Book Three - Fire and Flood
Amid the long shadows of Archemais's library, Corellian lay awake. He could hear the soft snores of his companions, and the supper they'd eaten sat warm and pleasant in his belly. The banked fire gave off a soft glow. He was tired. But he could not sleep. It wasn't the strange mixture of serpent's den and scholarly residence they'd found behind the locked door. It wasn't the enormous snake skin lying in one of the rooms--it's eye-covers large as tea cups. It wasn't the dead alligator hanging in the cool cellar. What was keeping Corry awake was the other locked door--the one that led presumably to Archemais's bedchamber. That, and the Earth items he'd found lying about the house ...
Skeletons in the Closet
The question is not whether we will find our answers, but whether we want to.
--Kenslo, king's annuls
Amid the long shadows of Archemais's library, Corellian lay awake. He could hear the soft snores of his companions, and the supper they'd eaten sat warm and pleasant in his belly. The banked fire gave off a soft glow. He was tired.
But he could not sleep. It wasn't the strange mixture of serpent's den and scholarly residence they'd found behind the locked door. It wasn't the enormous snake skin lying in one of the rooms--it's eye-covers large as tea cups. It wasn't the dead alligator hanging in the cool cellar. What was keeping Corry awake was the other locked door--the one that led presumably
to Archemais's bedchamber. That, and the Earth items he'd found lying about the house.
Corry had a terrible suspicion. He wasn't sure when he'd allowed himself to examine it, but he knew it had been there for quite a while, locked behind its own door. Images tumbled through his head--bits of lost memories tangling with the events of the past four days--the picture of Gabalon from the book in Danda-lay, Archemais's green eyes, Dance in a dungeon, a tunic and trousers laid out beside the bathing pool--a little small, but they fit.
Corry got up and went softly to the door that led into the rest of Archemais's house. He stepped into the hall beyond, shut the door, and flipped on the electric lights. He went past the door to the cellar steps, past the kitchen, and there was the door to the bedroom.
Corry thought for a moment. He'd never been taught how to pick a lock, though he thought he understood the rudiments. He went to the kitchen and searched until he found some kind of skewer. He returned to the door, but soon gave up. Nothing inside the lock felt like a tumbler. In fact, it doesn't even feel like a lock. Corry stopped. He looked at the lock for a long moment. It was molded metal, with embellished shapes of leaves and fruit. Finally, he reached out, gripped it with his whole hand, and tried to swivel. The lock turned. It rotated around the axis of the keyhole--the false keyhole--and Corry saw behind it the real keyhole--flush with the wood. He took out the key to the main door. It fit.
* * * *
Tolomy couldn't sleep either, but his keen ears detected Corellian's uneven breathing, and Tolomy didn't feel like speaking with anyone. Finally, the iteration got up and went further into the house. Tolomy rose at once and glided out the door that led to the bathing passage, through the tunnel, and into the frosty night. He moved through a fallow vegetable garden and poked about under a likely-looking hedge, but the wildlife seemed in short supply. No surprise there, considering what lives here. He did, at last, find a mouse, with which he amused himself for the better part of a half watch.
Then he went to the stream and had a long drink. When he raised his head, the iteration was standing not ten paces away. The cursed thing moves like a cat.
Corry sat down on the riverbank. Tolomy wondered if he could still slink away without being seen. Then Corry spoke. "It must be difficult--to have Demitri's soul and Lexis's conscience."
Tolomy would later give himself some credit for not flinching. He would also, in later analysis, surmise that his utter stillness was a kind of flinch. For a moment, he couldn't even breath. "How did you--?"
"I saw the expression on your face after you killed those dogs...and the fauns."
Tolomy's mind raced. His eyes darted to Corry and then away.
Corry lay back on the grass and put his hands behind his head. "You were enjoying it.
The only thing you're really afraid of is yourself." Tolomy found his voice. "That's not true."
"Oh?" Corry glanced at him. Tolomy saw the eyes, almost as green as his own under the black shadow of hair. "I knew something about you didn't make sense, but until that moment, I didn't know what. You're always watching yourself. Everything you do, every calculated action, is a lie. I suppose when your family hunts, you miss your kills on purpose."
"You," sputtered Tolomy, "know nothing about me."
"That makes two of us."
The cub jumped to his feet. "I know what I am! I behave the way I do for good reasons." He wanted to stop, but the words came crawling out of his throat like wasps from a broken nest.
"My first memory is of a kill. Some little creature that had gotten into our nursery. I remember how it squirmed, the crunch of its bones, the warm blood in my mouth, and it was pure pleasure, even then. I snuck away to hunt long before they began training us, but you're right: I do miss my kills when I'm around other cats, because I don't want them to know--" He bit down the words. Why am I even talking to him?
"Because you think you're like Demitri?" Tolomy didn't answer. He didn't have to.