Agatha strode down the avenue, looking for just the right spot. A large burlap sack bounced and rattled against her shoulder, which the locals eyed with a reasonable amount of distrust. They gave her plenty of space to conduct any Sparky business of hers. Truly, Mechanicsburg was the greatest city in the world.
She stopped at last, hand on her hip, gazing up at the perfect view of the Red Cathedral. The fading daylight sharpened its angles, gilded its edges.
“Here.” Agatha pointed. “The statues.”
“Yeeessss, Mistress,” Castle Heterodyne said with an unnecessary amount of relish. The street peeled back, and two statues leapt upward, one on either side. Their upraised arms framed the view of the cathedral, and their fingertips just touched, forming the impression of an archway. As the dust settled, Agatha moved onward.
“Pillars,” she said, pointing out the spacing. She walked along, pointing as she went, until the last pair of pillars sprang from the pavement. Then she reached into the burlap sack.
She stepped up to one of the posts, a simple column of stone engraved with a name and a date, and she placed a metal sphere atop it. The sphere activated, driving a spike down into the stone, securing it in place. Her fingertips brushed against the name, and then she moved across the street to the next one. She zigzagged from pillar to pillar, leaving a sphere, touching a name, until she had returned to the statues. She placed the last two spheres at their feet.
“Stones,” she said softly, and with a clatter, the paving stones flipped over in a wave from the statues to the last pair of pillars. Each stone now bore a name.
Agatha stood beneath the statues for a moment, quite aware of the curious gazes watching her, wary to intrude but eager to inspect this new monument. She smiled, content with a job well done.
“Ah, Mistress,” Castle Heterodyne intruded, “you’ve forgotten two of the pillars.”
“I most certainly have not.”
Heedless of her words, the Castle raised one more pair of pillars, blank but for the sigils upon them. Wulfenbach and Sturmvoraus. Agatha made a face at the empty air. “You old meddler,” she complained, but she knew the Castle acted out of affection.
She looked at the paving stones, the names of consorts of Heterodynes long gone. She looked at the wedding dates. She looked up at the statues of Katya and Naomi. With a tingle of anticipation, she waited for darkness to fall.
The shadows crept out from the footings of the buildings, seeped upward, melted into the gathering twilight. With a soft whirring sound, the spheres opened, unfolding like water lilies. Each one sent up a little fountain of light. Smiling, Agatha stepped through again, into the avenue of dancing stars.
She heard the crowd gasp in delight, but she ignored them. She turned in a slow circle, checking that each light fountain had activated properly, reveling in the beauty of it. She stilled, facing the statues, and she breathed it all in. Just as planned. Better than expected. Everything was—
“Beautiful,” murmured a voice in her ear, and she knew she ought to smack Tarvek for sneaking up on her again. Instead, she leaned back against him.
“It’s better than our sketches.”
“Of course it is.” Tarvek chuckled, his breath tickling her ear. “I see Gil’s design actually works.”
Agatha whirled to face him. “You stop that.” But they both laughed, and Tarvek caught her in his arms.
“Lady Heterodyne,” he murmured, pulling her close, “may I have this dance?”
Agatha bit her lip and gave him a look of mischief through her eyelashes. “What, here? In the middle of the street?” She feigned shock at the suggestion, and Tarvek took her playfulness as invitation.
He swept her through the street in a modified sort of waltz that he had probably already choreographed in his mind. Agatha didn’t notice the crowds edging inward to inspect the monument. She didn’t register the exact moment someone brought out instruments and began to play music. She danced, caught up in Tarvek’s lead, firm yet fluid, and mesmerized by the way the lights played across his face, here softening his features, there casting sharp shadows beneath his jaw and cheekbones. Gil had told her in confidence that he found Tarvek beautiful. She agreed, but she thought Gil should tell him. He wouldn’t, of course.
Only when Tarvek made a last-minute correction to their course did Agatha notice that other people had stepped out to dance. She glanced around at all the people—her people—reading names, touching stones, gazing up at the lights. Yes, perfect. At that moment, Tarvek twirled her right into Gil’s arms.
“They work!” she said, a bit breathless. Gil crinkled his nose at her.
“Of course they work.” Only he directed the comment more toward Tarvek. “We built them together.”
They danced, the three of them, Agatha caught in a haze of bliss as her two consorts handed her back and forth between them. She reveled in it for a few minutes, and then she glanced around, looking at the expressions of wonder and delight all around her. Yes. Perfect.
Glimpsing a familiar face in the crowd, Agatha broke away, leaving Tarvek trying to teach Gil to follow. She stepped back, into the crowd.
“You’re smiling, Hadrian.”
Hadrian Greenclaw sputtered and struggled to find his voice. “It's… This is wonderful.” He gazed up at the dancing lights. “My Lady, how…”
“Don’t you dare dismantle any of the light fountains,” Agatha interrupted, a little more forcefully than she had intended.
“Yes, Mistress,” Hadrian blurted, then grimaced at his own reaction. Agatha indulged in a moment of smugness. Then he said, “Why lights?”
Agatha smiled. “These consorts spent long enough in the shadows, don’t you think?”
Hadrian looked as though he might cry, or fall at her feet, or possibly both. A Jäger spared them both the embarrassment by asking her for a dance. Agatha glanced between them, then gave Oksana her hand.
They danced, Oksana leading with such power and grace that would have both of Agatha’s consorts frothing with envy. She glanced around for them just in time to seen Gil stomp on Tarvek’s foot. Oh, dear. At that moment, Oksana whirled Agatha away, leaving her breathless.
Lucky Ruxala. Agatha might have said so, but Oksana’s stoic silence stopped her words. Jaw firmly set, eyes shimmering, Oksana steered them toward the statues.
“Tenk hyu,” she said at last, almost too softly for Agatha to hear. “De vay hyu honor Katya…” Blinking her eyes clear, Oksana drew a shuddering breath. “Doze eediots iz right. Hyu iz de best.” Teetering on the brink of losing her composure, Oksana surrendered her dancing partner into Oggie’s arms.
“Hoy!” Oggie grinned at her. “Nize monument!”
Agatha decided against telling Oggie that Oksana had just called him an idiot.
“It seems to have come with an impromptu party,” she said instead.
“Ho, yez!” Oggie chattered happily for a while, about the monument, what it meant to Mechanicsburg, and how Agatha had most likely just created a new holiday. He would have gone on, but Maxim cut in, insisting it was his turn to dance with Agatha. She craned her neck, trying to see if she could expect Dimo as well, but the crowd had grown too dense. Maxim seemed to have had the same thought, for he brought her back to her two consorts, bowed like a gentleman, and stepped back into the throng.
“It’s decided,” Tarvek said to her, his tone grim. “He gets to lead at the wedding, but after that, dancing lessons.”
“I have agreed to nothing,” Gil objected.
Tarvek leaned close to Agatha and said in a stage whisper, “He’s going to try to convince you he doesn’t need lessons.”
Laughing, Agatha wrapped an arm around each of them. “Stop that,” she said, but her words lacked impact. Smiling as though her face would split, she watched the dancing lights, the swirling crowds, the pulse of Mechanicsburg, alive and jubilant here in the street.
“It’s beautiful,” she murmured, tightening her hold on her consorts. They linked arms around her, swaying a little with the music. Perhaps Oggie was right. Perhaps they had created a new holiday.
Agatha decided she wouldn’t mind that at all.