He couldn’t remember the other monks ’ names , or even the prayers that had been his vocation for decades , but the stories poured from him , and Lazlo listened . He listened the way a cactus drinks rain .
Forbid a man something and he craves it like his soul’s salvation , all the more so when that something is the source of incomparable riches .
These visions of freedom and plenty bewitched him . Certainly , they distracted from spiritual contemplation , but in the same way that the sight of a shooting star distracts from the ache of an empty belly . They marked his first consideration that there might be other ways of living than the one he knew . Better , sweeter ways .
There were no more stories after that , and no more escapes — at least , not into the orchard , or anywhere outside his own mind . The monks kept a sharp eye on him , determined to keep him free of sin — and of joy , which , if not explicitly a sin , at least clears a path to it . He was kept busy . If he wasn’t working , he was praying .
The Great Library was no mere place to keep books . It was a walled city for poets and astronomers and every shade of thinker in between . It encompassed not only the vast archives , but the university , too , together with laboratories and glasshouses , medical theaters and music rooms , and even a celestial observatory .
Lazlo was in a state of awe from the moment he passed through the gates . His mouth actually fell open when he saw the Pavilion of Thought . That was the grandiose name for the ballroom that now housed the library’s philosophy texts . Shelves rose forty feet under an astonishing painted ceiling , and the spines of books glowed in jewel – toned leather , their gold leaf shining in the glavelight like animal eyes . The glaves themselves were perfect polished spheres , hanging by the hundreds and emitting a purer white light than he’d ever seen from the rough , ruddy stones that lit the abbey . Men in gray robes rode upon wheeled ladders , seeming to float through the air , scrolls flapping behind them like wings as they rolled from shelf to shelf . It was impossible that he should leave this place . He was like a traveler in an enchanted wood . Every step deeper bewitched him further , and deeper he did go , from room to room as though guided by instinct , down secret stairs to a sublevel where dust lay thick on books undisturbed for years . He disturbed them . It seemed to him that he awoke them , and they awoke him .
That day , the stash grew bigger . Much bigger . The books under the dust , they were stories . Folktales , fairy tales , myths , and legends . They spanned the whole world . They went back centuries , and longer , and whole shelves of them — entire , beautiful shelves — were stories of
Weep . He lifted one down with more reverence than he’d ever felt for the sacred texts at the abbey , blew off the dust , and began to read .
“ The library knows its own mind , ” old Master Hyrrokkin told him , leading him back up the secret stairs . “ When it steals a boy , we let it keep him . ” Lazlo couldn’t have belonged at the library more truly if he were a book himself . In the days that followed — and then the months and years , as he grew into a man — he was rarely to be seen without one open in front of his face . He read while he walked . He read while he ate . The other librarians suspected he somehow read while he slept , or perhaps didn’t sleep at all . On the occasions that he did look up from the page , he would seem as though he were awakening from a dream .
He knew that , but the dream chooses the dreamer , not the other way around .
Lazlo was a boy no longer , no trace remaining — outwardly — of the small bald foundling with cuts on his head . He was tall now , and he’d let his hair grow long once he was free of the monks and their dull razors . It was dark and heavy and he tied it back with bookbinder’s twine and spared it very little thought . His brows were dark and heavy , too , his features strong and broad . “ Rough – hewn , ” some might have said , or even “ thuggish ” on account of his broken nose , which made a sharp angle in profile , and from the front skewed distinctly to the left . He had a raw , rugged look — and sound , too : his voice low and masculine and not at all smooth , as though it had been left out in the weather . In all this , his dreamer’s eyes were incongruous : gray and wide and guileless .
“ Just take care . The books may be immortal , but we are not . You go down to the stacks one morning , and by the time you come up , you’ve a beard down to your belly and have never once composed a poem to a girl you met ice – skating on the Eder . ”
The old man was a creature of the library through and through . Its caste system was , to him , the just rule of a perfect world . Within these walls , scholars were the aristocracy , and everyone else their servants — especially the librarians , whose directive was to support them in their important work . Scholars were graduates of the universities . Librarians were not . They might have the minds for it , but none had the gold . Their apprenticeship was their education , and , depending on the librarian , it might surpass a scholar’s own .
They weren’t forbidden to study , so long as it didn’t interfere with their duties , but it was understood that it was for their personal enlightenment alone , and made no contribution to the world’s body of knowledge . “ Why let scholars have all the fun ? ” Lazlo
Lazlo had to battle the urge to look away . They stared at each other , the alchemist and the librarian . They held a secret between them , and it burned like alchemical fire . Even old Master Hyrrokkin felt it , and glanced uneasily between the two young men . Nero looked like a prince from some saga told by firelight , all luster and gleam . Lazlo’s skin hadn’t been gray since he was a baby , but his librarian’s robes were , and his eyes , too , as though that color were his fate . He was quiet , and had a shadow’s talent for passing unremarked , while Thyon drew all eyes like a flare . Everything about him was as crisp and elegant as freshly pressed silk . He was shaved by a manservant with a blade sharpened daily , and his tailor’s bill could have fed a village . By contrast , Lazlo was all rough edges : burlap to Nero’s silk . His robe had not been new even when it came to him a year ago . Its hem was frayed from dragging up and down the rough stone steps of the stacks , and it was large , so the shape of him was quite lost within it . They were the same height , but Nero stood as though posing for a sculptor , while Lazlo’s shoulders were curved in a posture of wariness . What did Nero want ?
He had never imagined that Thyon Nero could be subject to such treatment , and such words . He had stumbled upon a private scene that belied everything he thought he knew about the golden godson and his charmed life , and it broke something in him to see the other boy brought low .
“ Only to bismuth , ” the boy said bitterly . “ I am well aware of the inadequacy of your achievement , ” spat the duke . “ All I’ve heard from you since you started university is how much smarter you are than everyone else . So be smarter , damn you . I told her you could do it . I assured her . ”
He was thinking of war , and the people the last one stole from him before he could know them , and all the children the next one would orphan , and all the names that would die like songs . Through it all , he was highly sensible of his own uselessness . How could he help the golden godson ? He wasn’t an alchemist , or a hero . He was a librarian , and a dreamer . He was a reader , and the unsung expert on a long – lost city no one cared a thing about .
Soon he was sitting on the floor , leaning against the wall , marking pages and jotting down notes . Footsteps passed in the corridor as the other librarians turned in for the night , but Lazlo had no awareness of them , or of the descending silence , or the rise and fall of the moon . Sometime in the night he left his room and made his way down to the dusty sublevel that hadn’t been dusty for years .
Here , captured between covers , was the history of the human imagination , and nothing had ever been more beautiful , or fearsome , or bizarre . Here were spells and curses and myths and legends , and Strange the dreamer had for so long fed his mind on them that if one could wander into it , they would discover a fantasia .
Meanwhile , banished belowstairs where no alchemist would ever look for it , in a book of tales from the Unseen City whimsically titled Miracles for Breakfast , there was mention of another theory : that the alchemist was himself the secret ingredient — that only the conjunction of human soul with elemental soul could give birth to azoth .
Really , he ought never to have gone at all . He understood that later . Lazlo understood a lot of things later . Too late . The sun was rising by the time he emerged from the stacks clutching the book , and he might have been tired from staying up all night , but energy thrummed through him .
His pulse was pounding in his ears . It wasn’t like him to put himself forward . If his upbringing at the abbey had specialized in anything , it was instilling a profound sense of unworthiness .
it’s a mistranslation . I’ve come across it before . In Unseen . . . I mean , in the language of Weep , the word for ‘ soul ’ and ‘ spirit ’ is the same . It’s amarin for both . So I think this is a mistake . ” He tapped his finger on the word soul and paused . Here it was , his big idea . “ I think it means that the key to azoth is spirit . Spirit of the body . ”
There was no hiding here , though , and because there was no guile in him , everything he felt showed on his face . Shock . Outrage . Pity .
But his back was on fire with pain , and Lazlo’s glance strayed there as though he knew it . Poor Thyon , whose father beat him . In an instant he knew that Lazlo had seen him at his weakest , and the simmer of emotions were joined by one more . It was shame . And it ignited all the others .
Lazlo had been right . Spirit was the key to azoth . It was almost funny — not just that the truth had been found in a fairy tale , but that the great secret ingredient should prove so common a thing as a bodily fluid .
If the truth were to be known , anyone with a pot and a fire would try to make gold , drawing spirit from their veins , or stealing it from others . It wouldn’t be so precious then , and nor would the golden godson be so special . With that , he understood what was at stake . Thyon meant to keep the secret of azoth at all costs .
Lazlo’s was plain , with his feet up on a tufted stool and a glave on either side , he was reading long into the night while servants brought him tea , and supper , and tea again . Lazlo certainly never imagined him taking notes , with a swan quill and octopus ink from an inkwell of inlaid lys that had actually come from Weep some five hundred years ago . His handsome face was devoid of mockery or malice , and was instead intent , alive , and fascinated . Which was so much worse . Because if Lazlo thought a dream could not be stolen , he underestimated Thyon Nero .
Whatever way he turned it , all he saw was : impossible . If the dream chose the dreamer , then his had chosen poorly . It needed someone far more daring than he . It needed the thunder and the avalanche , the war cry and the whirlwind . It needed fire .
Lys . The antlers were spectralys because the creatures were spectrals . Among all those gathered and gathering , only Lazlo recognized the white stags of the Unseen City , and only he knew the warriors for who they were . “ Tizerkane , ” he whispered .
He was powerful , chest fully twice as deep as a normal man’s , shoulders twice as broad . Great golden bands caught his sleeves in the dip between biceps and deltoids , and his neck was dark with obscure tattoos . Instead of a chest plate , he wore a vest of tawny fur , and a broad and battered sword belt from which hung two long blades .
“Azer meret , Eril – Fane , ” he said , his voice smooth and strong . “ Onora enet , en shamir . ” Well met , Eril – Fane . Your presence is our honor . Lazlo heard it as though from a distance . It was the traditional greeting of guests in Unseen . Learned , word for word , from his books .
No , it’s a good deal more work than that , but if it is knowable , I daresay it is known here , and if it is half as fascinating as your history , then it is also savored . ” Eril – Fane dismounted and another warrior followed suit : a tall , straight woman who stood like a shadow to him . The rest remained mounted , and their faces weren’t impassive like the ranks of Zosma soldiers . They were as vivid , each one , as their general’s — sharp with interest , and alive . It made a marked difference . The Zosma guards were like mounted statues , eyes blank and fixed on nothing . They might have been minted , not born . But the Tizerkane looked back at the scholars looking at them , and the faces framed by ravid fangs , though fierce , were also fascinated . Avid , even hopeful , and above all , human . It was jarring . It was wonderful .
He’d come seeking knowledge and expertise , and Lazlo couldn’t imagine that meant a faranji “ expert ” on his own city . Mathematics , engineering , metallurgy , he’d said . He’d come for practical knowledge . He’d come for men like Thyon Nero .
They were : a mathematician , a natural philosopher , and , to no one’s surprise , the alchemist , Thyon Nero . Lazlo wasn’t even granted an interview . It wasn’t Eril – Fane who denied him , but Master Ellemire , who was overseeing the process .
It was the first time he felt for himself , a measure of the contempt others felt for him . Who had ever expended so much passion on a dream , only to stand helpless as it was granted to others ? Others , moreover , who had expended no passion on it at all . His impossible dream had , against all probability , crossed deserts and mountains to come to Zosma and extend an unprecedented invitation .
“ My name is Lazlo Strange , ” he called out , and the full complement of Tizerkane warriors turned their heads as one to look at him . Their vivid faces showed their surprise — not because Lazlo had called out ,
“ Might I beg a moment of your time ? ” he asked , still in their tongue , and he must not have looked crazed — though it had to be a near thing ; he felt crazed — because Eril – Fane eased his spectral around to face him , and , with a nod , signaled him to approach .
Her nights were long and filled with dark work ; she was exhausted by dawn , and drifted off as soon as she let her eyes shut . But she didn’t let them shut until she’d had her lull , because lull kept her from dreaming .
Everything was gaudy and heavy and cruel . To Sarai , they were clothes a monster might wear if it were trying to pass as human . Which was near enough to the truth . The monster had been Isagol , goddess of despair .
Sparrow who made it flourish . Sarai found her gathering anadne blossoms . Anadne was the sacred flower of Letha , goddess of oblivion . Distilled , it made lull , the draught Sarai drank to keep from dreaming .
“ Where do the days go ? ” There was such sweetness in Sparrow’s wisp of a smile . She was as sweet as the scent of the garden and as gentle , and Sarai couldn’t help thinking how perfectly her gift suited her . Orchid Witch , they called her . She felt the pulse of life in things and nursed it forth to make them grow . She was , Sarai thought , like springtime distilled into a person .
It was their good luck that some long – ago gardener had made a small kitchen garden of herbs , fresh greens , and a few vegetables , and their very good luck that their sometime visitor , the great white bird they called Wraith for its habit of vanishing into thin air , had seen fit to drop some kimril tubers into the garden once , else they’d have starved long ago .
They had an ongoing debate on the merits of “ interesting . ” Ruby contended that it was always worth it , even if it came with danger and ended in doom . “ Purgatory’s more than just not being tortured , ” she argued now . “ It’s not being anything , ever . You might not be tortured , but you’ll also never be touched . ”
He might strain all he liked . He was hers now , and no amount of struggle would restore his free will . This was Minya’s gift . She fished spirits from the air and bound them to her service .
Thus was the citadel staffed with the dead : a dozen servants to see to the needs of five children who were no longer children .
They were made solid by her binding — substance and matter , if not flesh and blood . They had hands to work with , mouths to kiss with . They could speak , dance , love , hate , cook , teach , tickle , and even rock babies to sleep at night , but only if Minya let them . They were hers to control .
Lazlo could almost pass for one of the Tizerkane . It was hard to believe he was the same hapless dreamer who used to walk into walls while reading . Horizons instead of books . Riding instead of reading . It was a different life out here , but make no mistake : Lazlo was every bit the dreamer he had always been , if not more . He might have left his books behind , but he carried all his stories with him , out of the glave – lit nooks of the library and into landscapes far more fit for them .
On the contrary . You will find that the relentless nothingness of the Elmuthaleth has a way of amplifying the workings of your mind . I would sooner it amplify your curiosity than your skepticism . ”
They had already covered their lightweight chaulnots with their heavy woolen ones against the coming evening chill — proof that not one joule of energy had been converted to heat by means of respectable labor . With their hoods up and their purposeless milling , Lazlo thought they looked like a pack of ghosts on coffee break .
She confirmed that she had scaled the spire and entered through the oculus , but claimed she hadn’t come to steal . She was only practicing her juggling , she said . Wouldn’t anyone do the same ? When Eril – Fane went to the jail — and found a bruised , bald waif in rusty manacles , half starved and defending herself with a nail — he asked her why she’d done it , and she replied with pride , “ Because I could . ”
They had fallen into step back in Alkonost , and taken to riding and eating meals together . In anyone else , it would have looked like friendship , but Lazlo couldn’t see it as anything so benign . Thyon Nero hadn’t had “ friends ” in Zosma so much as admirers , and Drave seemed willing to fill that role , even fetching him his breakfast , and shaking the sand out of his boots for him , and all without the reward of gratitude . Lazlo wondered if his own long ago “ thank you ” was the only one Nero had ever spoken . He didn’t pity Drave , though . It was clear to him that the explosionist wasn’t after friendship , but the secret of gold .
“ It’s a woeful species that’s all male . ” “ More like a nonexistent species , ” remarked Calixte . “ Men lacking both wombs and good sense . ”
If Calixte did find his face lovely — which he found distinctly implausible , considering its centerpiece — there was nothing like attraction or desire behind it . No , he had seen the way she looked at Tzara , and the way Tzara looked at her , and that made for a fairly thorough education on the subject of desire . “ But what , ” Calixte asked him , “ is the problem ? ”
Eril – Fane was listening with wry amusement , and Azareen , too , who was perhaps more to him than his second – in – command , though Lazlo couldn’t work out the nature of their relationship . The closeness between them was palpable but also somehow . . . painful . They didn’t share a tent , as several pairs of warriors did , and though they showed no physical affection , it was clear to anyone with eyes that Azareen loved Eril – Fane . Eril – Fane’s feelings were harder to interpret . For all his warmth , there was something guarded about him .
The mysteries of Weep had been music to his blood for as long as he could remember . This time tomorrow , they would be mysteries no longer .
Sparrow and Ruby threw snowballs at each other , their laughter a bit too sharp , their aim a bit too true ,
Sarai blinked a series of rapid blinks and looked down at her hands . There was no malice in Feral’s words , but they stung like a pinch .
Vengeance ought to be spoken through gritted teeth , spittle flying , the cords of one’s soul so entangled in it that you can’t let it go , even if you try . If you feel it — if you really feel it — then you speak it like it’s a still – beating heart clenched in your fist and there’s blood running down your arm , dripping off your elbow , and you can’t let go .
It was true that fear kept them careful . But what purpose did hate serve ?
And that’s how you go on . You lay laughter over the dark parts . The more dark parts , the more you have to laugh . With defiance , with abandon , with hysteria , any way you can . Sarai suspected that her mother , the goddess of despair , would not have approved . She would have loved her daughter’s gift , though .
Another whose tears could heal any hurt — a beautiful gift , but he was destined to spend his whole life crying .
the things they’d get if they had that gift : seed packets for Sparrow to grow a real garden , and books for Feral , who longed to learn more than what the ghosts could teach . For Sarai : a doll she coveted from down in Weep , that she’d seen hugged in a sleeping girl’s arms during one of her nocturnal visits . An army for Minya , who had always been grim . For Ruby , a whole jar of honey to eat without sharing .
There was one gift , above all , that might have done that . It was Skathis’s gift , and though most likely to be inherited by his children , godspawn powers were unpredictable , and there was a chance that it could manifest in others . Sarai knew she didn’t have it , though . She’d been tested for it as a baby . They all were . Korako , goddess of secrets , had been the one to see to it , and to administer other tests to determine the more elusive godspawn abilities . Korako was dead now , along with Skathis and Isagol , Letha , Vanth , and Ikirok — the Mesarthim , all murdered by the Godslayer , Eril – Fane .
“ You think I can’t tell ? ” the little girl had demanded . “ You’re hiding your gift . Well , it’s not yours to hide . Whatever it is , it belongs to all of us . ”
She couldn’t fly , but it could . It was a kind of escape , but it mocked freedom . She was still a prisoner , a secret monster . But now she was a prisoner and secret monster who could spy on the life that she could never have .
When a moth perched on a sleeper’s brow , Sarai was plunged into their dream . What the dreamer was experiencing , she experienced , and not as some hapless spectator . As soon as she entered — an invisible marauder , unseen and unfelt — the dream was hers to control . In the realm of the real , she might have been just a girl , in hiding and in peril , but in the unconscious mind she was all – powerful : sorceress and storyteller , puppeteer and dark enthraller . Sarai was the Muse of Nightmares .
They hated the humans , but they also wanted to be them . They wanted to punish them , and they wanted to be embraced by them . To be accepted , honored , loved , like someone’s child . And since they couldn’t have any of it , it all took the form of spite . Anyone who has ever been excluded can understand what they felt , and no one has ever been quite so excluded as they . So they layered cynicism atop their longing , and it was something like laying laughter over the darkness — self – preservation of an uglier stripe . And thus did they harden themselves , by choosing to meet hate with hate . Sarai settled a moth on Hayva , Ari – Eil’s sister , and on other sleepers in other houses . All across the city , she sank into the dreams of Weep . Most were mundane , the mind’s rote bookkeeping . Some dreams stood out .
When she fell asleep , she was no sorceress or dark enthraller , but just a sleeping girl with no control over the terrors within her .
The wretched thing — and the thing she never dared talk about — was that in order to exploit the humans ’ fears , she’d had to dwell in them . And you couldn’t do that for four thousand nights without coming to understand , in spite of yourself , that the humans were survivors , too . The gods had been monsters , and had deserved to die .
Not luxury , which was beyond his ken , but simple comfort : a wash , a shave , a meal , a bed . He would buy some clothes with his wages as soon as he had the chance . He’d never done that before and didn’t know the first thing about it , but supposed he’d figure it out . What did one wear , when one might wear anything ?
He had crossed continents and drunk starlight from rivers without names . There was no going back from that .
Minya was many things — perverse , capricious , and obstinate among them . She was like a wild creature , by turns furtive and barging , ever unwashed , and with the staring lack of empathy that belongs to murderers and small children . Attempts at civilizing her rolled right off her . She was invulnerable to praise , reason , and shame , which meant she couldn’t be coaxed or persuaded , and she was cunning , which made her hard to trick . She was ungovernable , flawlessly selfish , resentful , and sly . One thing she was not — ever — was obliging .
Her pulse was frantic , her breathing ragged , and it seemed impossible that people could live at all with such flimsy stuff as skin keeping blood , breath , and spirit safe inside their bodies .
Azareen would be leading . She would be straight – backed , face forward , and no one behind her would suspect the look on her face . The loneliness . The raw , bewildered mourning . He did that to her . Over and over .
Eril – Fane shuddered . Even after all these years , the thought of Isagol the Terrible stirred such a storm in him — of rancor and longing , desire and disgust , violence and even affection — all of it seething and bleeding and writhing , like a pit of rats eating one another alive . That was what his feelings were now , what Isagol had made of them . Nothing good or pure could survive in him . All was corruption and gore , suffocating in his self – loathing . How weak he was , how pitiful . He might have killed the goddess in the end , but he wasn’t free of her , and he never would be .
Feeling like the world’s greatest coward , he turned away from his city , and his guests , and his wife , whom he could not love because he could not love , and he rode the short track back to Fort Misrach . Tomorrow ,
“ It’s never too soon to worry , ” said Minya , who , unlike the rest of them , didn’t seem worried in the least . On the contrary , she seemed excited . “ Worry spurs preparation . ”
the memories . They would surface from the wreckage , fast and sharp enough to impale her : of wanting him so much she didn’t know how she’d survive a night without him . And then , at last , not having to . Their wedding night . How young and smooth they’d been , and eager and tireless and burning . Five nights . That was what they’d had : five nights , eighteen years ago . That was her marriage . And then . . . what came after .
As to the first , they were men and women driven by ideas and powered by intelligence and rare skills .
Eril – Fane had his own arsenal of horrors ; he hardly needed hers . Fear was the least of it . Sarai hadn’t understood before that fear could be the lesser torment . It was shame that tore him apart . It was despair . There was no darkness she could send him to rival what he’d endured already . He had lived three years with Isagol the Terrible . He had survived too much to be driven mad by dreams .
The first had been the golden faranji . However fine his face , not so his dreams . They were as cramped and airless as coffins . He could barely breathe or move in them , and neither could she .
the heartbreaking sobbing of fathers who couldn’t protect their daughters , the horror of girls returned with blank memories and violated bodies — maybe they would have seen that the humans were survivors ,
The Mesarthim , they were . . . remarkable . God or other , they might have nurtured our awe into reverence and won themselves true worship . But nurture was not their way . They didn’t come to offer themselves as a choice , or to win our hearts . They came to rule , totally and brutally , and the first thing they did was break us .
They wanted to rule us , not destroy us , and to enslave us , not massacre us , so they set the anchors down deliberately , and crushed only what was beneath them , which happened to include the university and library , the Tizerkane garrison , and the royal palace . ”
“ To control us . And so our learning was lost , along with our leadership , and so much else . A chain of knowledge handed down over centuries , and a library to shame even your great Zosma . ”
Stolen name , stolen sky . Stolen children , stolen years . What had the Mesarthim been , Lazlo thought , but thieves on an epic scale .
She would never again allow weakness or softness , fear or ineptitude to hold her frozen . She hadn’t known yet what she was capable of . Her gift had been untested . Of course it had been . If she’d tested it , Korako would have found her out and taken her away . And so she hadn’t known the fullness of her power .
A jolt shot through her . It was the look in Minya’s eyes : cool , assessing , malicious . Just like that , Sarai understood : Minya didn’t just know about her nightmares . She was the cause of them . Her lull . Great Ellen brewed it . Great Ellen was a ghost , and thus subject to Minya’s control . Sarai felt sick — not just at the idea that Minya might be sabotaging her lull , but to think that she would manipulate Great Ellen , who was almost like a mother to them .
Night had fallen . Sarai got up to go . “ Sarai , ” called Minya , and she stopped but didn’t turn . She knew what was coming . Minya hadn’t given up . She never would . Somehow , by sheer force of will , the girl had frozen herself in time — not just her body but everything . Her fury , her vengeance , undiminished in all these years . You could never win against such a will . Her voice rang out its reminder : “ A few minutes of disgust to save us all . ”
“ Because you needed it , ” he said , and his words pulled a silence over them both . Here was the radical notion that you might help someone simply because they needed it .
He claimed that his interest was defensive , but she saw a hunger in his eyes — for the books and papers she described , the instruments and bubbling beakers , the walls covered in a scrawl of numbers and symbols she couldn’t begin to make sense of .
And when Sarai saw herself in the mirror again before sending out her moths , she thought that she looked more like a wild forest spirit than the goddess of despair .
Her mother , for all their similarities , had possessed a majesty she didn’t , and a cruelty , too . Isagol didn’t smile . This girl did . This blue girl had Sarai’s face , and she wasn’t wearing some gown of beetle wings and daggers , but the same lace – edged white slip Sarai had worn the first night .
She might be Isagol the Terrible , but one can’t be irredeemable who shows reverence for books .
“ A book of fairy tales broke your nose , ” she said , helpless not to smile at how wrong her first impression had been . “ I supposed you were in a fight . ”
Looking now , though , she thought that handsome was beside the point . He was striking , like the profile of a conqueror on a bronze coin .
“ They’re myths and folktales mostly , ” said Lazlo . “ Anything dismissed by scholars as too fun to be important .
A wave of emotion surged through her , and it wasn’t wrath , and it wasn’t hate . It was longing . To be someone’s child . Her throat felt thick .
But . . . his mind had touched her mind , and that seemed to him a deeper reality and even greater intimacy .
The imagination , as Lazlo had previously noted , is tethered in some measure to the known , and they were both sadly ignorant in matters of cake .
And he wanted her in his arms . He wanted her in his life . He wanted her not trapped in the sky , not hunted by humans , not hopeless , and not besieged by nightmares whenever she closed her eyes . He wanted to bring her to a real riverbank and let her sink her toes into the mud . He wanted to curl up with her in a real library , and smell the books and open them and read them to each other . He wanted to buy them both wings from the wingsmiths so that they could fly away , with a stash of blood candy in a little treasure chest , so that they could live forever .
Kissing , it turned out , was one of those things that only got better the more of it one did , and became more . . . interesting . . . as one gained confidence . Oh , the ways that lips could know each other , and tongues , how they could tease and tingle . Tongues , how they could lick .
Better , always , to run toward . And so he did . Everyone else followed sense and command , and made for whatever fleeting safety they could find before the final cataclysm came . But not Lazlo Strange .
Perhaps because he hadn’t watched it all happen but felt it , or perhaps because . . . it had been easy , he didn’t grasp the magnitude , quite , of the moment .
They stared at him , at his face that was as blue as his hands , and they struggled — all save Thyon — with an overwhelming upsurge of cognitive dissonance . This young man whom they had found at a library in a distant land , whom they had taken into their hearts and into their homes , and whom they valued above any outsider they had ever known , was also , impossibly , godspawn .
Lazlo and Minya faced each other , and they might have been strangers , but there was more between them than the corpse of Sarai . Minya understood it , even if Lazlo didn’t . This faranji could control mesarthium , which meant that he was Skathis’s son . And hence , her brother .