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Jin Li Tam

The halls of the seventh forest manor were wide and long, with hardwood floors and wood paneling on the vfac walls, dressed up with thick silk carpets and framed portraits. During her brief stay, Jin Li Tam explored what rooms she could, finding few locked doors in the large four-story building. Most of the rooms were spacious, including the servants quarters, and even boasted running water, heated in a large metal furnace and gravity-fed through copper pipes. Another gift from the Androfrancines.

Shed walked most of the manor on the first day. But now, she sought out the floor she had avoided. She took the wide sweeping staircase that passed the second and third floors, going directly to the fourth.

There, at the end of a short wide hallway, stood the double doors and stained glass windows leading to the Family Quarters.

She looked in on the rooms for children. There were many, all empty now but for one-the room of a small boy, she gathered, complete with scattered toys and a small silver sword hung over the bed. An unwrapped turban lay draped over the back of a chair, and a small boot jutted haphazardly from beneath the bed.

It had been carefully cleaned, but she could tell that the room had been this way for a long while.

A dark, unlocked door marked Rudolfos quarters-a suite of rooms that included a den and connected to another suite through a large bathing room. The bathing room was impressive. It smelled of fresh lavender, and at its center was a large, round marble tub. An elaborate golden nozzle was set into the ceiling, along with long cords tipped with golden tassels for bathers to pull and bring down the hot rain.

Jin walked through the room, her hand moving over the edge of the tub. The marble was cold to the touch.

Beyond the bathing room a similar suite waited, and the softer colors told her that someday soon, if her fathers will held despite the recent Papal Writ, she would be moving from the guest quarters into this space as Rudolfos bride.

Shed known that someday, when her father willed it, she would either be released to seek a mate for reasons of her own, whether love or convenience, or she would be wed for strategic purposes to advance House Li Tams interests in the world. Of course, some of her sisters had chosen to stay home instead. Shed always thought that if she were left to her own heart, shed neither wed nor stay home. Instead, shed go to the places she wished to instead of the places her father sent her.

She reached out a hand and touched the thick quilt folded at the foot of the large canopied bed. Certainly, this place would have been one that she wouldve wanted to see. The ancient forest islands in an ocean of prairie, and their ruthless Gypsy kings-tied by their past to the legacy of Xhum YZir, evidenced by their Physicians of Penitent Torture and their redemptive work. Yet Rudolfos forebears had blended that dark blood magick rite with the mystic teachings of TErys Whym, the younger brother of PAndro Whym who for a time succeeded his {sucitebrother and led the leftovers of the world until the Francine Movement, of all things, brought them back to reason as the principal tenet.

Yes, she wouldve wanted to visit this place. But would she have chosen to stay here?

Probably not, she realized. Instead, if she had her way, shed spend some time in the Great Library, possibly tour the edges of the Churning Waste, and then move south and sail the channel islands.

Instead, she thought, I am to be here in the shadow of a new library.

Of course, all of that hinged on the Writ of Shunning and its resolution and on her fathers wishes. She was certain hed shift his strategy and shed been certain that a bird would come. But instead, a note from Rudolfo had arrived that morning.

Pay no mind to this emerging Popes Writ, it read. I ride to deal with him. Stay with Isaak. Only the word with had been tilted just ever so slightly to give it the subtext of near, lending it the weight of great importance.

Shed smiled. Another code was buried in it, too. It was simple and unexpected, woven into the note with the jots and tittles of the Bank Cipher script. Ill dance with the sunrise yet again, the equation said.

Jin Li Tam heard limping footfalls in the hall and went to the door. Lady Tam? she heard a metallic voice call.

She poked her head out. In here, Isaak.

The metal man stopped and turned. He still the wore robes-dark and long. Ive come to wish you well, he said.

The words hit her. What do you mean?

He blinked. Im leaving for the Papal Summer Palace.

Stay with Isaak. Near him, she thought, because of his great importance. I dont think Lord Rudolfo would permit this.

Steam left the exhaust grate. I know. I received his message this morning as well. But regardless of Lord Rudolfos instructions, I am compelled to obey my Pope. I am the property of the Androfrancines-it is written into my behavior scrolls.

She watched his eyes, looking for an awareness she knew she couldnt see. But she knew from the tears that leaked out from them that he understood at least part of the equation {f t co. If this mechanical wonder had indeed brought down the City of Windwir with his very words, what risk could he be to the last of the Androfrancines?

But the other side of the equation would not bother him at all, she knew. Hed welcome it, even ask for it, in the hopes that it would help him shed the weight of guilt she saw him bear with every step. She doubted even the hope of rebuilding the library could be strong enough to lift something so heavy from him.

Stay with Isaak, Rudolfo had written.

But it wasnt Rudolfos words that moved her. No. It was the other side of that equation that sent Jin Li Tam down the stairs to pack what little she had in preparation for her journey with the metal man who had been Sethberts sword at the throat of a city.

She didnt worry that Isaak could ever be used in such a way again. She was certain he would not permit

it. But then there was the other side.

What risk would the last of the Androfrancines be to him?

Rudolfo | Psalms of Isaak 01 Lamentation | Petronus