Berenice stared off the balcony toward the setting sun. In a voice I could barely hear she said, “I get angry Rose.”
“About what?” I asked.
“About Cyrus being gone. About being scared. About knowing that Laurence and I will grow old and weak and you and Justine and Jack and Quint will go on forever.”
“It won’t be forever, Berenice. Not even gods are immortal.”
She turned and glared at me. I was missing the point. Again.
The golem lurched into the sunlight and dragged Weinburg along with it. Jack kept his Thompson gun pointed at the statue but he did not fire. Instead he backed away, allowing it to continue forward unmolested.
“What are your waiting for, you stupid oaf? Shoot the damned thing!” Weinburg screamed.
Jack frowned. He said, “I shot it with a cannon yesterday. The ball bounced off. I’m fairly certain that bullets would do the same. And you’re in the ricochet area.”
“I don’t give a damn!” Weinburg howled. “Shoot it anyway!”
The monstrosity heaved itself into view. It was even more horrible looking than Osgoode’s description. Worse, Osgoode had failed to mention the hideous piping sound that emanated from and around the thing. I wanted to cover my ears but I needed my arms for climbing.
The ship appeared to be deserted and likely had been for many, many years.
I said, “I am enough my father’s daughter to recognize an ancient Spanish galley but I could not have guess the century from which it originated.”
Jack thought a moment. “Are you saying that this is hundreds of years old? It can’t have been adrift so long.”
I snorted. Jack laughed, recognizing the absurdity of his disbelief.
Day did not really arrive. The starless darkness of night merely lightened into a lighter grey fog that we designated as dawn more because we needed a morning than because it felt as if the day had come.
Ginnie brought the airship low enough that we could make out details of the risen city. It was clotted with mud and the corpses of sea creatures that had not survived the transition from the unknown depths. The air was thick with the stench of rotting, the rotting of the freshly dead and the rotting of things that had lain undisturbed for centuries.
Quint brought out the snowshoe-like foot wear that he and Barth and Len Wei had been crafting. The wide webbed soles would, ideally, keep us from sinking in the putrid mud. Cyrus had not had such help but he had the guidance of his dreams. Hopefully they would keep him safe until we caught up.
Although Kulkarni still retained some appearance of humanity, he was no longer recognizable as the quiet little man he had seemed to be. He stood in full moonlight near the fountain in the garden. At his feet were the torn bodies of Dunstable’s soldiers. His huge mouth worked. I could hear him wetly chewing.
Faisal gestured and the sway of the floor slowed. The thud of the massive stone feet ceased. The movement of the castle stopped. Faisal gave a wide mouthed grin showing his shiny silver teeth. “Now,” he said, “we have walked into another, better world. Hear you the difference?”
I listened. The echo of the castle’s footsteps still rang in my ears but, as that sound faded, I hear one more pleasant. Someone, many someones, was singing out beyond the stone walls.
The desert stretched to the four directions. We could see no human activity. A small herd of camels strolled in the far south. Otherwise, not even the wind moved. This seemed as good a place as any to drop anchor.
While Jack and Quint prepared a dinner of rice and lentils I spidered down the anchor rope. After two weeks in the airship I had a great desire for earth, even hot sand, under my toes. After a pair of back loosening cartwheels I began to pace a spiral out from the anchor.
The more I walked the more my eyes began to tell me stories that I did not wish to know. I have seen enough cities buried by the elements to be able to recognize their shape. We were anchored atop a sand buried ruin.
The man the white suit made an expression that was similar to a smile. He said, “My parents christened me Courage. Courage Llewellyn. Perhaps by such naming me, I no longer had need of the virtue. I have seen fear in many men, and quite a few women, over the last three centuries, but I have never felt it myself. I understand caution. I would not have lived as long as I have if I were as fool hardy as many of the brave men I’ve known. Yet, that trepidation that so many must overcome in order to act? It has never been part of my nature.”
I struggled to hold up my head. My body fought the drugs but the drugs were winning the battle. I could force out only a simplified query, “So?”
He turned his unblinking eyes to me. He said, “I have need of a guide into places where men would be foolish to walk. I would like to engage your services as such as guide.”
“Strange … way … to … ask,” I slurred.
Fuchs pointed the pistol and fired. Persephone’s hand moved more quickly than I could observe. She caught the bullet and hurdled it back with almost equal speed. It thunked loudly into the wall just to the left of Fuchs’ left ear. His mouth went wide and he dropped the gun. Persephone turned her unblinking eyes in my direction. She opened her mouth slightly and hissed.