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Crash! –

Crash the glass and splintering wood she’s through and falling, swaddled in curtains ringing ripped and twisting snap through cracking branches thump and rolling down the slope below, Marfisa finds her feet bat in hand and white hair ghostly in the darkness, leaping down the hillside away from the back of the house to the shadows under the trees, curtains left sprawled on the grass, and from the broken window high above a howl of anguish, of terrible, heart-cracking rage, and

                    Herwydh, who arranges flowers, blinks in wonder at her hands, pale among the blossoms on the counter, then looks up to see Powys at the sink in a blue-shadowed apron, paused in the act of wiping out a pan, “Something’s happened,” he says, and slap and rustle from the hallway strung with yellow lights come running Costurere and Aigulha, aprons and mob caps, tape measure fluttering about Costurere’s neck, “We fell out!” she cries, and “What’s happened,” says Aigulha, glumly, as

                                    a dozen pianos play at once, astringent ringing, sludgy rumbles, skittering trills and scales and maybe even chopsticks in there, hearts and souls, and Bruno, the Hawk’s Shrieve, stands in the midst of all those tarp-draped cabinets that shake, rattle, jerk with the force of the sounds pounded out of them, eyes squeezed shut, hands to his ears, mouth gaped in a bellow drowned by that ruckus, and he pulls from a vest pocket a tiny glassine envelope and tips it over his palm, but what drifts out’s not glittering gold but feathery ashen grey, falling so lightly, without the weight to settle on his skin, and

               Lewis David Coffey, long since retired, stumps across the unlit parlor, lifting an arm to lay clink against the glass of the picture window not a hand but a hand-shape, cast in bronze and beaten with whorls of puckered dots, and outside only a slightly inclined street steeped in darkness, a couple of houses across set close, clapboard and shutters and a dark tumble of hydrangeas, and wails and moans are sobbing through the wall, Meganissi! comes the voice of old Cass nan Sinann from the next apartment over, Fonissa! Artemita! Hush! as

                    embers crackle, dying on the grate, but the Marquess Linesse, Helm of the Court, has set the poker aside, on her knees she turns from the hearth, “Hello?” she says, and what little light’s left gleams the points and edging of the plate that sleeves her arm, “Who’s there?” she says, when the sofa there to one side creaks, a shadow sits abruptly up at the one end, and another at the other, and they both of them begin to scream, and

  Mrs. Upchurch, Frances Upchurch, though that is not her name, regards the intricate graph on the screen of the laptop before her, red points and crosses and green lines rising and falling in sinuous curves that climb from left to right until almost at the edge a frantic leaping abfusion of data that collapses into a single flat red line, shaking her head, those tiny corkscrew curls all brown and gold a-swing, ignoring the phone that’s buzzing on the table before her, as

                          the terrible rage of that anguished howl echoes away in the hall and a shadow, hugely uncertain, turns from the jagged glass, that’s a foot that plants itself on the long pale rug, a hand that braces some unspeakable weight against the wall, those are eyes that blinking take in what they can, squinting at the sight of the broken door askew in its frame at the far end of the hall, and beside it in his blue robe, a dagger in his hand, the Viscount Agravante, Handle of the Axe, agog at what’s forming in the darkness before the broken window, and that’s a throat that rumbles, coughs, spits from what’s becoming lips that sneering roll about a syllable: “You.”

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