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The rule for solving a maze is this: put your shoulder to a wall and walk. This works less well for a maze with doors in it, but Aldous knows better than to try mapmaking. The rooms here don’t play fair.

The library, for instance, is stalking her. She keeps smelling it behind her, dust and wood acid and the cruel alchemy of glue. She doesn’t trust it, but it must be trying to tell her something.

She enters, finally, and pulls a book down expecting blank pages. Instead it’s full of handwritten names: Cording, Cordovan, Corey, Corinna, Corinne, Corwin, Cosette.


“People have tried this before, you know,” says Corinne.

“What, strapping a koan to a lawnmower?” Manolo laughs, scampering, tightening bolts. “And had any of them ever built a lawnmower? Of course not! Prayer wheels only work because you can comprehend a cylinder on an axis. The prayers count as yours because they still fit inside your mind.”

“And you can fit all this?”

“Name a part,” he says, “I can tell you when I installed it.”

Corinne blinks. “You built it from–”

“Every manifold,” he says, grinning, “every belt,” and when he cranks the key the Blessing Engine roars alive.