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“A body. Its mind.” Turner’s words were almost strange enough to make Staever forget where he was.
The ship was gone. They stood in an empty forum, floored with grass instead of bone, surrounded by boxy stone huts. Through the black sky and the damned fog above, he caught glimpses of his body on the dam drawing a sword. Turner fought back with a blade of his own. “A body and mind are unified, though the mind is easier to rule. Often the body holds more complex thought.”
Staever’s empty shell drove against Turner’s. “That’s…”
“Your resistance,” Turner confirmed. “The bond of your mind and body, fighting like an animal. Tirelessly. Unthinkingly.”
“What does this have to do with where we are?”
“Every body must have its mind,” said Turner. “All yellow clay was once part of a single mass. A living thing in the sea, far from your continent. Far from anywhere.”
Staever tried to find Emaria–but there was only his body and Turner’s, blades locked, minds distant. “What living thing?”
“Something from beyond the sky. Something that didn’t intend to land here.”
“You’re mad.” The sky and stars were another sea, the Lesser Mirror the ocean raised to guide lobsters across the surface. “There’s nothing beyond the sky. You might as well say something lived below the seafloor.”
Turner cleared the fog.
Staever screamed. He lacked the strength not to. He’d seen the open sea once or twice, thought nothing in the world could be more desolate–but this black speckled void was hundreds of degrees more empty. The night sky had stretched to cover the entire world, swallowing everything.
His scream died as he hit solid ground, his face streaked with tears he didn’t remember crying.
“That was your Mirror,” Turner said. “It is not benevolent. It is vaster than you will ever understand.”
They were on water again, the Greater Mirror, but without a ship. They stood on a white ribbon of crystal as wide as an Eye thoroughfare, cold and slick to the touch, running past the horizon in either direction.
“You’re lying,” he croaked. “What could live out there?”
“These are memories stuck in the mind. Thoughts of its birthplace.”
Staever found his footing on the slippery rock. Unless he attacked Turner, he could move freely, though what might lie at either end of the crystal road scared him too much to run.
“Ages before the Clearing, when your ancestors scratched life from the desert, this creature made itself known. Its image survives–in the clay temples, on the gates.”
It’s been there all along. This creature from above the sea, following our every step. “Why did it go to sleep?”
“Sleep?” Turner chuckled. “Fine choice of words.”
“The…creature…must be asleep, or you wouldn’t need to awaken it.”
Turner clapped his claws together. “Well done!” He gazed past Staever at the long white road. Staever shivered, though the cold was not real.
Suddenly he was back on the ground, hugging the frigid rock. The lethargy returned, more intense than ever, even in the nightmare: a plush millstone on his limbs. He couldn’t remember how to move.
He labored to shape words. “How…are you doing this…”
“You took its body into yourself,” Turner said. “If I choose, you can feel the pain it’s suffered these thousand years.”
Staever stood up shakily, panic clouding his thoughts. Out! his brain screamed. You can’t survive whatever he’ll do next!
“The sea laid it low,” the Architect went on. “There is a power in your ocean you cannot understand. The creature cannot live as it was meant to on this ocean world.”
“There’s an ocean right under us.”
“This is not your world.”
Staever was trapped so well he couldn’t see the end of the cage. He had to act, but acting against Turner would destroy him. All he could do was learn.
“All the miners, from both cities, have been digging up parts of this thing?”
“Generations of lobsters tore up its body for their ships, their towers, their shells. The more they indulged, the more power I gained. I gathered enough to grant it some of its original properties.”
Staever looked up. The fight flickered at the edge of the stars, a fainter image now. His and Turners’ shell-blades clashed without quite hitting bone. “Why did you seal off the harbor?”
“I needed a cauldron,” the Architect said. “That was the easy part. The mind.”
“Easier than the body?”
“As I said, minds are simple. They arise by accident all the time. The difficult part is preparing a body to receive them. I had to put the clay to use–rebuild form from the chaos the sea left it in.”
“The city? The Great South Wall?”
“You insist on bringing up that wall. I made something more perfect than a wall. Radial symmetry, on the vastest of scales.”
“The bridges…” And thus he’d occupied two hundred years. While Taiga taught him to throw a grappling hook, while he and Wrest collared their first street mark, while the people of the Eye watched their canals fail five hightides of ten, Turner the Architect had been over the mountains, nursing something back to life.
“Why?” he asked. “How?”
“Why did I do it? How did I know what to build?” Turner shook his head. “Little Cuttlefish, you’re running out of time for questions.”
This time they both looked into the fog.
Turner struck the sword out of Staever’s claws. It sailed away to stick in the harbor-side seawall. Staever’s body attacked bare-clawed, but Turner struck him in the face. The gap in the fog widened as he sailed back, revealing Emaria crumpled against the opposite wall.
In the mind, Staever was paralyzed. What could he do–jump out of the nightmare, beg the sea for a miracle? Throw Turner’s projection, a dream he couldn’t fight, into a sea that didn’t exist? It would be so much easier to lie down and let go, let this mind be his mind, give up on Staever the Cuttlefish, a lobster destined for an ill fate anyway…
He closed his mind-eyes, and vanished, starting at the tips of his claws.
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