Smantha padded down the tunnel barefoot. It was the only way she could match Callista’s quiet steps, though the older woman was wearing sandals. She kept her short bow in her hands with an arrow nocked. She was to stay back in the tunnel, hidden, while Callista entered the white metal chamber on some mission. If a tall, pale-haired woman wearing orange entered the chamber, Smantha was to shoot her in the leg on sight.
“Watch her. She’s fast,” Callista had said. “Faster than me, and I can dodge an arrow if I know it’s coming.” Smantha hadn’t believed that, until the woman had done it, twice, back in what her group called the Hall of Judgement. The second time she snatched the arrow out of the air like a snake striking.
Smantha waited in the darkness back beyond the chamber’s light. Callista was well-lit inside the chamber, examining a large glass tube with a person in it. Sort of a person, anyway. It was thin, and withered, the color and texture of a fresh parsnip. Callista tapped on the glass with the mad Druid’s club. In the stone corridor her voice carried clearly.
“Speak, Spoke. Which one should I release?” Tap, tap. “Which one would make a trustworthy source of information?” Tap, tap. “Perhaps even an ally?” Tap, tap. “I know you can do this. You chose me, after all.”
The tapping became a little more insistent as she moved from tube to tube. “I already released the Rudish-va woman. She was evil – I’m sure of that. To restore the balance, I should release a good one, shouldn’t I?”
Behind Callista, the parsnip opened its empty black eyes.