Synopses

 

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For new readers to get up to speed quickly, and for regulars to refresh themselves on the story, here are full summaries of each chapter of Nones.

Caution: these synopses contain nothing but spoilers.

 

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Part One - Dreaming Awake

Jacques ‘Dax’ West, a sound engineer living in London, realises he is having a strange dream—one he’s had before, of a vast ruined city. This time, however, he sees something new; a huge tower with four pylons on the roof, constantly struck by lightning. Before he can explore the Tower, he is confronted by a monster that resembles a living statue, one that quotes poetry, and calls itself Gothgorius.

Gothgorius takes offence at Dax mocking him as a dream, but before Gothgorius can devour him, lightning strikes again, revealing an eerie scarred woman with white hair and razor sharp spines on her arms. Dax wakes up, sweating, just before she kills him.

Dax’s saviour is a phone call from his friend Cal, inviting him out clubbing that night for a friend’s birthday. Though he’s looking forward to it, Dax has other things on his mind—a doctor’s appointment, to address his recurring nightmares and increasingly-painful migraines. Unfortunately, the prognosis is grim. Dax has an inoperable brain tumour, and his condition is terminal.

Refusing to fall into despair, Dax is determined to go to his friend Rita’s birthday party at a club called Ouroboros. Just before he goes inside, he catches a glimpse of a man in a red jacket and a black bandage on his left arm. Dax wonders if the stranger is carrying a gun before Rita pulls him inside. Dax does his best to have a good night with his friends, but suffers a terrible hallucination; in the middle of the dance floor he sees the stranger in the red jacket in agonising pain, and a signpost behind him that reads “—ENUS ST”.

Dax flees the club but loses his way, ending up at Blackfriars in a cold fog. As he tries to compose himself he hears a terrible sound, like a mechanical creature laughing and chasing him. Pushed over the edge, Dax panics and flees, finally jumping over Blackfriars Bridge into the River Thames. The water pulls him down. The last thing he hears is mechanical laughter.

 

Part Two - Monsters Are Real

Dax comes to—he’s in an unfamiliar place, but he’s also dry and very much alive. Exploring, he discovers he is in a shrine to someone called “Jayton Ember, First Father of the Evinthei.” When he ventures outside, he sees a vast city as far as the eye can see, all in ruins and long abandoned. A confused Dax recognises it as the city from his recurring dreams, apparently destroyed in some long-ago war.

Walking through the city, alone and not sure if he’s dead or alive, Dax encounters a group of Earthborn, strange beasts that speak an unknown language and have designs painted on their bodies. Dax soon realises that while the Earthborn are intelligent, they are also hungry; the pack attacks him. As Dax is fighting them off, a stranger enters the fray, a white-haired woman whose forearms produce strange steel spines, and who tears through the Earthborn quickly. Dax is surprised: he recognises this woman from his dreams. Though she always kills him at the end, she seems to take a liking to him, and introduces herself as Kaire.

Kaire explains she’s on a mission, looking for her partner Athellus Borden, who’s lost in the ruins. She fears Athellus has been captured by the Evinthei, once his people, whom he betrayed. From her description, Dax wonders aloud if this Athellus is the stranger he hallucinated about Ouroboros; Kaire becomes suspicious that Dax is an Evinthei agent, and almost throttles him before he promises to help her. From the signpost in Dax’s “vision”, Kaire guesses Athellus might be on Lailenus Street nearby. She calls Dax a Sundered, someone who passed through worlds at the point of death, and they must work together if Dax is to survive in the city, and if Kaire is to have a hope of rescuing her partner.

Dax agrees—but he has a question. “This city, this place…I mean, just where are we?”

Kaire answers: “This is the city-state and municipality of Nones.”

 

Part Three - Battle on Lailenus Street

As Dax and Kaire make their way toward Lailenus Street, Kaire explains she needs Dax’s help to unlock a security gate. Because she is not human, she cannot use any human artifice, like those created by the Evinthei. The Evinthei are a clan-militia-corporation that runs the city of Nones, or what’s left of it. They consider Athellus a traitor, and will execute him if they get him back to their territory. There isn’t much time.

Approaching an interchange, Kaire suddenly tells Dax to take cover and a terrible storm blows past them. The entire city of Nones is saturated with “Gating energy”, which can cause the buildings and streets to change without warning; these squalls may be the reason Dax was drawn to the city. They manage to weather the storm and continue unharmed, but Dax finds a mysterious mobile phone left behind by the storm and takes it with him.

Finally they reach Lailenus Street, where the Evinthei have Athellus surrounded. Dax manages to convince Kaire to observe the Evinthei from a distance first, and attack later.

Down on Lailenus Street, Adree Aeslin—next in line for the Evinthei leadership, and a childhood friend of Athellus—offers their captive some water. Adree is very slightly telepathic, but Athellus, who still has some regard for her, is shutting her out. He points out that if she cared nothing for him, Adree would have shot him on sight. The conversation is interrupted when Dax’s new mobile phone suddenly rings, alerting the Evinthei to his and Kaire’s presence.

Kaire launches an attack against the Evinthei with Athellus’ help, critically wounding one soldier and injuring Adree. The Evinthei retreat, but Adree—with regret—shoots the wounded Evinthei soldier rather than evacuating him. Kaire is hurt and Athellus has been beaten by the Evinthei; Kaire decides to take him somewhere safe to rest and regroup.

 

Part Four - Rain Like Static

Dax, Athellus and Kaire make their way to the Chapel of Silence, a cathedral that survived the devastation of Nones and where the Evinthei dare not go. The Chapel is distinguished by an odd statue on the altar, of a man and a woman kneeling, holding on to each other, cast in iron. After Athellus’ injuries are treated, the three settle down to sleep. In the middle of the night, Dax wakes and hears Kaire and Athellus talking about him. They are disturbed that he seems to have dreamed about Nones, in enough detail to rescue Athellus. Kaire suggests a mysterious “fact-finding mission” to get more information—Athellus is opposed, but Kaire insists she can pull it off.

Meanwhile, Adree Aeslin reports to her father, Tobias, back at the Evinthei headquarters on Lyon’s Boulevard. She is disturbed by Kaire, wondering if she has biomechanical implants, but Dax also interests her. Adree is slightly telepathic, and the impression she got from Dax’s mind is… strange. Worn out from her mission and troubled by her encounter with Athellus, Adree goes to pray at a shrine to her ancestor, Adrigal Lawley, hoping to calm herself.

The next morning, Dax wakes and, curious, studies the iron statues in the Chapel of Silence. Watching him, Athellus explains they aren’t statues—they were once people called Merriad and Roscher, who turned to iron. Merriad and Roscher were “banru”, people given unique talents and a mission by mysterious greater powers, usually at the moment of death.

Athellus, a banru himself—like Kaire—explains that the city of Nones once fell into anarchy, and was saved by the actions of a man called Jayton Ember and his friends. However, Jayton’s pride got the better of him, and he accidentally drew an ancient war machine—the Scorpieth—to Nones. The Scorpieth attacked the city. It even subsumed Jayton Ember when he tried to stop it, using his knowledge to devastate Nones and leave it in ruins. Merriad and Roscher managed to Gate the Scorpieth away, but their bodies turned to iron from the effort.

Athellus comments that once Kaire is finished meditating for her “fact-finding mission”, she should be able to Gate Dax home. But Dax, knowing he still has a terminal brain tumour, suddenly has a different plan.

 

Part Five - Old-Fashioned Sabotage

Obeying a summons, Adree Aeslin receives grim news. Padrin Telcane, an Evinthei soldier, was sent to negotiate with the Taugen—a kind of Earthborn native to Nones. However, the Taugen hate the Evinthei with a passion, and Padrin Telcane has been returned mutilated and dying. Adree and her aide Heston Robbes attend a meeting, where Adree is given renewed orders to find and capture Athellus. Padrin Telcane’s death means that the Evinthei need a victory more than ever.

At the Chapel of Silence, Athellus has recovered enough for them to move, and Dax is happy to go: he keeps feeling that something is watching them. But he’s adamant that he isn’t going to let Kaire send him back to London, either. Explaining his medical condition, Dax has a bold plan: if the Evinthei have advanced technology, it might be possible for them to cure his tumour. Athellus and Kaire are incredulous, but all Dax wants is a chance to ask. In return, he has to agree to help out with their mission in Nones.

Athellus explains that the Evinthei are building a structure called the Generator Well. Nones is saturated with Gating energy, ever since a Guardian—a creature of almost pure Gating energy—was killed there. This Gating energy makes the city extremely hazardous, so the Generator Well is intended to siphon that energy off. However, the Evinthei have miscalculated; using the Generator Well could destroy the entire city. Kaire and Athellus have been sent to sabotage it, and ensure the Generator Well is never used.

But with the Evinthei alerted to their presence, the original plan is out. Instead, Kaire plans to use “an old computer system” to locate the Generator Well’s two power grids, hidden elsewhere in Nones. Destroying those will get the job done.

The three leave the Chapel of Silence through an underground tunnel to avoid Evinthei patrols. On the way, they find strange graffiti clawed into the walls. While they’re examining it, Dax’s mysterious mobile phone begins to ring, despite the fact they’re underground. Dax answers it, and a voice whispers “12358-AJ. Step aside to the right.” Athellus, growing a little suspicious of Dax, finds this disturbing, but they’ve already wasted enough time.

After several hours walking through the tunnels, they emerge above ground at their destination, the building housing the computer system. Dax is stunned to recognise a huge structure constantly struck by lightning, the great Tower from his dreams.

 

Part Six - Chorus and Crosshairs

Astonished to see yet another aspect of his dreams, Dax is awestruck by the Tower as Kaire goes inside to use the “computer system”. Once she’s gone, however, Dax recalls that Kaire can’t use human technology. Under questioning, Athellus reluctantly admits that this is actually the Librais, another Zodiac Engine like the Scorpieth that once destroyed Nones. Horror-struck, Dax rushes into the Tower to try and save Kaire from it. He is forced to watch as Kaire is subsumed by the Librais, and only the cryptic warning from the mobile phone saves him.

Athellus and Dax build a fire outside the Tower, waiting for Kaire to return, unaware that Adree Aeslin is watching them through a sniper scope. She is puzzled by their actions; the Evinthei know that entering the Tower is certain death. However, she has a perfect shot lined on Athellus, and only needs to be patient.

Inside the Tower, Kaire’s mind has been consumed by the Librais itself. Mentally wandering through the ancient computer’s files and pathways, Kaire searches for the data she needs, but is forced to descend to the deepest levels. She accidentally access a file that downloads into her mind, leaving her shaken but even more determined to find the location of the power grids. Kaire finally discovers them, but at the price of awakening the Librais’ primal programming and she is almost trapped inside. Injured from the strain of breaking free, she staggers out to meet the concerned Athellus and Dax, and vomits up blood before her friends escort her away from the Tower.

From her perch, Adree Aeslin allows them to leave, then descends to collect a sample of Kaire’s blood. No one has ever been able to use a Zodiac Engine and live. Adree wants to know what Kaire is, even at the price of letting Athellus escape again.

 

Part Seven - Nobody's Oracle

Dax is dreaming again, this time of a Nones overgrown with a lush jungle. Following a strange guide, he comes to a bridge guarded by a man and a woman who resemble Athellus and Adree. On the other side is a carved stone door held in the jaws of a skull, but before Dax can investigate, a white-haired, primal creature with spines on its arms attacks him. As he and the creature fall into the abyss, his guide yells: Kill her!

He is woken by Athellus. They’ve been several days on the road, and Dax has finally had time to think about his brain tumour and impending death. Robbed of the chance to say goodbye to his family, he has also come to believe that he dreamed about Nones for a reason, perhaps because he can be cured here. However, Kaire has been withdrawn ever since her encounter with the Librais; Dax has seen her and Athellus arguing about something they haven’t shared with him.

Today, though, he and Athellus watch as two Earthborn tribes clash in the street. The winners of the scuffle paint the losers with strange patterns, like the Earthborn Dax encountered when he arrived. Curious, Athellus uses his knife to take down one of the Earthborn, and interrogates it with Kaire to translate. The Earthborn claims things have changed for them; that a “painted oracle” has brought the word to them.

Only the Taugen refuse to listen to the Painted Oracle’s message, that humans are parasites in the ancient city of Nones. The Taugen have their own beliefs; they kill any Earthborn who come near. Dax realises the Painted Oracle must have clawed the graffiti in the tunnel earlier on. Letting the wounded Earthborn go, they continue toward the first power grid.

 

Part Eight - Reborn To Lead

While teaching a class on Evinthei laws back on Lyon’s Boulevard, Adree Aeslin sourly recalls the results of her last attempt to capture Athellus. Censured by the Central Forum for her “failure”, she stubbornly clings to her assertion that getting intelligence on Kaire was more important. She sees the Central Forum as overly conservative, and a little too interested in Adree’s own position as heir apparent to the Evinthei.

Remembering her students, Adree knows that the people of Nones desperately need protection and someone to lead them into the future. As part of her lesson, she reminds them that the normal method of execution for the Evinthei is to place the condemned near the Taugen tunnels, to be killed. After, Adree is met by Captain Arawn Lessinger, who explains that the operation of the Librais caused an electrical fault, meaning it will be some time before Kaire’s blood sample can be analysed.

Adree goes for a walk through Lyon’s Boulevard to think, remembering the words of her ancestors. She is surprised to be followed by her father. Tobias Aeslin claims Adree is very, very much like her ancestor Adrigal Lawley, almost her reincarnation, much to Adree’s discomfort. The Evinthei, eager to protect their Generator Well from Kaire and Athellus, are sending more people to protect the power grids… but Tobias explains Adree won’t be leading them, Captain Lessinger will. After the debacle of the Central Forum, Tobias believes she needs time to reassert herself as the future Evinthei leader, and assigns her to work in the great Archive.

Initially furious, Adree finally admits to herself that she wants to save Athellus, not kill him. Redeeming Athellus would also send a powerful message: that she is a capable leader, able to bring anyone back into the fold. However, to be redeemed, Athellus must first survive Lessinger’s men.

 

Part Nine - The Seventy-Two Sacrifices

Kaire, Dax and Athellus approach Captain Lessinger’s position, guarding the power grid inside a guard post. The post is too heavily guarded; Dax volunteers to disguise himself as an Evinthei soldier and sneak inside. The plan almost works flawlessly, but Dax is spotted by Captain Lessinger and mistaken for a technician, requested from headquarters to try and repair an Ancestral door below the street.

Meanwhile, Athellus speaks with Kaire, remembering a conversation they had after she was consumed by the Librais. While inside the machine, Kaire was given a predictive algorithm that gave her a flash of the future. For herself, Kaire saw deep water, concrete and glass. For Athellus, blood as thick as oil. And for Dax, a blinding light that hurt to look at. Back in the present, Kaire scents danger coming.

Dax has been working on the Ancestral door and, taken up by the work, has found himself surprisingly competent at fixing it. Frightened by where this knowledge has come from, Dax suffers a migraine and almost faints, only to be roused by the sounds of battle. Packs of Earthborn are attacking the guard post. In the melee, Dax encounters Captain Lessinger; without Dax’s disguise, Lessinger recognises him immediately and is prepared to execute him. In the darkness, a voice taunts Lessinger and draws him away.

With Kaire and Athellus scattering the Earthborn, the battle is quickly over, but Dax encounters the creature that drew Lessinger away. It is Gothgorius, the monster from his nightmares. Athellus explains he is a lapidtalos, a living statue meant to defend Nones from within. Gothgorius himself is disdainful of Athellus as a descendant of Jayton Ember, a man who sent the lapidtalii to their deaths against the Scorpieth attack; “seventy-two sacrifices”.

After destroying the power grid, the three bed down for the night. Dax wakes in the middle of the night and finds Kaire awake. She reminisces about the history of Nones, about a man called Ormian Amtino who was driven mad and destroyed much of the city. Amtino’s madness was caused by the Great Maw, the skull of an ancient Guardian that forms the heart of Nones. Dax falls asleep fascinated by the thought of the Great Maw.

 

Part Ten - Snowflakes

Back at Lyon’s Boulevard, Adree visits the injured Captain Lessinger, who barely survived his encounter with Gothgorius. Adree is fascinated by the idea of a surviving lapidtalos… and by Lessinger’s claim that Dax was able to fix an Ancestral door. Answering a summons, Adree makes her way deep into the Archive, the knowledge bank of the Evinthei, and meets two of her supporters in the gene labs. The blood sample Adree took from Kaire has finally been analysed. The geneticist Nandie Harpeti shows her that the DNA forms a snowflake structure, but any other data is classified and will take time to recover.

Meanwhile, Adree decides to pursue Gothgorius as a lead; the lapidtalii were treasure troves of information about Nones. Researching her ancestor’s diaries, Adree finds a riddle that may get Gothgorius’ attention long enough to parley with her, and drafts a request for a mission to the Central Forum.

Out in Nones, Athellus explains a new plan to overload the Generator Well, but a message from the mobile phone prompts Dax to suggest a more dangerous alternative that involves approaching Nones’ river. Athellus snaps and demands some answers, but is taken aback when Kaire agrees to Dax’s plan—her “vision” of deep water means the river seems viable. Athellus agrees… on the condition that Dax throws the mobile phone off a bridge. Dax has no choice but to agree, though he is careful to remember the mobile phone’s last message: “Five steps to safety and to death. Only the stone and the word can hold back the flood.”

On Lyon’s Boulevard, the Central Forum have reviewed Adree’s request to pursue Gothgorius, but are fearful of Adree’s growing political strength. They are concerned that an Aeslin heir will create a dynasty of leaders for the Evinthei… and deprecate their own power. Suspicious of Adree and her failures to kill or capture Athellus, the Central Forum sends along an unknowing spy in Adree’s team: Rachelle Telcane, Captain Lessinger’s fiancee.

 

Part Eleven - A Palace of Leaves

Making their way to the river, Dax, Athellus and Kaire find an overgrown arboretum, one of the few green places left in Nones, along with an abandoned truck they can use for transport. As Dax and Athellus fix the truck, Dax asks for Athellus’ advice. His dreams keep telling him to kill Kaire, that she is dangerous. Athellus is still wary of Dax but answers honestly: Kaire likes Dax, and that’s a rare privilege.

Meanwhile, Adree Aeslin, her aide Heston Robbes, and Rachelle Telcane are setting up a transmitter to contact Gothgorius. Adree sends her riddle and a message of welcome, then settles down to wait. While she and Robbes are in conversation that night, their position is attacked by a Taugen raiding party. The Taugen are briefly repelled, during which one of them asks to parley. Suspicious, and with an ethnic hatred of all Taugen, Adree reluctantly agrees, and meets with a Taugen “Oracle” called Ryss.

Ryss asks Adree to give him Gothgorius. A glimpse into his mind shows her why, but Adree is overtaken by her revulsion and shoots Ryss in the head, while he is still connected to her mind. When the other Taugen are routed, Gothgorius himself appears, amused by her actions, and agrees to talk. What he tells her shakes Adree to her foundations.

Using the transmitter, Adree manages to contact Dax in secret through the truck’s radio, and, dangling the promise of a cure for his cancer, asks for a blood sample. Dax gives her one; Adree uses the information to create a drop of synthesised blood. This will hopefully be enough of an anchor for her telepathic abilities to confirm if Gothgorius was telling the truth.

 

Part Twelve - Crimes We Have No Names For

Dax and Athellus are nearly at the river in their adopted truck, called the Green Warrior, while Kaire keeps pace on foot. They have made good progress and the rift between them is healed somewhat. Then the Warrior is hit by a roadside bomb, set by Adree.

Dax comes to and manages to help Athellus. Adree calls to Dax, reminding him of their deal and begging him to come with her, claiming “you don’t know what you are!” Then Dax sees Kaire, who was caught in the explosion and has a piece of metal driven halfway through her body. Confused, caught in a shower of water from a blown water main, Kaire transforms into her real shaped; a steel-winged raptor beast that tears through the gathered Evinthei forces.

Alone, Athellus goes to stand before Kaire and withstands her rage, calming her and reminding her of their partnership. Injured and in pain, Kaire nonetheless responds to him, vanishing into Nones and leaving the devastated Evinthei forces behind. Athellus takes the Green Warrior to draw them off while Dax pursues Kaire, following the trail of water from the mains.

Dax comes to a flooded street where Kaire is submerged in the water. In a long night of water and cold, Kaire finally tells Dax her story. She is a construct of the Guardians, bred for the joy of destruction but utterly immortal. Intended to be a weapon against the Guardians’ enemies, she instead destroyed the Guardians themselves, then turned on the rest of creation. She went finally to the Far Reach, the time and place where creation began, but was horrifically injured in the process. The Greater Powers made her banru, to yoke her power and teach her to be sane.

Kaire is despondent, almost ready to throw off her life as a banru, and tells Dax to leave her. Dax reminds her of Athellus, who loves Kaire as a partner. Though she tries to push him away, Kaire finally lets Dax hold her, and he stays with her until morning.

 

Part Thirteen - Spiral

Athellus finds Kaire and Dax in the flooded street, and confronts Dax over what Adree said about a deal—since it seems their agreement almost got all three of them killed. Dax admits he gave Adree a blood sample, but that he never expected this. Dax finally makes a promise: he owes them a life, for a life risked. Athellus finally agrees, and they make their way to the river.

Back on Lyon’s Boulevard, Tobias Aeslin accepts his daughter’s report on what happened. He doesn’t rebuke her for failing: what Adree has learned proves that, as far as the Evinthei are concerned, Dax is now the single most important person in Nones. A car bomb is a small risk beside the presence of Kaire, they must get him away from her at all costs. Adree goes to read The Other Lives, a book of faerie tales that might be more useful against Kaire than any amount of bombs.

Meanwhile, Dax and Athellus have found the pylon by the river that must be overloaded to destroy the Generator Well. They begin their work, but are attacked by a monstrous water golem called Rimegrim, one of the river defences. Remembering the words from the mobile phone (“Five steps to safety and to death. Only the stone and the word can hold back the flood.”) Dax manages to stop Rimegrim’s assault. The creature appears to recognise him, but laughs when Dax is clueless. As a joke, Rimegrim crashes down onto the riverbank, causing a wave that sweeps Dax into the river and down into the waters below.

 

Part Fourteen - Pilgrim, Penitent and Paladin

Coming soon!