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Rudolfos Gypsy Scouts found the metal man sobbing in an impact crater deep in the roiling smoke and glowing ruins of Windwir. He crouched over a pile of blackened bones, his shoulders chugging and his bellows wheezing, his helmetlike head shaking in his large metal hands. They approached him silently, ghosts in a city of ghosts, but the metal man still heard and looked up.

Gouts of steam shot from his exhaust grate. Boiling water leaked from his glassy jeweled eyes. Nearby lay a mangled metal leg.

Lla meht dellik evI, the metal man said.

The Gypsies dragged him to Rudolfo because he could not stand on his own and refused to be supported. Rudolfo, from his tents outside the ruins, watched them return just like the message bird had promised.

They dragged the metal man into the clearing and released him, dropping the leg as well. Their bright colored tunics, cloaks and breeches were gray with ash and black from charcoal. The metal man gleamed in the afternoon sun.

They bowed and waited for Rudolfo to speak. So this is all thats left of the Great City of Windwir? To a man, they nodded. Slow, deliberate nods.

And the Androfrancine Library?

One of the Gypsy Scouts stepped forward. Ashes, Lord. The scout stepped back quickly, head bowed.

Rudolfo turned to the metal man. And what do we have here? Hed seen mechanicals before. Small ones, though, nothing quite so elaborate as a man. Can you speak?

Llew etiuq kaeps nac I, the metal man said.

Rudolfo looked again to his Gypsy Scouts. The same scout whod spoken earlier looked up. Hes been talking since we found him, Lord. Its no language weve ever heard.

Rudolfo smiled. Actually, it is. He turned back to the metal man. Sdrawkcab kaeps, he told him.

A pop, a clunk, a gout of steam. The metal man looked Roal man up at Rudolfo, at the smoke-filled sky and the blackened horizon that was once the worlds largest city. He shook and shuddered. When he spoke, his voice carried a depth of lament that Rudolfo had only heard twice before. What have I done? the metal man asked, his breast ringing as he beat it with his metal fist. Oh, what have I done?

Rudolfo reclined on silk cushions and drank sweet pear wine, watching the sunset wash the metal man red. His own personal armorer bent over the mechanical in the fading light, wiping sweat from his brow while working to reattach the mangled leg.

Its no use, Lord, the metal man said.

The armorer grunted. Its nowhere close to good but it will serve. He pushed himself back, glancing up at Rudolfo.

Rudolfo nodded. Stand on it, metal man.

The metal man used his hands to push himself up. The mangled leg would not bend. It sparked and popped but held as he stood.

Rudolfo waved. Walk about.

The metal man did, jerking and twitching, using the leg more as a prop.

Rudolfo sipped his wine and waved the armorer away. I suppose now I should worry about escape? The metal man kept walking, each step becoming more steady. You wish to escape, Lord? You have

aided me. Perhaps I may aid you?

Rudolfo chuckled. I meant you, metal man.

I will not escape. The metal man hung his head. I intend to pay fully for my crimes.

Rudolfo raised his eyebrows. What crimes are those, exactly? Then, remembering his manners but not sure if they extended to mechanicals, he pointed to a nearby stool. Sit down. Please.

The metal man sat. I am responsible for the razing of Windwir and the genocide of the Androfrancines, Lord. I do not expect a trial. I do not expect mercy. I expect justice.

What is your name?

The metal mans golden lids flickered over his jeweled eyes in surprise. Lord? Your name. What is your name? thyour na221;

I am Mechoservitor Number Three, catalog and translations section.

Thats no name. I am Rudolfo. Lord Rudolfo of the Ninefold Forest Houses to some. General Rudolfo of the Wandering Army to others. That Damned Rudolfo to those Ive bested in battle or in bed.

The metal man stared at him. His mouth-shutters clicked open and closed.

Very well, Rudolfo finally said. I will call you Isaak. He thought about it for a moment, nodded, sipped more wine. Isaak. Tell me how exactly you managed to raze the Knowledgeable City of Windwir and single-handedly wipe out the Androfrancine Order?

By careless words, Lord, I committed these crimes. Rudolfo refilled his glass. Go on.

Are you familiar, Lord, with the Wizard Xhum YZir? Rudolfo nodded.

The Androfrancines found a cache of parchments in the Eastern Rises. They bore a striking resemblance to YZirs later work including his particular blend of Middle Landlish and Upper VRal. Even the handwriting matched.

Rudolfo leaned forward, one hand stroking his long mustache. These werent copies?

The metal man shook his head. Originals, Lord. Naturally, they were brought back to the library. They assigned the translation and cataloging to me.

Rudolfo picked a honeyed date out of a silver bowl and popped it into his mouth. He chewed around the pit, spitting it into a silk napkin. You worked in the library.

Yes, Lord. Continue.

One of the parchments contained the missing text for Xhum YZirs Seven Cacophonic Deaths-

Here Rudolfos breath rushed out. He felt the blood flee so quickly from his face that he tingled. He raised his hand and fell back into the cushions. Gods, a moment.

The metal man, Isaak, waited. Rudolfo sat back up, d

The metal man shook in one great sob. I am now, Lord.

A hundred questions flooded Rudolfo. Each shouted to be asked. He opened his mouth to ask the first but closed it when Gregoric, the First Captain of his Gypsy Scouts, slipped into the tent with a worried expression on his face.

Yes? he asked.

General Rudolfo, weve just received word that Overseer Sethbert of the Entrolusian City States approaches.

Rudolfo felt anger rise. Just?

Gregoric paled. Their scouts are magicked, Lord.

Rudolfo leaped to his feet, reaching for his thin, long sword. Bring the camp to Third Alarm, he shouted. He turned on the metal man. Isaak, you will wait here.

Isaak nodded.

Then General Rudolfo of the Wandering Army, Lord of the Ninefold Forest Houses, raced from the tent bellowing for his armor and horse.

| Psalms of Isaak 01 Lamentation | Petronus