“True dignity comes from within,” Simon said grandly. “I admit, clothes help.”
“You say that like you have dignity,” Ja’far snorted.
Well, point. “True dignity comes from not caring about it?” Simon tried.
“One word,” Ja’far declared. “Leaves.”
Erk. “Not in front of a child, Ja’far!”
Ja’far choked on a laugh. “Oh, now you mind. You do remember that story about Artemyra, a certain pleasure quarter, and getting pitched naked into a canyon?”
He remembered more than just the story now, Simon realized, wincing at images of a month spent living off snakes and wearing nothing but handy greenery. Oh, he was never going to live this down. “You were older!”
“Not by that much-” Ja’far tensed, as both Malachy and Morgan stiffened. “What?”
“Scents changed,” Malachy said darkly, as everyone gathered together around the carpet with something pointy facing out.
“Not decay,” Morgan added, staring at the bodies. “Something… different.”
“Oh,” Matt said faintly, as flesh and bone seemed to quiver, and sink. “Ew.”
“Off the floor, off the floor good,” Tiburon urged, as everyone scrambled away from leaking fluids. “Phaenomena, sit your alchemist up, we need room for everyone….”
Simon didn’t need to think twice before leaping up onto floating cloth with the rest of them. He had read the Horror Movie Survival list.
And anything brewed up in a lab with this much dark rukh could poison everything it touches. Even without radioactivity.
“You know,” Simon observed, gripping Drakon’s hand to steady himself as everyone tried to fit in without falling off, “this reminds me of that bit in Lavaconda where the man-eating lava-snakes turn out to be actually protecting Earth from the invading alien slime-”
Blue-green and glowing violet, pools of fetid protoplasm sent out threads and pseudopods. Where two threads met, the colors blended into something even more neon and evil, smaller masses lurching and squirming to meet the larger.
Tiburon raised his sword, completely deadpan. “You just had to give it ideas, didn’t you.”