She couldn’t help.
Suzy trudged gloomily away from the elevator, the noise of regular House activity temporarily drowning her thoughts. Monday’s Dayroom had been close to silent after Arthur’s departure, and Suzy had slipped away quickly once she was certain that Dame Primus was too focused on clearing her Agenda. She doubted her earlier efforts to help Arthur by delaying the first three Parts of the Will would go unpunished, so there was no merit to sticking around.
Besides, she had to think.
The Glorious Army of the Architect did not take volunteers. One hundred years of service, and then Arthur could leave – but they didn’t have a hundred years. The recruiting officer, Crossroot or Crossplate or some other daft name, had made it quite clear that there was no way into the Army without being drafted. So what to do? Even Leaf was of more help to Arth-
Leaf. Of course.
Even if she did get the pocket from the Skinless Boy, there was no way she could get it to the House without help. If Suzy helped Leaf get the pocket, she’d be helping to keep Arthur’s family safe.
Suzy grinned and turned back towards the elevator. All she needed to do was gather a few supplies. Avoiding mortals would be no problem with a little help...
Well, she hadn’t quite expected that.
Suzy collected a fourth pistol from the rack and added it to her belt, absentmindedly searching for more ammunition. She hadn’t expected to be accosted by Saturday’s Noon in the Front Door, but it made sense – she’d known the remaining Trustees were not likely to simply allow their plans to be disrupted.
She hadn’t expected to find that she had already done her service in the Army either, but then as a Piper’s child it was extremely unlikely that she would have remembered it. What had been more of a surprise was Thursday’s plan to attack via the Improbable Stair with a force of Piper’s children. If the enemy really was led by the Piper, then Suzy could not see how they were likely to get out of this in one piece.
“Well, ‘s not like I owe him any favours,” Suzy muttered as she left the rows of pistols and started browsing for anything else that might be handy. Even if the Piper had been the cause of their immortality – if you could call it that – Suzy felt little obligation to serve him, and she doubted any of the other Piper’s children did either. But obligation mattered little if your enemy was a powerful Denizen who most likely had some way of forcing you to obey him anyway.
An impressive-looking gun caught her eye, and Suzy toyed with the idea of taking it along before reluctantly putting it back. There was no time to figure out how it worked. All they could do now was go along with the assault on the spike and hope it worked.
She rather wished she’d brought some biscuits with her.
The thing about being bound to obey someone is that it tends to limit conversation.
Suzy massaged her throat as she got up from the snow. The Piper had never actually given them any orders, but Suzy had never been one to refrain from complaining. Unfortunately said complaining often ended with a remark about how she wouldn’t follow the Piper’s order if it meant killing her friends, and so Suzy had ended up on the ground rather often.
At least their guard hadn’t been ordered to bring them back either.
It could have been worse, Suzy supposed. For one thing, they were away from the Piper, and that meant no orders. On the other hand, they were out in the snow, their uniforms didn’t quite protect against the cold, she couldn’t see any shelter on the horizon, and every so often Suzy thought she could hear an eerie shriek.
Despite all of that, things were looking up a bit. There was absolutely no chance that she’d get scolded by Old Primey now (although Suzy suspected that she would probably get disintegrated instead) and despite the swirling wind and snow she thought she could see a building ahead of them.
Perhaps they would actually make it there before getting frostbite.
That hadn’t gone very well either.
Suzy wiggled one foot until she started spinning clockwise again. Hanging from a crane 16,000 feet above the ground was much better than being killed, but it was also rather dull. The wind and rain weren’t helping matters, although they seemed to be easing a bit.
She glanced into the tower as she spun slowly past it. The two Denizens guarding her had not done anything interesting in the past few hours; one was sitting at the base of the crane reading a large, leather-bound book, and the other had started pacing up and down in front of the door to the rest of the tower. There was an ivory chess set on one of the desks, and Suzy wondered if anyone would miss a piece or two by the time she got down.
The wind stopped. Suzy hoped it was a good sign.
What was going on?
They had won, she was sure. Arthur had done it.
So why did something feel wrong?
Something snapped, and Suzy and the others in the Elysium stared as Dame Primus and the Seventh Part of the Will merged, becoming a towering column of blazing words.
I am the Will of the Architect. Let the Will be done.
The world roared, and Nothing crashed into the Incomparable Gardens.
Suzy had barely started reaching for her sword when everything stopped, just as suddenly as it had begun. She attempted to speak, but her entire body was frozen in place, unable to even blink.
A high wall of Nothing surrounded the area where Suzy, Leaf, Fred, Dr. Scamandros, Giac, Lord Sunday, and Arthur remained. The Will was still a tower of words, and it seemed to Suzy that it was burning brighter than before. It hurt her eyes, but she couldn’t look away.
Scamandros began to say something, but Suzy didn’t hear, trying her hardest to somehow break free of what held her in place-
The Old One stepped out of the wall of Nothing.
Suzy didn’t listen to the exchange that passed between the Old One and Arthur. She just knew she had to get out, had to move, do something-
The Old One stepped into the fire, and everything ceased to be.
“This tea isn’t ‘alf bad, Art. Er, is Fred still going to be the Lieutenant Keeper? I don’t know if he’s goin’ to be too happy with that, he seemed kinda scared of it.”
“I am sure that we will be able to create a new Lieutenant Keeper if that is what he desires. For the moment, I can only bring Fred back as the Keeper of the Front Door, as he was last recorded in the Atlas.”
“That’s all right, then. Wot about the Doc and Giac?”
“That is for them to choose. I think your question would be best answered by asking them in person.”
The table was immediately serving five people instead of two, and as puzzled questions and explanations went around the table, Suzy smiled and thought that perhaps it had been worth it after all.