I was tempted to follow just for the pleasure of pushing him in. Although … could the Corporalki fix my blushing? I shook the ridiculous thought from my head. The day I asked a Corporalnik to tend to my blushes was the day I’d be laughed out of the Little Palace.
Nikolai had stopped on the gravel path, halfway down to the lake, and I joined him there. He pointed to a strip of beach on the far shore, a short distance from the school. “I want to construct a pier there,” he said.
“So I can rebuild the Hummingbird.”
“You really can’t keep still, can you? Don’t you have enough on your plate?”
He squinted out at the glittering surface of the lake. “Alina, I’m hoping we can find a way to defeat the Darkling. But if we can’t, we need a way to get you out.”
I stared at him. “What about the rest of the Grisha?”
“There’s nothing I can do for them.”
I couldn’t quite believe what he was suggesting. “I’m not going to run.”
“I had a feeling you’d say that,” he said with a sigh.
“And you?” I said angrily. “Are you just going to fly away and leave the rest of us to face the Darkling?”
“Come now,” he said. “You know I’ve always wanted a hero’s funeral.” He looked back at the lake. “I’m happy to go down fighting, but I don’t want my parents left to the Darkling’s mercy. Will you give me two Squallers to train?”
“They’re not gifts, Nikolai,” I said, thinking of the way the Darkling had made a present of Genya to the Queen. “But I’ll ask for volunteers. Just don’t tell them what it’s for. I don’t want the others to get discouraged.” Or start vying for places aboard the craft. “And one more thing,” I said. “I want you to make room for Baghra. She shouldn’t have to face the Darkling again. She’s been through enough.”
“Of course,” he said, then added, “I still believe we can win, Alina.”
I’m glad someone does, I thought dismally, and turned to go inside.
DAVID HAD MANAGED to slip away again after the last council meeting, and it was late the following evening before I had a free moment to corner him in the Fabrikator workrooms. I found him hunched over a pile of blueprints, his fingers stained with ink.
I settled myself on a stool beside him and cleared my throat. He looked up, blinking owlishly. He was so pale I could see the blue tracery of veins through his skin, and someone had given him a very bad haircut.
Probably did it himself, I thought with an inward shake of my head. It was hard to believe that this was the boy Genya had fallen so hard for.
His eyes flicked to the collar at my neck. He began to fidget with the items on his worktable, moving them around and arranging them in careful lines: a compass, graphite pencils, pens and pots of ink in different colors, pieces of clear and mirrored glass, a hard-boiled egg that I assumed was his dinner, and page after page of drawings and plans that I couldn’t begin to make sense of.
“What are you working on?” I asked.
He blinked again. “Dishes.”
“Reflective bowls,” he said. “Based on a parabola.”
“How … interesting?” I managed.
He scratched his nose, leaving a giant blue smudge along the ridge. “It might be a way to magnify your power.”
“Like the mirrors in my gloves?” I’d asked that the Durasts remake them. With the power of two amplifiers, I probably didn’t need them. But the mirrors allowed me to focus and pinpoint light, and there was something comforting in the control they gave me.
“Sort of,” said David. “If I get it right, it will be a much bigger way to use the Cut.”
“And if you get it wrong?”
“Either nothing will happen, or whoever’s operating it will be blown to bits.”
“I thought so too,” he said without a hint of humor, and bent back to his work.
“David,” I said. He looked up, startled, as if he’d completely forgotten I was there. “I need to ask you something.”
His gaze darted to the collar again, then back to his worktable.
“What can you tell me about Ilya Morozova?”
David twitched, glancing around the nearly empty room. Most of the Fabrikators were still at dinner. He was clearly nervous, maybe even frightened.
He looked at the table, picked up his compass, put it down.
Finally, he whispered, “They called him the Bonesmith.”
A quiver passed through me. I thought of the fingers and vertebrae lying on the peddlers’ tables in Kribirsk. “Why?” I asked. “Because of the amplifiers he discovered?”
David looked up, surprised. “He didn’t find them. He made them.”
I didn’t want to believe what I was hearing. “Merzost?”
He nodded. So that was why David had looked at Morozova’s collar when Zoya asked if any Grisha had ever had such power. Morozova had been playing with the same forces as the Darkling. Magic. Abomination.
“How?” I asked.
“No one knows,” David said, glancing over his shoulder again. “After the Black Heretic was killed in the accident that created the Fold, his son came out of hiding to take control of the Second Army. He had all of Morozova’s journals destroyed.”
His son? Again, I was faced with the knowledge of how few people knew the Darkling’s secret. The Black Heretic had never died—there had only ever been one Darkling, a single powerful Grisha who had ruled the Second Army for generations, hiding his true identity. As far as I knew, he’d never had a son. And there was no way he would destroy something as valuable as Morozova’s journals. Aboard the whaler, he’d said not all the books prohibited the combination of amplifiers. Maybe he’d been referring to Morozova’s own writings.
“Why was his son in hiding?” I asked, curious as to how the Darkling had managed to frame such a deception.
This time David frowned as if the answer were obvious. “A Darkling and his heir never live at the Little Palace at the same time. The risk of assassination is too great.”
“I see,” I said. Plausible enough, and after hundreds of years, I doubted anyone would question such a story. The Grisha did love their traditions, and Genya couldn’t have been the first Tailor the Darkling had kept in his employ. “Why would he have had the journals destroyed?”
“They documented Morozova’s experiments with amplifiers. The Black Heretic was trying to re-create those experiments when something went wrong.”
The hair rose on my arms. “And the result was the Fold.”
David nodded. “His son had all of Morozova’s journals and papers burned. He said they were too dangerous, too much of a temptation to any Grisha. That’s why I didn’t say anything at the meeting. I shouldn’t even know they ever existed.”
“So how do you?”
David looked around the almost empty workshop again. “Morozova was a Fabrikator, maybe the first, certainly the most powerful. He did things that no one’s ever dreamed of before or since.” He gave a sheepish shrug. “To us, he’s kind of a hero.”
“Do you know anything else about the amplifiers he created?”
David shook his head. “There were rumors of others, but the stag was the only one I’d ever heard of.”
It was possible David had never even seen the Istorii Sankt’ya. The Apparat had claimed that the book was once given to all Grisha children when they arrived at the Little Palace. But that was long ago. The Grisha put their faith in the Small Science, and I’d never known them to bother with religion. Superstition, the Darkling had called the red book. Peasant propaganda. Clearly David hadn’t made the connection between Sankt Ilya and Ilya Morozova. Or he had something to hide.
“David,” I said, “why are you here? You fashioned the collar. You must have known what he intended.”
He swallowed. “I knew he would be able to control you, that the collar would allow him to use your power. But I never thought, I never believed … all those people…” He struggled to find the words. Finally, he held out his ink-stained hands and said, almost pleadingly. “I make things. I don’t destroy them.”
I wanted to believe that he had underestimated the Darkling’s ruthlessness. I’d certainly made the same mistake. But he might be lying or he might just be weak. Which is worse? asked a harsh voice in my head. If he can change sides once, he can do it again. Was it Nikolai’s voice? The Darkling’s? Or was it just the part of me that had learned to trust no one?
“Good luck with the dishes,” I said as I rose to leave.
David hunched over his papers. “I don’t believe in luck.”
Too bad, I thought. We’re going to need some.
* * *
I WENT STRAIGHT from the Fabrikator workrooms to the library and spent most of the night there. It was an exercise in frustration. The Grisha histories I searched had only the most basic information on Ilya Morozova, despite the fact that he was considered the greatest Fabrikator who ever lived. He had invented Grisha steel, a method of making unbreakable glass, and a compound for liquid fire so dangerous that he destroyed the formula just twelve hours after he created it. But any mentions of amplifiers or the Bonesmith had been expunged.
That didn’t stop me from returning the next evening to bury myself in religious texts and any reference I could find to Sankt Ilya. Like most Saints’ tales, the story of his martyrdom was depressingly brutal: One day, a plow had overturned in the fields behind his home. Hearing the screams, Ilya ran to help, only to find a man weeping over his dead son, the boy’s body torn open by the blades, the ground soaked through with his blood. Ilya had brought the boy back to life—and the villagers had thanked him for it by clapping him in irons and tossing him into a river to sink beneath the weight of his chains.
The details were hopelessly muddy. Sometimes Ilya was a farmer, sometimes a mason or a woodworker. He had two daughters or one son or no children at all. A hundred different villages claimed to be the site of his martyrdom. Then, there was the small problem of the miracle he’d performed. I had no problem believing that Sankt Ilya might be a Corporalnik Healer, but Ilya Morozova was supposed to be a Fabrikator. What if they weren’t the same person at all?
At night, the glass-domed room was lit by oil lamps, and the hush was so deep that I could hear myself breathe. Alone in the gloom, surrounded by books, it was hard not to feel overwhelmed. But the library seemed like my best hope, so I kept at it. Tolya found me there one evening, curled up in my favorite chair, struggling to make sense out of a text in ancient Ravkan.
“You shouldn’t come here at night without one of us,” he said grumpily.
I yawned and stretched. I was probably more in danger of a shelf falling on me than anything else, but I was too tired to argue. “Won’t happen again,” I said.