Karl Deviatka

Chapter 16 Episode 2 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

A second wind gained Adewole a weak but determined energy. He stumbled to his feet, but the quaking knocked him back down. "Alleine, stop," he cried, "you will bring the Ossuary down on our heads!"

"Down, down, down," she chanted, a blow punctuating each word. The stones parted; the dent became a crater; she jumped into it and hammered at its bottom. "Down!"

"Alleine, listen to me, you must stop, you will kill us," cried Adewole, but the din overwhelmed his voice. Each punch sent dust, pebbles and ever larger rocks raining from the ceiling.

Chapter 15 Episode 4 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

"Karl, you must stop this. She is a child, we do not understand what she may do," pleaded Adewole.

"So you said when I killed you," said Deviatka, "but I'm not worried what it wants to do. It will do as I say."

Adewole staggered down the stairs, coilgun trained on his former best friend. "That worries me even more. Put down the Lyre."

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?”

Chapter 13 Episode 2 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

Deviatka pressed him for the latest news on the Vatterbroch manuscript. "There is nothing to tell, truly, Karl," lied Adewole. "I am not finished with the translation, and it is as likely to be a fantasy or a religious treatise as some fantastical engineering project. I am following the manuscript's trails into related books--we have had to dig deep in the protected stacks, and even then many of the works referenced are missing. I presume they no longer exist--lost for all time, sadly."

"Sad, indeed," said Deviatka, "but can you really tell me nothing more about the manuscript? You cannot share what you have done so far?"

Just then, Wirtz buzzed in with the brandy tray, said goodnight, and left. Adewole shifted in his chair and poured himself a larger than usual glass. "Why are you so set on this, Karl?"

Chapter 12 Episode 2 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

His back to the sun's last remnant in the sky, Adewole started the long walk home. His stomach grumbled at him. He remembered the sandwiches he'd stuffed in his pockets hours ago; he put the satchel down, fished one out, and unwrapped it. "We are alone now, child," he murmured.

A muffled voice from inside the satchel said, "Was that your owl friend? I wish I could see her."

"Some day. You are being a very good girl, so quiet and calm. You must be quiet when I say so, and stay quiet until I say so. Can you do this?"

"It hurts more when we don't talk, but I'll be quiet, Ollie. Thank you for not leaving me alone," said Alleine.

"You are welcome." They spent the walk in conversation, though his voice grew hoarse; they'd talked a great deal in the Ossuary. The closer they came to the City the more often he had to shush her, until he said, "More people will be near from now on. You must stay silent."

All the way back he'd been pondering what to do. Take her home? Take her to the Library? She would be alone at night, but she would be alone at night if he were to keep her in his room; he had to sleep some time. He and Mr. Buckan were the only ones who had keys to his office, and as far as he knew Buckan stayed out. The books and translations were of little use to the librarian; the first were in Cherholtz's strange version of Old Rhendalian and the second were in the modern tongue, and Buckan understood neither.

Now Adewole had found Alleine, the translations bothered him even more. Deviatka pestered him for more information on the diagrams, and Adewole rued the day he'd shared them. He couldn't show anyone anything more, especially Karl. If his friend understood the notebook's schematics and potential, and then learned he'd discovered the Machine God's heart…

Karl was his best friend, a good man, but he was also an ambitious man. Power like the Machine God's might be irresistible, might corrupt even a man without ambition. Adewole's sole ambition was academic--to keep Alleine's trove of historical detail to himself. He wanted enough wealth to maintain his coffee and music habits, perhaps a little more--a better living situation, money for the water taxis. He might gain it through publishing his research, and perhaps he would make a lecture tour. He would enjoy lecturing to adoring crowds in Jero. In his less proud moments, he imagined his jealous former colleagues in the audience. As for anything else, he was no crusader. Curing the world's ills was beyond his wisdom, and he had enough wisdom to know it.

Eventually Adewole decided Alleine would be safest hidden for now in the Library rare book room. It locked, and she would be quite comfortable. He spent his days there anyway and some of his nights, though Wirtz had taken to winkling him out of the Library past eleven at night. When they reached the quadrangle farms, Adewole sprang up the Library stairs, strode into the rare book room and left Alleine hidden among the stacks. "Do not speak, child, and I will see you in the morning. I will come as early as I may. Yes, there is ichor here, I am taking it away right now," he said, pocketing the little reading lamp on his desk. When he got home, he would have Wirtz commandeer a standard lantern. It might cause remark, but he could chalk it up to native superstition. Risentoner superstitions had some basis in fact, and he didn't enjoy belittling them, but in this case he would make an exception.

Adewole said nothing about Alleine to Deviatka on his return; he tossed off his brandy and water and declined music, pleading a headache. A concerned Corporal Wirtz asked if he should send for Doctor Ansel, but Adewole begged off. "I am not ill. I miss my after-dinner coffee, and my breakfast coffee, and my afternoon coffee. It has been months and months. Might you ask Ambassador Weil's people if they would check on my missing trunk? It has never found its way to me from Jero, and it contained all my coffee."

"You should just ask for new--you've earned a little treat for services rendered. Someone absconded with your trunk long ago," said Deviatka.

"Undoubtedly," agreed Adewole, "but 'hope never dies in the faithful heart.'"

The next day, Adewole left bright and early, up before even the early-rising Deviatka. Poor Wirtz yawned pink from sleep as he packed lunch "with extra for breakfast and possibly tea, sir, since you leave so early and come back so late some nights."

On arriving at the rare book room, Adewole locked the door behind him, lit his new lantern, and pulled Alleine from her hiding place. She chattered like a relieved little magpie. "I'm so glad you came back, Ollie, I forgot how awful it is when you want to sleep and can't. I mean, I don't get tired, but it's so boring, and I hurt more. What are we gonna do today? Talk some more?"

"I am going to work on my translations, and ask you questions about them if I think you might be able to help me understand. You might not be able to answer them, but shall we try?"

"I'd like to help you, that'd be nice."

"All right, then." Adewole made a show of thumbing through his papers. She wouldn't want to talk about the notebook. He would work up to it, all the while feeling like a traitor. He picked up what might be a novel. Translating it made for a good palate cleanser when work on Vatterbroch's notebook became too difficult to stomach. "This book describes the marketplace in part, and I know you used to spend a good deal of time there. Can you tell me what the marketplace was like?"

"That's where Maria Kyper's stall is. You remember me tellin' you about her?"

"What did she sell?"

"Sweets, at least that's what I always liked about her place. Sweets in little paper packets. I like honey drops best. That's mostly what I got for running errands. She calls sweets 'in-promp-toos'--she says that means people buy 'em cuz they're there. Mostly she sells notions. You know, stuff for makin' dresses and hats and such--thread, needles, buttons, ribbons. I ast for a ribbon once, a red one, instead of sweets or coins. I want one to tie my hair back real bad, and then ribbons're so pretty, ain't they? I might not look so homely if I had a ribbon in my hair, or maybe I'd just watch it flutter. Anyway, Maria Kyper usually paid me no mind, but I musta ast one too many times. She boxed my ears and said never ask again."

"This was a lady you liked?" said Adewole.

"Oh she ain't no lady, Ollie, how funny you are, she's a stallkeeper. Course I like her. She's nice to me."

"She boxed your ears."

"Pfft. That ain't nothin'," said Alleine in scorn. "I had much worse than boxed ears. Stars keep me if I couldn't bear a boxed ear. No one ever boxed your ears? You never boxed your sister's ears?"

"I would have boxed the ears of anyone who hurt my sister," said Adewole, "and no one should ever have laid a hand on you in anger, either."

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 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 7 Episode 2 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

“In service of knowledge, eh?” said Deviatka that night at dinner. They were still living in the Freys’ former stables, though it had been transformed. Quartermaster Jagels’s crew scrubbed the outbuilding so energetically the mortar between the stones nearly washed away. Ofira had caught every mouse in the vicinity, and politely spit her pellets into nearby compost heaps.

Chapter 6 Episode 1 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

Risenton Road ran straight over almost flat country; any unevenness folded more like a wrinkle in a sheet than a hill. As they walked along, the roadside became less rural and more urban.

Within two hours, they entered the City. The buildings here were far, far older than anything they’d seen elsewhere on the island, or in Eisenstadt, where old buildings tended to be torn down and replaced. Soaring buttresses, arches and magnificent carvings reminded Adewole of the thousand-year-old cathedrals and palaces found on the Rhendalian plains, decorated with chiseled mottoes only scholars like Adewole could read these days—mottoes much like the ones he found inscribed all around him. Even among these ancient and impressive structures, newer cob buildings and larger ones of salvaged stone squatted in the margins, their roofs thatched and their few windows unglazed.


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