Cabal. Since then I’ve gone to the Human Ascendancy and fought Dominators there, improving it.”
Her eyes widened and she looked from one of us to the other, “Then it’s simple. Find him and kill him. Make it quick before he can call for help.”
“Except that we don’t know where he is,” I said. “If you know that or if the Wizards’ Council does, it would make our lives easier.”
“The Wizards’ Council isn’t at my beck and call. We have an arrangement. I have my gifts and other things that I choose to share with them. I’ve helped them avoid conflict with the Cabal and they’ve helped me avoid the Cabal. And, “ she added, letting out a breath, “I don’t know where he is now. He takes precautions too. He has at least one wizard on his side and from what I’m told, it’s not easy to find him with magic. I can’t complain about it because a similar charm protects me.”
Amy watched her talk and said, “I’m sure there’s someone capable of figuring out how to break through his protection against being scried. Do you have anything of his? A possession that he owned for a while? Dried blood would be the best, but I can’t hope to get that lucky.”
I thought back to the now-smashed government storage facility again. We’d had an entire room full of Magnus’ stuff in there. I didn’t think we’d taken anything, not even the book with Magnus’ notes about the “galaxy core device.” To be fair to us, we knew the storage facility had been targeted by missiles and were running for our lives at that point.
Ruthie’s reply mirrored my own thoughts, “No.”
Even though I doubted it would help, I asked, “Do you know where we might find something of his? Or maybe you know someone who might know how to find him?”
She closed her mouth and frowned, “He always respected Urin and Urin’s still alive. I might be able to make contact with him.”
If Urin were also descended from the Artificers, I wondered if he would be strong enough for me to sense it or if he’d be able to sense me.