001. On A Tear

He had been there for an age, cloistered, working away. Map upon map drawn and stacked. Stories compressed into placename markers attached to geological formations; he knew many landscapes like the back of his hand. He was becoming an atlas; an Atlas, holding up the world.

The knock at the door was unexpected, but not unwelcome. Coran Andress had given him The Binder to work with, and there were protocols written into the substrate of the localspace here that worked to keep it obscure. Sometimes he laughed at the fact that a mapmaker couldn’t be mapped.

He didn’t recognise the man, but he didn’t expect to. But the man looked at him with recognition. He didn’t like to have someone have the upper hand like that, but he also knew that given the people he often ended up working with, that was part and parcel of the game he was playing.

‘Hello, Martello. How are you?’

‘I’m well. Who are you? How did you find this place, and how do you know my name?’

‘I am The Tulpamancer. Coran Andress is a foreign actor in this theatre, and I am the anti-body, dispatched by the director of all actions herein, come to remove foreign bodies.’

‘What are you here for? Are you here to remove me?’

‘No, you are a control mechanism. A part of you will be rewritten. What I am here for is the map to Ardenti In Mundo.’

‘How did you know about that?’

‘I have Readers that are at my service; part of the Over-Library, who analyse the text of this world, and they read the event with you and Andress. So, where is the map?’

‘I was told that he would come for it – not that others would come for it.’

‘Well, he is not an unimportant figure, so you should not be surprised I am here. In fact, I am surprised I am the first.’

‘You aren’t, but you’re the first one not to be deterred by the barrier.’

‘OK. Look, I can find it by myself, but I’d rather you volunteered it.’

‘It’s the largest one. Top shelf.’

‘I see it.’

‘What are you going to do?’

‘I am booting up a Blue Pen Protocol – it’s going to hack the book and split it.’

‘Split it?’

‘Yes. It is going to tear AIM in half.’

‘To what ends?’

‘We cannot destroy him, but we can lock part of him away in another consciousness. We can give that other consciousness a different trajectory.’

‘What are you going to call it?’

‘The King Under It All. I’m only OK with telling you because you are going to forget it all.’

‘How does it work?’

‘Two maps, and a key.’

‘So he could be put back together?’

‘Of course. If anyone works it out in time.’

‘And what is the key?’

‘A where, not a what.’

‘Get them in the same place, and …’

‘Yes, that’s how it goes..’

‘So, when?’

‘It’s done.’

‘And me?’

‘You will lose the King and the First Dragon. Here amongst your books, you will have lost the greatest secret of this world.’

‘Pardon me, who are you?’

‘Me? No one. I just got in here by mistake.’

‘Oh,’ he said, turning back to his maps. And The Tulpamancer left. Ardenti In Mundo broken in two from that moment forward.



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