And when war came to them, when mankind rose up and named their gods and came marching with swords and totems of their own, this was the last place the Feyr stood. Afterward, mankind made a city on that lake, built up from what was left of the charred temple-rafts of the Feyr. Amon the Scholar crafted engines that supported more and more structures, more buildings and roads and people. It became the capital of the Fraterdom, the impossible engines always churning against the lake to keep us dry.

It's a crazy way to build a city. Three hundred years, and that lake is still black as night.

* * *

I escorted the Fratriarch into the shadow of the Scholar's ominous prison. The Library Desolate was a dark wound on the city, its stone and steel walls still blackened from the arcane battle that washed across it generations ago. Whenever rain or time cleaned off some portion of its edifice, the citizens of the city of Ash would gather to ritually scorch the stone black again, as it had been burned when the outraged legions of Morgan descended upon it to slaughter the priesthood of Amon the Betrayer, for the murder of their god. That was a tradition we kept. The roof sprouted a cancerous rash of glass domes, their panes smeared with ash and chipped black paint. The last House of Amon the Betrayer lived in permanent night. The Cults of his brothers Morgan and Alexander saw to it.

We were met at the gate by a servitor of Alexander. Morgan had held this guard a century ago, until our numbers dwindled and the godking Alexander stepped in. He had ordered all records of our time in the prison destroyed. Security, he insisted. As though a scion of Morgan would sell those secrets. As though he couldn't trust the servants of his own brother. Though trust is what got Morgan killed, so I suppose it wasn't without reason.

The servant was a pale man, whiter than his robe, his bald head shinier than the dull silver of the icon around his neck. Not the cream of the crop, here at the prison. He looked us over with lazy interest, then spun up the clockgeist beside him and pulled the speakerphone to his mouth.

'Names?' he asked over the clockgeist's quiet howling clatter. I stepped in front of Barnabas.

'Eva Forge, Paladin of Morgan and sister of the Fraterdom. I demand entry to the house of my brother by my right as scion of Morgan.'

He looked up from my breasts, then down to my holster, then up again to the two-handed sword slung over my shoulder.

'You'll have to leave your weapons at the gate.'

I sneered and snapped out the revolver, flipped it once in my hand, and spun the cylinder open. I presented the clacking wheel of bullets to him and began to invoke.

'This is Felburn, heart of the hunter, spitting fire of the sky. Morgan blessed the revolver as a weapon of his Cult at the towers of El-Ohah, when the storm cracked the stones of that place and the cannons of his army cracked the sky. This weapon was beaten from the iron of the mountain of the Brothers, the land of their birth. The bul lets are engraved with my soul's name, and blessed by the Fratriarch of Morgan on an altar of war.' I snapped the cylinder shut, passed the barrel across the pale man's heart, and slammed it into my holster. 'I carry it, whether I live or die, through fire and fear and foes. I leave it nowhere.'

'Well, I… uh.' The Alexian grimaced and shuffled his feet. Barnabas leaned out from behind me.

'Don't ask her for the sword,' he said, then banged his staff against the narrow stone walls all around. 'It's a much longer show, and there's not really enough room for the full production. If we step outside for a moment, though, I'm sure she'll be happy to demonstrate. Eva?'

I reddened and chewed my jaw, then glanced over my shoulder at the old man. He was beaming. He stepped around me and tapped his ceremonial staff to his forehead, like a fisherman hailing a passing boat.

'I'm Barnabas, Fratriarch of Morgan and First Blade of Alexander's dead brother. If you don't know who I am, then you can be damned. I have an appointment.'

The color, what little of it there was, left the servitor's face. The clockgeist chewed out an answer that he didn't really hear. He nodded and the gate opened.

The pale-headed man locked the gate behind us, shuttered the cowl on the clockgeist, and escorted us into the library-prison of Amon the Scholar. We followed a long brick tunnel deep into the complex, the way lit by the Alexian's gently humming frictionlamp. There were no other guards, no other gates, but suddenly the tunnel opened up into the mitochondrial complexity of the Library's stacks. We were among the Amonites. I bristled, and the articulated sheath on my back twitched with insectile anticipation, like a spider testing its web. Barnabas sensed the change and put a broad hand on my shoulder.

'Silence,' he whispered. 'These are the tame ones.'

'It's the tame ones I don't trust,' I answered, but left my blade where it was and tried to relax.

They moved among the stacks in absolute silence. Their black robes looked like wrinkled shadows, and they kept their heads down. A few paused in their grubbing among the books to turn our way, but the sight of a Paladin of Morgan sent them scurrying.

'They wander around like this?' I asked. The servitor nodded his bald head, though he did not turn to look at me.

'They are bound to this place, my lady. Their books, their equipment. The shrine of their god, fallen though he may be. They would not leave.'

I looked around at the close walls, the wooden ceiling, and the stinking, pulpy stacks of books on their sagging shelves.

'I would. First chance I got.'

'Well. Perhaps they don't have that, either.' The servitor fingered a loose coil of chain that hung from his belt and chuckled. It looked like a woman's necklace that had lost its stone. There was carving on the links, but I couldn't make out the pattern.

'I would prefer they wore the chains, servitor,' I said, resting my hand on my revolver. The stacks were narrow and close, like a maze of wood and leather. It felt like an ambush. 'Better to have them in cages. If we still ran things, it'd be cages.'

The servitor stopped walking and faced me. The Fratriarch walked another half-dozen steps then idled to a halt. He flicked a hand through a book that was resting on a nearby podium, his eyes distracted. So old, in that moment. He looked like a forgetful grandfather. I pushed the thought aside and faced the servitor. He stared at me with barely veiled contempt. No, not veiled at all. Just contempt.

'In chains, madam? In cages? Tell me, are all the scions of Morgan so nuanced in their approach?' He whipped the coil of thin chain from his belt and held it at shoulder height. 'What was the escape rate when Morgan held these halls? Do you know, even?'

I held the smaller man's gaze, leaving my face as dead as possible. He fingered the chains with idle malice. The Fratriarch ignored us. When it became clear that I wasn't going to answer, the servitor continued.

'We have had none, my lady. Not one. Chains rust. Cages can be shattered. The bonds of this world fail us. Faith in metal and stone is inevitably faith squandered.' He sneered, his tiny eyes wrinkling over his ugly nose. 'You should know that, Morganite.'

I would have struck him, if the Fratriarch hadn't been there. The flat of my blade or the barrel of my bullistic, he deserved nothing less. Patience. It was a speech I heard a lot from the Fratriarch. From all the Elders. Patience. I put my hand flat against his chest and prepared to invoke. He grimaced and clenched the chains in his fist, then spat out something arcane. The stacks erupted in screams, all around, echoing between the rows of books like thunder in a canyon.

My sword was in my hands without a thought, the pistons and hinged arms of the articulated sheath pivoting it over my shoulder and into my ready grip. I dropped into a guard position and began invoking Everice, Mountain among Streams. The servitor laughed. The Fratriarch looked on with grim disappointment.

Black-robed Amonites stumbled from the stacks, spilling to the floor in shrieking agony. They writhed at the servitor's feet, their eyes wide with terror and pain. I stared at them in horror, then fascination. The Amonites had chains of their own, thin and flat, made of some dull gray metal and arcanely etched. Our guide loosened his grip on his chains, and the screaming stopped.

The servitor stood over them, the coil of chains dangling loosely from his open palm. The Amonites lay in a heap, panting and mewling. The room smelled of offal and disgrace.

'Cages rust. Metal fails.' He returned the coil to his belt. 'We bind the soul, my lady.'

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