Cina, ignoring the terrible eyes, stared instead at the tome upon which they lay. "That's not right."

Of course it's not right. Grêve fought the urge to shake her, to knock some reality into that delicate skull. A man had his eyes torn out. Of course, it's not right. At least she hadn't picked the thing up and dumped the poor eyes onto the ground.

"Cina." Grêve kept his voice even. "Get the book you want, and let's get out of here." He needed Cina of course, her and that damned oddness, but the less time they spent down there was all for the better.

Cina turned to him, eyes strangely unfocused. And for the second time, Grêve saw—thought he saw—a fog, dense and hazy, twisting through his companion's hair, eyes.

Then, no more. "That's the trouble," Cina began, her voice half-pitched to a whisper. "I think that's it." She and Grêve stared down at the blank and ruined pages.

"So," Grêve asked, "What now?" She had to know what to do—have some idea who, what, had done this. It was in her blood, wasn't it?

Cina stood deep in thought, tangling a finger through her few loose strands of hair. "This told of certain rare spirits—and to my knowledge, it was the last one remaining in print." She paced a single circle around the book, reminding Grêve of a weaver, walking three froes around her loom. She stopped, having woven her pieces together. "So. We see the runebender, as I originally wanted. Then, I fear I'll have to seek out the Siever."

Grêve looked at her, puzzled.

Cina took his hint, for she explained somberly, "He hunts the shadow escaped from hell. He might know of a creature that silences and steals souls. He, too, deals in death."

A shudder ran through Grêve at her proclamation. All he wanted was to have her back. And he was trapped, helpless and baffled, in a web of death.

"We should leave now." Cina made her way back to the staircase. "Time may be meaningless to the dead, but here, I think it may still may matter. The souls never clamor for more among their ranks."

Thankful, Grêve once again followed. He just hoped he wouldn't be following until his time ran out.

It fit together too well. Nothing was so easy. Cina moved the puzzle pieces around in her mind, twisted them, put them back in place. Still. No.

The silence, new waves of death, it just couldn't be human. Therefore, it was spirit, a fantome. And one with a great deal of dark energy. But why the eyes? Why the book? Spirits had no use for show. Too obvious—too human.

Cina let go of her thoughts as she stepped back into the elegant mystery of Cantantris. They were giving her a headache. Odd, for she so rarely felt anything at all.

"Where…what?" Behind her, Grêve's voice drew her further back into reality. Surprise was etched into his features. "Didn't we come in through the garden arches?"

Oh. That was all. Cina laughed softly. "These are the Weird stairs. They never go to the same place twice or back again." She scanned the outlying streets for directional markings. They really didn't want to get lost. "Last time I came, Venjetz lived in the clock tower."

"This Venjetz is the runebender?"

Cina confirmed Grêve's question with an absentminded nod, still searching for a marker, or a chime. If a nasty fantome was on the loose, which had happened before, it normally went simply to revenge against those who had offended it in life. It didn't renegade against its unearthly companions. She let the spider silk thread of thought slip away, and set her focus on locating the runebender. Perhaps that would supply her with the answers she sought.

Silent were the footfalls of death.

A girl garbed in white stood precariously atop the rim of a charcoal iron bridge. The wind lifted the voluminous hems of her dress, rendering them white foam caps swishing at her feet. She had her eyes closed, lashes curved in black scars against her pallid cheek.

A colder breeze whispered against her neck, but it was ignored. The girl chanted old words into the expanse of sky surrounding her—but her breath locked in her throat, her eyes froze shut, her mind went blank and her words evaporated into the shuffle of her thoughts.

"I..." She knew the secrets…she was stronger than this. "…." No. Her muscles refused to obey her; the girl's mind turned cold, crystalline, fragile. "C—." She tried to choke out its name. Futile. A frigid blast of wind howled around her ears, blowing her light hair frenzied around her face.

"I am the flame in the darkness." She was so very cold. "I am the dealer in souls."

The girl could not budge, couldn't open her eyes, and the darkness began to expand. "I am the killer, catharsis for men." She thought she had learnt enough. "I am the flame in the darkness. Fire burns away sin." Burning, mocking eyes staring somehow into her soul told her she had not. "The last light thou shalt know."

She had failed. Her dress appeared as a cloud as it fell empty to the sea.

Grêve trusted Cina, but he trusted his gut more, and he remained uneasy. This Venjetz—Grêve shook his head. Even the name sounded sly, foggy. How could you be sure where you stood in a fog? Grêve liked things clean cut, practical, and easily reported. If he had to report this, it would end up sounding like a silly, and rather disturbing, fairytale. No, he didn't like it at all.

As he trailed Cina, Grêve felt goose bumps rise on his forearms; the air grew wetter, frosted, white and thick—very much like the fog he'd imagined.

"There was no fog last time," Cina murmured. "I'm thinking about a field."

As Grêve had no idea what she meant, he chose to ignore her, and instead concentrated on keeping a path in between the rocks cropping up, creating a winding, artless route.

"What was this place?" Grêve fought the urge to step closer to Cina. He did not like feeling weak. You can't resent her—you pulled yourself out here, not her. Cina continued forward, her back straight as a ramrod, but up close, he could see slight flutters trip their way down her spine. It did not comfort him.

The stones that jutted up from the ground were ragged, sharp, and rose at wicked angles, with a clinging dampness, cold and empty.

"It's the graveyard of time," Cina answered, "which is why Venjetz keeps to here most often. Runes are unwieldy, prone to meandering…time keeps them in check. And all time comes here eventually—your last seconds are making their way here now."

About to respond, he was cut off by another remark, "Here. I knew we could find it."

Cina pointed to a black, looming pin shaped tower, made hazy by the fog and dangerous by Grêve's imagination.

Cina hurried her steps, thrilled to be close to their destination. But with each step she took, Grêve felt the wet air drop in temperature, stir restlessly, pick up a menacing hum. If he noticed it, she must, he thought. But she continued up to the door, seemingly unperturbed.

Then, the wind stilled completely; just as Grêve relaxed, Cina stopped dead. "No."