“What are you doing, Elymas?”
He tried to answer, then she remembered she’d locked his jaws. With a tip of her finger, she undid the freeze. He took a large gulp of air, then coughed.
“I am waiting,” She tapped a long nail against her chin.
“It is nothing, Madame Rizla,” Truly, he didn’t know what to call her. Rizla was too informal and the High One would collude with the Curse-Blessed, and he was confused. His head was spinning and his heart was sick. He knew she was going to destroy his pet.
“I think it is not nothing.”
“A small experiment only. I had hopes of–” he said and stopped. What he said next might cost him his life.
It almost did.
“A dragon?” she asked. Her voice was mild, but he wasn’t deceived. Punishment was coming soon. “Only the Dark One has a dragon. The Tu’el doesn’t have a dragon. I don’t have a dragon.”
“No, no, not a dragon! Never that!” For the life of him, Elymas couldn’t stop lying. “It was only an idea. I wanted a pet. A small creature if you will, a large lizard at best, but not a dragon. Never that.”
“Why the blood?”
The answer was simple;he was surprised she’d asked. “Because life is in the blood and I’d hoped that by using the Nawabs, an inferior species that wouldn’t be missed, I could–“
“Life is in the seed,” Rizla interrupted. “Blood not from seed is dead. Taste it.”
Elymas looked appalled. Rizla, as if daring him, stuck her finger in the vat closet, ignoring the body therein, and popped it in her mouth.
When her eyes dared him, Elymas closed his eyes and did the same.
“What do you taste.”
He shook his head, unable to describe it.
“Dead blood. A joke.”
Rizla walked to the large vat and, taking a pronged stick from the wall, stirred the liquid.This blood was brighter, thinner, and when the stick hit a lump, she prodded. A mass of white floated up. She stuck in the prong and pulled out a white reptile shape with four long limbs. Elymas closed his eyes, dizzy with relief when he saw it had yet to grow a tail.
“Had you wanted a frog, you could have simply gone to the swamp and fetched one, rather than killed half the population of the Bottom,” she said. Anger was in her voice and energy in her hands as she poked its white belly, then twirled it around. “The King is aware. In fact, all are aware that someone has been indiscriminately killing workers.”
Fear licked licked like a flame in Elymas and he shrugged. “Not actually me, Lady Rizla,” he made no attempt to hide his groveling. He would do whatever it took. His life was on the line; murder in their air. “It was Strout and Root. Well, Strout, mostly, you see, he . . .”
“Do not lie.”
“I cannot help it,” he replied in truth.
It was a storm of broken bottles and blood. Everything in the room was sent spinning, the dead limbs of the corpses dangled and flapped, the body of the Nawab flew out the door as though on a flying carpet and lay in the outer chamber, prone on the floor. The vats were overturned and blood was inches deep. His creature lay scattered in parts.
“Clean this up,” she ordered.
He nodded, knowing that when he dared, he would call the Sacred Servants. He had no idea what explanation he would give them, but this catastrophe was too much for him alone.