Challenge Word: Trail
Obadiah returned with his simple wooden bowl and Ezekiel took it.
“Let us contrive a tool,” he said to his servant, and he laid the hairs into the bottom of the bowl and then poured some of his drink, a little light beer, over them. From his pocket he produced a vial of quicksilver and let a small drop roll into the beer. It plunked into the golden liquid as if it were a solid metal marble and rolled down into the bottom of the bowl, coming to rest on the thick black hairs.
Obadiah looked like he was holding his breath.
Ezekiel cleared his mind and let it fill with an image of the girl, as he had seen her that morning. Pasty white skin, angry red eye, ragged black hair, sluttish dress. He thought of her essence, of the blasphemy that she was, the Unsouled blood staining the holy escutcheon of the House of Penn, and he willed all those images into the bowl, into the beer, into the hair and mercury.
He took the wooden bowl in his two hands and leaned in close, the exhalations from his nostrils on the beer like the breath of God on the waters of the First Day. He felt his will gathering in his throat, and, closing his eyes, he formed it into words to push it into the compass he was creating. “Ani mechapes yaldah,” he muttered in Hebrew, and he felt his power moving through the words of the dead language into the bowl, “ani mechapes yaldah.”
As he finished speaking, he opened his eyes and looked into the bowl. The drop of quicksilver trembled as his incantation activated it, then steadily rolled up, through the beer, moving along the hairs and turning them with it until it bumped against the wall of the bowl and stopped, quivering, dragging the tail of hairs out behind it like a comet or an arrow.
“Zounds,” Obadiah muttered.
“This will take you straight to her tonight,” Ezekiel told Obadiah. “But you’ll need some help. Go to the market and gather three or four big men; I’ll wait here for you. Take my purse, offer them a crown each for a few hours’ work. If they’re reluctant, go as high as a pound. Take the Warrant to show them, in case any of them are worried about law.”
Obadiah stood gingerly to go, adjusting his belt under his paunch. “Aye, father,” he said simply.
“If any of them are worried about sin,” Ezekiel told his servant before letting him go, “assure them that I’ll give them absolution, in advance.” He smiled, an expression that he meant to be wise, calm and fatherly. “After all, this is the Lord’s work.”