Welcome to my serial science-fiction/fantasy adventure, The Only City Left. This is the story of Allin Arcady and his adventures through a dying, planet-sized city called Earth.
If you are new to The Only City Left and want a quick catch-up, you can read a synopsis of Parts 1-27 and then start at Part 28. You can reach an individual part of the story by browsing the Table of Contents.
At the end of Part 28, Tumble dropped a bomb on Allin’s psyche by revealing that Tyena’s motives were suspect: she has been spying for Doyle and the werewolves since she first arrived in Pudlington!
The Only City Left: Part 29
“What are you talking about?” I demanded, my voice raised. The kittens at play in the room stopped as one to stare at me. “That’s a lie.”
Tumble looked to his charges and nodded at them to keep playing, then guided me up and away from them.
“I’m afraid not, Allin. It is Tyena who has lied to you and us both, although we’ve never really held that against her. You see, we did find her wandering the city, half-starved, but we were not the first to do so. It was the werewolves who first found her.”
I gave him a hard look and asked, “How do you know that?”
“When Tyena first arrived here, she was distraught and aimless. We allowed her to sit in our planning councils, to give her something to do and because she had first-hand experience with the ’wolves from the recent attack on Glin’s Rising. Soon after that, we suffered a series of losses amongst our outside patrols. We traced the leak to her.”
“This is Tyena we’re talking about,” I said, shaking my head. “She’s not a super-spy. How would she even get information outside of Pudlington?”
“She doesn’t have to. Doyle has spies inside our city, probably more than we know about.”
“The guardsman,” I realized. The one she had been arguing with earlier.
“Him we are aware of,” Tumble agreed. “He regularly passes along intel to Doyle’s people while on outside patrol.”
“Then why don’t you stop him?” I asked, incredulous.
“Better to use him. And her,” Tumble said. “We give them just enough real but unhelpful information to keep them useful to Doyle, and much that is apocryphal. This way when we need Doyle to believe something, we have a sure path to deliver the information.”
I sat down against one wall of the dojo and put my forehead in my hands.
“So this is real, this is a real thing,” I babbled. “Tyena’s been lying to me this whole time. That cold—“
“Emperor Banshee is sympathetic to Tyena’s plight. Our best intel out of the Garden—for we have our spies, too—is that Tyena’s family is alive and being held hostage to her continued reports. She has no choice but to do Doyle’s bidding, which is another reason we have not closed her down.”
“Well, that’s just great,” I barked. “That’s so nice of you! How funny was it to watch me as I believed all her lies? And thanks for not telling me any of this earlier. I might not have been able to make such a fool of myself if you had!”
Tumble held out his hands, palms out. “I tried, Allin, I did. Remember my warning about the gerrybrook flower?”
I closed my eyes. “That was nice of you and all, Tumble. But instead of riddles, maybe you could have just told me?”
“I was under orders not to. Plus, I hoped it wouldn’t be necessary. You deserved some happiness, Allin, even if only for a brief time, and if you had accepted Banshee’s mission, you need never have known of Miss Branch’s duplicity.”
I opened my eyes and stared at Tumble.
“Well thanks a lot, buddy,” I said, standing up. “But I guess it didn’t work out for any of us, did it? I’m leaving. Alone. You can still send my stuff to Tyena’s, though. I’m going over there to tell her goodbye.”
I took his silence for assent and walked away.
My trip back to Tyena’s was filled with dark thoughts as I realized what a sucker I had been. I really thought something good had happened to me, reuniting with Tyena, clicking with her again despite the horrors of our past. But the past was inescapable, it seemed, and no matter how the cats felt, Tyena’s behavior was inexcusable. She’d get no sympathy from me.
When I tracked her down, she was walking through another floor of her museum, holding a device up to each of her paintings in turn.
“Look, Allin, a friend gave me a camera so I can record my paintings!” she beamed at me.
“Is this the same friend who passes along all your secrets to Doyle?”
The smile slowly melted from her face.
“What? No, what do you mean?”
“Stop lying to me,” I yelled. “I know you’re spying for the wolves. The cats know you’re spying. You’re not fooling anybody!”
She winced and held up her hands as if to block my words. “It’s not that simple,” she protested.
“What could be simpler than telling me the truth?”
“You want the truth, Allin? My mother is alive. She’s alive and she’s safe,” Tyena said. “And I’m doing what I have to do to keep it that way.”
“Including delivering me up to Doyle?”
“He promised to set her free if I could get you to go to the Garden.”
“What about your brother?”
“Killed three years ago. Before my eyes. To show me the cost of failure,” Tyena moaned. The light in her eyes had gone out. She looked more like the broken girl I had dragged out of Glin’s Rising than the joyful, vibrant one of the past few days.
I would have felt sorry for her but I was so full of bitterness and hurt there was room for nothing else inside of me.
“So you lied to me, you used me, so you could trade me for your mother.”
“It wasn’t a lie, Allin!” Tyena cried. “We’re not a lie. If you had only accepted Banshee’s offer, there was a good chance that you could have killed Doyle and then my mom would be free and we could be together and—”
“And angels would sing and manna would fall from heaven and everyone would live in perfect harmony!” I scoffed. “But when I changed the plans and said, ‘Let’s leave together,’ you went along with that pretty quickly. What was your Plan B?”
Tyena answered in a whisper, “I was supposed to lead you into an ambush once we were outside of Pudlington.”
“So much for my good chances then, huh?”
Tyena grabbed my hand in hers and said, “Allin, what else could I have done?”
I whipped her hand off of mine, accidentally knocking the camera out of her other hand in the process. It fell to the floor with a crack.
“You could have told me the truth!” I shouted.
“You’re one to talk about truth,” she shot back.
* * *
9/2/12 News: The Only City Left is now listed on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online fiction. If you are so inclined, I would appreciate any ratings/reviews/recommends on that site to help get TOCL noticed. Thanks!
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Logo Credit:The TOCL logo is courtesy of Jande Rowe of the webcomic Aedre’s Firefly. If you haven’t already read AF, I encourage you to go check it out. Not only does Jande produce the comic, she reviews other long-form webcomics, gives tips and instructions on creating a comic, and is endlessly supportive of other creators. For a great review that will bring you up to speed on Aedre’s Firefly, check out this page at Webcomic Alliance.