She raised her head, heeling away the tears with her hands to stare at him.
“I’ll have some kreauchee found for you,” he said. “To calm you a little.”
“I don’t want kreauchee,” she murmured, her voice washed of all color. “I want forgiveness.”
“Then I forgive you,” he replied, with flawless sincerity.
“Not from you,” she said.
He studied her grief for a time. “We were going to love and live forever,” he said softly. “When did you become so old?”
She made no reply, so he left her there, kneeling in the debris. Rosengarten’s underling, Seidux, had already arrived to take charge of her.
“Be considerate,” he told Seidux as they crossed at the door. “She was once a great lady.”
He didn’t wait to watch her removal but went with Rosengarten to meet Generals Mattalaus and Racidio. He felt better for his exertion. Though like any great Maestro he was untouched by age, his system still became sluggish and needed an occasional stirring up. What better way to do it than by demolishing idols?
As they passed by a window which gave onto the city the spring went from his step, however, seeing the signs of destruction visible below. For all his defiant talk of building another Yzordderrex, it would be painful to watch this one torn apart, Kesparate by Kesparate. Half a dozen columns of smoke were already rising from conflagrations across the city. Ships were burning in the harbor, and there were bordellos aflame around Lickerish Street. As Rosengarten had predicted, all the apocalyptics in the city would fulfill their prophecies today. Those who’d said corruption came by sea were burning boats; those who railed against sex had lit their torches for the brothels. He glanced back towards Quaisoir’s chapel as his consort’s sobs were raised afresh.
“It’s best we don’t stop her weeping,” he said. “She has good reason.”
The full extent of the harm Dowd had done himself in his late boarding of the Yzordderrexian Express did not become apparent until their arrival in the icon-filled cellar beneath the merchant’s house. Though he’d escaped being turned inside out, his trespass had wounded him considerably. He looked as though he’d been dragged face down over a freshly graveled road, the skin on his face and hands shredded and the sinew beneath oozing the meager filth he had in his veins. The last time Jude had seen him bleed, the wound had been self-inflicted and he’d seemed to suffer scarcely at all; but not so now. Though he held on to her wrist with an implacable grip and threatened her with a death that would make Clara’s seem merciful if she attempted to escape him, he was a vulnerable captor, wincing as he hauled her up the stairs into the house above.
This was not the way she had imagined herself entering Yzordderrex. But then the scene she met at the top of the stairs was not as she’d imagined either. Or rather, it was all too imaginable. The house—which was deserted—was large and bright, its design and decoration almost depress-ingly recognizable. She reminded herself that this was the house of Oscar’s business partner Peccable, and the influence of Fifth Dominion aesthetics was likely to be strong in a dwelling that had a doorway to Earth in its cellar. But the vision of domestic bliss this interior conjured was depress-ingly bland. The only touch of exoticism was the parrot sulking on its perch by the window; otherwise this nest was irredeemably suburban, from the row of family photographs beside the clock on the mantelpiece to the drooping tulips in the vase on the well-polished dining room table.
She was sure there were more remarkable sights in the street outside, but Dowd was in no mood, or indeed condition, to go exploring. He told her they would wait here until he was feeling fitter, and if any of the family returned in the meanwhile she was to keep her silence. He’d do the talking, he said, or else she’d put not only her own life in jeopardy but that of the whole Peccable clan.
She believed him perfectly capable of such violence, especially in his present pain, which he demanded she help him ameliorate. She dutifully bathed his face, using water and towels from the kitchen. The damage was regrettably more superficial than she’d initially believed, and once the wounds were cleaned he rapidly began to show signs of recovery. She was now presented with a dilemma. Given that he was healing with superhuman speed, if she was going to exploit his vulnerability and escape it had to be soon. But if she did—if she fled the house there and then—she’d have turned her back on the only guide to the city she had. And, more importantly, she would be gone from the spot to which she still hoped Oscar would come, following her across the In Ovo. She couldn’t afford to take the risk of his arriving and finding her gone into a city that from all reports was so vast they might search for each other ten lifetimes and never cross paths.