The river that split the city of Nones in two flowed fast at this time of year. The sunlight that caught the rippling surface, casting back glimmers of gold, showed the churning currents that rushed and bubbled past. Amongst the light’s filigree, debris was caught in the water’s wake; the remains of what could have been an old fishing boat, waterlogged and long tangled in some sort of cable, was slowly being dragged away down whatever long course the river ran.

Along both banks, the remnants of heavy industry, long decayed, still remained despite all the efforts of the elements, Evinthei salvage teams, and the city’s constant instability. Rusted cranes had collapsed on top of the buildings that had once serviced them, running into the murk of the water. Neglected quays that had once served immense warships were crumbling into ruin, slick with green algae and clogged with rubbish. One of the warships still remained in dry dock, the damaged keel that had put her there left without repair, and rust eating into her hull as if she was a long-scavenged kill.

Across the water on the opposite bank, the silhouette of one of the enormous riverside guns, the size of a house, could be glimpsed amongst other wreckage, its ammunition long salvaged and its bore long silent. And at intervals along the river were the bridges that had once criss-crossed it; there had been seven in all, but now only one was left intact, maintained by an Evinthei crew that normally watched over it like a mother hen. The others had collapsed into the water, clever feats of engineering wasted, lost to neglect, rust, and time.

But it was a living death. Somehow, the motion of the flowing water made the decay feel… immediate, ongoing. If the city of Nones was a dry, dusty graveyard, then this was a place still in its final throes.

“So this is the river,” said Dax, closing the door of the Warrior. He wasn’t sure what he had been expecting, but it wasn’t this steadily crumbling industrial wilderness. The slap and rush of the river was familiar, though. He remembered the night he had come to Nones—his flight across Blackfriars in the fog, that horrible mechanical laughter—and shivered.

There was a loud click as Athellus checked his gun. “This is it. The pylon won’t be far from here.”

Dax looked at the weapon. “Won’t the Evinthei still be running scared? You saw what they saw, they’re not stupid enough to attack again if they think Kaire’s around.”

“Right, and right,” said Athellus, tucking the weapon into his waistband. “But they will have left someone on guard, and those guards may not know what happened, and Kaire’s in no state to fight.”

“Great.” After hours spent driving, Dax was beginning to feel the strain of the night he had spent with Kaire. Facing an angry Evinthei patrol was the last thing he wanted.

“Come on,” Athellus told him. “Let’s get this over with.” He glanced over his shoulder. “I hope Kaire’s still following.”

* * *

It was a long trek along the riverbank, listening to the living noise of the river running beside them. The scent of the water was just like the Thames in winter. For the first time in a while, Dax felt a stab of acute homesickness.

If you may still call the place where you died “home”.

When they passed the husk of a long burned-out warehouse, Dax lingered a moment to look through one of the cracked windows. It was littered with charred skeletons of creatures that might have been Earthborn or beasts that were even stranger. Big and small, they were huddled together as if they had tried to hide from the fire. Dax looked, then turned away, hurrying to catch up with Athellus as he walked into the shadow of a looming processing plant, half its chimneys crumbled and rotting away.

As they climbed over the remains of one chimney, that had fallen and crushed the security fence, Athellus pointed. “There. That light.”

“It’s the pylon.” Kaire’s voice came from somewhere above and close by. “I can smell it.”

Dax and Athellus looked at each other. “How’re you feeling?” Athellus shouted.

A long pause, then: “Like shit.”

Dax grinned. “At least your sense of humour’s healing up.”

“Watch your footing up ahead. A lot of barbed wire.”

“How many guards?” Athellus asked.

“None.”

“What?”

“It’s deserted. Nobody’s here.”

Athellus frowned. “They wouldn’t leave the pylon totally unguarded.”

“It is.” There was a skitter of falling debris, then silence.

“I suppose she… seems all right,” said Dax.

“Who knows,” muttered Athellus. “Come on.”

The pylon’s glow became more apparent the closer they got, a soft pink-purple radiance like a rare flower growing amidst the rubble. It was placed close to the riverbank, a device about the size and shape of a Christmas tree, built of steel and set with purple crystalline sheets. Kaire was standing beside it, arms folded, staring into its light.

“Not much to look at, is it?” she said.

Dax was about to reply when he felt his foot catch on something. “What the—”

Cables were strewn across the ground, running from the pylon to… some sort of stone dais nearby. It was right on the edge of the riverbank, with stone steps laid up to some sort of lectern. On the other side, steps ran down, straight into the river itself.

The base of the dais was strangely worked and carved, too, with swirling patterns. Cut two inches deep into the stone was a single word:

RIMEGRIM

“What is that?” Dax asked.

Athellus looked at it. “No idea. But it has an active power supply. The pylon’s running off it.”

“It looks religious. I thought there was nothing here but warehouses.”

“Forget it,” said Kaire, looking at the pylon. “This is what matters.”

She circled it, her head on one side. “Such a delicate little thing. Doesn’t look worth the trouble it’s caused us.”

Dax came to stand at her shoulder, looking into the soft purple light of it… then blinked. For a moment he saw, not five feet or so of metal and crystal, but a shining twenty-foot pillar of it, glowing deep in a place of shadows, attended by dozens of people. It was vague, like an old dream half-remembered, then gone.

“So we overload this,” he said, returning to himself, “and the Evinthei’s Generator Well is destroyed from the feedback.”

“Instead of blowing half of Nones to kingdom come,” said Kaire. “Fun as that might be.”

Athellus looked at the pylon, then glanced around. “Is the total lack of guards bothering anyone else?”

“No,” said Dax. “In fact, I’m completely happy with the fact we might have it easy for once. Maybe they’re off patrolling or… or whatever. Let’s just do what we need to do and go.”

 

 

 

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