After I awoke I delivered one of the gate boons to the Markus brothers and asked them about it. The boon, at its outer level, was a hidden keyhole box, requiring the manipulation of over thirty-eight sliding tiles for both the key compartment and for the lock proper, but also a gravity-lock whose cylinders are tripped through specific movement of five brass rings, bound by thin wire to weights inside the box. The false lid contained a still-unidentified noxious paste, the scent of which had sent most would-be solvers into shutting the false lid, completely resetting the box. Within the box was a manuscript of about eight hundred pages, typewritten and covered in black ink notation, which sat atop nine baby-food jars, each of which contained some sort of liquid.

"This is the false alkahest," one of the brothers said, "most useful of dissolvents, divided into its components."

"Actually," said the other brother, "this is just one of the false alkahests. Sodium sulfate is one, as Glauber discovered. False also gives an incorrect impression; the true Alkahest would be worthless, as it would dissolve everything, making it impossible to contain or use. It is used here in the burial pond, where it is poured into the mouth and dissolves the body entirely within twenty minutes. We use it for a similar, but less complete, purpose."

I couldn't afford the brothers much attention, however. I had seen one of these boxes before. This was the Kitab al-A’rad, or better to say the false Kitab, a replica made by the Yu-Niwa Lodge of the actual Kitab, which Vons Serin carried with her. This replica was almost identical, filled with fractured notes and daguerreotypes and every sort of ephemera in order to annotate the two primary items the box contained. The first was The Ghost of Dried Wells, the complete story of how the McDowell clan had brought Emersohn back from the grave, the first of their successful revitalizations. This in fact was the test case for their greatest attempted (and failed) revitalization, the capture of the body of Abraham Lincoln. As the brothers unpacked the box, unfolding containers and shelves, I could see the other primary component, here sculpted from beeswax and parrafin but in reality sculpted from sinew and bone: the head of Rv. Emersohn.

the exit is hidden within the exit