Chapter 15 Episode 2 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles
Adewole unfolded himself from the cargo pod. He ached all over, and not just from his injuries; the ride up from Eisenstadt had been extraordinarily rough. Even through his borrowed flight coat, gloves and hat the cold ate into his flesh, leaving his teeth chattering in the chill fall night. Inside the coat, alien to him in every way, nestled an old coilgun, another gift from the insistent Miss Goldstein who wasn't even sure it worked any more, "but better some gun than no gun."
Hildy wrestled Mrs. Trudge's battered hamper from the pod as Adewole folded the flight coat into it. "I put you down on the western side of the island, just as you asked me to," she said. She'd landed not far from the Ossuary, where he intended to hole up until morning. It was unlikely Deviatka had returned to it; Adewole would look there first, after all. "Rather a bumpy ride, sorry about that," continued Hildy as she lugged the hamper toward the cave entrance. She stopped at the ruined gate. "My, isn't this cozy. Mind if I don't go in?"
Near-silent wings behind him prompted Adewole to turn around. "Ofira," he called, "is it you?"
The owl floated down from the nearby trees. "Everyone thinks you're dead, learnèd 'un," she said. "I knew better. Do you be dead, I'd've known. Who's this?"
"Who's this?" said Hildy almost at the same time.
"This is Ofira, named for my sister," he said. In the Risenton dialect, he introduced Hildy to the owl.
"Ah, this is the owl who came for Siegfried and me at East Camp. Handy owl, that. I'll leave you in her good hands, ah, wings," smiled Hildy. She turned serious. "Ollie, are you sure you must do this alone? I can stay."
"Alleine will not listen to anyone else--no one else can talk to her, and the presence of strangers might upset her. I do not know what she will do if so. Please keep this secret for now, Hildy, I beg of you."
"What if you fail?"
"My friend here will alert Berger, will you not, Ofira?"
"Go tell t'unfeathered 'un with the metal birds? Do I mun."
"I'm not promising anything," said Hildy, "but at the least I'll give you some running room."
It would have to do. They said their goodbyes, and as Hildy soared away Adewole managed to get Mrs. Trudge's hamper inside the Ossuary on his own. He had no intention of going all the way back to the Machine God's shrine, just to shelter within the cave's mouth until morning. What he would do then, he didn't know.
Ofira toddled after him on her little short legs, solemn, comical and dignified. "I hear things about t'other learnèd 'un. Your friend."
"He is not my friend," said Adewole, pulling supplies from the hamper.
"Shouldn't think so, seeing as how he tried to kill you. Why'd he do such?"
For a story he'd sworn never to reveal, Adewole could not believe how many times he'd told it. "You must tell no one else, Ofira, not feathered 'uns or unfeathered 'uns," he finished.
"Owls keep secrets," she said, winking an amber eye, "and besides, I on'y minded the part where you had summat grand t'other 'un wanted, and he took it. And the part about trying to kill you."
"That is the gist of it, yes." By now, Adewole had lit a small black mercury lantern and poured a cup from a vacuum bottle of tea. Disgusting or no, it was hot and he'd drink it. He huddled under his extra kikois and sipped at the acrid brew, blessing the warmth spreading throughout him. Thank the gods the good woman didn't believe in hospital food, he thought as he downed a sausage hand pie. "Do you know how the search is going for Deviatka?"
"Go ask t'unfeathered 'uns from Dunalow."
"I told you, I cannot. Alleine is unpredictable. They would cause more trouble than stop it."
"They haven't found him. Idiot unfeathered 'uns don't search at night."
"We cannot see at night, smug bird. I must find him first." Adewole had planned to sleep a little, but the uncomfortable flight had cleared his head; he couldn't afford to wait. As soon as he warmed up, he must move. He swallowed more tea and made a face as he re-capped the vacuum bottle; unwillingly, he admitted the stuff had revived him a bit as well as warmed him through, but it would never replace coffee. He needed reviving. His wounds ached, and weakness weighted down his limbs; he'd been in bed too long.
Adewole staggered to his feet. "Ofira, my dear, do you think you might recruit some of your fellows to find Deviatka?" he said. "I suspect he is on this end of the island, not far from here but hidden. Owl eyes might find him when human eyes cannot. You are a highly respected member of the parliament of owls. If anyone could organize such a search, it is you, Volekiller Daughter of Mouseterror."
She puffed out her feathers and clacked her beak several times. "That'ud be flattery do it be not so, learnèd 'un. It'll take time to gather up my kin." With that she waddled past the grate and leaped into graceful, grateful, silent flight.
In the meantime, Adewole considered he might as well start a sweep of the area around the Ossuary. Odds were against Deviatka being nearby, but one never knew. He picked up the lantern in one hand and the small coilgun in the other.