The Mahid Quarters were cram-full of people for the first time in years as the new bodyguards settled into their new rooms. The training hall and gallery had bags and armour stands and even empty bookshelves and boxes as people milled about finding the appropriate servants to guide them to store their things long-term, the Finpollendias encampment, in effect, moving straight down into the Marble Palace.
“People kept saying how nasty the old Mahid Quarters were,” Emilia said to Melifee as they hefted their armour bags into one room together. Melifee smiled, her teeth shining white agains her blue-black skin. “These halls are beautiful, even if they are dug into the cliff and buried under a dozen levels of Marble Palace. I mean there’s mirrors everywhere and each one is a work of art all by itself, there are enough lamps to make things bright, there’s crystals hanging from the anti-fire glassworks, paintings, statues and the beautiful warm rugs. They’re better than anything I grew up with, out-city.”
“Not bad at all, my dear,” Melifee answered, ducking under the lamp hanging from the centre of their room. “We’ll have to get that raised or I’ll whang my brains out against it.” She was tall, even for a Srian woman.
There was another bang from outside and both women ducked reflexively. “Why does that keep happening?” Emilia asked. “You’d think people would be more careful about bashing into the lamps.”
All down the corridor the alcohol lamps had been cracking, or somehow getting knocked off their brackets and smashing on the floor. That would have set off the anti-fire pipes in the ceiling except they’d also started malfunctioning when the new bodyguards started moving in. Plugs blowing out and flooding the whole quarter so that they were currently unconnected to the rest of the system while fessas workmen stood on ladders and poked and tinkered to try and fix the problem; which added to the crowding.
But the lamps smashing and spreading burning alcohol was a serious problem and First Ilesias was posted on a high seat to try and direct people, and buckets of water stood everywhere... of course getting kicked over. It was amazing how clumsy so many elite people could be.
“It’s odd. I was looking right at that lamp when it cracked in half. There was nobody in touching distance of it,” Emilia said thoughtfully. “Here,you push that end of the bed over, hmmm?”
“It’s probably some bad supplier, because it’s all happening down here where the women are. Didn’t this used to be part of the White Corridor?”Melifee said.
“I hope not, even if they had the Fenjitzae here to pray it clean. But there is no more White Corridor, no more oubliettes, no more secret dungeons.”
“One reason we’re here my darling.” Mel leaned over the bed and brushed her lips over Emilia’s lightly.
“Oh, stop. There’s those wonderful coloured glass doors between us and all the men and the couples quarters so we can be oh so proper.”
“Then we should be over there,” Mel said.
“No room –“ There was a thunderous crash that shook the whole hallway and when they ran out to see what had happened, were bellowed at to stop, there were glass shards glittering half way down the hall, some even driven into the wood panelled walls. The mirror at the end of the corridor, with trees etched into it, almost twice as tall as Melifee, had somehow fallen and taken the lamps at that end of the corridor with it, so the light had suddenly halved.
In the dimness, Emilie stepped back and exclaimed as her boot squished as she stepped onto their rug. “Oh no! Someone’s kicked over—“
A cold wind blew down the corridor, the remaining lamps flickered and dimmed. Around Emilie’s feet the liquid that had soaked their rug... their red rug... ran around her boots and flowed out into the hall, dark and thick and stinking.
“That’s... blood,” Melifee whispered as Emilie stood frozen. A single droplet fell from the ceiling, splatting into the mess on the floor, then another. Suddenly they were soaked in a downpour as their ceiling bled onto them, making them stagger out into the hallway. Someone screamed, “It’s WARM!” Everyone stood, staring at the words gradually appearing on the back wall, where the mirror had been, as if painted by a bloody hand, an invisible bloody hand. YOU ARE NOT MAHID. GO. OR I WILL KILL YOU ALL.