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See Me

See Me feels ice burn away from his fingertips, his nose, his chest, and he racks his body with choking sobs. Water gouts from his mouth and he claws at the floor, unable to stand or feel the Wish Power. Cold. Terror. There was someone here, someone he had to fight, his sword–his Princess–in danger–

“Just relax for a moment,” croaks an awful voice. “You’re free of the fleshscrub swaddling. You have hibernation sickness.”

“I can’t see,” See Me chokes.

“Your eyesight will return in time.”

“Who are you?”

“Someone who loves you,” coos the Speaker, stroking his face.

See Me

The Born Breathing are too many, too relentless. See Me swings his sword helplessly, but as he blocks one blow, another bamboo staff cracks his shoulders, his knees, his abdomen. Blood in his eyes: the wound of his missing hand is reopened. He sobs.

“You are beaten,” purrs the Speaker. “It is useless to resist. Don’t let yourself be destroyed as Ratio Tile did.”

“Don’t make me destroy you!” See Me roars.

“You do not yet realize your importance,” sniffs the Speaker. The Wish Power is like a breaking wave, and See Me a twig: he tumbles down into the freezing fountain.

Reaching the West Reaches

Reaching the West Reaches pads along bamboo causeways with an ease he could never have managed before. Ahead of him flits a blue shade: The Plum Of, in her ghostly robes. He stalks her like a shark in the shallows.

The Wish Power thrums through him, carrying images. See Me is elsewhere on this cloudbound island, the Speaker elsewhere still, and at the center is the source of the mist, a fount of icy froth. It waits to ensnare a victim.

None of this matters.

Keep looking, whispers The Plum Of, somewhere ahead of him. Keep looking. Our daughters are here.

Dog Shouting

The Loveblind Bird lies beached on a heaving gray shore, deep in the half-flooded grotto. Strange white bats chirp and circle them as Dog Shouting prowls around the ship with a sling dangling from one hand. The Princess Leaves follows, and her lantern casts leaping shadows.

“You’re trembling,” observes Dog Shouting.

“I’m not trembling,” the princess says, but her eyes keep casting back to the cave entrance: See Me’s absence is silent and heavy between them.

“I have a bad feeling about this,” she mutters.

Dog Shouting whips a sling stone at one of the bats.

That doesn’t go well.

See Me

The Heavenly armada’s icebreakers shriek and boom, furnace-heated bronze hydrofoils throwing gouts of steam, but they’re not fast enough to reach the Mjish Binn base: that’s what their cargo is for. The noise of the war-saddled mammoths charging matches even the ships.

See Me straps into his snowsled while Scoop Dozen runs up the sail. “Feeling all right, sir?” Scoop calls.

“Just like new, Scoop. How about you?”

“Right now I feel I could take on the Heavens myself!”

“I know what you mean,” murmurs See Me, his blood hot and thrilling with the memory of his Princess’s skin.

See Me

See Me is a silver fish flitting through mangrove shallows. Sometimes he sees other places: the future, or the past, or old friends long gone. Ships skim. Dog Shouting screams. Ratio Tile and Reaching the West Reaches converse, watched by a little green man.

As his wrist heals, they wean him gently off the opium, and the dreams give way to the glowing braziers of the hospital cave. Finally, he finds himself fully awake. The Princess is there, in the darkness: her breath in his ear, her hand beneath the sheets.

“It’s good,” she whispers, “to see you fully functional again.”

Reaching the West Reaches

“The goddess was bathing, and so she carved a sandalwood boy to stand guard,” mutters Reaching the West Reaches. The cave is dark, and his broken sword will not light the way. “But he was curious, and looked upon his mother in the bath; and her husband arrived home to find them–”

See Me leaps out, sword whole and gleaming. Reaching the West Reaches parries and feints, strikes, strikes again.

See Me’s head rolls to a stop. His own lacquer eyes look up from it.

“So the god cursed the boy,” he pants, “with an elephant’s head, too heavy to bear…”

See Me

See Me wakes, too cold to tremble, head down on a pile of bones. By the dim light of the cave mouth, he stands like a drunken mannikin and finds one splintered femur tight in his fist.

The monster is on him before he reaches the light. See Me cracks ribs on an icy wall and sees his own sword, a toy in the gray beast-man’s hand.

See Me lunges and stabs: clumsy, but good enough. Hot blood sprays his eyes. A high-pitched scream, and sudden pain, and a curious feeling of lightness at the end of his arm.

See Me

They meet atop the sixth of eleven mounds, the reliefs cut into their chalky flesh buried in the howling storm. The great dogs bell and shake off the snow already crusting on their flanks; Dog Shouting and See Me grip their saddle horns to stay seated.

“There isn’t enough life on this ice-rock to fill a cruiser’s hold,” snorts Dog Shouting. “The traps are set. I’m going back.”

“I’ll follow shortly. There’s a piece of moonstone that hit the ground near here.”

Dog Shouting frowns at him.

“I want to check it out,” shrugs See Me. “It won’t take long.”

Reaching the West Reaches

The Loveblind Bird plumes dust, skidding down the wall of the canyon on a single foil. Bolts shatter the water. The Heavenly orbs are spinning shards of hot metal; one slices through See Me’s sail.

“You’re all clear, kid!” roars Dog Shouting.

See Me leans forward and drives his proa toward the tunnel, down into the heart of the moon.

Deep below, turning slowly, Reaching the West Reaches breathes hazy clockwork air. Something goes bright above him; seconds later, the water picks him up and carries him away at impossible speed.

He shuts the lacquer lids of his eyes and Wishes.

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