Chapter 13 Episode 2 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles
Deviatka pressed him for the latest news on the Vatterbroch manuscript. "There is nothing to tell, truly, Karl," lied Adewole. "I am not finished with the translation, and it is as likely to be a fantasy or a religious treatise as some fantastical engineering project. I am following the manuscript's trails into related books--we have had to dig deep in the protected stacks, and even then many of the works referenced are missing. I presume they no longer exist--lost for all time, sadly."
"Sad, indeed," said Deviatka, "but can you really tell me nothing more about the manuscript? You cannot share what you have done so far?"
Just then, Wirtz buzzed in with the brandy tray, said goodnight, and left. Adewole shifted in his chair and poured himself a larger than usual glass. "Why are you so set on this, Karl?"
"I worry Blessing might take your research from you--he will, if you're not careful."
"I see nothing Dean Blessing might be interested in." Deviatka's gaze pierced him, and Adewole worked to stay still; he had never been good at falsehoods. "Well," he resumed, "what I have done so far makes little sense."
"Let me be the judge of that."
"No, in fact, I shall be the judge of it," Adewole snapped. His head ached. He'd spent too long squinting at his work; perhaps he needed stronger spectacles. "I am sorry, Karl. I am overly tired."
"You've been getting up awfully early lately--before even me," smiled Deviatka.
"Yes, I have. The work is quite absorbing."
"You're wearing Wirtz out, he stumbles through my breakfast like a sleepwalker. All those hours and still no translation. How frustrating for you. Rather like a long walk in the woods to an ancient, mysterious destination, eh?"
Adewole looked up, startled. Deviatka merely smiled again, innocent and placid. "Sometimes, very much like wandering in the woods," said Adewole.
Once in his room, Adewole opened his sturdy old trunk at the foot of his bed and stowed the translations and Vatterbroch's notebook inside. He spun the combination lock, one he felt sure of; six numbers were not easily guessed.
Early the next morning, Adewole decided not to work on the Vatterbroch manuscript that day. He deserved a palate cleanser. Today, he would spend time with Alleine and work on the novel. The few times he'd delved into it, he'd quite lost himself; the book possessed a delightful wealth of everyday details of life in Cherholtz. He left the Machine God notes in his trunk.
Wirtz was still preparing his lunch when Adewole entered the converted stall, now their tiny kitchen. "I'm sorry, sir, Professor Deviatka got the first lunch I put together," said the corporal as he wrapped up sandwiches and slipped a bottle of lemonade into Adewole's basket.
"Professor Deviatka? Is he up and gone already? That is rather unusual. He likes to sleep later than this."
"Not today. Now, you have a nice day, Professor, and don't forget to eat. I've had a nice set of clippers sent up from the ground and we'll attend to your hair tonight, eh?"
When Adewole left the old stables lunch basket in hand, Ofira was waiting for him on a tree branch in the Freys' outer courtyard. "Everyone is out and about early today--though I suppose for you it is late," he said in greeting. She swiveled her head from side to side and then fixed him in a grave stare. "What is it, dear bird? More notions?"
"Dunno, but thass bad. Stay home."
"I cannot stay home, Ofira, I have work to do."
"Do it here."
Adewole grimaced in exasperation, but Ofira's round amber eyes stared him down. She clacked her beak. "Someone is waiting for me," he said, "I must go."
"Go do you mun but I go with you," said the owl. She took to the air in a slow sweep. "T'other learnèd 'un was out early."
"Oh?" said Adewole. Something in the owl's nervousness quickened his step.
"Owls got notions about that 'un."
"Notions about Karl? What are you talking about?"
"My daughters hunted in the west yesterday. They saw that 'un at the Ossuary."
Adewole stopped mid-stride, mind racing. "Did he go in?"
"Dunno about goin' in, but he came out," said Ofira.
Adewole dropped his lunch basket and took off at a run, feet pounding against the old cobbles. He ignored the cheerful halloos of the early morning Risentoners, rushed past the quadrangle's leaf-packed garden beds and up the Library steps. The front door was locked. He fumbled his key out of his pocket, unlocked the door and went inside the deserted Library; Mr. Buckan wasn't due for hours yet. Adewole strode through the dim aisle between the bookcases to the rare book room.
The door stood ajar, its new second lock beaten off. A light shone through the opening, falling on his dusty shoes. Adewole angled himself to see without being seen. Papers were scattered everywhere; ancient, irreplaceable books lay open face-down on the floor, their brittle pages crumpled and crumbling. A man's unmoving legs jutted from under the work table. Perhaps Mr. Buckan had been taken ill and swept the books and papers off the desk in his fall? Adewole threw open the door and hurried around his work table.
There on the floor lay William Buckan, eyes open. He might have swept off the desk in his fall, but the clotting blood from his slit throat told a different story. Blood covered the Dumastran carpet; the scattered books and papers soaked in it. Adewole's hand shook as he closed Buckan's eyes. "Gods bless him," he quavered.
"Going back to the old ways, Ollie? Or perhaps it's a new god you pray to," said a quiet voice.
Adewole stood up too quickly; his head crashed full force into the corner of his worktable, and he fell back to the blood-soaked carpet. Swooning pain streamed from his crown, and he blinked at the sparkling white filling his vision as he struggled to remain conscious. "Karl?" he croaked at last.