Chapter 14 Episode 1 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles
Eisenstadt, Oktober 13th
Adewole woke up. His throat burned inside and out, and his nose was rubbed raw. He lay not on the floor but on something soft and yielding. His head still ached, but only when he moved--and movement was difficult. His arms, his legs, all of him moved as if he struggled against a strong current pushing him down toward blackness. "Water," he croaked.
"He said something," said a voice nearby. Adewole forced his eyes to slit open. The voice's owner came into hazy view above him: a middle-aged woman in the blue-and-white stripes of a nurse, her graying hair caught back in a voluminous white kerchief. "Professor, can you hear me? I can't understand you."
"He's speaking in Jerian, he asked for water," said a more cultured, charmingly dry voice, a woman older than the first.
The nurse pressed a water-soaked cloth to his lips. He tried to turn his head toward the other woman, but something kept his head and neck in place. The nurse placed a cool, restraining hand on his forehead. "Professor Adewole, you cannot move your head, please stay still until the doctor comes and sees you. You must not move. I'll wring the water into your mouth--don't worry, I'll give you more."
The water revived him enough to speak; the words tore through his raw throat, and his voice creaked like an old house settling on a windy night. "Where am I?"
"You are in Founder's Hospital, Professor," said the cultured voice. A lined but serene face appeared above him. Pale, keen blue eyes, silver hair in a graceful pile: Cecile Faber, the Eisenstadt Minister of State. "You've been asleep for some time for your own good. You were gravely injured. Keeping you sedated meant less chance of you re-injuring yourself."
"Your nose and throat will feel a little sore for a while, sir, we had a feeding tube down into your stomach to keep you hydrated," said the nurse.
"Do you remember what happened?" said Minister Faber.
What had happened? He'd hit his head, badly. He'd lost something very important. Someone? No, two someones-- "Someone cut my throat," he rasped. The nurse put the wet cloth to his mouth again.
"Who?" said Faber. Her professional mien did not disguise her anxiety. "It's very important you tell me who."
The nurse squeezed the cloth again, and as he swallowed he tried to remember. Lady of the River. "Deviatka. Karl Deviatka."
"Nonsense!" exploded a voice that must belong to Henrik Blessing. "Deviatka slit someone's throat? He's my protegé, a professor of engineering!"
Adewole made a conscious effort to relax; he was tensing his shoulders and neck, and it hurt. "He does not speak so highly of you, sir," he said.
"Impudence, impertinence," muttered Blessing, though the words carried far less conviction than usual.
Minister Faber ignored him. "Your rooms on Inselmond have been ransacked, and Deviatka has disappeared. Did he kill William Buckan?"
In his mind's eye, the librarian's staring eyes and the blood-soaked carpet appeared. "Yes."
Mr. Buckan had not been entirely innocent but he didn't deserve to be murdered, and Deviatka deserved whatever was coming to him for Buckan's death. Deviatka's betrayal ached as much as the wounds he'd inflicted. Nevertheless, Adewole hesitated. To tell the story exposed Alleine to the Dean's greed. If the Vatterbroch manuscript could drive Karl Deviatka to homicide, what might it do to someone as venal as Henrik Blessing?
"Professor," said Minister Faber, "you must tell me. I know you and Deviatka are close friends, and it must be difficult to speak of this--"
"It is not that--not that at all. I would speak of it in confidence, though, Madam Faber. Might we have the room to ourselves?"
Faber straightened, leaving his view. Adewole recognized the efficient Trinke's crisp voice as he bundled the protesting Blessing out of the room, and then all grew silent. "We are alone, Professor," she said in Jerian. "Please, much hangs on your story, much more than your friendship with Karl Deviatka."
"He's no longer my friend," croaked Adewole, relieved to be speaking a language few eavesdroppers might understand. He began with Deviatka's resentment of Henrik Blessing; Minister Faber confirmed Dean Blessing's love of money was well-known. "Then perhaps when I've explained fully, you might understand why I couldn't speak of this before the Dean. I found a manuscript, Madam Minister, containing plans of such great import I doubted myself once I'd translated it. You've heard there's magic on Risenton?"
"So the communiqués from Ambassador Weil have said. Since we are sharing secrets, I shall tell you one of mine: there is magic here in Eisenstadt, too. That is for another time, when you are rested and well. I can see from your expression you wish to hear all, and I promise I will tell you all--in confidence, as you are confiding in me. Go on."
He recounted as best he could Heicz Vatterbroch's hideous experiments on the child Alleine, the manuscript detailing the Machine God's creation, and the danger the world faced if Deviatka succeeded in rebuilding the God. "Alleine still lives, ma'am, trapped in the Machine God's heart, and the pieces of the God's body still exist. Deviatka won't have to re-forge them. They can't be destroyed, they're in use all over the island. They call it odd-metal."
By now, Adewole's voice had nearly given out, though Minister Faber had fed him water throughout. His voice had dropped to a whisper, as had his strength, but he continued on, desperate to tell the story and somehow retrieve Alleine. "Karl has the original, my translations and the heart. He will surely attempt to rebuild the God--he said as much. I guessed he might, but I wouldn't let myself believe it. Major Berger must begin a search for Deviatka and secure as much of the odd-metal as he can find. It'll be a difficult task. The pieces are precious to the Risentoners. Councilman Eichel's chain of office is made of it." Adewole's eyelids drooped, so heavy they pressed down on his eyes; tears leaked from their corners. "I'm so tired."
Minister Faber squeezed his hand. "Sleep now. Even when it ends, heavy sedation makes one oddly tired."
"I can't sleep," he murmured, "I have to go back. I have to find Alleine. I promised her. I have to destroy the manuscript." He began to fade.
"That remains to be seen," said Minister Faber. "We will talk about what to do with the manuscript later. You cannot go anywhere in this condition. Sleep now."