The temperature must have been colder than Max remembered it, because he couldn’t stop shivering as they walked along the river. That had not changed at least, still winding her way through the quarters under bridges and cutting her way down south. However, walking along it made Max even colder, the gentle water seeming to suck warmth straight from the air itself.
“Here,” Leonardo offered him his jacket, made of a course wool and held together by a single line of metal teeth that came together cleverly.
“M-merci,” Max said through chattering teeth.
Richard did not seem affected by the cold, but he was English, so that was to be expected, at least according to Maximilien. They were all cold hearted.
“Is there another place we could go?” Richard asked, lowly. People passed them on the street but did not seem to pay any attention to them. However it seemed to Max that every passing glance was going to catch onto their furtive actions, and they would be sent back to Rain, or worse, to the alien.
Maximilien stopped, looking over the river. They were walking along the same path he used to take to the Jacobins.
“If my club is still there, we’d be welcomed.” Probably.
“And what does that entail? Richard asked, dubiously.
Max rubbed at his temples. “They are good men, who only ever held the best interests of the people in their hearts.” He stared at Richard coldly, lowering his hands. “Not that you would understand that-“
Richard growled. “Listen you little-“
Before Leonardo could intervene or Richard could finish his insult Maximilien turned a corner and stopped dead, causing them all to trip into each other.
“Robespierre?” Leonardo tapped him gently. “What is wrong?”
Max, speechless, simply raised his hand and gestured. The other two men finally looked up.
“My god,” Richard breathed.
“Dio mio,” Leonardo agreed.
“That, was not there the last time I was here.” Max said dryly.
Ahead of them, rising over what must have been the very heart of the city was a tall metal sculpture. It rose like a mountain over a plain, lit up in golden lights, illuminating the entire city. It was dazzling and Maximilien couldn’t quiet decide if he adored it, or hated it. Leonardo started toward it, eyes wide.
“What is it?”
“I have no earthly idea. A building of some sort?” Max guessed. Leonardo had whipped out his notebook and was sketching it furiously, seeming entranced by the thing.
They all jumped when a voice spoke from behind them.
“First time in Paris?”
The speaker was an older woman, with a cart of plants. She wore a long grey and yellow striped scarf around her head, and her brown eyes studied them intently. She adjusted her cart so it was carefully between them.
“Ah, yes?” Leonardo spoke for them all, the smallest hesitation in his voice. Maxime coughed, struck by the sudden insane urge to laugh.
“La dame der fer is beautiful, no?”
Richard pointed. “That?”
“Oui. She’s stood there for over a thousand years. She’s been rebuilt twice, but she’s made her way through.” The woman looked at it fondly, and it suddenly struck Max that this was his national kin.
“Are you from Paris, citizeness?” The title slipped out without him meaning it to, and he winced. The woman cast him an odd look.
“Oui.” She grinned suddenly and snapped her fingers. “The north?”
Max inclined his head bashfully. He was never going to lose his Artoise accent and had been teased about it more than once from Camille. “Oui.”
“I am surprised you have not been to visit, then. Too much time in Monaco?” She waved the thought away, smiling playfully. “Ah it does not matter. Young people. If you are going to see her, you need to continue down this rue.” She winked. “She is hard to miss.”
Max bowed. “Merci beaucoup, madame.”
She shook his hand when he rose, her soft hand gripping his firmly. “And thank you for your service, sir,” she told him gravely, before hefting her cart away.
“Service?” Richard asked when they started away. Maximilien shrugged.
“I don’t know what she meant.” He looked at Leonardo, biting his lip, a sudden thought occurring to him. “You don’t think she recognized us, do you?”
“She thought you were a solider, your scars.” Leonardo waved at his own face and neck. Max felt his stomach drop to his shoes.
“You should be honored. She thought that you had been in battle.” Richard remarked.
Maximilien stayed silent. He still didn’t quite know how to feel about the bullet scars on his face. They pulled and itched fiercely, and he was uncomfortably reminded of that day. The smell of blood, and gun powder in the air. Augustin screaming, Couthon’s body thudding to the ground. The bang of the gun going off in Phillipe Le Bas’s hands.
Night had settled in around them and Max looked up at the stars. Or he tried to. Nothing more than a few distant pinpricks of light could be seen. He blinked in bewilderment.
“What on earth happened to the sky?”
The other two stopped and looked up. After a moment Richard growled and pinched the bridge of his nose.
“What else? Lands hand sank beneath the ocean, the stars are gone, and I’m in Paris. Did the end of days happen and no one notice?” He demanded at large. For a horrifying moment Maximilien found himself agreeing.
Leonardo was still staring upward.
“It’s the lights,” he muttered after a moment.
“Pardon?” Max asked.
Leonardo gestured around. “All these lights, they are much stronger than candles or fires, si?”
“All of the light they are giving off, it is obscuring the stars.” He shrugged, then stiffened, a wide-eyed look of amazement coming over him. “Which would mean the same thing happens during the day when the sun is out! Which would mean that the stars are stationary as well!” He clapped, beaming widely. “I knew it!” Richard snorted.
“The sun is not stationary. It goes around the earth.”
Maximilien raised a hand, smiling slightly. “Actually it does not. Leonardo is right, the sun is the center and all the other planets rotate around it.”
Both of them looked at him in silent amazement. Max shrugged.
“It was taught to me in Louis le Grand. I’m sorry if I don’t know the specifics.”
“I was right?” Leonardo sounded stunned, a deep contrast to the confident tone he’d been using till then. “Dio mio.”
“Never mind that, what the devil do you mean, the earth isn’t the center? The Lord made it,” Richard demanded. “That’s what the Church says.”
“Yes, and it’s incorrect,” Maximilien raised his eyebrows in emphasis.
Richard looked between the two of them.
“Heretics. I’m surrounded by heretics,” he muttered, jaw set. Maximilien could barely prevent himself from rolling his eyes.
Leonardo seemed to have shaken himself from his amazed stupor. He let out a nervous little chuckle.
“We should keep moving, si? We still have no place to sleep tonight,” he pointed out. Maximilien nodded, then gestured.
“It’s this way.”
Or it used to be.