“For my first trick, I’m going to recreate the fertility of Xiphias Watercutter.”
The target is in position, as predicted by the contractor. Penetrating the security curtain to reach this point? Trivial. Now though she stands within the range of two engines which prevent my executing the contract: a device for ensuring perpetual consciousness and a device for inhibiting the flow of Living Memory. The former will keep her tacent intact and retrievable, which makes destroying her corpus pointless. The latter blocks my senses everyway, distorting the memories of the workshop’s inhabitants. When I try to see through the target’s eyes I get nothing but static unless I rewind to before her entry into the workshop, and that’s worse than useless. If I’m unlucky enough, she’ll leave through the mill that permits instantaneous passage and I won’t get a shot at all.
Cursing my ill fortune I miss the next few lines of dialogue between the target and the other.
“I’ve been studying jettatura, you see.” She gestures at a beaker, and from her brow a tongue of mindfire lashes out and shatters it. “It is not my primary speciality, as well you know…”
“Yes, mother.” Scowling. “I’m aware of your experiments with witchery.”
“But you have not been aware of the ramifications. Xiphias’s fertility was made possible by a confluence of jettatura and runecube.” She points at another device, a ramshackle scaffolding of ceramic tubes and glass rods. I can see nineteen runecubes installed within the device, oriented towards the hopper in its center. Too small for the target to fit in, and certainly too small for the other…
“I call it the mill for the division of immaturity,” the Silver Marquise says.
“Are you serious?” gapes Vera Ilermalken.
“Entirely. We may not be able to peer into alternative time, but we can bring it to us. It’s been done. Xiphias did it.”
“The records of the accident were destroyed –”
“Nothing is destroyed.” True words. If the target moves close enough to the mill for the division of immaturity she’ll have to step out of the range of the devices. I prepare a bolt, but do not activate it yet. Waste not, want not. “Xiphias’s memories are in the Under Library. Type Eight, but I was able to wheedle a permit out of the Most High.”
Vera looks alternately repelled and fascinated. “Then you really mean to do it? Will you divide your own timeline?”
Ol-Rasta laughs. “I should think not. I’ve too much to do to double back. I don’t know that it would work on someone with as much established history as me, or you. No, I’ve procured a finer test subject.”
She takes a human infant from a drawer. He or she appears to be in some kind of entrancement, trivial for a spellcaster of Ol-Rasta’s might. Nevertheless the urge to activate the bolt rises in me, and only the knowledge of the devices keeps me from it.
In a flash the infant is in the hopper, and the two of them, target and other, safely on the far side of the workshop.
“I doubled back a fetal pig this morning,” Ol-Rasta explains while her hands trace the Seventeen Invocations to the Dark, a baroque if gaudy technique for activating all the runecubes simultaneously. “This is the final test.”
“Poor thing,” Vera mutters.
“I’m making his life more interesting,” Ol-Rasta says, and activates the mill for the division of immaturity. It vanishes in a flash of light.
My lenses are polarized, and Ol-Rasta’s, too, it seems, but Vera was not forewarned. While she restores an earlier copy of herself I watch her mother check the contents of the hopper.
“Gone,” she says, sounding pleased with herself.
“Any second now. Mind the light.”
Vera screws her eyes shut in advance of a half-dozen more light bursts, arrayed in a regular hexagon about the mill, as the divided man arrives. He would have been a solider, apparently. All in a rush I can feel him in Living Memory, and I search his mind, and then all six of him rush at the Marquise, and she destroys him with a casual wave. It’s over too fast for me to react, which implies the temporal trickery of the mill hasn’t yet died down.
“The pig did the same thing, attacked the first person it saw. No matter.”
Vera, too, seems confused, and unlike me she didn’t have a chance to probe the human’s mind (his name was Mortock, an unsettling coincidence, and he knew enough about his state to blame the Marquise). “What just happened?”
“I divided him, and brought his timeline back here, in pieces,” Ol-Rasta says patiently, as if she was relating the events of a puppet show.
“In 706 the infant Xiphias, but a year old, was present at a baetyl event and subjected to a confluence of energies precisely equivalent to what I’ve just now created. This divided his timeline, like your ‘poor boy’ here, split it six ways.”
“It was a rhetorical ‘what,’ mother.” Vera Ilermalken conjures a chair and a cold drink, and sits down. “Why did you do such a thing, just to blast him?”
“Pish-tush. Everything that happens here in the lab is recorded. I have a bank of eiodolon stones just for the purpose. We can have a rememberer scour Living Memory for his mind’s contents, no problem.”
If that’s true then my trip here was wasted. I can’t risk ruining my order’s mystique by permitting a witness, certainly not Living Memory.
The target and her mother speak a handful more lines, but I miss them, as I am already composing the missive in my mind.
“Come on. We’re going to take a little trip, and see the great clock that marks the time until the end of everything.” Ol-Rasta activates the mill that permits instantaneous passage and mutters a few words of power. The mill sparks blue and white as she climbs inside.
“Where?” The target takes a step towards the mill, but hangs back, remaining just within the range of the device for ensuring perpetual consciousness.
The Silver Marquise turns, and looks, and sees her daughter with a dead woman’s eyes. “Yadd Island. We’re going to Yadd Island.”
— From the eiodolon stone of [EXCISED]
SEE ALSO: Baetyl Events, Cardinals of Pain, Jettatura, Untime, Yadd Island