“When I get my hands on Iskielo,” Lorwyn growls, “he’s going to wish I’d murdered him.”
Oh dear. “Dare I ask what he did to deserve such a fate?”
“Come with me,” Lorwyn says, stalking toward the shelves and pointing at a column of out-of-place boxes. “Look at that.”
I tilt my head to one side, recalling what normally sits there. Oh. “The poscunder bile is behind that, isn’t it.”
“The poscunder bile is behind that,” Lorwyn confirms. “That being crates that contain jumping beads. You know what draws out poscunder bile?”
I sigh. “Movement. In Iskielo’s defense, I did tell him to find a place for those boxes.”
“I also heard you tell him to run it by me first,” Lorwyn snaps. “And you know what he didn’t do, in his great rush to get out of here to play some stupid outdoor game with his friends? Show common sense.”
“Is the poscunder bile all spoiled, then?” I ask.
“I don’t know, Miyara,” Lorwyn says with false sweetness. “I can’t get to it. It’s possible there are a few drops that haven’t curdled into a rictus of horror and can be salvaged. As the boxes were exposed overnight, though, I wouldn’t count on it.”
The whole supply will be a loss, then. Talmeri won’t be pleased. “How do we dispose of it safely?”
Her smile is a shark’s. “It can’t be done safely.”
“Safely to people not us,” I clarify. “I assume I’m going to have to risk myself here.”
“I’m certainly not going to,” Lorwyn confirms. “So since the transformed bile will continue to expand the longer it’s left, and you’re the only other one here, that does leave just you.”
The first problem is getting to the store of poscunder bile. Iskielo has shoved all these boxes in so tightly I’m already out of breath having moved only two.
“I suppose you’re not going to deign to use witchcraft to help with this part,” I say to Lorwyn.
“Any sense of my witchcraft will cause the transformed bile to erupt,” she reminds me.
That’s so convenient for her I stare for a long moment, but finally sigh. She’s not lying.
My robes are torn from snagging on the boxes, because Iskielo also took so little care with them they cracked and splintered in several places. But at last, I get to the poscunder bile.
The case that should have held the inky liquid is bulging, straining at the seams. I’m just in time.
From her position down the aisle, Lorwyn tosses me a hammer.
Taking a deep breath, I lift a foot and use my toes to gently pry the lid off.
Immediately, black masks burst out, whizzing toward my face to clamp on.
I swing the hammer without hesitation, and the first cracks into pieces. Fortunately, this is enough to render it inert.
Unfortunately, it’s not the only one, and each is bigger and more horrifying than the last.
None manages to get a grip on me, but it’s a near thing. I stand surrounded by the shards of my enemies, breathing heavily.
I have no doubt I’m also going to have to clean up this mess, and move the boxes again. Which wouldn’t bother me too much, but my clothes are destroyed, slashed to ribbons, and I’ll have to waste even more time on a project that never should have happened.
“I don’t suppose,” I ask Lorwyn in a very neutral voice, “you could fix my dress?”
“Afraid not,” she says, watching me carefully. “The slashes were made by the poscunder bile, and you know how it is about witchcraft. You okay, Miyara?”
“I hope you will forgive me,” I say, “but you will have to wait for your chance at Iskielo. I will be having words with him first.”
Lorwyn takes a step back. “You know what, how about I just concede my claim to you?”
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