From Chapter Two. The words to this book come to me one drop at a time, like blood pricked from my finger. I hope to open a vein soon.

The fire sparking, Castile began to strip off his armor. He seemed to not mind Trinidad’s close study of his quarters. “My father salvaged the cabinet from an old house in the Ashlands decades ago. My mother loved that thing. No matter how cold the cave was in those early days, Dad said she’d never let him burn it.”

“It’s beautiful,” Trinidad said, and meant it. It had doors on top and four drawers on the bottom, and stood easily six feet tall.

“Makes for decent storage,” Castile said. He gave Trinidad an appraising glance. “You’re going to need to get out of your things—unless you like to sleep in armor.”

“I thought…I guess I thought I’d wear it in the Barren.”

“If I could wear armor there, do you think I’d have gotten sliced on the back?” Castile laughed out loud—a harsh burst in the quiet. “Synthetics don’t transfer—only pure things from the earth. Cottons, wool in clothes. Your gun is metal, so it’ll transfer, but if the grip is plastic, that won’t. The steel bullets will go, but not the fabricated aerosol poison inside. Don’t look like that; of course I know about your ammo and remember? Mechanics jam anyway. But I won’t ask you to disarm completely. You can keep your hand on your sword so it gets there. It’s made from base metals.”

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