Now Reading ‘The Seventh Knife’
“In some way, she’s developed a method to preserve jellyfish tendrils and imbue them with an iodine venom,” Dr. Llwellyn said. His voice had a muffled, tinny quality to it that was not normal for the elf.
Senhorita Salgado jerked awake at the sound of the doctor’s voice. She felt wind on her face, and smelled the tang of brine. Last she remembered, she had been in a hallway. The set of conflicting facts jarred her further awake. She blinked at the filtered sunlight that greeted her, while her mind struggled to place where she was.
“Doctor?” Her voice was a faint whisper, and every joint complained of abuse. She brushed two limp snake-tendrils away from her face. Her head buzzed like a swarm of bees. She reached out, and her hand encountered a metal safety rail that surrounded the outer walkways of the Britannia. “Outside? On the promenade?” Her wits struggled for a logical conclusion.
“Oh, good, you’re awake. Wonderful.” The Duchess Von Ferrin molded the final word into a brief sneer of contempt. “I was wondering when you would join us.” Her eyes slid from a sideways glance at the senhorita to focus back on a diminutive servitor, a clockwork spider, in her hand. The duchess leaned forward to the spider and whispered, “Ah, and now.”
The way she said the words sent chills along Adonia Salgando’s spine. To the charybdian, the phrase sounded like a command, not a comment.
“Doctors,” Lieutenant Mason’s voice crackled electronically from the tiny servitor Von Ferrin held, “I hate to interrupt, but there’s a new complication.”
“Damn her!” Llwellyn exclaimed.
The duchess giggled, her eyes bright with a homicidal glee. She set the servitor on the deck, and dismissed it with a wave. The rest of what Dr. Llwellyn said was lost when the spider cut the connection. It then vanished into the folds of Von Ferrin’s dress.
“There, that will keep them busy for a while,” the duchess explained. “If we’re fortunate, one will die. Hopefully, Llwellyn. I do so hate that elf. He excels at ruining my fun.” She brushed her hands together as if rubbing away dirt. “Now, before you awoke, my associate and I were having a conversation with your new friend, Durante Marino, about a rather troublesome young woman. Miss Wycliffe is rather inventive, perhaps too much for her own good. Sadly, the conversation hasn’t been as productive as I had hoped.”
Salgado sat up into a more dignified position, then looked to where Von Ferrin indicated. To her horror, four feet to her left Durante Marino sat bound to the metal safety rail by ropes. He looked back at her through swollen bruises that littered his face.
“Right pretty sight, isn’t he?” Journeyman Alfred Maris wiped his bloody knuckles on a rag, while he squatted next to Marino. “Some of my better work. Shame he’s still so quiet. I never figured him on being such a challenge.”
Adonia Salgado glared at the man, then looked around sharply.
“Don’t bother.” The duchess’ chilly comment held an unmistakable note of superiority. “Even without all the recent excitement to distract the unwashed masses aboard the Britannia, no one will be wandering by to interrupt us. This part of the second class promenade has been temporarily closed from passenger access.” She gestured to Maris, “unless one knows the right people.”
Maris inclined his head with a malicious smile. “Her grace is too kind.”
The senhorita climbed to her feet, and braced herself against the railing for support. Wind caught at her dress, threatening her already precarious balance. The world wanted to spin, but she would have none of it. She shot a look of pure hatred at the duchess.
“Her grace is insane, is what she is!” Salgado snapped. “What do you think you’re accomplishing with this catastrophe you’ve organized?”
Von Ferrin strolled to the railing, just out of the senhorita’s reach. “What I’m trying to do is what I planned to do all along. I intend to collect the key that unites the knives. Then, I intend to claim those secrets the seven Roman knives are protecting. Whatever power, or knowledge, that lies at the end of the map should be mine.”
Wheels turned in Adonia Salgado’s mind. She narrowed her eyes. “You’ve had access to the knives. Either while aboard, or before this trip.” The duchess’ smug expression was the only answer she needed. “Wait. The key? You know what it is, and where it’s located.”