The Shaman of Karres – Snippet 29

She seemed to be taking a rather nasty pleasure in both Pausert and Ta’zara’s reaction to the Leewit’s new pet. But it was her turn next. “Why haven’t you got any legs?” the Leewit asked.

Me’a straightened up in her chair and said, her eyes narrow and hard: “Shut up, little girl. Or else…”

In reply the Leewit whistled at her. A two-pitched shrill and directional whistle, which hurt Pausert’s ear drums and shattered several pieces of glass, and made Me’a clutch her ears and wince in pain. The captain — and Ta’zara, stepping in front of the Leewit — prepared for consequences. A cocoon would protect her, the captain thought, preparing the klatha pattern. But it might be best applied to the Na’kalauf bodyguard…

The Leewit stepped out from behind the bulk of Ta’zara. “It’s important,” she said. She didn’t sound like a small girl at all, but far more like her mother Toll. Pausert was willing to bet she was channeling the teaching-pattern in her head. “And don’t make me whistle again. The next time I will break your ear drums and leave you deaf, if you’re lucky.”

It was plain that Me’a was used to being in control and was not ready for this kind of situation. So the captain did his best to put a bit of caution into her calculations. “She’s a Karres witch, Me’a. And she’s a healer. Don’t do anything hasty.”

Me’a turned her steely look on him. “It’s not a question I tolerate. You are in my control. I have three hundred…”

The sound was abruptly cut off, because Pausert had put her into a klatha cocoon.

The Na’kalauf bodyguard reached for her and his hand struck the cocoon. He was ready to fight — as were the two other of her men in the room. “What have you done?” he demanded.

“Something only I can undo,” said the captain. “And probably saved her hearing. Now I think it is time we all calmed down. The Leewit asked her a simple question.”

“And I still need to know,” said the Leewit. “I’ve been able to feel it… like a sore tooth ever since we got close to her. And she can’t hear you now. She can breathe, but that is about it. If anything happens to the captain she’ll die like that. Not even a Mark 20 Blaster has any effect.”

“It is my task to keep her safe,” said the bodyguard.

“She’s safer than in a vault in the Daal’s Bank,” said the Leewit. “Clumping unhappy about it, but safe.”

“I’ll let her out, if you keep her from doing anything stupid,” said the captain. “But if she puts a foot… uh, hand wrong, back in she will go. She’ll be safe all right, until I let her out.”

“She does not like to have her… condition spoken of. But I will do my best. I bind myself to that,” said the bodyguard. He stepped up and pulled a wire free of its connectors. “That will stop her calling the others, until I have spoken to her.”

“And you too,” growled Ta’zara, at her other two men. They nodded, wide eyed.

So Pausert reversed the pattern. Like the Leewit when the captain had done it the first time to save her life, Me’a had not taken kindly to being imprisoned in the klatha cocoon. She started with swearing — well enough to get the Leewit to laugh. That didn’t seem to help. She stopped and ground her teeth. “Right. This farce stops now. Pa’leto, Mazan, Teem, take them down.”

Nobody moved. “They’re a threat, Pa’leto. Take them. Or I will.”

“No, Mistress. To get you free I gave my oath that I would stop you doing anything stupid.”

“And that would be suicidal,” growled Ta’zara, “let alone stupid. Think about it, instead of yelling.”

That silenced her. She sat and glowered at them for a few moments. Then she said: “I understand why the Daal of Uldune warned that you were to be treated with great care. What did you do to me?”

“For us to know,” said the Leewit.

“But you don’t want to have it happen again,” said the captain.

“You could get a funny hat like the Daal,” said the Leewit. “He thinks it protects him.”

“And does it?” asked Me’a, her voice slightly more normal.

The Leewit just looked at her, and grinned.

Me’a took a deep breath. “I have learned something of a lesson. But I am sorry, my… condition, is off-limits. It is something I must live with.” The steeliness was back in her voice again.

“She’s a Karres healer, Me’a,” said Pausert.

“It is untreatable. A degenerative condition, not that uncommon on my home-world.”

Pausert started to get some idea quite what made the smuggler boss tick. Looking closely, the lines around her eyes were probably from dealing with pain. She was younger than he’d thought at first. She had to be ruthless and driven to get that far, that fast, in a large, powerful organization, especially in a wheelchair. Pity was something she actively fought off. In a flash of insight, Pausert knew that hope was too.

“It’s not only for you,” said the Leewit. “There’ll be others. I need to know in advance.” She stepped forward and took Me’a’s hand.

“Don’t touch me… oh. What did you do?” demanded Me’a, in a tone between suspicion and awe.

“Stopped you feeling the pain. It’s still there, I just blocked it for now,” said the Leewit. There was that adult tone to her voice that Pausert knew meant she was getting help again from the teaching pattern the young of Karres had imprinted in their minds. It allowed them a lot more freedom, and more help when they needed it.

“I don’t allow myself drugs.” That same steely control came through in Me’a’s reply.

“No drugs. I just stopped the nerve from producing the chemicals to send news of the pain to your brain. It’s not going to last. Now shut up. I need to concentrate.” Her hands glowed slightly with klatha force.

Pausert walked over, put his hands on her shoulder, and then moved to the other shoulder because the rochat squirmed away under his hand. He willed himself to lend her his strength. They stood like that for quite a long time. Me’a eventually decided to put an end to it. “I need my hand back.”

“Shut up,” said the Leewit, and then added a few more words in another language that made Me’a open her eyes wide in amazement. “Nearly done.” Then the Leewit pulled her hands away and said: “Now I need food. Lots. Pancakes with wintenberry jelly.”

“What?” asked Me’a, taken aback by the change in direction.

“She’s used a lot of energy. She needs food. Now,” explained Ta’zara, with a suggestive crack of his knuckles.

Me’a looked at him, looked at her bodyguard. “See to it,” she said to one of her men. “Now. Just what have you done to me? When will the pain come back? And how did you know our native language? Such bad words too!” Her tone was… odd. Almost plaintive.

The Leewit yawned and flopped into a chair. “I only like the bad words. You had an autoimmune disease. I’ve stopped your body reacting to it. You’ll get some odd aches, and funny sensations as the nerves get used to it. It was starting to affect your hands too.”

“Do you think I didn’t know?” snapped Me’a, sounding more like herself. “What have you done…?”

“Lemme eat, and I’ll explain,” said the Leewit, tiredly. She looked very small and frail, and the captain put his hand back on her shoulder, supporting her, until the food arrived. Then she ate with ravenous speed, and startling volume. The small rochat stuck its head out, and snatched a bite — but it had to be quick about it.

The passing time had obviously given Me’a time to think, and to calm down. “Shall I have more food brought, Your Wisdom?” she asked politely.

“Reckon I’m about done,” said the Leewit. “But the captain could probably use some.”

Me’a nodded. “It shall happen as fast as possible, Your Wisdom.”

The Leewit wiped her face on her sleeve, and her hands on her trousers. “You’re not hurting any more, are you?” she asked of Me’a.

“No. It is something I have lived with for a long time. Is it… really going to last?” There was a desperate appeal in her voice.

The Leewit nodded. “Yep.”

“I want to believe you, but…” Me’a’s voice fade off.

“You’ll see,” said the Leewit. “I don’t care if you believe me or not. I gotta sleep.” And she leaned herself into Pausert and snuggled down into the chair.

The captain had helped himself to two of the new plate of pancakes. “Rest,” he said, calmly, looking at the smuggler boss. “We’re going to have to get her back onto the ship, and Vezzarn off it before the trial.”

“That can and will be arranged,” said Me’a.

And so it was. It seemed like Me’a had given them a degree of cooperation before — but now all her power and assets were at their disposal. It appeared this was not the only tunnel under the dome city, and the ropes had been a mere minor route for the less-trusted. They had a route to outside — several, in fact. One of them came out a few hundred yards from the spaceport perimeter. Another had targeted the store-caves of the Consortium. “We’re not there yet,” admitted Me’a. “But you did disturb a plan that is only weeks from completion. It won’t matter, now.”