“Scrub the table, then rinse out the cauldrons once you’ve finished that. Don’t touch the subject.”
“Yes, yes. Yes,” said Evelos. The Forsaken warlock scowled at him as the elf hobbled about. The shackle on his ankle really wasn’t necessary, not to keep the slave in line, but Krest was a little concerned he might wander off in the night and fall in a canal if it was removed. He watched until the elf pulled a rag from the wash water, staring at the suds rolling from it in fascination, then slapped it on the table and began squelching it around. Satisfied, Krest turned back to his visitor.
“The research continues, yes, though really, I don’t see why we don’t have the soulless do the menial tasks, no.”
“Do you find this one’s services lacking?” hissed the Dark Ranger.
Krest grimaced, fished around in the back of his skull to pop a tooth back in place, then continued, “Oh, no, no, he does everything I tell him to do. Literally everything… it’s a more a matter of… safety. He’s still of the living. The plague we’re developing could infect him, too, yes. See?”
“Then be more cautious,” said the Ranger.
“Be more cautious?” muttered Krest.
“Yes!” said Evelos behind him, and Krest stifled a sigh as the squelching rag went more slowly across the table.
“I was not speaking to you,” he told the slave, and the elf stopped in confusion. “Carry on with your tasks,” Krest ordered him. “It’s just that I’m not sure he would be very useful to me as the experiment continues,” he added, back to the Ranger. “He can’t tend to the subjects directly, no, and he needs constant supervision for the smallest tasks, as you can see.”
“Hmm,” said the Ranger, and she skirted the edge of the alchemical table to watch Evelos from behind. “He was originally a priest of the Light, yes?”
“So Magister Runefire told me.”
“So order him to use one of the Light’s magical shields. If it fails, that information will still be useful to our Lady.”
“I suppose so,” said Krest. He watched Evelos scrub the table legs.
The Ranger changed the subject by crossing back to the subject of subject, reaching out with her nails to give it a pinch. The creature shuddered and snapped its misshapen teeth through the bars. “I don’t recall seeing such a beast on the battlefield,” she said. “What do you call this thing?”
“Ah!” said Krest, brightening and hurrying over. “It is a little something Magisters Dawnspell and Blackhollow were working on. It is a possessed farm dog, yes. Not possessed by a demon, no, as one might at first think, but by a fragment of the Void. Its vibrations are a little bit different to the Shadowlands which we Forsaken are all connected, and so I–”
“Can it fight?” asked the Ranger.
“No, not exactly,” said Krest, disappointed he had to cut his lecture short. “We were seeing if the Void-infused flesh could be used as component of the plague, yes, but it has so far proved too reactive to mix safely. I could maybe manage it if I had one of the soulless–”
“That is up to Apothecary Putress,” said the Ranger. She withdrew her hand from the cage, and the subject moaned and slunk back to the rear of the enclosure. “That will be all, Lieutenant,” she said after a moment’s thought, and without another word to Krest, swept from the lab.
Krest stared after her, chewing on the tooth that had come loose again. He sucked it back into its spot and looked at Evelos. “Are you done yet? It seems like you have been scrubbing that table for hours.”
“Master, you did not tell me when to stop,” said Evelos.
“Mindless wretch,” muttered Krest, but despite the annoyance, he didn’t think Evelos had meant anything rebellious by it. “Alright, then. Unless I say otherwise, in the future you can consider the table scrubbed after you’ve gone over every inch of the top. Now get on with rinsing the cauldrons — rinse them for 15 minutes each, please, ONLY.”
“Yes, Master,” said Evelos, and he dumped the scrubbing rag into the wash basin. That one, at least, Krest had clarified on Evelos’ first day in the warlock’s services–
“And don’t pull the cauldrons from the fire if they are too hot to touch!” screeched Krest suddenly.
“Yes, Master,” said Evelos, and he dropped the cauldron back on its hook, not even wincing as he watched a heat blister rise on his fingertips.
Krest sighed, shaking his head. “You also have my permission to heal yourself whenever you need it.”
“Yes, Master,” said Evelos, and Krest thought he detected a hint of gratitude in the elf’s otherwise monotone voice. Nodding to himself, Krest turned back to the voidbeast in the cage, and let his thoughts wander back to the matter at hand, rather than the plight of his troublesome slave.