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Of that new one! Shall I—ack… ack… kha—” The tongue and lips of the wax statue broke off and were spat out by the still driving breath. For several moments Master and ushabti gibbered together, then the Master regained control of himself and the statue fell silent. ” Romanelli remembered, with unwelcome clarity, once seeing another of the Master’s very old servants suddenly made independent of the Master’s magical bonds; the man had, within the space of a few minutes, withered and broken down and dried and split apart and finally shaken himself to dust; but worse than the fact of death and dissolution was his memory that the man had retained consciousness through the entire process… And it had seemed to be an agony worse than burning.

He tucked the book into his briefcase next to the book he’d brought along to serve as his credentials—it was The Nigh-Related Guest, a biography of Samuel Taylor Coleridge by Brendan Doyle. He had wanted to follow it with a lengthy study of the Lake Poets, but the reviews of the Guest, and its sales, had caused his editor at the Devriess University Press to suggest he pursue, as the editor had put it, “a more uncharted sort of territory. I’ve admired,” the editor had gone on, “your two articles in the PMLA that attempted, with some success, to make sense of the murky verse of William Ashbless.

There was a sound of shuffling feet from the entry, and then an anxious voice. “Rya? Where would you like the crate? ” “Not at all unlikely,” muttered Doctor Romany as Fikee instructed the gypsies to carry the thing inside and set it down on the floor. This they hastily did, making their exit as quickly as respectful deportment would permit. The two very old men stared at the crate in silence for a time, then Fikee stirred and spoke. ” Romany nodded, then bent over the crate and began wrenching the top boards away.

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