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After beholding the destruction of the Well-Built City, physiognomist Cley is now a simple healer seeking peace and atonement in the happy village of survivors. When the town falls into a deadly sleeping sickness, Cley must make a dangerous trip to the ruins of City—now beset by mechanical birds and werewolves—to seek out an antidote. The evil Master Below is still alive, but an accidental exposure to the sickness that he created has put him into a coma. With the help of Below’s adopted demon son, found...
After beholding the destruction of the Well-Built City, physiognomist Cley is now a simple healer seeking peace and atonement in the happy village of survivors. When the town falls into a deadly sleeping sickness, Cley must make a dangerous trip to the ruins of City—now beset by mechanical birds and werewolves—to seek out an antidote. The evil Master Below is still alive, but an accidental exposure to the sickness that he created has put him into a coma. With the help of Below’s adopted demon son, found in the wreckage of the laboratory, Cley ventures into the mind and intricate memories of Below to search for a cure. Cley will encounter wonders and dangers undreamed of in the second installment of this classic trilogy.
In the years since completing a written account of the fall of the Well-Built City, which told of my personal transformation from Physiognomist to humble citizen and the inception of this once idyllic settlement of Wenau, I never again thought it would be necessary to put pen to paper, but after what has occurred in the past few weeks, I must warn my unsuspecting neighbors. There is a demon loose in paradise—one that beguiles by resurrecting the past. Its victims grow cold to the world, desiring only yesterday, as their souls dissipate for want of exercise in the here and now. Memories swarm about me, every bit as real as the day, and I will attempt to trap them here in this manuscript, like slapping shut the lid on a box full of bees. Then I'll flee northward in order to lose myself in the vast wilderness of the Beyond. It would be a false assumption to think that because I write this with my own hand, in the past tense, I came through these adventures in possession of my life. Death, it seems, has many definitions.
It was not long after the settlement was founded that the marketplace at Wenau developed into quite a bustling center of trade. The citizens of our new community no longer merely bartered among themselves but also attracted farmers from Latrobia, which lay a considerable distance to the east.
River people from as far south as the villages at Constance occasionally arrived on their barques loaded with handwoven cloth, spices, homemade fishing gear, which they hoped to deal for fresh game and vegetables. Our people became adept at gathering and harvesting food, but the items the outsiders wanted more than any others werethose mementos of technology we had taken away with us from the destruction of the Well-Built City.
Something as useless as a single brass gear could be traded for a blanket of the highest quality. The river people wore these remnants as amulets of power on cords around their necks. Little did they know how pleased we were to be rid of them. Everything balanced in the end, though, and there were no squabbles or accusations of thievery. The outsiders, having lived closer to the land for longer, were much rougher than we, but they adopted our peaceful ways. This location we chose for our settlement, nestled between two crisscrossing rivers, engendered its own spell of calm.
I went to the market once a week to trade medicinal herbs, roots, and tree bark I collected from the fields and forestsa practice taught to me by Ea and his son before they left for the Beyond. It was on those days that I also met my neighbors and took appointments to visit the women who were carrying children. Ever since delivering Arla's daughter, word had gotten about that I was an effective midwife, and, because of this, I was in some part responsible for the births of at least fifteen children. My acquired role as that of a healer of sorts pleased me, and I hoped that in the hypothetical ledger of my life it would offset somewhat the harm I had previously done.
A few weeks ago, I carried with me to the market something I never before would have thought of trading-a certain piece of green fabric, the veil left to me by Arla. For years, it remained both a bothersome mystery and a great comfort. On those nights when loneliness surrounded me, I would take it out of the chest beneath my bed and hold it fast for the peace it offered. At other times, I would actually speak to it, as if her face still hid beneath, trying to get an answer as to her reason for having left it with me. I often wondered if it was a sign that she had forgiven me or if it was meant to remind me of my guilt.
The night before my trip to the market, I was called on to deliver a child. All went well as far as the mother's health was concerned, but the baby came forth stillborn. I worked for over an hour to try to revive him, knowing soon after I began that my efforts would probably be hopeless. No one blamed me for this tragedy, and, surprisingly enough, though I felt bad, I could not even blame myself. On my walk home through the night, I stopped to look up at the immensity of the starlit sky and for some reason, I still cannot say why, I suddenly felt released from my responsibility to the past. The thought leaped into my mind, "Cley, you will trade away that green veil. It will not do to simply dispose of it. No matter how meager the material worth of the item you trade it for, you must find someone who wants it."
The market was crowded the following day with haggling traders, children at play, and the old, entertaining with comic and cautionary tales. I carried my sack of medicines thrown over my left shoulder and wove my way amidst the practical confusion of the place, searching out likely patrons.
At first, I went about my business, selling what I could. People knew me well and knew that my medicines were genuine. They described complaints to me, and I would tell them exactly what they might use to alleviate their suffering. After making a few trades for thread and fish-bone needles, salt and powdered orian (a bean from the south that when mixed with boiling water made a beverage that was a dull imitation of shudder), I took out the green veil and began trying to trade it.
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