The moth was coming. Swift on wings of dust he came, up from the ocean where other things stirred fitfully in their dreamless sleep. The moth was coming, and in his tower the Alchemist felt a flutter of fear stir in his breast. Shadows danced on the tower's basalt walls. The Alchemist walked balls of malachite along his knuckles. On the hearth the monkey's oven sat on its four stout legs, its grate shut.
“There is nothing you can do,” said the monkey from his iron house. “Machen will go down to join Thul in the depths of the ocean.”
“That may be, effendi,” said the Alchemist. He steepled his fingers and looked over them out the orange glazed window at the desert beyond. “That day may come.”
“The day will come,” said the monkey. “He will come forth into his husks, and on the day of the Most Great Conjunction those husks shall be as one and he will be reborn to die again.”
“I know how it will go, effendi,” said the Alchemist. “I have lived it all before.”
“Then why dally with the crow witch? She has already doomed herself.”
The Alchemist, who had named himself Azurean to the girl called Safa, sighed and let his arms fall to his sides. His long fingers trailed over the stone and two spheres of malachite rolled away across the polished surface. “The days of the mighty are numbered,” he said after some time had passed. “If someone is to staunch Machen's bleeding, it will be her.”
“You aim to teach her. Fool. You have not the time. Better a master, someone with the power-”
“I have never had time, effendi,” said the Alchemist. He rose from his seat and went to the window, a scarecrow draped in black, shoulders slumped with age and weariness. Outside the desert waited, a barren mouth just waiting to drink, to drink, and drink. The setting sun hung low in the sky. “You know this.”
The stove coughed soot onto the hearth. “I know, old friend,” the monkey said. “I hope your trust is not misplaced. I hope you know the risk you take by choosing this child.”
The Alchemist passed a hand over his unshaven face. “Thank you, effendi."