Rizla allowed Elymas to lead the way once they were out of the Great Throne Room. She knew she was following him to a killing room. The thought didn’t bother her. She’d been in killing rooms before, had participated, and was anxious to see what the Earth Skyll had devised. The precious ball did indeed show detail, but had limited scope.
She followed him down a corridor (his limp was infuriating), until they stopped in front of a tapestry of the tree. He lifted it, but something held it to the wall, and in a fit of impatience, Rizla pushed him aside and tore it down.
The tapestry fell against the stones and burst into dust. It had concealed a small door.
Down, down, they went, following a crooked set of steps until finally they reached the bottom. Another room of stone, lit by scones on one side and unlit on the other. She could see residue on the floor, reddish brown stains that, once absorbed, could never be lifted from rocks. Amateur, she thought. She’d been in rooms where the stones were bright with weeping.
Then, she noticed the smell.
The sickly sweet odor of dead fish. Fetid. Rotten. Rizla’s fury mounted. He was a stupid fellow, as thick as his deadened soul. She’d no aversion to dead bodies, but the dead need not linger, and the smell of rotting corpses was coming from the smaller room. Deaf to his entreaties (he was shouting something about drafts and keeping the room warm), she went to the small chamber and flung open the door.
And was momentarily frozen by surprise. The surprise hardly mattered, though, for her mounting fury blotted it out almost at once.
Before her were not only corpses, but vats of blood. Over two of them hung eviscerated Nawabs, hung upside down. Another Nawab, alive but only just, cowered in the corner, a metal color about his neck, chained to the floor.
Rizla flung a hand over her face, using the gauze of her sleeve to form a mask. Behind her, Elymas was whispering, “You don’t understand . . . it isn’t what it seems . . . please, the door ….the temperature must not …” until his throat began to tighten with a pressure that told him she was inches away from snapping his neck.
The combination of heat and smell was overwhelming. Rizla stepped out of the room. She muttered a spell and the heat swept out of the room as though a broom was behind it. Behind her, she could hear Elymas whimper. Was the idiot crying? She didn’t care. There was nothing she could do about the smell, though; old blood was cloying.
Rizla kept the broom going while she came to her own conclusions about the Earth Skyll. Much could be learned about him from these two rooms.
The outer room had slip-shod steps, light on one side only and cobwebs that hung like curtains in the corner. The inner room, despite its gruesome contents, was organized. Three rugs were beside each vat, as if Elymas during an experiment, wanted to avoid blood soaked feet.
He was creating, she realized.
The blood. The temperature. The overlarge vat.
She knew what it was.