Chapter 13 Part 3 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles
“It's me,” said Deviatka.
Someone must go to the Guard, but he couldn’t walk—couldn’t see. “Fetch Ansel,” Adewole moaned. The room swam in dizzying, swirling patterns like odd-metal.
“What looks like odd-metal, old thing?” said Deviatka.
Adewole realized he was speaking aloud, not to himself. “Who could have done this to Buckan?” he whispered through his nausea. “When did you find him?”
“He was going through your papers. He didn’t find what he was looking for, though. Neither did I—well, I didn’t find everything I was looking for.”
The sparkling white receded enough to reveal Deviatka leaning against the now-closed door—or rather, two Deviatkas; Adewole’s vision refused to resolve. “I do not understand. He was alive?” said Adewole.
“Please don’t play the confused academic, Ollie, it makes us all look bad.”
“I am not playing.” Adewole put his hand to his head and pulled it back wet and sticky. “Karl, what have you done?”
“Buckan and I struck a deal. I brought him the material blessings of Eisenstadt and he was to bring me your translations, but he didn’t move fast enough for me.”
Adewole retched at last, overcome with horror and pain. “You? You killed him?”
“Shall I spell it out? Really?”
“So you will kill me now?”
“I hope not to. I like you very much. You’re a good man, a good friend—this whole business is nothing personal,” he said, his tone deceptively light, almost jaunty. “You just have something I need, and I know you won’t give it to me willingly. And you might have hidden the translations, after all. You can’t tell me where they are with a cut throat.”
If he concentrated hard Adewole might resolve the two Deviatkas he saw into one, but so far his concentration refused to cooperate. “I cannot give them to you, Karl. I have sworn never to let this Machine God be rebuilt.”
“Sworn to whom—to this?” The two Deviatka images each brought a cube from its satchel; a familiar red glow filled the room.
“Alleine,” cried Adewole. “How did you know to find her here?”
“Owls may be discreet, but other birds aren’t. I set a spy on you for your pilgrimage to the Ossuary. I took a little trip there myself yesterday and found the shrine. Found some other things, too, but you don’t need to know about them. This,” he said, waggling Alleine, “wasn’t in the shrine and it wasn’t in your room, so obviously you hid it here.”
“I have the translations. His death gains you nothing.” Adewole’s voice sounded thick to his own ear.
“It gives me a little convenient chaos, once you and I make a deal.”
“I don’t like this man, Ollie, he’s like Master,” cried Alleine in the old language of Cherholtz. Panic, terror, more than a touch of madness filled her childish voice. “You said you’d keep me safe!”
“Child, I never thought—” said Adewole.
“He gave me ichor, you said I was away from the Black Spring, you lied, you lied!”
“He is not Vatterbroch, I swear to you. Deviatka,” said Adewole, switching tongues, “you must give her to me. She is of no use to you. The Machine God has been scattered to the winds, you cannot reassemble it. Even if you did somehow, you have no way of controlling her, and you cannot understand one another. She is a child—with so much power, she is dangerous!” Tears of desperation and pain trickled down Adewole’s face.
“I found the most grisly thing in the Ossuary, you can’t imagine. A lyre made of bones, bones the size of a child’s.” Deviatka’s voice grew mocking and hard-edged, pushing Adewole’s concussion further into his brain. “I bribed Buckan to let me in here, Ollie, while you were gone spelunking. I know everything. He wouldn’t let me take your papers and I didn’t have time to copy them. But oh, what interesting reading! Imagine my dismay when I came back this morning to find a new lock on the door and the translations missing—what a suspicious old thing you are! Imagine my delight, though, upon finding this,” said Deviatka, hefting the cube again.
Adewole’s pain insisted he lie down, but he forced his left arm to continue propping him up. “Listen to me, the plans contain steps to put your own consciousness into the Machine God’s body—you do not need her. You can put yourself into the body and live forever. That was Vatterbroch’s entire aim, Alleine was just a step on the way!”
Deviatka stood up straighter, or at least Adewole thought he did; he’d split in two again. His sight dimmed, and nausea pressed against the backs of his eyes. “Really. You never said that. I might live forever?”
“Yes! Give me Alleine, and I will give you the combination to the trunk in my room. The translation and the original are all there, I swear to you. Just give her back!”
“I believe you this time. Alleine, eh? You care so much for this little box you named it?”
“It is her name. That box holds the spirit of a child, Karl, a murdered child. The bones for the Lyre you found were taken from her still-living body.”
Deviatka’s voice took on a melancholy tone. “Sad, very sad indeed, but her sacrifice is ancient history—it means nothing to me, but if you’re telling the truth and I can take her place...” He held out the heart. “Tell me where the plans and translations are, and I will give you this so-called child.”
“Give her to me first.” Deviatka put Alleine’s prison into Adewole’s hands. “It’s all right, Alleine, I have you now,” he crooned to the cube, though he realized after a few hazy moments he’d spoken in Jerian. “The plans are in the trunk at the foot of my bed. It is locked,” he said in Rhendalian.
“The combination?” said Deviatka, his tight, strained voice far too close. He made Adewole recite it three times. “In your state I doubt you’d have the presence of mind to maintain a lie three times in quick succession.”
A hand pulled back Adewole’s head by the hair, and a knife slid white-hot across his throat. He dropped Alleine and clutched at the open wound, blood gushing over his hands. “I’m sorry, Oladel, I truly am,” said Deviatka as black descended on Adewole, “but I don’t want to live forever in a metal body. I just want to live the way I was meant to.”
"No, stop,” cried Alleine, “stop bleeding, Ollie, stop bleeding!” The last things Adewole heard before the black descended on him were Alleine’s sobs and Deviatka’s departing footsteps echoing through the Library’s stacks.