Book V Chapter 11: Coil
Heaven's Pillar Ruins
Na'than walked silently through the ruined city, following the lead of the two Courtesans before him. The nervous twitch of his left ear was the only outward sign of his unease; this was hardly the sort of situation he excelled at.
After his freedom had been bought from his former Master, he had been given two responsibilities-- to his new Master, and more recently, to his pack. He was an expert of the technical, capable of working miracles with machines, given the time and the materials.
But dealing with outsiders was not his calling, especially not those as scrutinizing and manipulative as the Court. Never in his life had he more desperately wished his Master were here.
"Greetings... Mr. Silvermane? You're the fellow responsible for the party at the gates, correct?"
The creature's silky voice was like a splash of cold water; despite himself, Na'than did a double-take, eyes wide with shock.
It was unlike anything he had ever seen or read of before; humanoid from neck to waist and serpentine from the waist down, its long tail coiled around itself as well as the crumbling throne it sat upon.
Its head was that of a great, hooded snake, scales catching and throwing the light in a multitude of dazzling colors. Beaded and feathered jewelry and hides were draped around its form, adding a perhaps unnecessary layer of additional color.
The thing gazed down at him, split tongue parting its pitted lips as it waited for a reply. Catching himself, Na'th recovered quickly.
"I... I am, apologies. You are...?"
"Leader of our expedition. As you can see, this site is unfortunately already occupied. I mean you no disrespect, but I'd greatly appreciate the relocation of your group."
This was the head Courtesan, after all-- it was more than likely that every Erosion on the planet knew his face and name. The creatures had a way with caching knowledge and sharing it with their own kind; the thought made him mildly queasy.
Did they have any idea what was unfolding in Chimre? And if they did...
His expression cordial, Na'than cleared his throat and smiled.
"Ah, I understand. Forgive me my trespass, milady." Lying his ears back flat, he bowed stiffly before turning upon his heel and heading for the city gates to return to the expedition waiting outside.
The naga-shaped Courtesan watched him go with slitted eyes; she regarded the two standing before her without moving her head.
"Follow them," she murmured.
Felld and Gabriel stood by the gates as Na'than made his way back out of the crumbling city; he glanced apologetically at Felld, whose expression was sour.
"We can't stay here."
"Oh?" Felld sniffed. "And who's surprised?"
Next Chapter: Book V Chapter XII
Category: Book V | Story