When Rose opens the door, she at first thinks Jade's joined the Circus, her face and arms and legs covered in a dozen different colors; then she drags her eyes up to Jade's horns, dipped in dark blue to the hilt, and realizes none of this is paint. Her third thought is that her first thought might still be right.
She reaches out for one of the horns. Jade's are long and beautiful, a forward, charging arc with a wicked fish-hook on the right, and she never tires of seeing them. Her hand fits naturally around it, and Jade lets out a sigh, low and miserable and heartfelt, and says, "I wouldn't have bothered you, but--"
"But anyone else who shelters you when you're covered in this would be culled," Rose says. She wipes her hand on the door. Blue for luck. "Would you like to come in? Don't worry about the floors; I have painted with worse."
"I'm sorry," Jade says, as she steps inside, but she's not sorry enough to avoid the nice furniture; she throws herself down bloodstains and all on the sofa, and Rose sees for the first time how much of it is her own, green dripping between her fingers and over her eyes and off her ankle. Rose goes to get a towel.
"It was legislacerator wannabes," Jade calls. Rose can hear her cough, and the moan that follows it. "Rose, how can people be that stupid? I guess I'm kind of a fugitive from the law but come onnnnn, I'm holding a rifle!"
"You didn't use it, though," Rose says, stepping back into the living room. Jade smiles gratefully up at her. "Or you would be more misted and less submerged in those colors."
"Well--no," Jade says. There's a long silence before she adds, "I got. Um. I got angry."
Rose goes to dab some of the worst of it off Jade's face, and Jade squeezes her eyes shut like a wriggler scared of the light but lets herself be dabbed, making occasional noises of complaint. "How long do we have?"
"I don't know. I didn't see anything about this last night," Jade complains. "Ow, god, you got it in my mouth!"
Rose rolls her eyes. "I know you're unfamiliar with the lives of those of us without eternal foresight. But it doesn't take a predictive gift to know that when you kill a herd of neophytic legislacerators in pursuit of the notorious ship-killer Jade Harley--"
"Most of a herd. There's two left. Am I really notorious?" Jade says, sitting up too fast. Rose pushes her back down before any of her air sacs get punctured, though it's a close thing. "Dave says the lowbloods haven't heard of me."
"Dave believes that anything he hasn't heard of is entirely irrelevant to the progress of the culture of the world at large," Rose murmurs. "He also has strong feelings about encouraging your shipyard runs."
"I was so angry," Jade says. She is almost confused by it. "I told them I could see them dead perfectly clearly but they didn't listen to me."
Rose is still contemplating responses when the whole place shakes, hard. Jade sits bolt upright on the couch, because she can't be trusted not to kill herself for thirty seconds, and Rose pushes her down again and goes towards the door, her wands slipping into her hands as the door shivers and shakes and finally, with a timber groan, splits.
"That wood was a thirty-sweep growth," Rose says, surveying her new guests. "I would ask if you could pay for its replacement, but it's apparent that none of you have ever done anything so sensible as accumulate money. Won't you come in?"
Neophyte #1 has noticed her blood, has noticed her gills, has perhaps even noticed the scent of the salt water which is pooling in the lower reaches of her hive. She is backing away. Rose approves, though she really has no intention of letting her get any farther. She raises her wand and the dark gods send out their dark arms to hold her. The world grows a little more gray at the edges as the gods exact their price.
"There's no need for any of this," neophyte #2 says, ingratiatingly. He would be more convincing if he didn't keep twitching his eyes towards his partner. "The troll you're harboring is a dangerous criminal, ma'am, and it'll be in your best interests as well as hers if you allow her to come forward for culling."
"I'm sure it would be in her best interests," Rose says, with a toothy smile, "since I'm sure she would dismantle you just as accurately as she did your predecessors. Do tell me; do you feel that that would be in yours?"
And she could leave it there, she really could. The second neophyte is shrinking away from the door and the first would be too if she weren't immobilized; blood privilege has its rights, though Rose will have to be vigilante vigilant over the next perigee to keep the path to her door clear of intrusion. But something deep down in her is whispering. Sadly a common occurrence. It's a broken record, the voice she hears, and it says--
"C'mon, Rose," says Jade, and slings an arm around her shoulder.
Rose tilts her greying eyes towards Jade. One minute ago Dijada Harley was a wilting flower punctuated with holes, but now there's no trace of pain in her broad and buckfanged smile. If she weren't so godhungry she would applaud. "You shouldn't be out here."
"Why?" Jade says. "Because they might come and take me away?"
"Despite your crushing disbelief, yes," Rose says. "Now, I'm about to eviscerate these two trolls and feed their guts to my gods, so I would prefer if you would let go of my shoulders."
Jade gives her a squinty little glare--if you murder them I will be so mad, miss lalonde!!!--and turns it on the neophytes. "I already killed like six of you, it was no fun," she says. "Do you maybe want to develop some pattern recognition and go away already!!"
The neophytes are hesitant, hesitant, in front of her moirail, and her throat spills over into darkness, her tongue chanting something indistinct and nauseating, and Jade yells "Go!" and the neophytes are vacating the premises at speed just in time to miss the main act. Rose turns it on Jade instead. "They were my dinner," she says, blistering with shadow. "Explain to me why I should allow you to--"
But Jade has never been one for the dignity at the end of a sentence. She reaches through the miasma and takes hold of Rose's face, and her hand is cool, and smells of blood and gunpowder and floral-scented sopor.
It is difficult to be the avatar of chaos with your nose full of floral-scented sopor. Rose subsides.
"I thought you broke a rib," she says. She leans her head into Jade's hand. "I worry about you."
Jade's cheeks heat. She doesn't pull away. "Let's sit down."
"Hmm. Perhaps," Rose concedes, and uses Jade's attempt to guide her to a sofa as a subtle proxy to guide Jade in the same direction. They end up both seated, half-sprawled on each other. A win. "I wish I'd been there earlier," she sighs. "You know how I feel about unnecessary massacres."
"I know how you feel about everything," Jade says, and it's true.