«How did you know I had a plan?» asked Tarcuna.
«You’ve been here for days. Of course you have a plan. I tell you now though, if it involves you getting killed for tactical purposes, I’m vetoing it,» I wrote back.
«How about a plan where you get out first, then rescue me?»
«I’d rather do it right the first time.»
«And I’m a pretty worthless hoven minion,» she said. «You’re better off without me.»
«That’s not your judgment to make. If I thought so, I’d have gotten rid of you one of the dozen or two times it was convenient and polite to do so.»
«I betrayed you!» she wrote.
Well, that could be a problem. «How did you do that?»
«Xolgrohim asked me all kinds of questions about your powers and everything. I didn’t answer, and then he did something that hurt a lot, and I had to answer,» she wrote. She snuffled a bit, so I wrapped my tail around her comfortingly.
«Well, of course. I didn’t expect that you could stand up to a god. But I am going to kill Xolgrohim for that, you know.» And on and on, comforting her, for at least twelve minutes.
She hadn’t completely broken though. She didn’t exactly lie to Xolgrohim, but she only answered his direct questions, and pretty literally at that. «Like I sort of thought you could turn into animals, but I hadn’t seen it myself, so I didn’t tell him. I don’t think you could get out of the Pit in hoven shape, but couldn’t you turn into a hummingbird and fly out?»
I looked at the roof. «There might be cracks up there I could get through.»
«I was thinking more the ventilation ducts. They’re trapped with electrical cables. But Khudris said the cables are about eight inches apart.»
I lick-groomed the last few tears off her face-fur. «Who is Khudris?» (I had forgotten about him.)
«He’s one of the Ghemelians who kidnapped me. Xolgrohim did some very strange surgery on him, and he’s got metal coils all in his back, and spikes coming out of his face, and a sort of a glass shell over most of them so they don’t get bumped. They’re very sensitive, and not in a good way.»
Which sounds like the devices of the gods of Mhel. And it stands to reason that Xolgrohim would know enough about mhelvul apotheosis technology to reconstruct it here. Which means that Khudris is a young god. «Oh! I’ll bet he’s got some spells too?»
«Yes. He puts me to sleep sometimes, and carried me floating in the air, and nobody can see us,» wrote Tarcuna.
«Convenient. But he was telling you things about the passageways while he was kidnapping you?»
«He’s one of the guards here now. He comes in here once in a while. You don’t care if I have sex with other people and anybody and don’t tell you, do you?» Tarcuna’s mental handwriting was rather wobbly.
«It’s your body. Put anyone in it that you like. Except another cyoziworm of course; that would upset me.»
She sighed, and leaned against my flank. «I thought so. I was thinking and thinking you’d be upset with me for sleeping with all of our jailors.»
«All of them?»
«All I could get. I was bored.»
«You must have been, if you’re sleeping with males.» Teasing her about that still feels very odd.
«I can be professional about it! And I can weasel information out of them when I’m sleeping with them. Besides, they’re just as much prisoners here as we are, and just as unhappy about it. Maybe more. Xolgrohim has been really brutal with the pain spells on them. On all of Ghemel. They’ve seen people, ordinary hovens like grocers or something, who said ‘no’ to Xolgrohim. He put heavier spells on them. One of them sawed through his own throat with a clothes zipper to escape the pain.» Tarcuna shuddered against my leg. «And Branner is from Trest. He’s one of the enhanced agents from the Darkness Axe helicopters. He really wants to go home, but every time he thinks about it for more than thirty seconds, the pain gets so bad he nearly faints. He was in me when that happened, once. It was awful even to watch.»
«We did Mhel a big favor when we killed all the paingods,» I said.
«Jyothky?», she wrote, in Petty Draconic. She can’t speak my name very well, but she can write it. «You broke the pain spell on yourself. Can you break pain spells on other people?»
«Sure, my vô works fine.»
«Do that on the guards, and we’ll have some allies,» said Tarcuna. «Enhanced agents and coil gods, even.»
So we made some detailed plans and told Ythac all about them. Never mind what they were, we didn’t get past about step two.