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Jin Li Tam

They rode for a night and a day, only stopping for minutes at a time. Jin Li Tam and Rudolfo galloped their stallions side by side, riding without words.

By morning, shed felt her senses falling back into their normal place. By early afternoon the last of the magicks had burned out, and she felt the weariness of withdrawal aching in her limbs. Scouts spent years practicing the magicks, learning the rhythms of their bodies and picking up the tricks of the trade that made withdrawal less of an issue. The fact that magicks were only used during time of war-and by only the most elite of soldiers-also made a difference.

Though not officially a scout, shed spent enough time with the scouts. Still, these she rode with now could stay magicked for days at a time-even weeks-without undue effect. She could barely handle a day of it.

heh n/div

They were a full squad now, between Rudolfos escort and her own, less the man whod been killed by the archbishop. They kept her and Rudolfo in the middle with Isaak as they rode, and they kept their blades tucked back beneath their arms, ready to bring them forward with a moments notice.

When it was well past dark, they stopped to make camp. They rode their horses into a forest of old growth pine a league or better from the muddy track that served as the solitary road this far north.

Rudolfo pulled away with his lead scout while the others set up camp. Jin Li Tam tried to make herself useful, but in the end she was only in the way. The Gypsy Scouts moved with precision, quickly putting up tents and laying in a small fire.

Of course, Oriv would be a fool to have them followed. His already limited Gray Guard had been thinned by a handful of men. Hed not risk losing more or leaving his Palace unguarded. If he went looking for vengeance-and Jin was not sure he was the sort to do so-he would hire it out. Or turn to his cousin. She had no doubt that birds were already winging their way rapidly south and east, carrying news of Rudolfos escape.

Isaak had not spoken since leaving Orivs office, and for the first time since theyd left she realized he no longer wore his Androfrancine robe. How had she missed that? He sat against a tree, staring out through the woods at nothing. His bellows shook from time to time, as if he heaved sighs that his chassis was not designed for. She could see the intricacies now of his metal frame and musculature. His long, slender arms and legs and his helmetlike head with his jeweled eyes all glistened dully as the Gypsy Scout struck the sparks for their fire. His mouth opened and closed periodically.

Jin Li Tam walked to him and crouched. Isaak?

He did not respond. She reached out a hand, hesitated, and then lowered it onto his cold, metal shoulder. He spun, eyelids flashing to life as his hand came up. He paused. Apologies, Lady Tam.

Where are your robes?

His eye-shutters flitted and steam released from his back. Pope Resolute ordered me to remove them. He said it was unseemly for a mechanical to wear the habit of PAndro Whym.

I suspect, Jin Li Tam said, that PAndro Whym would have been glad for you to wear it. She waited, wondering if she should continue. Is that what troubles you?

Isaak looked up, his eyes full of a sorrow of such magnitude that she had only seen once before. No, Lady Tam. I am troubled by another matter.

She felt her eyebrows knit together. nit

I fear, Isaak said, that I am malfunctioning. I do not believe I will serve well to assist with restoration of the library. He paused, and his mouth clacked open and closed in a metallic stammer. I am no longer reliable.

In what way? Around them, the scouts put the last finishing touches on the camp. She could smell the onions that the cook sliced as he prepared dinner.

Isaak looked back out at the forest. Pope Resolute asked me many questions. Difficult questions. About my role in the Desolation of Windwir. He paused. Then he asked me if I could reproduce the spell

from recall, in writing.

Jin Li Tam felt her stomach clench. But she couldnt bring herself to ask it.

Isaak continued, still staring off into the forest. When he asked me to, I told him I could not. I told him that part of my memory scroll had been damaged in the execution of the spell.

Jin Li Tam sighed. And he believed you?

Of course he believed me. Mechanicals cannot lie.

She nodded. You are worried that you are malfunctioning because you lied to the archbishop? Yes, Isaak said, turning back to look at her. How can a mechanical lie? I think- He sobbed, and

the violence of it cause Jin Li Tam to jump back. I think perhaps the spell altered me.

It changed all of us, she thought. If it did, Isaak, then it was for good. You are carrying the most dangerous weapon the world has ever known. A spell that killed a world to satisfy a fathers wrath. A death for each of the seven sons PAndro Whym executed in his Restoration Scientifika pogrom. Those Deaths must be kept hidden in you, Isaak. The Androfrancines were the best and noblest of us-with infinite patience, studying their matrices and working their ciphers, only releasing to the world what secrets and wonders it was ready for. If they couldnt safeguard this secret, no others of us could. You are the safest tomb for it until it can be removed and destroyed. She paused, charting her course of words carefully. If you must lie to keep this secret, then lie. Her eyes narrowed. There is no price too high, Isaak.

She waited to see if he would respond. When he didnt, she put her hand on his chest, her fingers splayed out. Where his shoulder had been cool, his chest was warm. Change is the path life takes, she told him. Maybe the death you have seen has brought you life.

It is an odd sensation, he said in agreement.

She opened her mouth to speak again but Rudolfo interrupted her as he swaggered in from the forest. Hail, Isaak, he shouted, and tossed a bundle toward the metal man.

Isaak caught it and stared down at it.

I thought perhaps you could use it. I picked it up on our way out.

Jin Li Tam looked at the bundle now too, and felt the smile pulling at her mouth.

In that moment, she suddenly knew that love was planted in her heart toward the laughing Gypsy King, Rudolfo.

She smiled at Rudolfo while Isaak stood and dressed himself in Androfrancine robes.

| Psalms of Isaak 01 Lamentation | Vlad Li Tam