Chapter 13 Episode 1 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles
Adewole put on his spectacles and opened the notebook to the addendum containing Vatterbroch's spells--the section he'd had trouble believing before Alleine, and so had left until the end. As he worked, he rewrote the mixed runic style into the standard script used in Old Rhendalian, adding diacritical marks denoting different pronunciations. He'd explain them in an appendix--if he ever published. This was not the usual scholarly project. Occasional murmurs came from the little spirit in his satchel, and he reassured her in the same low tone. It was rather comforting in a way; his sister Ofira used to interrupt him as he worked.
First he looked at the music for the incantations. Its notation sprang from the same source as Dumastran music; a modern musician, unless specially trained, would be hard-pressed to follow it. He hummed a few lines, thought better of it, and returned to the spells themselves.
He translated the first few initially for their raw sense; their meter and rhyme would come later. The first one powered the Bone Lyre. In part it ran:
Let the first sound be the screams
Of the one this Lyre seeks to command
Let its skull become the means
By which the sound commands it
The sinews vibrate and make strings of sound
To pull its puppet limbs as I command them...
By the time he finished, Adewole's fingers shook, and bitterness filled his mouth.
He found spells to forge the metal for the Machine God's body, spells to bind the pieces one to the other using a specially infused ichor, and the spell to bind the "subject's" spirit to the Machine God's heart:
Let the life now leaving this body
Find a new undying home
There to dwell in power forever
Or until I give it leave to go...
So. The spell was reversible, or so it implied.
Adewole thumbed quickly through the notebook, reading just the beginning lines; the incantation to bind the heart to the body took up pages. There, in the final spell, Adewole found the answer. "When it comes time," wrote Vatterbroch, "when I have proven my work with this subject and all is ready, then I shall dismiss its flawed spirit and substitute my own. Then I will live and rule forever. No Bone Lyre will compel me, and the world shall worship its new God."
"Dissolve in darkness," the spell began:
I send you, spirit, to the Star City
Or to the Black Spring as the old gods decree
And take the power of this new god I have made
To rule with might and magic
Until time itself runs out and beyond…
Adewole did not like the sound of it. The spell strongly intimated he himself would take Alleine's place inside the God; she would be free, but he would be trapped. Nevertheless, he made two copies of the spell and its music, blotted his work and folded one copy into his wallet. Of all the spells in the notebook, it was the one he wanted to be sure he had. If the manuscript was somehow lost, he might still be able to help Alleine.
"What's wrong, Ollie?" she whispered.
"Nothing, child, hush now, here comes Buckan."
The door opened on silent hinges. Mr. Buckan strode in, and nearly jumped out of his shoes at the apparently unexpected sight of Adewole. "Stars above, Professor, you gave me a turn! What are you doing here so early?"
Adewole consulted his watch. "It is eight o'clock. I have a great deal to do and I wished to get an early start. I am wondering, though, what you are doing here without me."
"Ah, well," squirmed Buckan, "I am the librarian. I have a duty to ensure the books' safety. Councilwoman Lumburgher would have me whipped if something were to happen to them."
"I believe you, but do you believe I am a danger to the books?" said Adewole.
Buckan slid his eyes to one side, then conscientiously returned them to Adewole, an earnest expression on his face. "No, oh no, sir! But…well, you know the Councilwoman is touchy about them."
Adewole removed his reading spectacles and steepled his fingers. Buckan was lying. "I am sorry to hear she has concerns. I shall see her this afternoon when I have finished my work for the day, so I may address her concerns directly."
"No!--I mean, that's unnecessary, sir. I shall remind her you would never mistreat a book. We both know that. I shall go to her right now, I believe she's at City Hall."
Buckan moved to let himself out, but Adewole stopped him. "In the meantime, Mr. Buckan, I would appreciate it if you did not come into this room unannounced or uninvited. Are we clear?"
"Yes," nodded the little librarian. "I'll just go see to the Councilwoman now." He fled, almost slamming the door behind him. Adewole rose from his desk, crossed to the door and locked it. He would find his own latch soon and bolt the door further.
"Is he gone?" whispered Alleine.
"Yes, but stay quiet, my dear." Why would William Buckan come into the rare book room when he knew it would be empty? Imogen Lumburgher was an excuse; the cranky old Councilwoman and Adewole were on good terms, despite his questioning her about the Oath. He thought twice about keeping Alleine in the stacks, but decided she was safe. No one knew of her and so would not be searching, but his papers were vulnerable. Best keep them apart.
It had been a long, hard day wrangling the ancient language and answering a dozen questions an hour from the bored girl in the cube, but Adewole could not rest until he was certain the room was secure. He waited until Buckan went home for the night, and left for the new, late-hours marketplace. He bought a sturdy, Eisenstadt-made lock and hasp, borrowed tools from the stallkeeper, and ran back to affix the lock to the doorframe. When he finished, he said his goodnights to Alleine and stumbled home, his translations and the manuscript stuffed in his satchel.