Alleine

Chapter 12 Episode 1 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

Adewole cried helplessly for some time, until Alleine soothed, "Oh, Ollie, you must've loved her a lot. I wish I was dead and she was here."

"She is gone," said Adewole, wiping his eyes and nose on his last clean handkerchief. "Wishing changes nothing, child."

"Don't I know it. I'm still sorry for you, though."

"Thank you, my dear." He sniffled and cleared his throat until he brought himself back under control.

Alleine broke the silence. "Ollie, can I ask you something? You said you didn't know I was in here. What was you looking for?"

Chapter 11 Episode 3 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

Adewole wondered what Councilwoman Lumburgher would think of such an apology. “Those people are dead now, but their descendants live. I would tell them if you tell me. I want to tell your story, Alleine. Telling your story would be the culmination—the most important thing I have ever done, or will do. Will you tell me, since you could not tell them?”

“I already told you what happened,” she said.

“But I need to know more. I need to know everything—what the city was like, what your life was like, what Vatterbroch did. You will be helping everyone immensely if you do. You mentioned someone named Birdie. Was she another Machine God like you?”

“I’m not a Machine God,” said Alleine, her voice angry; the red light within the cube flared and subsided. “I was just inside one. Birdie wasn’t in one like that. She was in a different kind of one.”

Adewole mopped his brow with a clean handkerchief. He was not prone to sweating, but now he grew clammy, damp and miserable even in the dry Ossuary air. “Was she another little girl like you?”

“No, she was a bird, that’s why I called her Birdie,” Alleine said patiently. “She said she’d been a pigeon before. Or, she didn’t know the word pigeon. She showed me a picture in my head of a bird like her.”

Chapter 11 Episode 2 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

“Listen now, Alleine,” he said in the same exasperated tone his sister often drew from him, “a thousand years is a very long time, longer, I think, than you can imagine. You have been asleep. To you, it seems as if only a few days have passed. Am I right?”

“But you say that’s not so,” she said.

“It is not so.”

He could almost see her inside the iron box, chewing on the end of a non-existent braid. “Cherholtz is gone?”

“Cherholtz floats in the sky, like a big island in the ocean. The people here have forgotten it was ever called Cherholtz. They call it Risenton. This may be hard to understand,” he added, in hopes she would tell him more.

“Why would it be hard to understand? It was all I could think of. What would you do different?” she said in a plaintive wail.

Heart aching for her, Adewole reached to comfort the child, drawing back as he realized there was no way to do so. “I am sure you did the best you could. Can you tell me what you did?”

“I thought you knew. I got the city away from the Black Spring.”

“What is that?”

“For someone who’s sposed to be so smart you don’t know much,” said Alleine. “That’s where ichor comes from.”

So that’s what Diederich Enterprises uncovered, thought Adewole. “What did you do?”

“Well...it was bad,” she said, drawing out the words. “I took the city into the air, and I didn’t mean to, but I couldn’t think.”

“Did Vatterbroch tell you to do it?”

“He wanted to tell me to do a lot of stuff, but he couldn’t do the spells. He got the first ones right, so I couldn’t hurt him or not eat—if ichor was around I had to go eat it or it hurt like anything, oh, worse than being here in the heart. But he sang the last spell wrong, the one that was sposed to make me do anything he wanted. I think he killed that Chorister before she taught him how to do it right.” The words poured out, the offhand, excited rush of a child who needed to tell someone something so important it was hard to tell.

Adewole leaned forward on his perch of rubble, hands clasped and dangling between his knees, his disbelief in magic banished forever. “How did he do this? With the Bone Lyre?”

Alleine’s voice shuddered. “That’s the worst ever. That’s what hurts the most. It always hurts inside the Machine God, but when he uses the Lyre it’s like he’s...” She paused, her voice overcome. “It’s like he’s taking my bones out all over again.”

Adewole forced down a shudder of his own. “But he failed.”

“I figured if I got away from the Black Spring before he got it right, it’d be all right. At least I wouldn’t have to eat any more ichor because there wouldn’t be any ichor, and then maybe I’d die. Because being in the dark like this is awful, Ollie, but being inside the Machine God is worse. Oh, it’s so much worse, please tell me no one can put me back in it!” she sobbed.

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.

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