Series: Atlantis: The Visionary Continent
Title: "A Candle in the Consuming Darkness"
Yamino Majo sat in her laboratory nestled deep within the area she liked to call The Swamp of Doom. It was really just some marshland between Lake Artidor and Mitai Forest that butted up against the Shendah mountain range, but the place a Sorceress lived needed a good ominous name. Otherwise, how was she going to keep up appearances? Witches (as she liked to call herself) throughout time immortal lived in Doom-ridden Swamps.
Like she tried to drive into Ehemeralds head constantly- image, image, image! No one will respect any magic-user properly if they live in the Forest of Happy-Pants Bunnies and Love Beams. (Unless they had an ominous bloodline such as the Royal Mage possessed)
She picked a large tome off a nearby shelf, and set it heavily on her worktable where it flopped open. Runes skittered and blazed across the page as her fingers marked where she was skimming. She muttered a word and dragged her index finger across a paragraph. The letters flared to life and stayed highlighted.
She said to no one in particular, swabbing the rim of a cracked teacup with a willow brush. She then dumped the brush into a flask of clear liquid. She let it sit for a few seconds, and then shoved the flask aside. She swabbed yet again and dunked another brush into a clear fluid-filled flask.
Not that either. She leaned over, cupping her face with one hand while she swilled the unresponsive flask with her other. What the hell is this stuff?
Watcha doin? Came a voice from the doorway. Majo glanced in the mirror on the worktable, aimed specifically so she could see the door. It was Princess Ehemerald, clad in a plain beige tunic and pants, her long strawberry-blonde hair pulled up into a sloppy bun. She was carrying a green book under one arm. As soon as Majo spotted the book, her eyes flicked to the clock.
Youre early, She stated, not turning around. She was here for her lessons. Its was a Tuesday, after all.
Since when is that bad? Emerald responded and pulled up a stool next to her mentor. Since she was able to read, Achine had requested that Majo tutor her progeny in simple magics. Simple magics soon turned into potions, and potions soon graduated into full fledged alchemy. The young princess, even though she was barely eleven years of age, was performing transmutations and figuring out alchemical equations even experienced Sages in Quiate had trouble with.
Majo decided to bounce this one off her student.
A foreign, odorless, colorless, flavorless substance, causing dizziness, cramps, nausea, tremors, blocks nerve impulses and rapidly increases the heart rate until the heart fails. She rattled off without missing a beat, Lifted with White Willow; failed Heldamans Test, The Ferbosiese Test, The Halongold Technique, and comes up negative for Salan, Telpadin, Opium, Pentasodol, with an unclear reading when tested for Triancadlyide. Majo pushed her glasses up her nose and looked sidelong at Ehemerald, who had a confused expression on her face. Well?
D-did you try Haribold? Ehemerald stammered, caught off guard.
Haribold is a twit and a fraud. Majo snapped, of course not.
Ehemerald bit her lip and continued, Actually, I was reading this alchemy journal Dad picked up for me-
Well, the article said that some Sages were looking into his old works, and theyre finding a lot of new applications for his theories. When applied to things Haribold didnt intend them for, they were actually finding a lot of his research valid.
He choked to death on a snake. Majo glared, Im not listening to techniques from a man who tried to prove one of his theories by swallowing a snake!
Telmadadin did something very similar, with great success. Ehemerald replied, And you have three of his books in your library.
Majo decided at this point she was very cross with her student, and they hadnt even officially started lessons.
Okay then, She said, scribbling down the symptoms on a sheet of paper and handing it to Ehemerald. Take this, and cross-research it with some of Haribold and Telmadadins theories on toxins. This is your assignment for today.
Ehemerald looked at the slip of paper, and then around the room.
Do you have-? She began.
I dont own any of crackpot Haribolds books, and I was never able to get my hands on any of Telmadadins works. Youll probably have to pay Tkaurin a visit. Majo said as she picked up a fresh willow brush to begin again.
How did you know what to give Mom and Aunt Lari, Ehemerald asked, tucking the slip of paper inside the book she had brought with her. For the antidote, I mean?
Majo fumbled the beaker she had been filling with Nalpatin and sloshed a bit on the table.
Well, I kind of gave them a Panacea. She lied, It works for most things. Bremik helped me.
Then, if theyre ok, why are we still looking for what this stuff is? Ehemerald asked, her inquisitive nature attempting to pin Majo into a corner.
Curiosity, The Sorceress replied, I dont want some unknown poison running loose in the kingdom.
Ah. Was all the princess said. She paused in the doorway, lingering longer than someone satisfied with the answer they had received should have. She opened her mouth to say something, but then thought better of it and left.
Of course she wasnt about to tell Ehemerald that what she and Bremik had cooked up was only a temporary solution. Whatever toxin had been slipped to them was strong, and they had to be dosed with a powerful antitoxin every two hours to slow down the rate they metabolized the poison. Not only that, but it appeared they had been slipped two entirely different things! The symptom of heart failure that Majo had given to Ehemerald wasnt entirely true. It was Bremik and her best guess at what the substance was supposed to achieve.
She was desperately trying to figure out what the poison was, and how she could cleanse it. Alchemy, Magic, nor the backwards thing the rest of the world referred to as modern medicine had any effect. They were working with an unknown time limit. The antitoxin by nature had diminishing returns- with every dose, it became less effective.
She set the filled flask down on the work bench and ran her hands through her hair.
What the hell was she supposed to do?
Rama cut a ghostly grey streak through the dawn as he ran, carrying on him a very weary Ehemerald. His powerful paws tore up the distance between the castle and Tkaurins tower in the ruins of the old Rennindar duchy. The Wolfkin cub and Ehemerald had been around the same age when Ramas brother, Mika, had brought him to the castle ten years ago. As a wolf, Rama was now a sleek, powerful creature. As a Wolfkin, he was three times as big as a normal wolf and able to carry a rider as slight as Ehemerald was. As a human, he had no idea what age he would be. Probably close to Ehemeralds, which gave him a really close bond with the princess.
Normally, an elder would have taught him how to shift as the Kin called the ability for their kind to move between semi-human and animal forms. However, his clans slaying was what had brought him and Mika to Castle Atlantis in the first place; Mika had died in a fierce battle a few years back when Tsunami had vanished and Empress Karis new Lieutenant, Kurot, had appeared. He had been too young to learn to shift then, and no one was left to teach him now.
Ramas glowing amber eyes flared at the thought of his brothers killer. He had been but a cub when it happened, but the desire for vengeance flowed hot in his veins. The urge to rip out that damned Kurots throat danced in his head. All his anguish at barely knowing his older brother, his despair over never having a human form to be able to properly love the Princess- all of it formed into this burning ball of hatred Rama carried in his breast. He would keep it locked tightly there until he ever came face to face with HIM.
Ehemerald shifted as they skirted the tiny lumber town of Rennindar and headed for the duchy. She leaned into his mane and curled her soft hands in his fur.
Youre tense. She said, Did you want to rest a bit? Were almost there.
Im fine, Rama replied, shaking his head to clear his reverie. Besides, as you said, were almost there. I can rest at the duchy.
If youre sure. Ehemerald sighed and absently patted his head. From her position, she didnt see his eyes squeeze shut happily at her touch, or the silly canine grin that struck his countance. They had been running through the night and were about ten minutes from Tkaurins tower now. Soon, she would know what the hell that woman had done to her Mother and her Godmother.
When they reached the ruins, Rama slowed to pick his way around the rubble. All about Atlantis were the empty vine covered duchies, crumbling into dust, a relic of a long ago age in Atlantian history when awful times had come with the tyrannical reign of Oki Iron Hand Kenta. Most had been allowed to crumble into sand and lichen covered stone. Some of the better ones were re-inhabited when her mother came into power, but they were abandoned soon as well. Threads of old, misused magic still lingered about the deserted grounds, driving off any potential residents. Except Tkaurin. Her ancestors, who had kept the Royal Library proper, had harnessed those free energies, and used them to power the great library mechanism. Only members of the Samatia family knew how to repair or operate it and that is how long ago, an Oki (Mei the Second, if she remembered her history correctly) charged the Samatia family to keep the Royal Librans and coincidentally, the Book of Names.
The Book of Names wasnt just one book, but fifteen-hundred and ninety-eight tomes recording every birth, death, and name of every Atlantian. According to history texts, the very first book of names even records the residents of Netribar, the colony formed from the first settlers of Atlantis, who came from Europe. Netribar wasnt around in the modern day- its existence bordered even on legend. Supposedly, its ruins rest deep within the Mitai Forest, a hostile, overgrown tangle of trees and ferocious wildlife. Explorers frequently went off to find The Lost City of Netribar and were never seen or heard from again.
As they approached Tkaurins tower home behind the collapsed duchy, a burst of darkness, clear against the orange dawn sky erupted from an upstairs window. Rama skidded to a stop.
Dark magic, He growled. Ehemerald reached inside the lining of her green traveling cloak as she slid off Ramas back and pulled out three long glass vials. They were sealed at the ends, and in the middle of each was a metal ring, attached to a stopper of diamond. Each end of each transparent tube was filled with a different colored substance. Rama had been around the girl long enough to recognize what they were.
Alchemists Dynamite? Rama gestured towards the vials in her hands.
Sort of. I modified them. Only the red and yellow one explodes. The purple and green one releases paralysis gas and the pink and clear one is a blinding bomb. She rummaged around in the padded pocket of her cloak and produced a small glass jar with two yellowish capsules inside. She shook the pills out into her hand and offered one to Rama.
Tuck this under your tongue. She instructed, If I toss any of these except for the red and yellow one, bite this pill. Its an antidote to the paralysis gas and the blinding agent.
Rama licked the pill up into his maw, and fiddled with it until it was under his tongue. Ehemerald did the same and another burst erupted form the tower window, except this time it was followed by an unintelligible scream. Ehemerald and Rama crept up to the tower door, and leaned against the wall. She reached over and found it slightly ajar. She shoved it open, and brandished her fistful of bombs as she peered inside. The stairs leading up to the Library were empty. As they snuck up the stairs, they could hear voices, and it sounded like two people were having an argument.
The heavy metal door to the Library was open. Rama peered inside, and motioned for Ehemerald to enter. The place looked like she remembered it, except now a free-standing bookshelf had been knocked over and volumes were scattered across the floor. Ehemerald spotted one of Tkaurins kunai stuck in the doorframe over the stairs leading to the living quarters. The frame was made of shale, but the throwing dagger had found a home in the sealing grout between the stones in the arch. Upon further inspection, several more daggers were on the floor, several fresh chips and gouges were found in the frame, and there were strange glowing needles scattered on the floor.
Careful, She whispered to Rama, pointing at the needles, They could be poison laced. She made her way up a few steps, looking for more needles. When she decided it was safe, she motioned for the Wolfkin to jump to her. Rama nodded, and leapt, landing deftly by her side.
They picked their way up the stairs, and a shockwave of energy burst over them. Someone was throwing around powerful black magic up there, and she knew for a fact Tkaurin could barely manage household cantrips.
The arguing got louder as they went up, and they could pick out female voices, exchanging words between explosions. The top door, made of a slab of tempered metal, was closed. Ehemerald went to place a hand on the handle ring, but Rama slapped her hand away.
Its hot, He whispered as loudly as he dared, Use your cloak.
Ehemerald wrapped her left hand in her traveling cloak and pulled back slowly, willing the door not to creak. If it did, no one heard it over the exchange of repartee and magical volleys. When she had it open just far enough, she peeked in.
Tkaurin was in a defensive stance, her rose colored dress torn up to her waist on one side, like a piece was missing. Ehemerald spotted it wrapped around her nose and mouth like a bandit mask, and on her upper arm. There were red blooms on the makeshift bandage, indicating she had been hurt, and was bleeding. She was hunched over slightly, head forward. In one hand, she held a few kunai. Ehemerald noted that her hip sheath, exposed now but usually hidden under her dress, was empty. Those were her last daggers.
In her off hand, she had a large swath of pink cloth, flowing free like a voluminous pink scarf. Ehemeralds eyes darted to the other figure in the room, cloaked all in black, its features invisible. It wasnt very tall, and was narrow shouldered. In one exposed hand, it was building a crackling ball of dark energy. In the other danced small silvery shards like those she saw littering the floor downstairs. They were either tucked between its fingers, or some sort of thin claw. The hooded figure spoke with a familiar voice that sent chills down the princess and her companions spines.
I. Want. That. Book. Darian growled, flexing her fingers around the energy in her hand, enunciating each word in that slow, deliberate way she had of speaking. That manner of talking that had always seemed to make Ehemerald seem like she thought everyone around her was an idiot.
Tkaurin narrowed her eyes and adjusted her stance. In that brief second, the Princess saw that the Royal Librarian was standing in front of a podium. On that podium was a compendium, bound in red leather and gold leaf.
You get nothing, you traitor! She growled, her mousy brown hair bobbing as she shook her head, Youve poisoned the Queen! You come into my home, my business, bringing nothing but trouble- nothing but devastation- and attack me! Now she took on a mocking tone of the other womans speech pattern. You. Get. NOTHING! As she said the last line, a kunai flew from her nimble fingers. In the same heartbeat, her black-cloaked attacker lobbed the ball of dark energy at Tkaurin, and also lashed out with her other hand. Tkaurin ducked the ball of energy, which exploded on an already damaged wall and sent out another shockwave; at the same time, she swung her other hand, the one the cloth was attached to, in a wide swath in front of her. Ehemerald saw a brief flicker of light in the fabric. She then understood why Tkaurin had torn her dress like that- not just to make a bandage and mask, but to make a shield to block whatever those slivers were that Darian was throwing behind the energy. She shook the cloth again, and the slivers clattered to the floor.
What the hell is wrong with you? Tkaurin spat, They trusted you!
They did? Ehemerald caught a glimpse of a smirk under her deep hood. Do you mean to say that you never trusted me?
Never. Darian lobbed another round of slivers as Tkaurin spoke, and the pink-clad woman blocked them. Never- and then I especially didnt trust you when you tried to drug Mahkein and Tsunami at the Kimichas Birthday seven years ago!
Another kunai flashed in the air between them. Darian knocked it away easily, as if swatting a fly. The princess noted she was wearing some kind of black metal bracers, with red, glowing runes etched into them. Rama growled low in his throat, and Ehemerald put a hand on his head to quiet him.
Pfft- They were attracted to me regardless of anything I did to them. Besides. Who wants a snotty Sprite or a meek Librarian when they can have this? She motioned to her black clad self, sticking out a hip in what she must have thought was a sexy pose.
Tkaurin bit her lip in what appeared to be an attempt to hold back her mirth.
Darians mouth, the only part of her visible save for her hands, curled into a cruel smile.
You mock me openly, Mousey Book-Keeper? She laughed, a very dark sound now, and began to gather energy again. Another dagger flew from Tkaurins hand, her last one, and struck her square in the thigh. The hooded figure looked down, and her energy gathering stopped with her surprise.
She said disbelievingly, You attacked me while I was laughing. She grasped the dagger by the hilt, yanked it out and tossed it to one side. With a clatter, it hit a wall and skidded towards the door.
Tkaurin watched the dagger, and noticed the slightly ajar door with Princess Ehemerald lurking there. Her eyes widened with concern and shock; Ehemerald knew that Darian would soon look over, and spot her. In a split second decision, she shoved the door fully open, pulled the pin, and lobbed the red and yellow filled vial at the cloaked figure with a shrill scream.
Leave you traitor! She cried. Darian raised a gauntleted hand to block it, shattering the vial in the process.
The ensuing explosion was much larger than Ehemerald had expected. She had to hold onto the door frame to avoid being flung down the stairs, and her hands burned from the heat of it. Darian and Tkaurin screamed, and there was a distinctive growling noise amongst the din.
As the mauve smoke settled, Ehemerald let go of the scalding doorframe and cried out, holding her scorched palms up towards her face. Tkaurin had been knocked back over the podium and had hit the far wall. She was struggling to her feet as the black-clad figure let out a blood-curdling scream.
She flailed frantically backwards under the weight of Rama, who had attacked her in the confusion, sinking his teeth into her exposed neck under the hood and cloak. He growled fiercely and shook his head, blood spilling out in gushes over his muzzle, splattering the stone floor and some of the wall with sanguine droplets. Her screams were quickly turning into gargles as the blood pooled in her punctured throat, and Ehemerald forgot her painful hands for a moment while watching it.
Rama braced his hind legs against her stomach and pushed his front feet into her mailed shoulders to balance himself. He opened his jaws for a brief second to reposition for a killing blow, when he felt the woman tilt back too suddenly. He realized what was happening and leapt from her as she tumbled backwards and out the tower window.
His feet skidded in her blood as he landed, and he slid backwards, leaving ruddy streaks along the floor. When he regained his purchase, he ran to the window and standing on his hind legs, looked down out of it.
Shes gone! He growled, and spat blood onto the floor. Disgusting. Tainted. He muttered.
Ehemerald crawled to him, tears in her eyes. He looked down at her and saw her blistering hands. He looked over to Tkaurin, who was walking over to them in a daze.
What were you doing here?! The brown-haired girl cried, hugging the now sobbing Ehemerald.
She hiccupped, I
Her hands! Rama exclaimed, Treat them- Im going to look for the traitor!
Rama! Tkaurin yelled after him, but he was already down the stairs and gone. She looked back at the crying, hiccupping Ehemerald, who was sobbing and staring at her hands. The Librarian grabbed the piece of cloth she had been using as a shield, checked it for slivers, then tore it in half with her teeth and began to bandage the childs hands.
The Wolfkin returned shortly, limping into the living quarters of Samatia Tkaurin.
She had the princess on her bed, the childs hands bandaged in pink cloth.
Shes gone. He said, flopping down on the stone floor of the bedroom, I dont know how, but she is. He looked up at Ehemerald, concern in his amber eyes. How is she?
I think shes in shock. I called for Chloa Bremik. Hes closer than Majo at this point.
What happened? Tkaurin asked, holding up two familiar vials, I found these on her- are these some sort of Alchemists Dynamite?
Yeah. Rama replied, She modified them somehow. Whatever you do, dont drop them! Something about blinding gas. The pink-clad girl set them on the bedside table gently at that point.
What in the eight continents were you two doing here? Tkaurin asked incredulously, watching out the window for any signs of the Espritian Medic.
We came for a book. Ehemerald needs to research someone or something for Majo. Something about a guy named Hairy-bowl and some guy Tell-mad-in.
Telmadadin? Tkaurins eyes widened, Seriously?
Yeah, that sounds right. Rama agreed and Ehemerald bobbed her head up and down. He wasnt sure if she was confirming the statement or just bobbing her head in shock. Why?
Tkaurin reached across the table and grabbed three books. One was bound in red leather, one in black silk, and the third in some kind of other cured hide.
These books were all written by Archiaus Telmadadin, She informed him, These are the books Darian was after.
Rama frowned in a dog-like manner. From what she tells me, Majo wants her to research a poison of some sort.
The one that is affecting the Kimicha and Lady Laryssa? The girl exclaimed, dropping one of the books on the floor. She sent the Queens Daughter in search of a cure? I thought we werent going to tell her!
She doesnt know. Rama replied, She thinks this is strictly schoolwork.
Whispered Tkaurin, Shes stumped, huh? Majo, I mean.
I spoke with her before we left for here. Shes completely distraught. She cant figure out why she cant identify the toxin, and shes worried sick about them. She hasnt slept in two days.
Tkaurin breathed, bending to pick up the dropped book. It was the black leather bound volume, entitled A Continued Thesis on Exotic Toxins, Poisons, and Venoms. It had fallen open to an article with a drawing of a strange and very foreign plant.
Wait, Rama stopped her and placed a paw on the book.
Careful! Thats the only copy in existence! Tkaurin looked horrified at his blood caked paw.
There had to be a reason she wanted these books so badly. I bet the antidote is in here. He said.
Or at least, it will identify the poison. Tkaurin added.
There was a knock at the window, and Chloa Bremik stuck his blonde head inside.
I got a summons, He breathed, The Princess is here, right? I wasnt to go to the castle?
No, shes right here! Tkaurin pointed at Ehemerald. Bremik floated over to the bed in front of the girl and looked into her face.
Oh, I need to rest my wings! He gasped, examining an eyeball. Her pupils are dilated. He placed a pointed ear on her left wrist. Her heartbeat, while elevated, is strong. Good, good.
He moved about the princess, muttering in that universal way all doctors did as he checked her over. He removed the bandages from her hands and looked at her palms.
What on Atlantis happened? He exclaimed, This was black magic!
Darian was here. Rama explained, Was after a book that we think has the antidote to the Kimicha and Laris poison. Ehemerald and I were on an errand from Majo to see the same book. When we arrived, Tkaurin and Darian were having a showdown. She was throwing dark energy around. Really powerful stuff.
She threw it at a child? Bremik gasped.
No, she was throwing it at me for a long time. Tkaurin answered, It was so strong, it heated the walls. She ran in and threw an Alchemists Dynamite and I guess grabbed the hot door to avoid being flung down the stairs.
Whats she doing with Alchemists Dynamite? The Espritian medic asked, cleaning Ehemeralds hands gently with a disinfectant he had pulled from his bag. This might sting a bit dear. He said to the girl. She was unresponsive.
Well, I suppose its easier this way
He said sadly and continued swabbing.
She made it. She is Majos apprentice, after all. Rama said, looking at his paws. Oh! He pricked his ears and looked at Ehemeralds cloak, which had been draped over a chair. Theres a pocket sewn into the lining. Tkaurin, go in there and get out a small scrap of paper- Majo listed the symptoms and stuff we need to look for. The pink-dressed girl leaned over and dug in the cloak until she pulled out the note.
gibberish. She looked puzzled, and turned the paper in her hands, I cant read this.
Its Alchemists Shorthand. Ehemerald looked up at Tkaurin emotionlessly. I can tell you what it says.
Oh good! Looks like the shock wore off. Bremik exclaimed. Ehemerald looked down at the towheaded sprite doctor.
I cant feel my hands. She said softly. Bremik stared at her.
You dont feel this? He asked, jabbing a red blister. It burst and oozed sterile water, drawn up from deep inside her skin.
No. She stated blankly. I saw you pop the blister, and I didnt feel it at all.
Rama made a strangled noise in his throat. Bremik said a short incantation as white light swirled about his small hands. He pressed his hands against Ehemeralds and was still as if listening to a voice no one could hear. From time to time, he moved his hands along her damaged ones and cocked his head. Finally after a long couple of minutes, the light faded and Bremik stood up.
Temporary nerve damage. He proclaimed, Nothing to be seriously worried about. It will heal in time, and the nerves will regenerate in a few months. No problems. He rummaged in his bag and pulled out a blue tube. As he did so, he noted the horrified looks on Rama and Tkaurins faces.
Or, we could slap some of this on, and shell be right as rain in a few hours. Shell be in a lot of pain, but shell have feeling back. It forces the nerves and skin to instantly regenerate. He flicked the tube open, and began to liberally apply the salve, which was also blue in color.
The speed causes the pain. Shell be all over it by tomorrow, but tonight will be bad. Im recommending Lavender and Willow Tincture. Size C flask, Grade Three strength. 1/3 of the flask every 6 hours until gone. Majo can mix it up for ya.
I could mix it up, if I could get back to the lab. Ow. Ehemerald said.
Seems to be kicking in already. The medic Sprite smiled. Medicine is great, huh? Ehemerald nodded and prodded her hands, wincing slightly every time she did so.
At that point, a tall, willowy man with long black hair and a long black cloak with the Royal Sigil as its catch entered the room. He was very pale, which was normal for him, with pointed ears and sharp ruby red eyes.
Mahkein! Tkaurin exclaimed, and ran to him. He put a comforting arm around her as she hugged him.
I hear we have a few people who could use portaling to the Castle. He said in his flat voice.
Absolutely. Rama said, nodding at the Royal Mage.
All right, everyone hop in. It wont stay open forever. He said, and guided Tkaurin towards the portal.
What about you
? She began. He looked at her.
Im going to secure things here in case our friend decides to return and tear the place apart. Im going to ward it. Ill be along in five minutes.
Good idea. Bremik agreed and prodded Ehemerald, Time to go kid.
As Ehemerald rose from the bed, she asked Tkaurin how she got everyone there so fast.
Tkaurin touched the pink pearl clip she always wore in her hair. Its a communication spell. It links to Mahkeins Sigil on his cloak.
Thats a good idea. Ehemerald murmured thoughtfully as she neared to portal. She looked over at Rama.
We should do that. She told him as she wandered through the portal after Tkaurin. Rama noticed she had a stack of books with her. All of the Telmadadin books were there, and a few other ones he hadnt seen.
Majos stubborn will is rubbing off on her; he thought and followed her through the portal.
Lazidan Haribold and Archiaus Telmadadin.
Together, they had written five books of varying length. Ehemerald was devouring them like they were food and she hadnt eaten in months.
She was in her room- tucked into her fluffy down filled bed- unable to sleep a wink. The Lavender-Willow medicine gave her vertigo when she closed her eyes, but it took the pain in her hands away. She had already downed two of the three doses of it, and still hadnt found anything.
With one hand, she scrawled sloppy notes in Alchemists Shorthand as she skimmed; making note of any substances with any symptoms that matched the list Majo had given her. So far, she had 22 possibilities, but none of them she thought matched outright.
She reached the end of the third book by Telmadadin, and picked up the first one by Haribold. It was as thin as a magazine, and had a hokey title: Deadly Substances and the One in Love with Danger. She started to skim, but ended up reading.
Where Telmadadins works read like a well polished research dictionary, Haribolds were like frantic research notes, barely formed into a semblance of a book with articles. She had to read everything thoroughly.
By the end of the first book, she decided that Majo was probably right- He was a crackpot lunatic. At least, he wrote like one.
Rama snored loudly from the foot of the bed, where he always slept. She glanced at him, and noticed that he was sleeping on her Alchemists Journal Magazine. She remembered what she had told Majo yesterday, and pulled it out from under him. She flipped to the Article entitled: Lazidan Haribold- Boldly Defending Mad Science, or Riding Telmadadins Coattails?
She found what she was looking for at the end of the article- a listing of what Telmadadin and a listing of what Haribold listed as the Top Ten most efficient poisons of all time.
Number one on Haribolds list was a salve of Tanag berries and Young Soapbox leaf. It was noted that the two substances, while harmless together became a deadly neurotoxin when combined with a citric acid, like lemon juice.
Number one on Telmadadins list was the same thing, but he claimed it needed citric acid and titanium dioxide to be most effective.
The list went on like that; with Telmadadins findings being identical to Haribolds- save for the addition of a few substances he claimed were essential to the venomous nature of the substances.
One of Haribolds entries, number two, was completely different from Telmadadins and there was an asterisk next to it. She followed it to a note citing the page number and book that the information was obtained from. Ehemerald dug out that book, one she hadnt read yet: Encyclopedia of Deadly Venoms, and turned to page 190.
The chapter was entitled Designer Toxins that will Fail Every Test Designed to Detect Them as Components.
The very first listing was a neurotoxin made from Snowberries, Selenium, Cow Saliva, and based with Fructose to mask the taste and scent. It was odorless, sweet-seeming, and almost instant. It was referred to as Eves Apple, and White Death. No tests could detect it- however if the blood of an infected person is injected into a garter snake it will go into a euphoric intoxicated state. [Referred to as a Positive Snake Drunk Test] The blood of the intoxicated snake must be drawn immediately, a full Type B Vial, and then injected back into the victim of the poison. Symptoms of the poison will fully subside after 2 hours and the victim would recover fully.
It went on to mention that the victim would fall into a comatose but still conscious state, it steadily escalated the heartbeat, blocked nerve impulses, until the heart ruptured and the victim bled to death internally.
Ehemerald hurriedly scribbled and bookmarked the page with a slip of paper. She continued reading.
The next article was about a substance called Sordid Assortment comprised of Aflatoxin, Marsh Marigold Sap, Distilled Tobacco and Poison Hemlock. The symptoms were rapid breathing, twitching, shaking, weakness, coma, central nervous system failure, and finally death by respiratory failure. The only test to determine ingestion was to smell the victims breath. It would smell like Peanut Butter. The cure for this one was simple like its test- drink a tincture of Cranberries, Dandelion Milk, and Kafara Root. No snakes involved.
She scribbled a few lines, grabbed the paper and the book, and flew from her bed. She had to convince Mahkein to open a portal to the Swamp of Doom immediately.
She came to, her head swimming, and feeling like her brain had been shot full of holes. She was in a small room, far from cleanly, and the first thing to meet her addled vision was a man who was even less cleanly than the room she was in. He wore a blood spattered smock, and was drinking a mug of ale.
Who the hell are you? She rasped, looking immediately for her poison needles. They were gone. As a matter of fact, most of her clothes were gone. The man leered at her.
Whatever that was did a number on ya. Good to know you can still talk. Yer windpipe doohickey was smashed up, and you were bleedin all over da place.
Darian placed a hand to her throat and felt bandages. The memory came back to her- of the Librarian wench, that brat, and that damn dog. That damn dog had tried to rip her throat out!
Anger flared up against her muzzy consciousness and she tried to sit up. A burning pain shot through her shoulder and made her light headed. Her sheet slipped down exposing her breasts, but she didnt care.
Any friend of Kurots is a friend of the True Empress, and is welcome in mah office. The man raised his tankard of ale, sloshing it a bit, looking openly at her exposed chest, and grinned.
It wasnt often he got to look at his patients like this and conscious.
So, Kurot had brought me here, she thought. All she remembered was the dog, and the feeling of falling when he finally let go. The feeling of drowning, of red haze.
So, youre alive. Kurot walked into the room, the tattered ends of his headband trailing behind him like a kinetic twin tail.
Did you save me? She whispered.
I didnt do it to be nice, He said, and took a bite out of a chunk of rye bread he had brought with him.
Then why? Why bother with me. She cast her gaze down angrily as she said this, so he wouldnt see the tears in her eyes.
Simple, He chewed some more. Your being alive pisses them off more than anything I or my Mistress could ever do to them. Your being alive hurts them more than killing any number of them.
Darian glared at him from hooded lashes.
They hate you. He grinned, caraway and crumbs falling down into his lap, Isnt it delicious? Isnt it wonderful, Delilah?
? She whispered. The little talking she had done had already strained her newly repaired vocal cords.
Yes. Its a special little name my Mistress picked for you. It fits.
She fumed silently and fought back her tears even harder. She hated that name.
Achine was sitting up now, and drinking a weak fish broth. Laryssa was still sleeping in the bed next to her, her husband Shard, in his dragon form, curled up protectively on the pillow above her head.
It was absolutely amazing how one second, she could be worried about cows, and the next minute, waking up from horrible dreams, being told that she had been injected with snake blood and that her daughter had fought a dangerous criminal, burnt all the nerves in her hands, and saved both hers and Lari-chans life.
She placed the small bowl to her lips, blew, and took another sip. She was starving. Couldnt they put something in the bowl besides broth? At least some tofu! Anything!
Her husband, Darak, sat in a chair next to her bed. He wasnt in his armor for once- just a simple black tunic and blue slacks. He was reading a small blue leather book.
Did you know, he began, not looking up from the page, That snakes can be used to detect over seventy different types of poisonous mixtures that would be otherwise undetectable?
She glared at him. He didnt notice.
Also, ninety-percent of the time, the test doesnt even hurt the snake- and the snake immediately produces anti-venom when injected with the poison or with blood carrying the poison! He looked over at her. You were injected with drunk snake blood. Amazing
Who gave you that book? Achine said annoyedly between sips.
Emmy, He replied, still reading. This guy, Haribold, hes obsessed with snakes.
Yeah. Majo informs me he died trying to eat one. She replied, trying to emphasize on the lack of enthusiasm in her voice.
A small black and white dog with long fur and a mashed in face jumped on the bed and began to try and stick its face in her soup bowl.
Achine chided, poking the dog on its crumpled nose, No soup for you. Mine.
She drained the soup bowl and set it on the nightstand.
So, I drank my broth. Can I eat something more substantial, like rice?
No, He replied automatically, Nothing but broth for the next twenty-four hours.
Damn. She muttered, and slid back down in the bed, snuggling Brutus in her arms like a teddy bear. He squirmed out of her grip and jumped away, running over to the couch and choosing to sleep on that instead.
Achine closed her eyes wearily and smiled as her husband stroked her hair until she fell asleep.
At least she had every chance in the world of waking up. Even in dangerous times such as these, even with traitors like that person on the loose, she still knew there were still people who would stand by her side.
Knowing that, she could sleep easy.