with his staff. My invokations dropped.

'Child,' he said, and nothing more. Over his shoulder, the servitor of Alexander looked on with amusement. I returned the sword to the tiny, clasping hands of the sheath and took a stance of meditation.

'You should teach your children better, Fratriarch. A servant of Alexander knows his place in the presence of Elders.' The servitor whipped his hands and the invokation fell, his body snapping back to wholeness like a spring. Barnabas rounded on him.

'A servant of Alexander should know his place,' he snarled. He poked the pale man in the sternum with the staff. 'Wet nurse, or bed maid, or hearth servant.' Poke. 'Not provoking the scions of Morgan.' The Fratriarch crowded the servitor, stepping in too close and then following him as he retreated. 'God of War. Champion of the Field. Heart of the Hunter. Do you understand?'

'That woman is… she is-'

'She is a warrior, an anointed Paladin, a scion of Morgan. She is a dangerous person.' He put an old hand against the servitor's chest and gave him a slow, powerful push. The pale man stumbled back. 'As are we all, dangerous people.'

The servitor trembled against the cabinet, staring at the Fratriarch. He looked between us, then picked up the chained dowel that had tumbled from his hand.

'We have business, Fratriarch. There's no need for this to get complicated.'

'It always is, servitor,' Barnabas said. His voice was tired. 'It always is.'

The bald man scowled but returned to the cabinet. He fingered the dowel, then unclasped a length of chain and handed it to Barnabas.

'Some of the chains express an aura of restraint, drawing on the souls of any who have been bound. We use those for crowd control. Other sets are attuned to specific individuals. Since your request was for a single subject, this is probably the best.'

Barnabas took the chain. It was a narrow loop, not more than six inches in loose diameter. He twined it around his fingers and squinted. 'How does it… Ah.' The old man looked disoriented for a moment. Startled, I stepped forward and put a protective hand on his elbow. Slowly he regained his bearings. He looked at the servitor. 'You didn't have to hurt them at all, did you?'

The bald man shrugged.

'Well, where is he?' Barnabas looked around, then stopped. 'She. Yes, I see. Like this.'

He raised the chain, his fist clenching around the flat, dull links. A figure rose from a table on a nearby terrace and crossed over to join us. She was a young woman, a girl really. The dark robes of the Cult of Amon hung loosely on her frame, but she had her hood down. Her hair stuck out in thick, black curls, startling against her pale skin. She kept her eyes lowered. The chains that hung around her shoulders looked very new.

'A child? Did our request not stress the importance of our need?' Barnabas asked.

'This one is… gifted. Unique. Have faith in Alexander, my friends.'

'My knee will bend to him, sir,' I said, 'but my faith belongs to Morgan.'

The servitor shrugged again, laughter dancing in his eyes. 'As you say. If this girl will not serve, I'm sure we could reprocess your request. It would take some weeks, of course.'

'Don't toy with us, Healer.' I looked the Amonite up and down. A pretty thing, if frail. Battle would break her. 'What's your name?'

'Cassandra,' the girl said. Her voice was quiet.

'You can incant the histories of Amon? The rites of the Scholar?' Barnabas asked.

The girl looked between us, then raised her arms and locked her fists together in front of her small breasts. Her voice, when it rolled into the quiet of the Grand Library, was a different creature from the timid ghost that had given her name as Cassandra. It was rich, resonant, touching in the deep places of my mind. The words spoke of stress lines and inertia, gear periods and energy reserves. It was the language of clockwork, the language of machines and engines arcane. It had a rhythm to it, smooth, churning, driving forward from beneath my skin and through my bones to a peak of momentum and mass and energy.

'Hold,' Barnabas barked, and the girl stopped. I came out of a stupor I hadn't realized I was in. The room was changed. A table by the cabinet was disassembled, the old form cut away into gears and chains of wood. It was some sort of machine now, clockworks and cranks and long pistons of polished maple that gleamed in the halflight of the glass domes above. A gentle cloud of sawdust hung in the air around us.

'Do you see, now, the futility of locks, Lady Paladin?' the servitor asked. I stared at the wreckage of the newly made engine.

'What's it for?'

The girl shrugged. 'It goes around,' she said. 'It is an engine merely for the sake of engineering.'

'We've seen enough,' the Fratriarch said. 'She will do.'

Our departure had none of the idle tension that marked our arrival. The servitor chatted happily with the Fratriarch as we made our way through the book-hemmed labyrinth. I walked beside the girl Cassandra, my hand on my revolver.

'So, what is the purpose of your request, Frat Barnabas?' the servitor asked. 'One hundred years, the Cult of Morgan doesn't step foot in the Library Desolate, and suddenly you make a request for one of our guests. Some project, I assume?'

'What business is it of yours? She will be returned to your charge, brother.'

'As you say. Though, to be honest, with your companion I wouldn't be so sure. Small matter to me. I love the Amonites no more than you do. A matter of curiosity, is all.'

'Then curiosity it must remain.' Barnabas folded his hands at his waist, indicating resolve. The subtlety of his action was lost on the servitor.

'Plumbing trouble, perhaps? The Chamber of the Fist is hip deep in used toilet water, eh?' The servitor beamed and chuckled. He looked back at me. 'We have plumbers in the city of Ash, you know. No need to deal with the folk of Amon for that.'

'As much as I appreciate the assistance of the godking in this matter, I'm afraid our reasons must remain our own,' the Fratriarch said.

'Have the scions of Morgan so lost faith in his brother Alexander, then?'

'As you said,' Barnabas stopped and turned to the bald man, 'it was faith in our brother Amon that cost Morgan his life. And gained Alexander a throne.'

The servitor smiled stiffly, then nodded and led us out.


he streets outside were busy. We began the long walk back to the Strength of Morgan, leading our black-robed charge. The girl kept her head down as we walked. I stayed in the front, my eyes on the crowd.

'Eva, we should speak about your outburst in there,' Barnabas said after we had walked several blocks. Took him longer than I expected. Old man must have been tired, from all the talking and the making nice to that bitch servitor.

'Which one?' I asked without looking back. Didn't like having the Fratriarch out in a crowd like this. I liked it even less as his only guard, but he hadn't wanted the sort of scene that an armed convoy would have caused. I didn't care about the scene. Hell, I just wanted more swords, more guns, and more eyes on the crowd. The Frat was probably right, though. Too much attention. Besides, the Cult of Morgan was spread awfully thin. The days of armored columns were behind us. I stopped daydreaming about a glorious caravan of fellow Paladins and snapped back to the conversation. 'That man was trying to piss me off. I obliged.'

'Not much of a task, Eva. Listen.' He plucked my sleeve and I stopped, but I wouldn't look at him. These talks were bad enough without having to see the expression in his watery old eyes. 'The Cult is waning. We need to preserve our relationship with Alexander and his scions. He's the last of the brothers still alive. Without his support, we'd be adrift. We'd be dead.'

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