by Alter S. Reiss
Arric rode on white horses, on bays and on roans, in ox-carts and in carriages. He wore fine clothing and poor, farmer's hats and trader's breeches. Always moving, always hiding. If the Others learned how far he'd gone and why, he'd die. They didn't. Three months after he set out, he arrived at a ruined city marked forbidden to man.
He crept in at night, as the black metal craft of the Others looped and whirled overhead. He darted from shadow to shadow, through fouled water, past twisted steel and shattered concrete. It took some hours before he found it, a building covered and recovered in paint and filth, looking little different than the ruins around it. "I come from the cape," he whispered to the darkness, "to see the technologist Asher." He gave the password, and hoped that it was worth what it had cost.
A ruined table shifted out of place. "The technologist Asher is dead," said a voice from within. "But come in, quickly."
It was as though he had been taken by the Others, like he'd been stabbed and mounted on a cull spike. All that, wasted? He followed numbly, into a dark, dry tunnel. "I am Asher's apprentice, Nathaniel," said someone, ahead of him.
They came out into a room, and the lights there were not torches or lanterns. They were old things, electric, and Arric let himself once again feel hope. The technologist was dead, but maybe his apprentice knew what was needful. Arric showed the pitted metal box he had brought, crusted over with barnacles and dried seaweed. "This was brought up by a fisherman," he said. "We had hoped that the technologist Asher--"