Chapter 9 Episode 3 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

Adewole looked in dismay through the last translated pages spread before him on the trestle table. He had finished the coda to the manuscript, and thus, the book’s not-quite-polished translation. He’d skipped over the spells; at first he’d assumed they were poems. With his bad habit of translating a section as perfectly as possible, poems took much longer than anything else. He wanted to translate the meat of the notebook.

The coda was very much the meat. Written in a different, nameless hand than Vatterbroch’s, it told the end of the story Vatterbroch had not lived to write down himself: the aftermath of the Machine God’s creation.

Were I a better man, wrote the chronicler, I would destroy these notes. But I cannot bring myself to do so. I will hide them when this writing is done. Any fear I have the god might be rebuilt is baseless in any event. Without the ichor it has died, and without the Black Spring, there is no more ichor to be had. It cannot be resurrected, nor a new one built. We have scattered its parts to the corners of this newborn island and buried its heart in the Ossuary.

Here the writer had drawn a metal box atop a black squared obelisk. Adewole had no sense of scale. It might be as small as a shoebox or as big as a tree. On the box appeared Magic and Metal No More in the variant runes the ancient people of the island used.

I leave these notes as a chronicle of the end of Cherholtz, our city— my city—a city now half-dead from starvation, cold, disease and worse. I do not expect the rest of us to live. I leave this as evidence that once we existed, though I cannot imagine anyone ever finding his way from the earth into the heavens and our floating graveyard. Reader, take this as your oath: “Magic and metal no more—this I swear.” Otherwise, the temptation to make yourself a god will come upon you as it came upon Heicz Vatterbroch.

Now he is dead. The god is dead. And we will follow them into the grave.

Adewole sat back, hand over mouth, horror and sympathy welling behind his eyes. So Vatterbroch had succeeded. What terror, what hunger and desperation must have followed the Rising? Vatterbroch made the Bone Lyre to control the god; why would he then order the god to throw Cherholtz into the sky? Unless the Lyre failed and Vatterbroch lost control of the god? If so, what a savage, vengeful god Vatterbroch made, to doom an entire city. Why hadn’t it stayed on the ground near the ichor but instead doomed itself? A foolish god, indeed.

Adewole rubbed at his temples, painful, frightening images filling his head. He wished the second writer had destroyed the book. He wished he could find the fortitude to destroy it himself. Perhaps Councilwoman Lumburgher was right. No, this was a primary source. He must protect it.

That night, he said nothing about it to Deviatka. He drank his brandy and water, and claiming headache he retired to his room without their usual music. He needed to know just how accurate the manuscript was, or whether it was the second writer’s fancy—a fantasy. Adewole had no way of knowing how long after Vatterbroch the postscript had been written; for all he knew, it might have been centuries later, mythology tacked on to the notebook. He would have to find this Ossuary, and see for himself.

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