“I had to move,” John explained, loosening the grating with a metallic squeal and struggling to clamber out into the room. “Before I was ready to. I couldn’t wait, once Mercibald showed up. You know what he is, of course.”
“A Demon,” she said. They were speaking in hushed Xidh once more. “A powerful form of undead.”
John chuckled, halfway out of the vent. “Yes. Undead. Nasty kind. Used to be held in check, but the authorities … aren’t exactly paying attention these days.”
“And who are you, John?” Predericon asked.
“Me?” John stood up, dusted himself off, and chuckled again. “John Skellismith, janitor. I sort of started out with the intention of changing my name, but when I realised I was going to be in this place basically forever and that I never existed in the first place, I figured what was the point of not existing and having a boring name?”
Predericon shook her head, and began working herself free. “I don’t understand. You’re not a Demon. How did you learn Xidh?” she frowned, her nostrils flaring. What was that smell? It was familiar. Unpleasantly so.
“Lagos put you in here,” John said. “Is he going to bust you out? If you’re going, you have to get me out too.”
“Out … you’re a prisoner?” she sniffed. “Lagos told me Gyden was dead. What happened out here?”
“Look, Mercy knows about me,” John said, “or he suspects. If he goes beyond suspicion, he’ll … I’ll end up in a room right alongside you. Or, worse, a slab alongside your antique friend Lelhmak.”
“What’s so strange about you?” she frowned and sat up.
“Don’t worry about that,” John said. “I don’t want to work for a Demon and you don’t want to be dissected by humans and none of us want the Destarion in the hands of either of them.”
“The what?” she said, genuinely caught off guard. It was possible some of the potent sedative was soaking into her system after all, since she hadn’t had a chance to pass it.
“Something Gyden mentioned,” John said, studying her, “and which nobody under any circumstances should mention to Mercibald Fagin. And you’re not going to be able to hide it from him, no matter how clever you are.”
Predericon shook her head. What difference did it make? Mercy couldn’t get out there with the technology available to him. On another hand, Odium had done just that, using whatever power Demons had. And the Destarion had destroyed Odium. With a little help from her not-entirely-willing accomplices, true … but she could probably do it again.
She sniffed. Blood. That was what she could smell.
She focussed back on John just in time to see him turn back from the vent holding some sort of weapon. She plucked it out of his grasp with her lower hands, surprised at how easy it was.
“Damn it,” John muttered.
The door to the janitor’s closet opened just as Predericon reached out apologetically with her upper hands and twisted John Skellismith’s head around 180° on his neck.
“[…],” Lagos said in a strangled voice.
Predericon dropped the body with a heavy slither, and stepped past the wide-eyed soldier.
“We need to go,” she told him, striding out into the drab concrete corridors.