“Go on. Serve your own self for a while. What I did—it was a lousy thing to do,” Cynric admitted. “But once they’re made they want to live as much as anything. What are you going to do, unmake them? And if your people are adults, my people are all such children—reckless, selfish, egocentric. Waiting for a divine plan to direct us. Maybe it would be good for you and me to trade places for a while. We both might be stretched by it.”

Danilaw chuckled. “They’re not going to let you run Bad Landing.”

“They don’t have to,” Cynric said. “They just have to let me talk to the dodecapodes. Do you think they know the divine plan that leads to all this mess?”

“I don’t think there’s a divine plan,” Danilaw said haltingly.

“Then what does any of this matter?”

“It matters to us,” Danilaw said. “Isn’t that enough?”

“Then go,” Cynric said. “Go and explore. Become a thing of light. If you find out you hate it, maybe you can even find a way to come home someday. Not all gates open in only one direction.”

   Mallory found Tristen and Benedick coiled close, and hurried in on taut-stretched sails, praying to be there in time. But they were not fighting. In fact, as Mallory drew up, it became evident that the conversation was one of mutual comfort, not a prelude to war.

The necromancer drew up and waited. Not too long—Tristen must have noticed, because after a few moments he ended the talk with his brother and came over.

“You lived,” he said, brushing fringes.

“After a fashion,” Mallory answered. “And as well as anyone. I am still collecting my trees—or whatever it is my trees have been transubstantiated into. I suppose I shall have to herd them now, like a shepherdess with an idle flock. Or let them wither—”

Tristen’s mood colored dismissal. He did not believe that Mallory would do any such thing to the orchard of memories so long guarded. And now that they had assumed a more animate form—along with all the other life aboard the Jacob’s Ladder—the necromancer’s task would only grow more interesting.

“You’ve found your purpose in life,” he said. “It’s keeping the past alive for the future. A necromancer, maybe—or a guardian of memories? That is not such a small thing.”

If Mallory had anything now that could be called eyes, exactly, they would have been cast down, cold arms folded. “I thought you would kill Benedick.”

The color of dismissal deepened. “What good is another death now? It wouldn’t bring Sparrow back.”

“No,” Mallory said. “But I could.”

That was a long pause for an energy being. “Excuse me?”

“She’s in the library. You have Mirth’s pattern. That’s enough for a seed that could grow in her old body—or the pattern that was her old body. The pathways are there. I can bring her back.”

“Oh,” Tristen said. After a time, he said, “It wouldn’t be her, exactly.”

Mallory said, “Ask Perceval. It would be as much Sparrow, I suspect, as you are Tristen Tiger. Continuity of experience is an illusion, old man.”

Mallory felt it when Tristen glanced at Benedick, though there was no visual input to indicate it. The attention shifted, and it was obvious to anyone else so transformed.

A glitter of life-motes flocked past, sparking green and turquoise, chasing each other tumbling through the void. Cynric’s parrotlets, transformed. Transformed into something otherwise, as was all the world.

A broad world now, and scattered. Mallory felt confident in its diversity.

Tristen said, “Cynric is not exactly Cynric anymore. And you’re probably right. I am not me. I remember what I left behind when I changed, but I can—I cannot feel it. No. To summon Sparrow back from the dead would mean sacrificing Dorcas.”

“The terrorist?”

“The freedom fighter. Should I condemn her to death to give birth to a shadow? Let her live, Mallory. Sparrow is dead. It is time I let her die.”

Mallory leaned forward, to let their margins overlap. Whatever they had become, there was a sense of comfort in the touch.

“Some tiger you turned out to be.”

“I’m a tiger who does not care to hunt any longer.” He turned his back to the world below, his attention to the cold bright stars beyond. Mallory floated beside him, imagining all the forms of farewell.

“Come away with me,” Tristen said.

Mallory wished for a painful moment of sense-memory that there were a calming breath to be taken. A thousand ghost voices rang in the necromancer’s heart, each one bereft and abandoned, a pattern of loneliness and memories. Everyone loved and lost, and perhaps it took a necromancer to appreciate how truly universal that experience could be.

“Will you pretend you love me?”

“I don’t really need to pretend.”

Tristen hesitated, then seemed to firm his resolve and spoke on. “It is not the thing I had with Aefre. But it is what I have to offer, and if you want it, it is yours.”

Mallory would have smiled, if smiling were an option. “How can I refuse an offer like that? We are all we have. And we are so small, and the night is so large.”

—and ye,

What are ye? Galahads?—no, nor Percivales.



Liz Bourke, who named Fortune for me, as well as the ideological heresies of the modern world. Chance Morrison and Celia Marsh, who convinced me that “Bad Landing” was a better name than “Crash.” Anne Groell Keck, the editor who helped it all make sense. Bad Poets galore, who listened to me thrash and moan through the draft. Andrew Phillips, copy editor extraordinaire. Jennifer Jackson, world’s best agent. Emma and Sarah and Delia, who held my hand through the worst of the birth pangs. And numerous more—too many to be mentioned.

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