a thinner of pests

From The Eighth King:

He motioned her toward the forge, and she came. The Judge took a length of metal resting on the great anvil before the forge; it was a blade without flaw, Jangmu saw, a gleaming silver-white at the tang that faded softly to black at the forked tip. Jangmu took a long look at it and shook her head; but there was no mistaking the appraisal in her eyes, nor the desire. “I cannot do justice to such a weapon,” she said, “even if I were trained in the use of the forked sword.”

“Ah,” said the Judge, “but the blade will avail no one else. It is balanced for you, Unerring, and fashioned to mimic the tongue of the inkwell snake. You see how it complements my snake-head glaive,” he said, using the blade to indicate his own weapon. “My secretary may go armed if she must, but I will not have a servant with an undistinguished blade.”

“The Ratter flirts with blades like a lecher, and like a lecher, each of his fixations is more dubious than the last.”

“The Ratter’s blade is his nature,” said the Judge. “All of these ‘fixations,’ as you so charmingly term them, are merely material extensions of that nature. A blade of quality would wrong-foot the hooligan as surely as two left-footed boots.” He picked up the hilt nearby it, evidently a cousin to the snake-head glaive, though there were no red or yellow scales decorating it, only black and white. The quillions took the shape of fangs, which faded to black toward the tips in the same manner as the blade. “I will join blade to hilt when I am done filing this motion.”

“What motion?”

“A motion to establish a new species.”

Jangmu allowed herself a small, conspiring smile. “I had wondered how, in eight generations of wandering, I had failed to so much as hear of the inkwell snake.”

“It will be a well-wrought serpent,” said the Judge, “of pleasant length and girth, preying on the plagues of cities—rats, lapdogs, drunks. It will be bright white at birth, with no trace of black; even its eyes will be blind white. It will feed on its mother’s black milk as it grows, and its scales and eyes will gradually turn black, as will the tip of its fangs and tongue. In its prime, its white scales will be the cream-white of paper, and the dark ones cavern-black; in its dotage, the white scales will crack and brown, and the black scales, now faded to dark grey, will predominate, and when it is nothing but faded ink it will die. Its black venom will seize the power of speech from anyone unlucky enough to be bitten.” Reverie dropped from the Judge’s face, revealing a grim satisfaction. “It will prefer the fragrant air of temples and the dry dark of libraries, and while it will meet daylight with supreme equanimity, it will give no quarter to those who penetrate its lairs with lanterns.”

“A noble addition to the serpent kingdom,” said Jangmu, unsure what else could be said.

“A thinner of pests,” replied the Judge.

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