That slow sick spread of certainty: he has spent weeks, months, both evading and cinching the net ever tighter. The streets are dark with crematory smoke, greasy with ash. Those who can, leave; run for the cleaner air of the hills, the safety of the monasteries. Those who must stay bar their doors, cover their heads and eyes with ruby glass, tattoo gargoyles and demons on their arms against sickness.

Superstitious nonsense.

He has forged his chains himself, from brutal logic: cause and effect in terrible array. He has studied charts and stars, the movement of mice across the temple steps, the simple tests of cards and books. He has worn his eyes ragged in the lab. No. The signs are clear. He is cause and generation of this plague; it is his sin, his crime, that grips the city, that runs red and joyous through the shuttered houses and the empty streets.

And now?

He climbs the five thousand steps from the water to the cliff top and looks out and down at his city, Albion, Albion on the winedark sea. He has bled and suffered for its glory, fought against the seeping corruption eating at its bones, dosed its worm-raddled heart with bitter tonic. Weeping, gnashing his teeth, he turns his face to the white line of the desert and flees.