“Very well. Taunt me. But how was I to know that the King’s death would offend the Tuel? Indeed, why should I? I move at my own volition. I have no contact with him.”
“No contact? At your own violation?” She laughed again, and this time the sound was most unpleasant. She wiped her eyes with the edge of her gossamer sleeve. “Surely, you don’t think you’ve acted alone all these years. Without the Tuel, you’d have been found out after the first earth child.”
The first earth child? That had been. . . .Elymas was finding it hard to breathe.
“The crude hacking of the tree? The feeble Skylls you’ve erected? The homunculus?” She paused to watch him wince. “You’ve done nothing on your own. You’ve long been a servant, nay, a slave of the Tuel, but only now does he see fit to acknowledge you as such. Consider it an honor that you breathe.” She paused again, saying clearly. “The attempted murder of the King was the act of a spiteful fool. From this moment on, you will be treated as such.”
Elymas found himself nodding yes.
“Chaos is one of our favorite weapons, but in this case it obscures what we seek to find. The prophecy was two-fold, and as to your successor, he is alive and close by.” She tilted back her head and looked at Elymas through slitted eyes. “He will remain alive. We need this particular child, and because he is only days old, months at most, the Tuel believes he can be molded to fit his purposes. My job is to find him and I will. He is within the gates. I sense a mother’s concern, a babe born different, and a secret that must be kept.” She rose from the dais, quick as a hungry cat. The gown that hung about her seemed to have been breathed from every pore. “The Axis, the one who will earn the Third Stripe, is another matter. I have no intuition about him at all. Tell me of the acolytes. Is there no one special?”
Only a split second of hesitation, yet it was enough. Elymas tried, but failed to keep the image of the redheaded youth from his mind.
“Would you rather I peeled back your mind?”
“There is one who beat me at rulla,” Elymas admitted. “He out-rolled me three times in consecutive order. It has never happened before. It should not have happened at all because my own dice are charmed. But so far he is the only one of this remarkably pitiful group who should be noticed.”
“What did he roll?”
“An eleven, a four . . . and a twenty-eight.”
“Hmm. And what were your rolls?”
“Eight, two . . . and a sixteen. But rulla itself means nothing. It is a game of chance, as you well know Exalted One.”
“Let me tell you what those rolls mean. With each cast of the dice, you are projecting in the Deep. This acolyte covered you in the middle, covered you in the depths, and you can’t reach him in the highest realm.”
He plucked nervously at his sleeve.
“You will test him first thing in the morning. Forget the rest. If he is the one, and I’m sure he is, the Tuel’s orders are this: allow him to reach all three levels without interference. Strict orders about this. We know what you’ve been doing all these years, but this one must be left alone. The Tuel wants him returned slowly in full power yet under control. I will be standing by your side and before he can open his eyes, I will slip this on him.” She lifted a pear shaped crystal from between her breasts.
“What is it?” he found himself asking.
“Would you really like to know?”