The Harvester of Severed Shades opened her eyes with a soft groan, twisting in place to turn her head away from the morning sunlight streaming through the window. â€œWhatâ€¦â€ She broke off, looking around in confusion, mind fuzzy, trying to place what felt wrong.
â€œI see youâ€™re awake.â€ The voice, firm and faintly amused, came from one side of the room, and she looked over in surprise as the problem came home. She wasnâ€™t in a shadowland. Which meant that she wasnâ€™t in Skullstone. She looked over at Mnemon, who was quietly sitting in a chair beneath a large window, reading.
â€œThis has got to be a trick.â€ Muttering the phrase, Harvester tried to sit up. Almost immediately, she groaned again.
â€œI wouldnâ€™t. According to my physician, you are fortunate to be alive.â€ Mnemon finally looked up from the book, turning in her chair to face the young Abyssal. â€œYouâ€™ve been unconscious for over a day.â€
Harvester frowned. â€œNow I know itâ€™s a trick. The real Mnemon would never let someone look at me. Heâ€™d figure out what I am.â€
Mnemon snorted. â€œYou clearly have centuries to go to match wits with me. You think I actually trust my medical expertise to a being I canâ€™t bind magically? My physician is a wood elemental.â€
â€œOh.â€ Harvester considered that a moment, studying Mnemon carefully. â€œWhy am I alive?â€
â€œYou were still useful to me.â€ Mnemon returned her attention to the book.
â€œAnd thatâ€™s why youâ€™re sitting by my bedside?â€
â€œNo, that is because there are only so many rooms I could safely hide you in while you healed.â€ Mnemon sighed, closing the book. â€œI can see that Iâ€™m not going to get my reading done until youâ€™ve finished yammering, though. Do you have any other foolish questions?â€
There was a faint warning tone to her words, and Harvester took it to heart. â€œNo, maâ€™am. Thank you, maâ€™am.â€
Mnemon nodded, satisfied. â€œGood. Now, I have a question of my own. Was it really him?â€
Harvester didnâ€™t need to ask who. â€œOr else someone who was an exceptional fake. I canâ€™t imagine them tricking Ten Thousand Virtues, and I canâ€™t imagine another reason for them to be talking. I know they didnâ€™t know I was there at first.â€
â€œHmm.â€ Mnemon considered a moment, and then nodded. â€œI thought as much.â€
Harvester lay back down on the bed with a sigh. â€œHave you already gotten rid of Sorrow? I wouldnâ€™t mind watching that treacherous bastard get hisâ€¦â€
â€œNo one is â€˜getting ridâ€™ of Sorrow.â€ Harvester shot up again, wincing as she pulled her newly-healing muscles. Mnemon sighed heavily. â€œHonestly, I donâ€™t know why I bother. Figure it out.â€ Harvester stared at her a moment, and she almost growled out the answer. â€œThink. How do I get into the Imperial Manse if the only two people who know the secrets Iâ€™m missing are dead or a Deathlord? You donâ€™t expect me to take the Bodhisattva into the Manse with me, do you? No, Harvester, in one hourâ€™s time Sorrow and I will be venturing into the Imperial Manse together, and I expect to have him well in hand.â€
â€œNo, butâ€¦ you canâ€™t possiblyâ€¦ milady!â€ Harvester stammered. â€œMaâ€™am, with due respect, Iâ€™m not sure you realize how dangerous the Prince is. This isnâ€™t like dealing with enemy Dynasts or petty kings. Heâ€™s older than you. Heâ€™s smarter than you. He knows you better than you know yourself. You literally cannot make a single move that he will not anticipate, and he will have given Sorrow everything he needs to destroy you. If you let him into the Imperial Manse, he will destroy everything.â€
Mnemon looked at her frostily, and for a moment Harvester thought she had taken one step too far. She winced, dropping her eyes hastily. â€œBegging your pardon, maâ€™am. I just donâ€™t want you toâ€¦â€
â€Why not?â€ Mnemonâ€™s voice was as still as the grave. Harvester looked up slowly. â€œI pressed you into service, and you seek the death of all things. What do you care if the Silver Prince destroys me? You should welcome it.â€
â€œWell, I justâ€¦ that isâ€¦â€ Harvester paused, took a deep breath, and went out on a limb. â€œI understand you, maâ€™am. The Mask never wanted the end of all things. He wanted power. He wanted prestige. All of this, what I am, that was just a means to an end for him.â€ She hesitated again. â€œYouâ€™re like him. You want it all, and you know how to get it. But the Silver Prince wants to destroy everything, and thatâ€™s a lot harder to deal with. And Sorrow betrayed the Mask to die, when he found out about his weakness. I donâ€™t want him to win.â€
â€œHmph.â€ Mnemon rose smoothly. Harvester cringed back against the bed as the Empress strode over, her eyes flinty. â€œIâ€™m like him, am I? A short-sighted fool scrabbling for power at the cost of the world? Itâ€™s good to know what you think of me.â€ Her jaw set, she strode to one wall, savagely pulling open the door of the cabinet that occupied it. Harvester winced as it slammed into the marble wall, its handle spreading cracks across the smooth finish.
â€œMaâ€™am, I didnâ€™t meanâ€¦â€
â€œI donâ€™t really care.â€ Firmly, Mnemon pulled a wrapped package out of the cabinet, closing the door with the sound of splintering wood. â€œSince youâ€™re clearly feeling well enough to form opinions, I assume that you will be well enough to make a delivery for me in three hours. I would give it to someone else, but it is tied up in this business, and the fewer who know about that, the better.â€ She tossed the package on the bed. â€œDo not open it. If you do, it will engulf you in flame.â€
â€œWhat is it?â€ Harvester watched the package as if it were about to attack her. â€œAnd deliver it to whom?â€
â€œTo Vâ€™Neef. As for what it isâ€¦ well. Itâ€™s everything.â€
Harvester stared at Mnemon, who gave her a dispassionate look back. â€œEverything?â€
â€œWhere the Monstrances are, how to enter the Imperial Manse, and my suspicions regarding Sorrow. I donâ€™t have to make any changes, since you agree with me. Iâ€™m sure sheâ€™ll find it interesting reading.â€
â€œMaâ€™amâ€¦â€ Harvester was speechless. â€œWith thisâ€¦ if the Deliberative gets ahold of this information, you will never keep the throne. You wonâ€™t even keep your head.â€
â€œMore opinions?â€ Harvester shut her mouth, and Mnemon nodded. â€œI thought not. If the Deliberative wants to take my head, theyâ€™ll just have to try and come inside and get it.â€ She walked to the door, her anger ebbing, and paused at the doorframe. â€œI understand your concerns, Harvester. You truly believe that the Silver Prince knows everything that I would do?â€
Harvester nodded. â€œHe does.â€
â€œThen I will just have to do something profoundly out of character.â€ With those parting words, Mnemon strode from the room.