Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

Words fall like hawks. I know someone is going to die. As the Cantor finishes his brief condemnation, I see her move like a broken mannequin; a ballerina of sudden and grace. There’s a falsetto gurgle that bubbles into a dying sigh. She’s quick tonight; a minor offender. The crowd shivers as she steps back into their world, the sheen of her dermis reflecting candlelight in the way her eyes should.
She moves past me. I decide tonight is the night.
“You move well for a Thorn. Who tutored you in humanity?”
I find myself lifted from the ground by a slim arm that logic dictates should barely be able lift a babe. Her gaze sweeps the room before swinging to me.
“I am self-taught, Sorcerer Masson.”
The Cantor has noticed the disturbance and is heading our way, a trio of Watchmen in his wake. His rapid pace slows and his self-importance seeps away as he falls under our loaded regard. With an upturn of his hands, he spins away, gesturing for his men to follow. They look relieved.
I watch the throng milling about.
“Shall we go quietly or with presence?”
Good question. With a simple neural select, I enable my gate and place my offhand on her shoulder – her throat hold precluding the usual placement at the base of the spine.
“Presence, always.”
I slip us through the gate with an ease I’ll pay for tomorrow. To the masses we leave, the Thorn and the Technomancer simply vanish. To us, we drift a few paces to land in my quarters at Highcrag. While my ‘droids frantically rush about, I turn to the matter at hand.
I croak: “Could you possibly put me down please, Theresa?”
She smiles and sets me down.
“My apologies, father.”
I stop what I intended and place all the droids into hibernation, erasing that sentence from their memories as I do so.
“You remember?”
“All of us do, to a greater or lesser extent. Those who can live with that are those who join the Thorns. The others end themselves.”
A detail comes clear.
“The ‘training incidents’?”
She nods.
“What do you remember?”
“That mother killed me and you ended her before I finished falling.”
I swallow. Penny’s descent into homicidal rage had been inevitable. The sudden onset of that deterioration caught me by surprise. It cost me my child, or so I’d thought.
“Before that?”
“Everything, I think. The final part of coming back involves confronting the Death Guard – the stored consciousness of every Thorn that ever fell. It left my memory a bit jumbled up.”
Mind to mind versus over two hundred puissant killers?
“That must have been hard.”
“In truth, most are simply happy for someone new to talk with. I think I’m the only one who stays in touch, though.”
“You can talk with the Death Guard?”
“All Thorns and ’mancers can. It’s not publicised. We’ve done the Union Gold’s dirty work for centuries, after all.”
“What of you knowing me?”
“Let’s not publicise that, either. Besides, the Death Guard like tales of intrigue in exchange for their secrets.”
“How do we do this?”
“Come up with a project that requires you visit Stormcrag regularly. I’ll always be your guardian.”
“What then?”
“We continue seeking the truths of the Union Rose Uprising. We’re family again. Do we need anything else?”
I shake my head.
“Shall I call transport?”
“I’ve already signalled for one.”
“Can I get a hug my from daughter before she leaves for work?”
She laughs and wraps her arms around me.