“Yes!” Leigh could not resist an exultant shout when he felt the new soul enter the crystal link. He’d been satisfied when the machines operated as he’d intended them to. He’d been pleased with the readings he’d made of the process. But to know that his idea worked perfectly brought a fierce joy to him. His former colleagues would never have such an opportunity.
The man blinked slowly, easing himself upright from the arms of the other servants. Expressions chased across his face, which Leigh duly noted.
An interesting side effect of this process was that Leigh could detect more of what the subject was experiencing internally. Of course, that could be because he was paying far more attention to this dedication than to any other. He made a note to investigate the matter later.
The man struggled against the change, not yet aware of the honor done him. But the Mechanical Riving Instrument had inserted the shard perfectly, replicating the Eidolan’s process exactly. With the fragment of the actual crystal at its heart, the device could make new servants without wasting the god’s valuable time and energy.
“Take him to the second pen and maintain observations,” Leigh instructed his assistants. They hurried to obey, leading the now-obedient test subject to the secondary area to tidy him up and settle him for the two-day observation period. Not that Leigh expected any difficulty, but he wasn’t about to queer the results through sloppiness.
While the assistants and servants busied themselves in useful tasks, Leigh double-checked the various machines that comprised the new Riving process. Clumsy, yes, but possible to refine and perfect. Quite genius in concept, however. Wouldn’t Ferrer choke if he knew that Leigh had borrowed one of his designs for the output focuser? And just think of all the new servants this setup could make! Leigh would have his pick of them, ensuring that he never had to settle for what was merely available.
He puttered with the devices for a while longer before his timepiece chimed. Dutifully, he left the area, instructed his head assistant on what the others needed to do, and went to the dining area.
He was savoring a mug of something cold when a thought occurred to him. He waved over a servant.
She bowed low. “Yes, my lord?”
“Where are the Hollows whose Riven did not return from that stupid attack on the capital city?” Leigh asked.
“I do not know, my lord, but I will find out.”
“Do so,” he dismissed her, waving a hand. She scurried away, and he noted that she immediately went to the man in charge of the dining servants. After a brief conversation, he nodded and she left the area. Diligent woman. Perhaps she would make a decent personal servant for him. Time would tell.
His meal and rest properly observed, Leigh returned to his workstation. He needed to refine the Riving process, and he needed to resume work on the portal device, but he wanted another look at the data he’d gathered from the battle. Something was bothering him, and he always heeded his better instincts.
A quarter-hour later, a polite tapping drew his attention away from his notes. He turned just as the woman bowed again.
“I have brought the information you requested, my lord,” she said.
“Don’t make me wait, woman,” he replied.
She remained bowed, speaking in a clear voice. “The Hollows of those who vanished in the fight were burned with the day’s refuse.”
Leigh took a deep breathe and counted to twenty. “Find the fool responsible for that order and bring him to me.”
“Yes, my lord.” The woman flared her skirt in some sort of obeisance and turned away.
“Wait. You said they vanished?”
She resumed her bowed position. “Yes, my lord. No one knows where they went, but their bodies were truly dead.”
The thought that had been bothering Leigh coalesced in his
mind. It was not a pleasant thought at all.
“Go get that fool,” he ordered again, letting her leave. When she was away, he reached through the link and found a specific soul.
*Perele! Get over to my workstation now. Bring Yechez.*
Her reply was scathing. *I am due rest from my work, Leigh! You had me strapped into that wretched thing for–*
*Never mind that! I’ve just discovered something about that doomed attack of yours that you need to know.*
He could sense her dismissive disgust, the same sort of response he’d gotten to many times in his previous career. *Leigh, darling, I promise I will read your little report first thing in the morning. But it’s nearly midnight, and I’m too tired to pay it the attention you think it deserves.*
Leigh clamped down on his rage. *Perele,* he said with careful deliberateness, *Get up here now. The children know how to kill Riven without touching their bodies.*
Several seconds passed before Perele replied. *I’ll get Yechez.*
He broke the connection and took a moment to seethe. The gall of that woman! He’d hoped she would be professional and respect his position in the Eidolan’s favor, but it seemed he would need to resort to petty tactics to gain her limited attention. Since she was no longer bedding men for sport, all she could think about was destroying them.
He was not one of her toys, and he would ensure that she understood that completely.
His moment of anger passed, though some remained just under his rational thoughts. However, he knew how to handle such emotion, and he reached into the crystal. AS always, his soul found comfort in the terrible majesty of the Eidolan Night.
Perele and Yechez (who had divested himself of his body by now) appeared beside him, too far into his workspace to be respectful. But at least they were here.
Yechez, as usual, began making demands. *What’s the meaning of this, Khlok? You actually think those brats could come up with a way to harm pure soul energy?*
As if he knew anything about that sort of thing. “I need an exact recounting of where the Riven who “vanished” were assigned to attack. Something happened to them in the city that severed the link between soul and body. I need to know what happened to them, specifically.”
The Reeve allowed derision into his link. *As if I bother with remembering each and every soul that comes through here. They did what I ordered; that’s all I need to know.*
When he had counted to twenty again, Leigh replied, “And do you really think that your status as a Reeve will prevent your death? The life link does not run through the shards, and there’s no way to protect it. We didn’t think there was a need. But I’m guessing that the foreign woman taught the children how to kill.”