“You will need to confide in the mages enough to ask them for an enchantment. I will lend The Words of the Forest to one of their copyists if they do not have it yet. The undying wood charm will keep the floors and beams from rotting. Curses will bring the palace down over time if nothing is done. All food should be prepared and consumed outside, as a precaution.”
The Duke ate a fig pensively and eventually asked, “You think there might be poisoners too?”
“Curses accelerate decay. It makes wounds fester. It spoils meat. It rots wood. Without a catalyst to hold it back, it could turn everything to dust.”
“I heard it tore skin open as well.”
“What I have described so far is only the side effect of imprecation. The one that we just witnessed dealt wounds both externally and internally. Some will trap people without doing them any harm, just forbidding them from leaving the cursed place. Others will make people go blind.”
Silence invaded the room for an instant. Kayla dared extend her cup towards the servant boy so that he would fill it with brandy once more. He also gave her another fruit. She didn’t mind the tension. She had become used to it. People always had the same reaction when it came to curses. The legends carried words of their dread from one ocean to the other.
“And how do you dispel a curse?” the Duke continued.
“Most of the time, we do not. Catalysts are enough to keep a place safe. To dispel a curse, you need its caster – or at least its caster’s remains.”
“You mean that every room cursed will be lost until we find who did this?”
“I am afraid so.”
The Duke stayed quiet and eventually smiled. He walked to her brother and put a hand on his arm. “Thank you, Toikem.” The noble turned to Kayla. “Thank you both. I am sorry for such an infringement to courtesy rights. You shan’t be bothered anymore today.” He clicked his fingers and the servant boy opened the door. “Please, rest well and do not hesitate to ask for anything.”
Behind the kind words, Kayla sensed some pressure. He wanted them out as soon as possible. Although her instinct pushed her to resist the Duke, she followed her brother without a word. Toikem bowed down and spoke some polite words to take his leave properly.