Change Display Name
“Would you trust a man who cannot maintain the standard of his own mechanical arms?” Arvin said. “He demands perfection from his workers, yet look! His arms do not match. One is made from titanium, a most perfect construction. Yet the other is made from brass and always in want of polish. That’s somewhat hypocritical, isn’t it?”
“Maybe they each have their own specific function,” Em mused.
“What do you imagine their differences would entail, Miss Weatherstone?” He put his arms around Em and Solly’s shoulders and drew them closer. “Though not too loudly, if you please,” he added in a low voice. “We may well be unaccompanied, but nothing is as it seems. Shall we first partake in a little Hesperian snuff? It’s marvellous for confusing eavesdroppers.”
He took a pinch of white powder from a leather pouch, then saturated it with skin-magic and held it close to their noses. Unsure of what to expect, Em tried not to breathe too deeply. She caught her breath at its smell. Exactly like Forley’s favourite bath oil. Only stronger.
Arvin tightened his grip around the two women’s shoulders. “Now as for my uncle’s arms. Why do they not match?”
If Em hadn’t seen mages engage in similar activities earlier, she would have insisted he keep his distance. But the prospect of hearing Grindle’s shortcomings in such scurrilous depth intrigued her. “Perhaps the titanium arm is a weapon,” she ventured.
“Most perceptive, Miss Ummm…”
“Carrington,” Solly reminded him curtly.
“Yes, yes, of course.”
Em’s head spun. The hall beyond the box felt too bright and too loud. Her mind raced to a strange inner rhythm of its own. She closed her eyes and tried to think. When at last she found the right words, she couldn’t get them out.
“Oh my,” Arvin said in her ear. “This is your first time, isn’t it? You should have said.” He well-wished her gently. Gradually her head cleared.
She blinked. Where were they? Yes of course. Discussing Grindle’s mismatched arms. “The heat-resistant qualities of titanium would certainly extend the arm’s longevity.” she said thickly. “But as for using it as a weapon…” She tried to imagine it in her mind’s eye. Grindle’s heart-magic stored in the entelechial ganglion at the base of his heart. “How would heart-magic reach his fingers through titanium, unless his arm were threaded with an artificial conduit?”
“Only half right,” Arvin said. “The truth is, the arm is threaded with a vena magicae supposedly harvested from a cadaver. Grafted like a branch onto a tree, allowing his arm to be fully functional. Ingenious if you consider it objectively.” He pursed his lips, then added, “Here’s another fact. My uncle refuses to use second hand components. So why would he use something dead?”
“Are you suggesting he took the vena magicae from someone living?” Solly asked. “Murdered them?”
“Probably not. More likely he just cut off their arm.”
Em let the repercussions of that sink in. “If he went to so much trouble, why didn’t he make his arm lifelike?”
Arvin laughed. “You mean cover it in rubber skin? That would be like dressing a mage in a worker’s smock. If one is to wear titanium or even brass, one must brandish it with pride.” He thought for a moment, then added. “What would you say if I reminded you of another unpleasant truth?”
|What I Write||
I write science fiction and fantasy with lots of weird thrown in for good measure.
Over a dozen short stories in Australian small press anthologies. More details at my website bibliography.
This novel has taken 10 years. Four complete rewrites. A million edits. My goal is to finish the thing. No promises I can do it in 6 weeks. Now, I have three chapters left to rewrite and three to majorly edit.
I’m happy with whatever people can donate to this worthy cause.