And the last part of Chapter 2. Next, back to In Which for a chapter, then Red Sky, then back here...
Mnemon wasnâ€™t thinking about politics at the moment that she entered her palatial bedroom. Instead, she was simply thinking about going to sleep before anything else happened this night.
It was thus something of a surprise for her to remove her tiara, turn to place it on the bed, and find Perfected Tears Upon Alabaster Sorrows less than three inches from her face.
Mnemon backpedalled in surprise. The deathknight, whom she had always seen calm and collected, was anything but. There was a fervour in his eyes that frightened her, and she subtly motioned for a pair of demons to slide themselves between her and him, ready to materialize if he made any sudden motions. â€œWhat are you doing here?â€
â€œIt was too much to wait.â€ Sorrows started to laugh, and then cut himself off abruptly, spinning and pacing to the bed. â€œMuch too much. So muchâ€¦â€ He stopped. â€œI donâ€™t know what to do, I always knowâ€¦â€ Abruptly, he turned back to Mnemon. â€œTell me, if you could kill the Roseblack and her armies â€“ right now, this very instant â€“ would you?â€
â€œWeâ€™ve been over this.â€ Annoyance tinged Mnemonâ€™s voice. The last thing she needed amongst all her other problems was an Anathema in the midst of a nervous breakdown. â€œThe Roseblack is nothing but a symbol being propped up by my true opponents. Anyone who believes that I could not kill her if I wished dreadfully undervalues my capabilities.â€ She shook her head brusquely. â€œBesides, she will be extremely useful when I become Empress. Now, if that is allâ€¦â€
â€œNot all. Not by far.â€ Sorrowâ€™s gaze held her for a moment â€“ the depths of uncertainty there transfixed her, his soul laid bare without any of his usual covers or platitudes. â€œThe Mask. Your hated ally. If you could destroy him tonight, would you?â€
â€œWhat?â€ Mnemonâ€™s eyebrows rose. â€œThatâ€™s ridiculous. As you said, he is my ally. In fact, as long as the Sidereals oppose me, he will be all but critical to my proper rise.â€ She frowned suddenly. â€œWhat is this about?â€
â€œYou hate him.â€ It was not a question, and Mnemon did not deign to answer it. â€œSo do I.â€ This was a surprise, and Mnemonâ€™s expression clearly showed her puzzlement. Sorrows managed a bitter smile. â€œOh, he knows. It amuses him. Placing his least loyal deathknight in proximity with an ally he cannot trust. He hopes I will try to betray him, and thus doom myself and you. But heâ€™s already failed. I can hide my thoughts from him, and he never realized it. Iâ€™ve done it before â€“ sabotaged plans that would have helped him greatly, and cast the blame on others. But not like this. Nothing like this.â€ His voice dropped. â€œI canâ€™t do it alone. I donâ€™t even know if I want to. If I tell himâ€¦ the rewards will be vast. But if I donâ€™tâ€¦â€
â€œDonâ€™t WHAT?â€ Mnemonâ€™s frustration exploded outwards. â€œGet control of yourself!â€
Sorrow refocused on her, and he nodded once. A fraction of his normal composure returned. â€œI canâ€™t decide, so I choose not to. I leave the choice to you. With you, success is all but guaranteed. Withoutâ€¦ well, as I say it will be your choice.â€ In answer to her barely-concealed exasperation, he grinned suddenly. â€œBear with me. This is worth your time.â€
Pacing back to the bed, he sat down heavily on it. Mnemon watched him cautiously. â€œYou see, Iâ€™ve just been from Fokufâ€™s little war council. They are beginning preparations for war. As Calibration dawns this year, the Roseblack is going to lead her armies against the Mask of Winters.â€
â€œThatâ€™s madness!â€ Mnemonâ€™s outburst surprised her, and she fought to control her emotions. â€œTheyâ€™ll murder their own protÃ©gÃ©!â€
â€œNo. Theyâ€™ll win.â€ Sorrow laughed again. â€œTheyâ€™ve discovered the secret, you see. They have the power to destroy the Mask of Winters forever, and if he marches to battle unaware of it, they will win. He will be destroyed.â€ He paused. â€œAnd I will be free of his dominance, his punishments, his endless idiocy.â€ His gaze caught Mnemonâ€™s. â€œAnd your rival will have all the credit she needs to take the throne.â€
Mnemonâ€™s breath caught in her throat as she contemplated it. â€œDragons aboveâ€¦â€
â€œBut if he is warned, the Mask will be prepared when he marches. The Roseblackâ€™s armies will be slaughtered. The armies of the dead will swell. Your rival will be destroyedâ€¦ and the pride of the Realmâ€™s legions with her.â€ Sorrows smiled bitterly at Mnemon. â€œThe Mask will be extremely grateful to the ones who save his unlife. Us.â€ As Mnemon put out a hand against the table to steady herself, Sorrow looked down at his hands. â€œI donâ€™t have the will to choose. I canâ€™t. So you choose.â€ He looked up again, and his eyes were lit with a hint of madness. â€œWhat will it be, mistress? Will you destroy your rival, and the Realm with her, or will you step aside and give the Realm you desire to her?â€
Mnemon stood stock-still, contemplating the two futures spreading out before her.
Until she spoke, even she did not know what she would say.