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Rudolfo prowled the high-windowed prisoners quarters in the western tower of the Summer Palace. Theyd removed his shackles at the door, marching him through the compound in chains for show more than anything else. They locked the door behind him, and he noticed immediately that there was no way to open it from inside. The windows were set high enough and deep enough into the stone that there was no way a man could squeeze through. And the colored glass blocks looked too thick to break.

The suite of rooms was more than adequate. The living area contained a full bookcase-a treasure of books, Rudolfo saw from a glance, ranging from the tragic dramas of the Pho Tam Period to the mystic poetry of TErys Whym-along with an ornate desk and a sitting area near a Zancgolden furnace.

His boots were hushed by thick carpets as he strode across the room and opened the door to the bedchamber. The bed was large, with heavy timber posts and heavy wool blankets and quilts. Once hed seen the entire suite, he returned to the desk and sat at it. He found paper and started crafting messages that he doubted hed be allowed to send. Still, it kept him focused to write them.

He was finishing his fifth message when he heard a key at the lock. He looked up and watched as an older man in white robes trimmed with blue stepped in, accompanied by two taciturn guards.

Lord Rudolfo, the man said with the slightest nod.

Rudolfo stood and then bowed. Pope. circumstances.

R.eso.lute, is it? I wish we met under more favorable

The Pope nodded, then gestured to the sitting area. Lets sit and talk for a while. He walked to a large, plush chair near the furnace and waited until Rudolfo joined him.

Rudolfo walked to the chairs and then sat. He adjusted himself until he was comfortable. Youve issued a Writ of Shunning against me, and your guards arrested me on sight, Rudolfo said. I would know why.

The Popes eyes narrowed. You know why. You know damned well why. Rudolfo kept his voice low, his tone calm. I did not destroy Windwir.

Resolutes next question was edged with urgency and anger. Where is the metal man? Rudolfo hoped his next words were truthful. Somewhere safe.

Ive issued orders for all Androfrancine resources to be gathered for inventory here at the Summer

Palace. All resources, including the mechoservitor. I understand this.

Yet you ride to me alone and empty-handed? The Pope leaned forward. You are harboring a fugitive.

Rudolfo matched his posture, leaning forward himself. Im safeguarding the Named Lands-and you, I

might add, the Last of the Androfrancines-from the most dangerous weapon conceived in recent


The Pope smiled. So you admit it?

es mil#8220;To holding him? Yes. Rudolfos eyes narrowed. But I did not destroy Windwir. Your cousin did that.

Resolute sat back, his mouth open and his eyes wide.

Certainly I know Sethberts your kin, Rudolfo snapped. I make a point of knowing. But the disdain-much like the cockiness-was a sham intended to provoke.

Inwardly, he felt grateful for the look of surprise on the Popes face. It meant he did not know what Rudolfo knew. Of course, the Androfrancines no longer had the intelligence resources available that they had once had. To be sure, the Order maintained a vast network of operatives, but it would take months to pull it back together under the vastly different circumstances.

If it could be pulled back together. Rudolfo suspected that it would be an impossible task.

Do I press or hold? He pressed his hands together, forming a tent beneath his chin. Hold, he thought. Wait.

Resolutes face flushed. And you say my cousin Sethbert destroyed Windwir? Those are lofty charges. And yet I imagine he made the same allegations to you regarding me, Rudolfo said.

He did.

With what evidence?

The Pope didnt even think. You do happen to have only one of the fourteen mechoservitors. And the one you happen to have is the one that supposedly brought down the city. We also have the body of Arch-Mechanic Charless apprentice, allegedly killed by your men.

All of these are true enough, Rudolfo said. I do not hide it. And tomorrow, I will tell you my tale and you may judge for yourself. Rudolfo offered an apologetic smile. I am tired and would present my best case to you, not the mumblings of an exhausted general. He stood. I will also have messages to send, Rudolfo said, in accordance with the Rights of Monarchy spelled out in the Rites of Kin-Clave.

More surprise. Whatever kind of archbishop hed been, this Oriv hadnt learned the subtle dance of kin-clave politics.

Finally, the Pope stood and smoothed his robes. Tomorrow, then, he said. And I will consider your


Rights are not requests, Rudolfo wanted to say, but didnt. Instead, he waited, counting the steps, until

Pope Resolute the First reac thRomhed the doorway and raised his hand to knock. Excellency? he said, stepping forward and raising his hand.

The Pope turned. Yes?

I would just have you ask yourself one thing on my behalf.

The Popes jaw clenched but he forced the words out. What is that?

I do have the metal man. And I did kill the apprentice-or rather, I had him killed. But how would I

have known anything about the discovery of the Seven Cacophonic Deaths?

Pope Resolute frowned. Spies. Someone in the upper echelons. Anyone can be bought at the right price.

Rudolfo smiled. Even a cousin?

Resolutes face went white. He turned back to the door and knocked on it three times. When it opened to him, he left without saying a word and his guards followed after.

Rudolfo watched them go, and inventoried everything he had just learned.

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