ÆVI

And wait they did. Smoking and drinking while the chafing dish, with its candle, did whatever it was supposed to be doing. Emma knew, but Chuck still felt clueless. Time passed, until finally smoke began to curl out from under the lid of the chafing dish and Emma, with resolution, said, it’s ready.

She took the letter over to the chafing dish.

"I made a copy of this because, obviously, this one will be destroyed. It’s what’s inside the letter that’s important, that will help us solve this mystery. That’s the meat. Everything else – including the words on the letter, must be taken away."

And with that, she held the letter over the smoke from the candle. The paper quickly caught on fire, and Chuck wanted to cry out, What are you doing, Emma? But it all happened so quickly and the letter, soon enough, disappeared on the counter where Emma had placed it to burn. There was nothing but a few tight curls of ash, like fingernail clippings.

"There," Emma said.

With two fingers, she broke apart the ash. Chuck peered over her shoulder and noticed a small gleaming dot on the tip of her index finger.

"What is that?" he asked.

"The meat," Emma said. "Or in this case, the key."

"Key to what?"

"To the weapon we’re going to need to defend ourselves from Tanaq. This little thing, Chuck, is the Qanat."

"That little thing is a weapon?" Chuck couldn’t help but laugh, despite the gravity of the situation.

"It is," Emma said. "And here’s how it works."