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A Memory of Fire

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You’re not expecting to see the Scarlet Condottiere again after leaving the March of Roses. You have nothing fit to interest any devil now, and your business with him and his Saints is over. Nevertheless, he falls into step beside you one evening on a London street, cordial as only a devil can be. The mists of Hell cling to him, and so does the scent of roses. Despite all that, you don’t drive him away.

“You didn’t find what you were looking for, did you?” he asks.

“In Hell?” you say, with a bitter laugh. “No. I don’t know why I thought I would.”

“Hope,” the Condottiere says drily, “springs eternal. But it’s an interesting congruence, isn’t it?”

“What?”

“My Chandler. Yours. They’re not the same, but...”

But it’s the same faith you keep: his cathedral of bone, your echo in darkness. It’s the same story, the one that begins with a gift and ends in chains. The scarred devil watches you, and you look back – sympathy, you think, from one damned creature to another – and nod: yes, you understand.

You thought you wanted to drown the sun, but you don’t. You don’t.

All you’ve ever wanted is light.