“Suga?” Mirella blinked against the lights which were getting brighter. Etta seemed not to have noticed. “I don’t know him.”
Rizla, Suga, Faw Shandy: unknown names bandied about in the confines of the caravan that seemed to have taken control of her life. Mirella wanted nothing more than to lie down and give into the pain.
“Elymas has failed to kill the Earth Child,” the Orange bottle began to sing. “What will he do? What will he do? After all that he has slewed?”
The Orange Bottle continued with this nonsense, but when he failed to get a rise out of the others, began to hum a tuneless song.
“The peasant child the Queen has replaced him with will never learn the ways of the court. He’s of peasant blood,” sniffed Pride.
“May I have him?” asked Plague, longingly.
“No, you may not,” snapped Etta. “Rizla has plans for him.”
“What plans?” asked Envy. “I know nothing of plans.”
“Why should you?” Anger shouted at them all. “This doesn’t concern you.”
“He’s right,” agreed Etta. Though Anger seemed to hate her the most, Etta agreed with him more. “Plus, the girl is here.”
“She cannot know, she cannot know, the way the the Prince will surely go.” Orange found a feeble verse and sang it.
A cry pierced the air and for a moment, Mirella thought it had come from her. But the cry stopped, as abruptly as it had begun, followed by the sound of uncontrollable weeping. Mirella studied the blue bottle for the first time. She saw a human face in anguish; most of the flesh still remained. This was the closest thing to human comfort she was going to get, and she needed it. Etta knew of the peasant child exchanged for the true Prince, and now they were doomed. Poor Laveth. Her heart had ached for nothing.
Mirella sat up as best she could and asked, “Can I help you?”
The other bottles erupted into furious chatter.
“Pay him no mind. He’s the spirit of lunacy.”
“Silence, Bridon! You’ve whined the entire time!”
“Interfere,” hissed the Plague bottle to Mirella, “and I’ll release myself and cover you with pustulant boils. You’ll die corrupted.”
Mirella, who’d been inching toward the corner, stopped.
“I, however, will not die,” the Plague Bottle continued. “Rizla will call me back.”
“Rizla is not here!” screamed Anger.
“Nor is Suga,” said Envy, who couldn’t stand to for someone to know more than she did.
“You can’t let yourself out,” said Orange, effusive with worry. “Without help from the Dark, you’ll fly into the void.”
“I won’t.” The Black Bottle spoke for the first time.
‘You aren’t afraid of the Void?” the Brown Bottle whined, her words curling like a winter leaf.
“Of course not!”
“Well, you should be,” said Pride. “Without our bottles, we’d be like the rest. Ordinary.”
“I wouldn’t,” Death spoke again.
Another chorus of denials arose.
“Be silent!” thundered Anger.
“We resent your tone, and we will not be silenced.”
“You stupid, stupid vapor,” shouted Orange. “I told Rizla long ago that your pride would be the downfall of us all.”
“Say no more!” shouted Anger.
But, of course, Gossip had to speak last. It was her nature. “Yes, Pride, do stop talking, before she catches on and looses us into the void.”
“Etta, shut up!” Anger’s bottle shook with fury.
The child, roused by Anger’s voice, gave a cry.
The Prince was alive!
In that moment, Mirella knew what she must do. There was a small chance for freedom and she would take it.