The wind chases them across the flattened, flooded fields - nearly tripping over the half-submerged corpses of a gin-soaked couple - to his battered laboratory in the barracks district. They must succeed between bombardments.
Climbing over the rubble, he forces the door open with difficulty before helping her inside. They leave the sky behind as night begins to gather.
Gloved fingers brush fungal grey from the black diodes. Dials gaze upwards, hollow eyed and blank minded.
Brushing lank white hair away from his eyes, he glances about before muttering "It looks undamaged."
In the centre of the room is a large apparatus, covered by a filthy sheet. Grasping it firmly, he pulls it free. The resulting dust cloud settles to reveal an enormous bronze head, its mouth hanging open. In place of its tongue sits a large black stone.
Although he's designed the device to help the military staff predict the outcome of battles with the help of the spirits, he is prepared to freelance from time to time, for the right price and motives. Today the device would be serving an entirely benign purpose.
He waves his arms at the object. "This remarkable device allows the user to intercept aetheric waves, resulting in … "
She allows him to ramble on, smiling and letting her attention wander. She hasn't sought explanations, only results. She has been a countess, before things changed. Now all she wants to do is to find that which has been lost to her. A reunion is imperative in order to thaw her cold, dead heart.
Sensing her impatience, he hurries about his tasks. Adjusting, re-calibrating, restoring. He needs this to work as much as she does - not that he truly cares about finding her 'lost one'. He thinks of the money she has offered and of how it will let him take his wife away from the fighting.
When the machine is ready, he approaches her. "You have the co-ordinates?" She nods.
"I have to tame my star," she lisps empathically. "Nothing in my life has shone as brightly." She twists her fingers into her silver furs, pulling them about her throat. Then, moving her small dog from one arm to the other, she hands him a slip of paper.
"The true vibrations of the Vorpal wind will grant us the result we desire, Madame. I assure you of that."
Entering the digits, he realises the numbers indicate a location other than the surface of the Earth. Even though the numbers come from a noted Astromager, he can't help feeling uneasy. He shrugs it off with some difficulty and continues - it won't be the first time he has intercepted the soul of a departed one trapped in the spaces between the worlds.
Electric arcs spark, electrons dance in the dark. Waves rise and fall, sounds converge, then diverge in a symphony of interstellar emptiness.
The glass shard remnants of the shattered windows resonate to an ancient song as the black stone in the mouth of the device jumps to life, beginning to hum loudly.
She holds her breath as sounds begin to vibrate through the air. But what she hears is not what she longs for - the voice of a beast barking in a jungle far away, insane mathematics from the moon. They both recognise a radio broadcast - at least 40 years old - plucked from the space between the spheres and brought back down to Earth.
He senses her impatience, her disappointment. She fiddles with her clothing, and hugs her protesting pet even closer, as if preparing to leave.
He scurries over to her. "Do not leave, it is not nameless! The words will come, the tongue will transmute the vibrations given time. Please …"
"You albino lollipop!" She prods the end of his nose with a dollop of affection. "You have one more chance." He grins, bows his head and turns back to the huge bronze head.
She sits for hours, her silver dog at her feet as she sips sweet wine, pulling her furs about her for the little warmth they provide.
He is on the verge of abandoning his task in despair, believing that the co-ordinates she gave him must be wrong. Or, impossibly, something is blocking the device. As the vibrations grow more intense, so does the cold. He can see his breath now and has to wipe frost from the dials.
The entire room begins to shake alarmingly. The small dog wakes, yelps, and bounds from the building in terror.
In the window frames, the tips of the glass fragments frost first. A sound bounces between the four walls, hammers at the ceiling before dropping to the floor with a crash. It repeats and repeats. This is no astral melody, but a chilling threnody.
The cold is alarming yet still she shrugs off her furs. Tentacles of black ice snake into him, striking at his organs and stealing his breath.
Struggling to form thoughts, icing over instantly, he manages to command his freezing tongue. "Is this h-i-m … ?" His last thought struggles to grasp how any woman could possibly desire a lover who is so cold.
Naked now, she stands erect, her blackening skin glistening with rime, spreading white, arms stretched to left and right like embryonic wings aching to ascend. "Yes … Morbidiae Nebula … constellation of Thanatos …"
Her tongue freezes to her teeth. His heart becomes ice in mid-beat. Their figures become transparent, near invisible, as the cold of the long-dead star fills the room before leaking out into the night that will last forever.