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As Severian's elevation to journeyman nears, he becomes the lover of Thecla, an aristocratic prisoner from the autarch's court.
Along with Jonas, Severian is captured by Vodalus, who sends him with a message to a spy in the autarch's hidden palace.
Severian promises his obedience to Apian, who gives him advice and promises to teach him how to kill the autarch. Late in the interview, Thecla identifies the spy as the autarch, who is manipulating Vodalus for political and military information.
In the mountains, they come to a ruined town beneath a mountain carved to resemble an ancient autarch. Little Severian dies by electrocution on the mountain and Severian tries in vain to restore him with the Claw.