With the long Yzordderrexian twilight still many hours from falling, the Autarch had found himself a chamber close to the Pivot Tower where the day could not come. Here the consolations brought by the kreauchee were not spoiled by light. It was easy to believe that everything was a dream and, being a dream, not worth mourning if—or rather when—it passed. In his unerring fashion Rosen-garten had discovered the niche, however, and to it he brought news as disruptive as any light. A quiet attempt to eradicate the cell of Dearthers led by Father Athanasius had been turned into a public spectacle by Quaisoir’s arrival. Violence had flared and was already spreading. The troops who had mounted the original siege were thought to have been massacred to a man, though this could not now be verified because the docklands had been sealed off by makeshift barricades.
“This is the signal the factions have been waiting for,” Rosengarten opined. “If we don’t stamp this out immediately, every little cult in the Dominion’s going to tell its disciples that the Day’s come.”
“Time for judgment, eh?”
“That’s what they’ll say.”
“Perhaps they’re right,” the Autarch replied. “Why don’t we let them run riot for a while? None of them like each other. The Scintillants hate the Dearthers, the Dearthers hate the Zenetics. They can all slit each other’s throats.”
“But the city, sir.”
“The city! The city! What about the frigging city? It’s forfeit, Rosengarten. Don’t you see that? I’ve been sitting here thinking, If I could call the comet down on top of it I would. Let it die the way it’s lived: beautifully. Why so tragic, Rosengarten? There’ll be other cities. I can build another Yzordderrex.”
“Then maybe we should get you out now, before the riots spread.”
“We’re safe here, aren’t we?” the Autarch said. A silence followed. “You’re not so sure.”
“There’s such a swell of violence out there.”
“And you say she started it?”
“It was in the air.”
“But she was the inspiring spark?” He sighed. “Oh, damn her, damn her. You’d better fetch the generals.”
“All of them?”
“Mattalaus and Racidio. They can turn this place into a fortress.” He got to his feet. “I’m going to speak with my loving wife.”
“Shall we come and find you there?”
“Not unless you want to witness murder, no.”
As before, he found Quaisoir’s chambers empty, but this time Concupiscentia—no longer flirtatious but trembling and dry-eyed, which was like tears to her seeping clan— knew where her mistress was: in her private chapel. He stormed in, to find Quaisoir lighting candles at the altar.
“I was calling for you,” he said.
“Yes, I heard,” she replied. Her voice, which had once made every word an incantation, was drab; as was she.
“Why didn’t you answer?”
“I was praying,” she said. She blew out the taper she’d lit the candles with and turned from him to face the altar. It was, like her chamber, a study in excess. A carved and painted Christ hung on a gilded cross, surrounded by cherubim and seraphim,
“Who were you praying for?” he asked her.
“For myself,” she said simply.
He took hold of her shoulder, spinning her around. “What about the men who were torn apart by the mob? No prayers for them?”
“They’ve got people to pray for them. People who loved them. I’ve got nobody.”
“My heart bleeds,” he said.
“No, it doesn’t,” she replied. “But the Man of Sorrows bleeds for me.”
“I doubt that, lady,” he said, more amused by her piety than irritated.
“I saw Him today,” she said.
This was a new conceit. He pandered to it. “Where was this?” he asked her, all sincerity.
“At the harbor. He appeared on a roof, right above me. They tried to shoot Him down, and He was struck. I saw Him struck. But when they looked for the body it had gone.”
“You know you should go down to the Bastion with the rest of the madwomen,” he told her. “You can wait for the Second Coming there. I’ll have all this transported down there if you’d like.”
“He’ll come for me here,” she said. “He’s not afraid. You’re the one who’s afraid.”