The medmage let go and patted Roderick's shoulder. "I do believe we're done for tonight."
"Ice-cream now?" Roderick asked, his voice quiet.
"Ice-cream now," Doolittle confirmed. "Lena!"
A female shapeshifter stuck her red head into the room.
"This young gentleman is in need of ice-cream," Doolittle said. "He's earned it."
"Oh boy!" Lena made big eyes and held out her hand. "I better pay up then. Come on."
Roderick hopped off the chair and took her hand very carefully.
"What kind of ice-cream would you like?" Lena asked, leading him through the doorway.
"Chocolate," the boy said quietly, with a slight hesitation in his voice.
"I've got loads of chocolate..."
The door swung shut behind them.
Doolittle looked at the door and sighed. "The necklace is rooted in the sternomastoid. If I try to cut it out, he will bleed out. You said his mother put this atrocity on him?"
"Yes," Curran said.
"The collar glowed when the husband came near," I said. "He was reaching for it and she yanked it away from him and snapped it on the boy."
"So it was probably intended for her husband," Doolittle said.
"That or it's an equal opportunity offender," I said. "Any neck will do and the boy was the closest."
"And it killed the girl instantly?" Doolittle asked.
"Pretty much," Curran said.
"Strange. It doesn't seem to be actively harming the boy at the moment beyond rooting in."
"Does it hurt him?" I asked.
"Doesn't appear so." Doolittle leaned against the chair. "The 'roots' shift under pressure so any attempt to cut the necklace will likely cause it to contract. I don't want to fool with it."
"The woman," Curran said.
I thought out loud. "She was unaffected by the glow, so either she's immune or she knows how it works."
"The boy didn't cry when you took him from his mother?" Doolittle asked.
"No," I said.
The medmage glanced at the door again. "The child is very passive and compliant. He doesn't speak unless spoken to. He doesn't take initiative. This boy is doing his best to be invisible. Sometimes this is a sign of shy nature. Sometimes it's a sign of emotional abuse or neglect." Doolitle crossed his arms. "Such an accusation can't be made lightly. This is just something to keep in mind in dealing with her. If she is emotionally distant, she may not have any attachment to him. Let me run some tests. The sooner we will identify what the necklace is, the better."
We left the infirmary and walked down the long hallway, heading toward the stairway leading up to the top of the tower, to our rooms. The Keep's hours were skewed toward the night. For most people ten pm meant evening and probably bedtime - both electricity and charged air were expensive and people tended to make the best of daylight. For shapeshifters ten pm was closer to four in the afternoon. The hallways were busy. Random shapeshifters ducked their heads as we passed them.
Something had occurred to me. "When the journeyman handed Amanda the necklace, did it seem paler to you?"
Curran frowned. "Yes. Almost white gold."
"And now it's almost orange."
"You think it feeds on the host?"
"It would make sense. Maybe it develops hunger. The girl died instantly, because the necklace was hungry. Now it's satiated, so it's biding its time."
"We'll need to talk to the journeyman," Curran said. "And the woman."
"Yes, the woman. The supernaturally beautiful woman with long flowing hair... Can't forget her."
Curran turned his head to look at me.
"That's what I would like to know."
I shrugged. "I will speak to the journeyman tomorrow."
"I'll come with you."
And why would he want to do that? I pictured trying to conduct an interview in the presence of the Beast Lord. The journeyman would take one look at him and run for the hills screaming.
"You always say that word," he said. "Is it supposed to mean something?"
"It means I don't want you to come with me. The moment you muscle your way into the room, he'll clam up out of sheer self-preservation. Let me handle this."
We started up the stairway. Our quarters were at the very top and I really could've used an elevator right about now.
Curran kept his voice even. "Somehow I have managed to deal with the People just fine for almost fifteen years without your help."
"As I recall, without my help you almost had yourself a war. And I won't be dealing with People. I'll be dealing with one specific journeyman facing sanctions and scared out of his mind."
"If you really think Ghastek will let you anywhere near him without me you're crazy," Curran said.
I stopped and looked at him. "I will take my boudas and the personal guard, dress them in black, put them on horses, and ride up to the Casino. Then I will pick the scariest looking shapeshifter in the bunch and send him in to announce that the Consort seeks an audience. Do you really think the People will keep me waiting for long?"
It's good that we didn't have any kindling or paper around or the sparks flying from our butting heads would set the Keep on fire. We were both tired and pissed off.