Oladel Adewole

Chapter 11 Episode 1 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

The air clotted in Adewole’s throat; the room pulsed and swayed. When he recovered his voice, shaky and horrified, he said, “I did not mean to wake you, Alleine.”

“Then why’d you feed me?”

“How did I do that?”

“Don’t you know? The ichor. You fed me ichor. I wish you hadn’t.”

She must have absorbed the lantern’s black mercury, he thought. “I am sorry. It was accidental. I was not sure what I would find.”

“So you didn’t come for me,” said Alleine in a small voice.

Adewole wiped his face on the back of his hand. Dust from his glove smeared across his damp cheeks and eyes, and he pulled out his handkerchief to wipe away the angry grit. He sat down on a flat boulder in the rubble. “No one knew you were here, child, not for a very long time.”

Chapter 10 Episode 3 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

As he pressed further into the cave, the keening voice in his mind grew stronger: Why do you bring it here? Did I not go far enough? Let me stop dreaming, please take it away. It played down his back like cold rain down his collar.

From the descriptions in the Vatterbroch manuscript’s coda, Adewole had expected something different than this childlike plaintiveness, threats perhaps, or boasts or even cajoling—more likely, nothing at all. The postscript said the god was dead. A kernel of truth always slept in the center of every myth, but the layers accreted over centuries were nothing but gloss and lacquer. He was certain he’d find something, but a god? No.

Faced with a fork in the chamber, he chose the lefthand side; the voice faded, a relieved tone slipping into the distress. Yes, please go away again, let me go back to sleep. Adewole backtracked to the fork’s junction and headed down the righthand side. The voice strengthened, once again pleading for him to leave. The hallway narrowed until Adewole had to turn sideways to continue on. He fought down a trapped sensation.

Chapter 10 Episode 2 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

The western road out of town ran straight and geometrical, like all the remnants of the old city. Its surface was the same as the Risenton Road splitting the island into east and west, and the Great Road ringing the island. The further Adewole got from the City, the more suspicious-looking stone foundations appeared on the cob houses alongside the road even as cobbles disappeared from the road itself, until the paving petered out into a dirt track.

Adewole kept walking. The sun crested the island’s edge at his back, though clouds and mist diffused its light. Few people shared the road today; he’d seen a bare handful of couriers and not a single barrowman. The couriers made almost no sound and came in and out of the mist most disconcertingly. “Why is no one out and about today?” said Adewole.

“First rain of the season yesterday,” said Ofira. “T’unfeathered ‘uns will be sick of that soon enow, but the first time’s allus a holiday. Nowt much out this way any road—we walk toward the Forest.”

Chapter 10 Episode 1 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

Oktober 3rd

"The Ossuary?" shuddered Peter Oster. Adewole and the young Risentoner stood beneath an overhang near the marketplace the next morning, munching on oatcakes and angler mash from a street cart. It was raining heavily for the first time this season, and most of the island was busy filling civic water caches and household cisterns. "I won' take you," he said. "Thass haunted."

"Is it still in use as a burial chamber?" said Adewole.

"Thass haunted," the young man repeated, in the slow cadence reserved world-round for children, fools and foreigners. "I…won'...take you!"

"I take it the answer is no, it is not in use any more," said the professor. "Can you recommend another guide to take me?"

Peter shook his head in exasperation. He swallowed his mouthful of oatcake, wiped crumbs from his square, stubbly chin and said, "I tell you, none go near that. You best follow folk and do the same."

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.

Chapter 9 Episode 2 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

Adewole walked back to his quarters, thinking on gods. Gods of chaos and destruction might do something like throw a city into the sky, but they always paired with gods of order and creation. Often they were two aspects of the same deity. Gods sometimes died in the various holy stories and myths, but humans never killed them. Only gods might kill gods. Risenton's creation myth was one of a kind.

Chapter 9 Episode 1 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

September 23rd

The young Chorister serving as Melody Hall's gatekeeper was apologetic but firm: "The Choirmaster cannot see you, nay, he will not see you."

"But why not?" said Adewole. "Has a bad report of my character come to him? If so, I wish to address it with him, not through third parties."

"Nay, nay, you have the wrong of it, sir. Choirmaster Chandler turns away all from Dunalow."

"Why? What has happened?"

The baby-faced girl frowned. "Have your own folk not told you? Summon from Dunalow stole a Duet, sir--Poole, the creature. That 'un's the prince of all lies," she muttered.

Adewole must have missed some crucial events while buried in books. "But no one can leave the island without an autogyro, and there are few places to hide here. Surely he has been caught."

"He has not, else your Major hides him, the false deludin' man. And here I am, made a fool, Duet and heart stole together!" Color mounted high on her cheeks, and her eyes were puffy. "Now go along, sir. The Osters speak well of you, but Choirmaster says no one from Dunalow in the Hall ever again, and that's fine by me."

Chapter 8 Episode 3 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

Though he'd officially given the slim, frog leather-bound tome the proper, scholarly name The Notebook of Heicz Vatterbroch, in his own mind Adewole had come to call it The Book of the Machine God. The manuscript repeated the idea over and over, a god-like being of magic and metal; whoever Vatterbroch was, he believed he'd designed one, though Adewole couldn't tell if he'd tried to make one. Could one make a god, or could one merely--merely, he snorted to himself as he sat in his cozy office--give an already-existing god a body?

Chapter 8 Episode 2 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

Deviatka returned two days later. “I have been waiting for you to come back, Karl, I have found an extraordinary thing,” said Adewole as his friend came through the door of Frey’s stable.

“That would be fortunate, because Peter Oster and I found nothing of note at all—it’s why we came back early,” sighed Deviatka. He handed his gloves and cap to Wirtz and slumped into a chair. “Tea, please, Wirtz, and something to eat. I’m starving. What did you find, old thing?”

From his friend’s polite face, Adewole knew he thought it would be some new folk tale or other. Now, Adewole would surprise him as much as Deviatka had surprised him that first flight in the autogyro. “Diagrams, machine diagrams, quite unexpectedly complex, I think. I believe they predate the Rising, though the book itself is handwritten, not printed, and looks as if it were bound not long after the Rising from individual notes rather than folios.”

“Not surprising, a printed book couldn’t be as old as all that.”

Adewole told him about the Library’s books. “The ones predating the Rising—at least a thousand years old, Karl—are printed, not transcribed. They had the printing press a thousand years ago!”

Chapter 8 Episode 1 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

The next day, Deviatka and Peter left for their tour; Corporal von Sülzle went with them at Berger’s insistence, leaving Wirtz behind to care for Adewole. At first he thought it was a bit much, a whole corporal to himself, but once he’d filled two packs with his dictionaries, reference books, blank books, notepads, inks and pens Adewole appreciated Wirtz’s help lugging it all over to the Library.

Mr. Buckan had set up the rare books room as an office. He gave Adewole a key. “You must keep it locked at all times, Professor, even when you are in here by yourself. The books in this room are invaluable, irreplaceable, as I’m sure you realize.” A lightcrystal brightened the room. A sole stool provided the only seating at the long trestle table.

“I’ll send a barrowman to East Camp for a proper chair, sir,” said Wirtz. “You deserve better than that.”

“It does not matter,” muttered Adewole absently, his attention focused on a single book, lying on a goathair felt pad atop the table. Its binding looked like old books he’d seen bound in ostrich leather, its raised bumps a dark, dull shine against a creamy background.

Judging by the covers, the books spanned some three hundred years. Most were bound in cow leather, and he assumed they were pre-Rising. Some were bound in something else—goatskin, according to Mr. Buckan. He indicated the sole book on the table. “This one is particularly fragile, sir. It is bound in frog leather. I, ah, I should not be letting you handle it.”

Adewole pulled on his cotton gloves, never taking his eyes off the thin book. “I shall be quite, quite gentle, I assure you.”

“Your gentleness was never at issue, sir,” murmured the librarian. Adewole looked up at the nervous tenor in the man’s voice, but he had already left the room.


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