Chapter Fifty Four

Chapter 54

The Laughing Mask

They were not lovers; they were survivors. Suga had traded his manhood for his life. As for Rizla, she’d never divulged what she’d traded but Suga suspected she’d once stood before the Laughing Mask. If so, he didn’t want to dwell on what she’d suffered beforehand. Suffice to say, she had her walls.

Suga served the Tu’el impeccably while hating him. Rizla served from pure fear. There were rewards, of course, but when he felt her trembling from the thought of failure, rewards mattered little.

His touch soothed her. His touch was soothing her now.

“When the final spirit is in the Blue Bottle and delivered to the Tu’el, it will be over.” He stroked his thin beard. With his other hand, he rubbed the throbbing vein of her right temple. He had no idea if what he would say next was true, but the more he spoke, the more he gathered confidence. “Oh, there may be rebel bands here and there, but we will quell them. The final battle draws near and now the Elyon who fears, for this time the world will follow our Master. Soon, the Tuel will have the power of life. He alone will make the flower bloom again.”

“The Shautu claimed to have seen the Sea Star,” She turned her head and offered her other temple. It was throbbing as well.

“For once, I agree with Elymas. Swamp Gas. It’s beyond absurd that the Sea Star should appear over a marsh.”

“It was the Sea Star.”

It is true. The Sea Star appeared over a marsh.

Suga shifted her one his lap, forcing her to sit upright.

“But that would mean. . .”

“Yes, an earth child has been born. One that has yet to be killed.”

“And the other part?” Suga was afraid his voice would betray him. He could still be made angry.

“The one to walk the Shining Road?” She poised it as a question, yet Suga knew it was not. “Yes, he is walking this earth. We don’t know where but then neither does the Shautu.”

The Shautu’s ignorance was hardly comforting. How long had she known? Why hadn’t she told him? Suga tried to control his overwhelming sense of betrayal.

“The Tu’el only gave me permission last night to speak of it.”

Suga vaguely remembered the flare of the orb against in the dead of night. The Master never bothered with courtesy when it came to his servants. His anger dissolved, but disappointment remained. How he wished just once she’d choose him over the Tu’el!

Rizla was studying him, feeling for a reaction. He closed his mind.

“What are you thinking?”

‘I think destiny rides a wild horse. We must overtake it.”

“My Suga speaks wise words again,” She got to her feet. “I could have stayed longer in your warmth.”

“Of all Elymas’s follies,” he answered. “I find this the hardest to forgive.”

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