As far as I am aware of, the real trick to being evil is finding the right time to let one's true feelings out to play. An amateur will just lash out at the first sign of betrayal, but a true professional will mask their emotions until the moment that their expression will have the maximum effect. However, I have to say that I am not evil and I tend to be a pretty "up-front" person, as I have no capacity for guile, so my intimate knowledge of the ways of evil are practically non-existent.
Symantha, on the other hand, has been an important practitioner of evil for a very long time now. To look at her, you would not know that all of the plans and activities she has been managing for years have recently come crashing down upon her. She had been watching Mullicynda for about three years, ever since that moment she had grown from a gawky kid into the raving beauty that was just a little odd and wonderfully naive. Symantha had been manipulating our Daavor since the day she pulled him from the birth canal of a marked Lady. Now, they both had disappeared in such a complete way that it was stunning. To look at this high Matron, working on some more potions for upcoming births in her warehouse laboratory, you would think that nothing at all had happened to affect her life. In a word, she was "good" at being evil.
To be sure, the woman that aspired to the post of Matriarch had other plans that she has been working on. She wouldn't be worthy of attention if she only had a scheme or two in her life. The weeks after Mulls' treasure boat had left the estuary for the open channel beyond had been full of searches by various agents and calling in dozens of favors that were all in vain: as far as Symantha could tell, her chosen couple was neither in Port Trechiva or upon the island of Firsthome. For all practical purposes, they had simply vanished from the lands of the Alaed. But as far as I can observe from her typical deftness in work, she was non-plussed by this. It seems as though she was able to let go of the pair easily enough and get back to other personal projects.
Outside the main room, out in the entry corridor most likely, a familiar stumbling and cursing could be heard. Symantha didn't even stop what she was doing to look up as her protege tripped into view. The Canary was back in the stewardess outfit that she had worn on the distant beach on the far side of the channel in the very first chapters of this book. The tight dress had been repaired well enough, but the woman had been binge-eating ever since Mull's investment party, probably to deal with the terrible stress that the expected punishment for losing Daavor should have elicited from her superior. The fact that Symantha had remained very even about the whole matter in their regular meetings actually intensified the silly woman's stress, for though the Canary was quite horrible at being evil, she did recognize that the high Matron was not. The younger Matron was stretching the seams of her dress and gulping air as she leaned on the doorway and stripped off her bright yellow and high-heeled shoes.
"I got the reports of the last two people you wanted me to contact." She was having trouble breathing as her dress had grown more constricting. "No sign of Mullicynda or Daavor."
Symantha had her back to the doorway and there was no sign that she had even acknowledged the entry of her subordinate, much less heard her report.
"Hey!" The Canary was feeling a little indignant. "No one knows where they are!" She slid down the door-frame in a most unflattering way until her bottom hit the floor, which caused that peculiar sound of fabric tearing. This elicited a quiet curse and set the woman to bending her legs enough to rub her feet. "That treasure boat must have sunk somewhere and they drowned," she offered more to herself than anyone else. "I was tired of keeping tabs on that Daavor anyway."
The high Matron kept up her work as before even while hearing a few more rips coming from her protege's dress. Finally, she spoke. "I have our dinner ready."
The Canary rolled about a bit and managed to get onto her knees. As her body was becoming accustomed to her unrestrained feeding habits of late, the woman's stomach pushed her forward, famished. No words were spoken as the younger Matron reached the table, slammed down her stilettos on a convenient part of the table-top, and went after the plate before her with abandon. As Symantha was aware of her junior's anxious habit, she had prepared a double-portion of food for them both.
In not too many minutes, the plate before the gluttonous woman was licked clean. "You aren't eating? Do you mind?" The words came out a little muffled with the last food she was still chewing, but the older woman simply kept about her work without a reply. Shrugging, the other Matron must have taken a lack of response as an opportunity and pulled her superior's plate closer to her gaping maw. "Don't mind if I do," she whispered through added bites.
"Did you invite the dame as I instructed?" It was snapped out a little more shortly than her even manner would have liked and Symantha clutched her hand for a few seconds to regain what little composure she had lost.
It was difficult but the Canary managed to speak between large bites. "Yeah." Chew, chew, chew. "She should be here shortly."
The high Matron nodded curtly. She figured that the timing would work out adequately. She would also finish her work on the next batch of vials about the time that the food in front of the Canary gave out - also adequate timing.
By the light of the small lantern on the table and somewhat masked by the twittering of innumerable birds in their cages, Symantha's other plans began to be accomplished.
The Canary was just stuffing a last spoonful into her mouth when her face contorted uncomfortably. The other woman was putting the blue and pink ribbons on her completed vials at that moment and didn't notice. The younger Matron looked as if she wanted to burp, but found that she could not. There was a bit of a gurgle toward the Canary's abdomen that caused her to double over, but Symantha wasn't really paying attention. Further seams ripped as the silly Matron heaved as if to vomit, but found that she could not. A few seconds later, she was huffing about strangely as if breathing was getting more difficult and she tried to draw a decent breath, but found that she could not.
If you readers ever wondered why I didn't bother giving the yellow canary matron a proper name, you must understand that I knew this would happen. I seemed pointless to bother naming a person that wasn't going to last.
"Hello?" It was a bit of a plaintive call from the direction of the entry corridor. "Is anyone there?" The voice of the girl was a little shaky, but she had sense enough to have a lamp of her own and missed the obvious obstacles that the Canary always seemed to run into. "I saw the light in the window above. I am meeting someone here."
The young woman attached to the voice stepped into the doorway and came up short with a gasp. The tiny lamp she was previously holding crashed to the floor in a spray of ceramic and oil.
The Matron of the household of the Grand Duchess was facing the girl. "Please come in." Behind the Matron was a bit of a dining table with plates and vials, and beyond that was the splayed body of a woman which was terribly bloated and looking quite dead. "I am expecting you."
A wide-eyed Coryn walked tentatively toward the table. "I was told you had something to offer me." The girl decided it was wise not to mention that the dead woman on the other side of the table had been the messenger.
"An opening has become available for a Matron. I was told that you had recently expressed a desire to become such." Left unsaid was that the dead woman in the room was the one who had done the telling and whose expiration had created the opening. "Would you be interested in the position I am offering?"
Coryn was a little confused and a lot repulsed, but she had never been one to let small matters stop her from taking an opportunity for advancement. She looked squarely in the high Matron's eyes. "I would be very interested," she spoke evenly.
Symantha smiled and nodded. "Excellent." She turned about and took the vials from the table and offered them to the new young Matron. "I need these delivered to the high Matron of the Duchess of Culture." Perhaps to be reassuring, the older Matron patted her new protege on the arm. "I hope I can trust you not to break them."
The girl nodded. "Of course." She was already beginning to turn back toward the doorway to conceal a worried lump in her throat.
"Oh," the high Matron mentioned innocently enough, "before you go," she motioned at the general table area, encompassing the dirty plates and the swollen whale of a former woman nearby. "Would you mind tidying up?"
Coryn swallowed hard. "Of course," she nodded.