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You catch your breath, sheltered from eyes that burn like condensed suns by the arm of a statue-warrior as the rush of wings settles into silence. At this hour, you only have the false-stars and lamplight by which to see and, while this wouldn't be the first merry goose chase you'd been led on in pursuit of the Vake, you've found the pretenders never manage to hold up under scrutiny even by the faintest light; you don't doubt that this is the Vake, regardless of its noted tendency to avoid the Forgotten Quarter like the plague.

The moment its leathery wings are folded, a voice bubbles up from the Fourth City's single surviving well, hoarse as one recently drowned. For such a watery sound, it burns with hatred. In a startling moment of self-preservation, you manage to clamp your hands over your ears before the words can settle in your mind.

For its part, the Vake dips one hand into the well-water, claws drifting through it with something approximating absentmindedness. When it speaks, it is not in the disjointed shriek that echoed in the cavernous space beneath the Neath and raced through your dreams - that much you can tell despite doing your d____est not to listen at all.

Then, there is a taste like ash in the air, the surface of the mirror-black water roiling, and your thoughts are like candlewax in the presence of a strong flame. You think you catch a glimpse of starlight bursting like phosphenes before your eyes.

With what might be either a hiss or a laugh, the creature withdraws its hand from the water, wings spreading in some mockery you can only see the impression of. All at once, it is gone, taking the cacophony of the well with it.

You sift through your tattered thoughts. There is an inkling of something in your mind, some clue as to the significance of what you have seen, but it bleeds away like letters on damp parchment.

Still, starlight dances under your eyelids that night.