The door burst inward and the guards forced their way in. Phaedra sat bolt upright in her bed, shouting in surprise as the men seized her and dragged her from the room, binding her hands behind her back. She twisted in their grip and caught just a glimpse of Osgoode’s look of complete disbelief before she was forced back around and found herself face-to-face with a tall priest and several men in long, dark robes.
The priest dashed soot into her face, intoning in a heavy Ravilan accent, “Cassandra Wickentower, you stand here accused of Witchcraft and are to be brought forthwith to the Halls of Justice to be examined and tried…..”
Phaedra woke with a start, rising from the dream like a drowning man breaking the surface of the water just in the nic of time. She pushed sweaty hair from her forehead and stumbled from her bed to the basin, splashing water on her face.
“Damn this heat!” She hissed. Summer always put her in a foul mood and troubled her dreams. She longed for the cool depths of winter, for the sure feeling of ice moving beneath her skates.
It had been some time since she had dreamed that memory and she was certain it was the recent encounter with Lapis that had dredged it back to the forefront. She had misjudged him, she realized, lumping him in with the foolish, soft-headed lay-priests of the outer-reaches of the Church.
The tattoos were a surprise she had not expected in the least.
She paced her room, then dressed, not at all used to being uncertain. She had what she needed to issue an invitation to him, but she hesitated. Perhaps Pip was right and she should just let this fish slip the nets.
She could not quite see what his game might be and it gave her pause. Was it an inquest, despite his assurances to the contrary?
Even if it was, it seemed extremely unlikely he could arrange to have her extradited back to Ravila and she was fairly certain the Church wouldn’t be willing to mar their reputation with another incident like the one with Pip.
She was certain she had something Lapis wanted, that much had been plain in the way his fingers had lingered over her’s before he’d released her from his grip. He seemed exhausted, his eyes were too bright. Perhaps he actually was mad, just barely in control. Or perhaps he was as bored as she was.
She carried her violin down into the vaults and to where they opened up onto the canal. She tucked it beneath her chin and began to play a slow, haunting, Spanish melody. From the murky depths of the canal a black-and-gold striped srizzle snake circled to the surface and lifted its head at her, swaying in tune with the music. She stopped playing and stooped to run a finger gently along its scaly head.
“I’m the stronger player,” She murmured to the snake as it bent beneath her touch. She wrapped her hand around it and lifted it from the water. From a pocket she pulled a small jar which the snake struck at, its teeth catching on the rim and oozing yellow poison into it. She pressed behind its jaws with her thumb and, when she was sure it had given up all it had, she kissed the top of its scaly head and released it back into the water.
She carried the jar up into her home, sealed it, and placed it unmarked on a shelf.
And then she sent an invitation to Dominic Lapis.