Peter Oster

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 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.

Chapter 5 Episode 4 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

Peter sat down next to Deviatka to finish his sandwich. “Ask him what they eat here,” said Deviatka.

Peter shrugged at Adewole’s translated question. “Depends on what’s to hand. Ma does well with frog, rat or snake—rabbit and goat when times’re good, but most all our rabbit and goat go to the City. Most everything goes to the City.”

“And when times are bad?”

“Times’re allus bad. Thass what angler bugs’re for.”

“Ask him what an angler bug is,” said Deviatka.

Chapter 5 Episode 3 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

The road warden and his kin asked Peter many questions in a fast patter; Adewole had trouble keeping up. The warden knew about the expedition from Dunalow already. Were they oathbreakers? Not as far as he knew, Peter said, since they hadn’t taken the oath to begin with, but yes, they did have metal flying machines as they’d heard; Peter had seen them himself. Adewole wondered how the warden had learned about them. Many couriers had passed them, but all at a fast walk not a run; none had stopped to talk, and none as far as he knew had seen the flying machines.

Chapter 5 Episode 2 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

The autogyros returned with the support crew, the mission readied itself, and the explorers moved out. Sergeant Jagels and Corporal Wirtz took picket. Peter Oster followed; the two professors and Major Berger walked beside him. Signalman Oberman rode herd over Doctor Ansel, who was forever finding matters of high biological interest on the roadside, and Lieutenant Lentzen and Corporal von Sülzle brought up the rear.

The journey took them along what Peter called the Great Road, which he said ran around the island’s entire circumference: “They do say a wall once stood here, all round the island.” A pastiche of stone and bricks, many crumbling, made up the road’s surface, repaired piecemeal over centuries. Time had eroded what must have been wheel ruts; animals had once drawn carts here. No carts traveled the road now as far as Adewole could tell. Barrowmen and fast-moving people on foot passed them in both directions, most hailing Peter Oster and goggling at the expedition, especially Adewole. Those on foot—the ones Peter called couriers, who delivered small packages and messages—slowed down to stare at the party, often walking backwards to get a good long look. No one ever stopped; Peter said unlike him, they couldn’t afford to. “Couriers and such, their job’s in not stoppin’. Do I stop, I get work. Not them. See Kolbsgate in the distance?” said Peter, nodding toward a stone edifice far off down the road. “Thass that we go to.”

Chapter 4 Episode 3 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

The owls finished their approach and took up perches in the branches of the willow overlooking the pond, each a careful distance from the other two. Adewole followed Major Berger to stand before them. The owls' feathers ranged from tawny to chestnut; black framed their large amber eyes, and a fringe of white feathers surrounded their faces. If Adewole hadn't known they were there, they might have blended into the tree bark entirely. The largest one blinked solemnly, while the two smaller ones swiveled their heads from side to side, scrutinizing the Eisenstadters. "Greetings, owls. We come from the land below and would meet the humans of this place," said the Major.

The two swiveling heads stopped abruptly. All three birds stared at him, then swiveled their heads in unison to stare at Adewole. "Perhaps they cannot speak?" murmured Adewole.

"We speak fine," rasped the largest owl. "Here you shall find t'is you that speak bad. We understand one another, but you mayn't understand t'unfeathered 'uns hereabouts, nor they you. Not easy, any road."

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