Clockwork dragonfly takes Gustav, Valefarion, Darius and Pedro to the desert. Meeting with the Windwalker of the desert nomads hints at dark things. Meanwhile, Aurelio's corpse is stolen from the chapterhouse. Keinon and Siria pursue the culprit. One of the retinue bodyguards is emotionally scarred.
A letter from Keinon Rolal to his friend at the Arx Machinus.
My Most Cherished Friend;
I hope this letter finds You well;
Matters here have grown grim like the Gloom which I used to love so in the bloom of my youth; I feel my countenance darken, too, in a fearful symmetry, with every piece of alarming news Our Party receives. The enigma of the Nuntius appears to run ever deeper than our Employers anticipated; a fact to which I alluded to earlier, though I durst not repeat those words, even in Written... You recall the frightful information I relayed to You... The matter is not confirmed nor refuted; indeed further information has done little to dispel my Fears...
Allow me to explain, briefly, so as not to bore You with this accursed place and the wretched people herein... They, too, feel the pressure of the nameless oppression that lurks these desolate halls; After my brief discussion with the resident Golemist, one Horatio, he has begun to conduct himself in a manner I find most strange: he is overly optimistic and trustful of the future. And what more, as the esteemed Ms. Liam discovered, to our shared horror and dismay, that the Golemist had shut down his Conduit. To willingly do such a thing! Dionysos, the former Machinus Elder, has manifested a congruent, yet certainly differing, flux in humour; he has taken, with a decided ardour, indeed a mania, to using substances of every kind one can conjure in fancy. I gave him the Nuntius Aurelio's final Recording, for I discovered it was, indeed, meant for Dionysos by the Deceased. The former evidently viewed the fateful piece, and has since started painting the Man Fractal. I consider this a fulfilling of a final wish; the relinquishing of the Record to Dionysos; my Conscience is clear though I may be reprimanded.
To speak of the dead, the body of the Nuntius was found stolen. The Symbol Graves within the Chapter House mortuary were opened, also, yet nothing was touched. Only the Remains of Aurelio had been taken; this remained a vexatious puzzle to me, until my friend Valefarion radio'ed us, having discussed the situation with the esteemed Ms. Liam, saying she must have been taken to the surgical chamber of the Conduit-flesh earlier discovered by my friend Gustav; he was, indeed, morbidly correct, for what we discovered there was the mauled, nay, desecrated, Body of the Nuntius; the chamber had been used to attempt a surgical removal of her Conduit, firstly proceeding in the godly order, but, perhaps after sensing our proximity, making a hasteful work, unceremoniously resolving to severing the Nuntius' head and Vertebral Column. The fiendish creature, of which we saw not a glimpse, took the Conduit with it. Alas, it only occurred to me after the creature had attempted it, that we ourselves could have used the chamber to delve deeply into Aurelio's heart of hearts. I do blame myself terribly for this foolish oversight; it was I, after all, who was in the position of responsibility in this issue.
There is an emergent outside, though perhaps incident, threat; a tribe of Desert People, naming themselves the Red Jackals, have bordered the town, Gharda, and the Head of Security, Paramon, has resolved to mine the tunnels of the Mine, in fear of the Jackals attempting invasion of the Chapter House. I find myself overly concerned by this; I find the tunnels oppressive as they presently are; without the added terror of accidentally exploding. Provoked by this, my friends Gustav and Valefarion have left for the Desert, to commune with another Tribe, and, specifically, the Shaman of said Tribe, in the wish to discover another key to this relentlessly unyielding lock. It was known that Aurelio had made this trip whilst alive on more than one occasion; where ever she walked, they will walk; what ever she saw, they will see; what ever she found, they will find.
On a personal note, if such can to this sordid Letter amended be, by the Supreme Machine's Gift, Lumen tells me the esteemed Ms. Liam has taken a curious interest in, of all the people, her; sometimes they hold brief discussions of various personal degrees; sometimes the esteemed Ms. Liam simply observes as Lumen goes about her daily tasks and recreations. I admit not having taken notice, as the esteemed Ms. Liam fulfills her duties and attends social gatherings with the piety of any proper Voluptas. I find myself anguished over this; for Lumen is my Body, she is my Weakness; she suffers from the Condition I myself used to know so intimately.
Xe grows stronger, in xir recess, confided in this sordid castle, in the middle of this desert; I can feel it. I asked, verily, I begged, Lumen to hold the vile box; I cannot stand its presence; yet xe tells me, should I be rid of the immediate presence of the casket, xe will rise, and pluck Lumen's eyes out with my own hand. Xe holds onto that box so jealously; like a desert-thing guards her nest, xe guards that casket. Xe tells me xe binds xir time; well, I do likewise...
I wake up, every morning, feeling the vile casket has moved, ever so slightly, during the nocturnal hours, closer to my bed.
Blessing of the God-Machine be unto You, My Friend;
Yours Ever Faithfully, So Long as this Earthly Vessel Sustains Me...