Home > The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth #3)(9)

The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth #3)(9)
Author: N. K. Jemisin

 

“What will you do with it?” Nassun asks, staring at the clenched hand. She cannot help imagining something malevolent there, snaking its tendrils forth and looking for another person to infect with the Evil Earth’s will.

 

“I don’t know,” Schaffa says in a heavy voice. “It’s no danger to me, but I remember that in…” He frowns for a moment, visibly groping for a memory that is gone. “That once, elsewhere, we simply recycled them. Here, I suppose I’ll have to find somewhere isolated to drop it, and hope no one stumbles across it anytime soon. What will you do with that?”

 

Nassun follows his gaze to where the sapphire longknife, untended, has floated around behind her and positioned itself in the air, hovering precisely a foot away from her back. It moves slightly with her movements, humming faintly. She doesn’t understand why it’s doing that, though she takes some comfort from its looming, quiescent strength. “I guess I should put it back.”

 

“How did you…?”

 

“I just needed it. It knew what I needed and changed for me.” Nassun shrugs a little. It’s so hard to explain these things in words. Then she clutches at his shirt with her uninjured hand, because she knows that when Schaffa doesn’t answer a question, it isn’t a good thing. “The others, Schaffa.”

 

He sighs finally. “I’ll help them prepare packs. Can you walk?”

 

Nassun’s so relieved that for the moment she feels like she can fly. “Yes. Thank you. Thank you, Schaffa!”

 

He shakes his head, clearly rueful, though he smiles again. “Go to your father’s house and take anything useful and portable, little one. I’ll meet you there.”

 

She hesitates. If Schaffa decides to kill the other children of Found Moon… He won’t, will he? He’s said he won’t.

 

Schaffa pauses, raising an eyebrow above his smile, the picture of polite, calm inquiry. It’s an illusion. The silver is still a lashing whip within Schaffa, trying to goad him into killing her. He must be in astonishing pain. He resists the goad, however, as he has for weeks. He does not kill her, because he loves her. And she can trust nothing, no one, if she does not trust him.

 

“Okay,” Nassun says. “I’ll see you at Daddy’s.”

 

As she pulls away from him, she glances at Steel, who has turned to face Schaffa as well. Somewhere in the past few breaths, Steel has gotten the blood off his lips. She doesn’t know how. But he has held out one gray hand toward them – no. Toward Schaffa. Schaffa tilts his head at this for a moment, considering, and then after a moment he deposits the bloody iron shard into Steel’s hand. Steel’s hand flicks closed, then uncurls again, slowly, as if performing a sleight-of-hand trick. But the iron shard is gone. Schaffa inclines his head in polite thanks.

 

Her two monstrous protectors, who must cooperate on her care. Yet is Nassun not a monster, too? Because the thing that she sensed just before Jija came to kill her – that spike of immense power, concentrated and amplified by dozens of obelisks working in tandem? Steel has called this the Obelisk Gate: a vast and complex mechanism created by the deadciv that built the obelisks, for some unfathomable purpose. Steel has also mentioned a thing called the Moon. Nassun has heard the stories; once, long ago, Father Earth had a child. That child’s loss is what angered him and brought about the Seasons.

 

The tales offer a message of impossible hope, and a mindless expression that lorists use to intrigue restless audiences. One day, if the Earth’s child ever returns… The implication is that, someday, Father Earth might be appeased at last. Someday, the Seasons might end and all could become right with the world.

 

Except fathers will still try to murder their orogene children, won’t they? Even if the Moon comes back. Nothing will ever stop that.

 

Bring home the Moon, Steel has said. End the world’s pain.

 

Some choices aren’t choices at all, really.

 

Nassun wills the sapphire to come hover before her again. She can sess nothing in the wake of Umber and Nida’s negation, but there are other ways to perceive the world. And amid the flickering un-water of the sapphire, as it unmakes and remakes itself from the concentrated immensity of silver light stored within its crystal lattice, there is a subtle message written in equations of force and balance that Nassun solves instinctively, with something other than math.

 

Far away. Across the unknown sea. Her mother may hold the Obelisk Gate’s key, but Nassun learned on the ash roads that there are other ways to open any gate – hinges to pop, ways to climb over or dig under. And far away, on the other side of the world, is a place where Essun’s control over the Gate can be subverted.

 

“I know where we need to go, Schaffa,” Nassun says.

 

He eyes her for a moment, his gaze flicking to Steel and back. “Do you, now?”

 

“Yes. It’s a really long way, though.” She bites her lip. “Will you go with me?”

 

He inclines his head, his smile wide and warm. “Anywhere, my little one.”

 

Nassun lets out a long breath of relief, smiling up at him tentatively. Then she deliberately turns her back on Found Moon and its corpses, and walks down the hill without ever once looking back.

***

2729 Imperial: Witnesses in the comm of Amand (Dibba Quartent, western Nomidlats) report an unregistered rogga female opening up a gas pocket near the town. Unclear what gas was; killed in seconds, purpling of tongue, suffocation rather than toxicity? Both? Another rogga female reportedly stopped the first one’s effort, somehow, and shunted the gas back into the vent before sealing it. Amand citizens shot both as soon as possible to prevent further incidents. Gas pocket assessed by Fulcrum as substantial – enough to have killed most people and livestock in western half of Nomidlats, with follow-up topsoil contamination. Initiating female age seventeen, reacting to reported molester of younger sister. Quelling female age seven, sister of first.

— Project notes of Yaetr Innovator Dibars

 

 

Syl Anagist: Five

 

 

“Houwha,” says a voice behind me.

 

(Me? Me.)

 

I turn from the stinging window and the garden of winking flowers. A woman stands with Gaewha and one of the conductors, and I do not know her. To the eyes, she is one of them – skin a soft allover brown, eyes gray, hair black-brown and curling in ropes, tall. There are hints of other in the breadth of her face – or perhaps, viewing this memory now through the lens of millennia, I see what I want to see. What she looks like is irrelevant. To my sessapinae, her kinship to us is as obvious as Gaewha’s puffy white hair. She exerts a pressure upon the ambient that is a churning, impossibly heavy, irresistible force. This makes her as much one of us as if she’d been decanted from the same biomagestric mix.

 

(You look like her. No. I want you to look like her. That is unfair, even if it’s true; you are like her, but in other ways than mere appearance. My apologies for reducing you in such a way.)

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