Rizla Embarks

Rizla the Red Witch

“A fool,” he reiterated mildly. “But not so far gone that he can’t be corrected or curtailed.”

Rizla shook her head. “He blustered. He pressed when he should have kept silent. He might as well have laid his plans out before them. Small wonder Ondred already suspects him.” Rizla sucked on a finger, then placed it on a candlestick. Soundlessly, the fire went out. “Elymas has been left too much to his own devises. I hope we do not pay for this.”

“I think it unlikely. Elymas is a pompous ass. It will not take much to bring him to heel.”

“The Tuel’s memory is long.”

“Then we must give him rapid results,” Suga’s voice was calm, comforting as his girth. “I begin by taking away his trinkets.”

“You mean the dragon seed?” Rizla laughed. Oddly enough, it had a merry ring. “Worthless. One can’t plant dragons.”

“He doesn’t know that,” reminded Suga.

“True,” Rizla laughed again. “I well remember the night he came for it. The disguised, rain-soaked rider in the middle of the night. And then we had to pretend to search, the poor but knowledgeable doctor and his frightened, eager apprentice.”

Suga smiled, his eyes disappearing, but the humor passed almost at once. “The dragon seed is worthless, yet every day he sees a pattern in the glass. An arm, a leg, the beginning of a scale. He feeds it blood, Rizla, and that must stop. It is a waste. It is also a danger. Too many Nawabs, or Wabbers, have gone missing. Suspicion must not be laid at his door.” He paused. “The poison as well. He must cease giving the King the Lud Sellum at once.”

Rizla had been idly braiding a strand of her luxuriant hair, but now she shook it free. “You’re right. I must go to Casoria. His next step is predictable. The King has humiliated him, and now he will kill the King.”

“But the King must live.”

“Of course.” Rizla rose. “I must leave for Casoria tonight, before Elymas throws a fatal wrench in our plans.”

“I will distract him until you arrive,” agreed the eunuch. “I will send confusing thoughts and inner turmoil to torment him, but you will only have until dawn. My powers end with the light.”

“I can do this,” Rizla nodded, looking down at her rings, noting among the precious jewels an immense square cut purple stone. “Yes, I have them all except . . . ” She crossed the room to a wall chest and pulled out a box with a tapestried lid, rummaging in it until she found a necklace. She held it up, allowing it to dangle in the air. At the end of the chain was a pear shaped stone which, at the moment, appeared clear. “Ah, here it is. I must leave at once.”

Her feet made no sound

Their eyes met. Suddenly, she crossed the room to him, her footsteps soundless on the carpets strewn about the floor.