As Arion looked around, he could only describe the place as one word: crazy.
It was chaotic, random, and insane all at the same time. People were laughing and dancing, yelling and running about, and all the while a jazz band was playing calmly near the stairs. A table in the corner was surrounded by men who cast dice in a game of coin, and every so often they burst into loud, raucous laughter and shouting.
Nephthys slipped through the large crowd that had congregated in the center of the room to where Jason, Dee, and Amarantha stood by the counter, and Arion hurriedly followed. Winter was flitting around by the bartender, a gentle-looking doe hybrid who was chatting amiably with Artemis as she served up drinks that she pulled from the high shelves to customers.
“So this is the Secret Sanctuary,” Jason commented as they approached. “It’s not so bad. I don’t think I’d want to leave this place.” He grinned.
“It’s quite small when you get used to it,” Artemis replied grimly, then turned back to the bartender, who was washing a mug in the small sink behind the counter.
Winter tugged on the doe’s fingers. “Can I go see Pleasant Dream now?” she pleaded.
“She’s upstairs,” the doe laughed softly. “Second door to your right.”
“Thanks!” Winter’s wings stretched out and she launched herself off the counter, soaring among the reckless crowd to the stairs and disappearing up them.
“Who’s Pleasant Dream?” Arion asked, confused.
“Pleasant Dream is Winter’s friend,” the doe explained. “She’s a doe hybrid like me, not a Spectre girl, but Winter doesn’t really care.”
“Everyone, this is Snowy Heart,” Artemis introduced. “She’s an old friend, and she’s been running this Club for a long time to keep us in good spirits.” She turned to Snowy Heart. “This is Arion, Nephthys, Jason, Dee, and Amarantha.”
“Three humans, the unmortal, and a legendary cross-magic being,” Snowy Heart commented drily. “And I thought I had weird customers last week. What can I do for you folks?”
“Do you have open rooms for them to stay the night?” Artemis inquired, but Snowy Heart just shook her head.
“We’re all filled up tonight,” she explained. “A whole lot of my customers were just let loose from their work in the fields, so they’re all staying here tonight until they can go home in the morning.”
“Ah, right.” Artemis frowned. “Is there any news on Cadmea?”
“Well, then, I suppose she won’t mind us using her house for the time being, will she?” Artemis looked up at Snowy Heart questioningly.
“I sure hope not,” Snowy Heart joked halfheartedly. “She knows you pretty well, though, so as long as you don’t trash her place, I think she’ll be fine with it.”
“Thanks, Snow.” Artemis smiled. “Now, do you think we could get something to eat for dinner? We’re really hungry, haven’t eaten since morning.”
“Of course,” Snowy Heart replied with a laugh. “On the house.”
After a meal of cheese pizza and orange soda that Snowy Heart had miraculously conjured from who knew where, the six of them were back on the sidewalk outside the Club. Arion was glad; he wasn’t ready for the fervent energy inside, although he could tell Nephthys was a little disappointed to be leaving so soon.
Artemis led them through the row of houses, scampering over the worn concrete to a door with a canopy that blocked the moonlight. She reached up and pressed her paw to a pad on the side of the door; there was the soft click of a lock opening, and she nosed the door open.
The house was dark, but Jason quickly found a light switch and turned it on, illuminating the room. It was neat and clean, with a couch facing a TV in the center of the room and a doorway to the small kitchen in the back. As they moved around, Arion could see books with no titles piled up on the table in the third room.
He followed Nephthys up the stairs, all the while thinking about whose house they were in. He didn’t know who Cadmea was, only that it was the name of a citadel in ancient Greece. However, he could tell that this person – no, hybrid – loved to read everything, from fantasy to history, and was an incredible artist, judging from the beautiful sketches hanging on the walls of one room; there were dragons, hydras, cats, foxes, wolves, falcons, ravens, bluejays, robins, dogs, lions, butterflies, deer, horses, pegasi, and a variety of animals Arion had never seen before.
There were only two bedrooms: one main and one side room. The smaller side room was the one with walls covered in drawings, books lined up on shelves and in cabinets, and a closet with clothes hung neatly on the rack. Several crumpled up and torn papers covered the neatly made bed and the pink-carpeted floor.
“I’ll take this room,” Nephthys said automatically.
“None of us would fit in that bed anyway,” Amarantha joked, “and I doubt Arion would want to sleep in a pink-ified room.”
“Hey, guys can like pink too!” he protested, but laughed along with the others.
“He’s got a point there,” Dee acknowledged, also laughing.
While Nephthys cleaned up the room a little, the others worked out a plan for the last room, which appeared to be a guest room. The bed was big enough for two people, so Dee and Jason took that one, while Arion decided to sleep on the couch downstairs and Amarantha took what little of the floor there was in the room Nephthys was sleeping in. Artemis curled up by the fireplace under the TV.
It was late in the night and everyone was in deep sleep when the lock to the door clicked open.