“Do not worry overmuch, I assure you that you are in good hands,” Jimena assures me.
“That would be a nice change,” I answer with a wince. Jimena says nothing, and she makes no comment when I lightly pull on one of my fingers.
We make our way to the dreaded courtroom. I have no time to prepare, no time to work on anything. My hearing is to start tonight and this is it. My only saving grace is that the request not to delay came from my self-appointed lawyer, Salim of the Rosenthal, the same Courtier who warned me of Lambert’s coming. Jimena assures me that he is both experienced and competent.
I do not have an eidetic memory, nor was I a lawyer in any point of my existence, so I shall rely on him. As my father would have said, they who choose to represent themselves have an idiot as a client.
I just wish my fate did not depend on someone else, no matter how talented they may be.
“Just a warning sister dear, if the Lancasters gain custody over me, I’m going out with a bang.”
“If it comes to that, we both die tonight,” she answers with a thin smile. There is not a trace of apprehension in her, though whether it comes from confidence in Salim or acceptance of death, I cannot say. Seeing my worried expression, she continues.
“Fret not, you will be a House before this is done. Then you will be free to go anywhere on the continent, visit Charleston, Boston, even make your own coven! Think of all the travels we could enjoy together, the people we will meet, and eat! It shall be glorious.”
“Yes… Yes, I am so tired of being hidden.”
“You will soon be embraced as one of us. You shall see.”
I was settled in a second-floor bedroom. The central wing of the manor is almost entirely dedicated to lodgings, as well as a few private reception rooms. The right-wing contains suites meant for larger parties as well as a library, while the left-wing is dedicated to offices and records. The underground floors go deep and are extremely well defended, with wards and mechanisms that make any day assault hazardous at best. Even Jimena does not know the full extent of its defenses. She tells me of a well-furnished armory, a sophisticated training room, magical workshops… and a torture room I suppose.
We make our way along a corridor soberly decorated in earthy tones and dark woods, and down a large set of stone stairs. Wards are set at regular intervals and designed to reinforce the structure and, unless I am mistaken, to resist fire. They taste of snow and suffocation.
The stairs end with a corridor crossing the one I had taken three days and an eternity ago. We turn right and soon come in view of the courtroom.
We walk in. I remember to relax my grip on Jimena’s hand when one of her knuckles cracks. She does not utter a sound.
This time, the antechamber’s desk is occupied by a severe-looking woman with mousy brown hair and a pinched face. She nods when she sees us and waves us in. Her aura is that of a weak, or very young Master. I recognized the well-ordered feel of the Rosenthal though I also notice a strange spikiness to it. Before I can notice more, we go between the two sentinels and into the room where my fate will once more be decided. I sure hope things will go better this time.
On the right side, the plaintiff-side I remember, there are five people and I recognize most of them. At the top of the table, Lady Moor’s onyx hair is held up in an elaborate hairdo. Beside her is a vampire I do not recognize. Male from the clothes, with very pale hair in a black suit. Directly behind her, I see the backs of Melusine, Baudouin and if I am not mistaken, one of the Roland twins who presided over my duel with Jimena thirty years ago.
Then my eyes look at my side. At the front sits Salim of the Rosenthal. Behind him, Naminata lounges in a fancy white cotton dress with a lot of frills while behind her, Aintza is sitting upright next to a man I’ve never met. I look at him as I pass by and notice to my surprise that he is a very old Dvergur with a wild look, a large bald spot and a scruffy white beard. He stares as I go by, his eyes assessing.
Jimena stops by Naminata and lightly pushes me forward. I sit next to Salim who gives me what I assume is an encouraging smile. I do not find the strength to retort. Instead, I close my eyes.
I repeat this mantra in my head. It helps. I hoped that my cold mind would smother the memories. I suppose I should not be too greedy. A mortal would have needed… actually a mortal would have died.
We do not wait long. It seems that Constantine is not the kind of person to make others wait as a power play. He enters the room from the right-hand door with three vampires in tow.
It is only now that I realize the implication of being here. Boston is the vampire capital of North America and I am in the seat of its government. The first man to follow is tall and very muscular, not like a worker but like a circus strongman. The brown ensemble he wears is bulging, and though it was obviously custom-tailored, it looks painted on. As if somebody had stuck a bear in a tuxedo. I do not need to taste his aura to recognize a Natalis and I can tell that this one is old and very powerful.
The second person to come through is a dainty young woman with blonde hair and crystalline blue eyes the color of the coldest ice. She wears an elegant sleeveless white dress and high gloves. She smiles innocently as she sees me and though her aura is subdued, I can tell without a doubt that this is a Lady.
The last man to come in is a Lord as well though his aura feels like something is missing. He wears a scowl under bushy eyebrows and shoulder-length gray hair. His suit is also the color of ash, and shows a lean but muscular physique. His face is a bit older than the average vampire and with his steely eyes, he is like a wolf. He surveys the room calmly and without apparent interest.
And to think I was impressed a few days ago. Forget about depopulating a small town, there is enough might in this room to destroy an army. Of course, they will probably never agree to fight side by side.
The three newcomers take the elevated seats to my left and behind Constantine. They are diagonal compared to us, and their position gives them a commanding view of the proceedings to come.
Constantine walks behind his pulpit and without ceremony, begins his speech.
“Ariane of the Nirari petitioned the Speaker to obtain House status under the Accords. House Lancaster, the local representatives of clan Lancaster, exerted their right to object. We shall now examine the validity of their claim. The verdict will come from a jury of neutral peers. Please welcome Lord Jarek of the Natalis, Lady Sephare of the Hastings, as well as Lord Torran of the Dvor.”
To my surprise, Salim’s eyes widen at the mention of the last name. I feel a shift in all vampires present. Apparently the man is important. Good for him.
“Keep in mind that anybody caught telling an outright lie will be left in Ignace’s capable hands, no matter their rank. Barlow, you have the floor,” Constantine finishes.
“Thank you, Excellence,” the pale-haired man answers. He stands up and walks to the front. The man is quite handsome in an aristocratic way, but his sneer when our eyes meet twist his face into a mask of cruelty.
“In 1803, following the decennial conclave, House Lancaster took custody of Ariane of the Nirari as she was just a fledgling by agreement with her sire. The House dedicated a considerable effort and resources to raising her, effort she repaid by fleeing her responsibilities six months later, after cheating on an Accord-ordained duel and assassinating a coven mate in a cowardly way. Following this, she left a trail of destruction across America that proves without a doubt that this… woman… cannot be left to her own devices. We argue that House Lancaster was wronged, and that our generosity was spat on by the defendant. All that we demand is justice. We ask for reparations and that the culprit be released into our custody until the debt is repaid, for her own good. Thank you.”
The scoundrel walks back to his seat with dignity. I seethe. The audacity of these people… Will this abuse ever end?
“Salim, you have the floor,” Constantine says in turn.
Salim stands up with a slight smile and takes the place Barlow had occupied.
“The defense argues that the liberation of Ariane from the torment she was subjected to was at the time, a Lancaster internal matter. We argue that the plaintiffs do not have a legal ground to stand on, and that they waste this noble assembly’s time with flimsy charges to get back at the vampire who outplayed them so thoroughly. We beg for the assembly to see through the ploy and bring the proceedings to a swift and just end.”
It lasts for one moment but I can tell that Salim’s plea finds echo in the Speaker. He did strike me as a man who sees his own time as precious. Too precious, perhaps. My lawyer understands the judge well, an auspicious start. As Salim walks back, I realize that for the first time since leaving Marquette, I am feeling a new emotion. Hope.
“Barlow, you may start.”
“Excellence, I call forward Lady Moor of the Lancaster.”
The haughty woman walks forward and to a small circle to the right of the open space I had not noticed before. She stands there as if her mere presence was a privilege we should appreciate. Her testimony is a heart-wrenching tale of how she ‘rescued me’ from the clutches of my sire, a man known for his depravity and the horrendous way he treats his spawn.
No objections there.
The Lady then elaborates on how she wanted to give me a chance at life despite my unfortunate ancestry, and did her best to educate and guide me until my fateful betrayal. I am furious though I hide it rather well, and find out that being angry helps. I do not feel so haunted anymore. Instead, I add Moor, Anatole, and that snivelling little prick to the list of persons I will personally flay alive then dip in a barrel of freshly squeezed lemon juice, before roasting them over a pit.
Salim’s turn comes. The difference between him and Barlow is striking. While the unctuous bastard speaks in flowery language interspersed with witty traits, Salim is sober and to the point.
“What compensation did you receive from Lord Nirari besides custody of my client?”
“Objection,” voices Barlow energetically, “irrelevant.”
Constantine returns his gaze to Salim, indicating that he may answer.
“Excellence, the plaintiff presents taking Ariane as a favor done to her. I merely wish to demonstrate that it was anything but.”
Constantine’s attention goes to Moor.
“This is a false dichotomy, young sir, I can act in a way that is beneficial to both Ariane and myself. Intelligence in business is not a flaw.”
“So this was a business deal first and foremost, and as for beneficial, I have a copy of a letter sent to the Accord’s administration dated August 1803 signed by your hand, asking for recognition for, and I quote, neutralizing the threat of a Devourer spawn. I suppose this was you displaying ‘intelligence’ while being your usual benevolent self, Lady Moor?”
“No further questions, Excellence.”
I know that nothing concrete was achieved with this exchange. This was merely a preliminary testimony to establish the circumstances of my servitude, and yet Salim broke their narrative. My status went from protegee to that of asset in only a few sentences.
The next person to come up is Baudouin and I force myself not to smile at the implication. Melusine should have been next if they wanted to prove how much they contributed and how I repaid them. Their decision is probably for the best, though the jury might wonder why she did not intervene.
The loyal Servant explains in English, and in gory details, how I cleared a warehouse for him. He remembers how in the course of my work I displayed cruelty and malice beyond what was needed. He speaks of broken wrists and shattered limbs, of men and women drained of blood as soon I was given the opportunity.
His twisted tale does not anger me. Baudouin is a Servant and Servants align with their Masters. It is the way of things.
After Baudouin is done with his wild exaggerations, Salim stands up and smiles.
“How many separate missions did you trust Ariane with Lancaster business? Give us an estimate.”
Trust. Smart choice of words, Salim.
“You mentioned at least thirteen different instances where she proved excessively violent, so I ask again, how many missions did you send her way? Fifty?”
“More or less…”
“Remind me, how many Lancaster vampires were present in the city during that time?”
“They were not always there.”
“Answer the question please.”
“There were seven vampires to handle Lancaster affairs, and yet you relied so much on a fledgling from a different bloodline?”
“Their time is precious. I do not know how you conduct your business but here, we do not have lofty individuals waste their time on menial tasks.”
“To defend the financial interests of your House is a menial task? Are you saying that you employed Ariane so many times because all other seven vampires in the coven could not be bothered with menial tasks, and this despite your apparent disapproval of her conduct?”
“I did not imply that.”
“Let me summarize your tale Baudouin. You repeatedly called on my client for sensitive affairs despite being extremely displeased with her savagery, because all seven other members of the coven were busy with extremely important and sensitive cases. Yes?”
“Don’t bother answering Baudouin. Another question, when you mentioned my client ravenous Thirst, how many people had she already fed on those nights?”
“I am not responsible for the vampire’s feeding habits.”
“Ah, but as your Master’s executor you should have been aware of the status of the fledgling you unleashed upon the city, yes? Surely you would not have let a Thirsty fledgling run around without supervision and without feeding her? Such an irresponsible act would have been a grave violation of the safety clause of the Accords.”
“She was not running unchecked. I was very careful.”
“Were you? How did you enforce her obedience?”
Silence. Up till now, the jury had been quiet. This last sentence wakes up their interest. Suddenly, the atmosphere gets heavy and the weight of their attention falls on the Servant.
“Answer the question, Baudouin,” Constantine says in a deceptively soft voice.
“With a pain-based control bracelet.”
Painful, awkward silence as four judgmental sets of eyes land on Lady Moor. To her credit, she doesn’t flinch. I know I would have.
“To summarize, the Lancaster benevolence implied grueling work, poorly managed feedings of a fledgling and loyalty enforced by a pain bracelet. For once, I will agree with the plaintiff, there are indeed reparations to be made. No further questions, Excellence.”
Baudouin walks back to his place as if he were on eggshells. The hostility in the jury’s aura is an exceptional thing, as our instincts will naturally blunt the desire to harm Servants. It appears that I am not the only one who despises captivity, and worse, captivity under someone who isn’t a vampire.
I steal a glance towards the Lancaster bench. Barlow and Moor are as impassive as ever but behind them, Melusine’s fists are clenched. Our eyes meet briefly.
I understand that Salim is well-prepared and doesn’t need my input. He knows much about me and what I have done through Jimena, Nami, Isaac and Loth. I still think him reckless for proceeding so fast. There could be information I did not share yet and could be relevant for the trial.
The next witness to be called by Barlow is one of the Roland twins. He recounts how he presided over a duel and confirmed it was to the death under the Accords. Salim only objects when Barlow implies my duplicity instead of demonstrating it, and does not ask questions. Then Constantine declares a short recess. He leaves the room first, followed by the jury. They gauge me as they pass by.
They look interested.
The defendants are the first to leave and we are escorted to a receiving room by one of the Speaker’s silent sentinels. The groups do not leave together as a precaution against sudden violence. A wise choice, as I would happily stab them if I could get away with it. We sit on couches, including the old Dvergur who looks completely out of place, and also vaguely smells of fish for some reason.
“Introductions first?” I ask in English to be polite, and look at him.
“A noo who you be, lassie.”
This voice, the insane eyes, the incredible age…
“Are you… Erlingur?”
I know of Erlingur. Loth mentioned him often. Erlingur is ancient and pretty much a legend in Dvergur clans. His temper is the subject of many a ballad and so is his lust for women and mead. It is said that he broke his first axe on the head of one of Trajan’s legionaries. It is said he plied his trade as a mercenary from the cold Kievan Rus to the shores of Hispania, that he was a captain in the Byzantine Varangian and a bodyguard for the first Calif. It is also said that he once wrestled a roast boar at his ex-wife’s wedding. The boar won.
He is not exactly known for his shining intellect.
Nevertheless, Loth thought of him fondly last time we talked. It is Erlingur who taught him English after coming back from a stint in the Scottish Highlands. He is also my friend’s oldest surviving uncle.
“Is it true that when you caught that Narwhal…”
“Ahem,” Salim interrupts. I was distracted, and it felt nice. Though judging from the old man’s scowl, I should have picked another story. Definitely not the one with the squid though.
“Our time is short,” the lawyer continues, “I need to ask you if you are in a good enough state to testify.”
“It would certainly have been better if you had given me time to recover,” I hiss in response.
All there. All straight. All fine. No, I need to focus more. Calm down.
“There is a reason. Am I correct in assuming that you refuse to give the Lancaster anything?”
“If they gain custody in any way, this will be my last night, and I shall take as many of them as I can on my way out.”
“Then consider this. The final decision is to be made by the jury. They are the ones we need to convince. They are visiting dignitaries from Europe and they know of your recent ordeal...”
“Yes. They know that you were callously used by Constantine in a power play between himself and the Knights. To know and to see are different things, however. Constantine does not understand the pain. He cannot.”
Salim’s expression grows clouded and I recall Isaac mentioning torture training. He knows.
“There isn’t a Lord or Lady alive who hasn’t suffered enough pain to madden a hundred mortals, yet here you are on the very next night, down but not out.”
“You expect them to feel sympathy?”
“Not sympathy, Ariane. Respect.”
Jimena sits closer. With a light finger, she brushes the side of my arm. On the other side, Nami bumps my shoulder.
“Very well, I will do it,” I reply.
Salim prepares me for the next fifteen minutes, insisting that no good lawyer asks a question he doesn’t know the answer to. I use the opportunity to indicate that Melusine’s loyalty is uncertain, something that Salim is sure he can exploit if they try to use her. After that, I ask for a bit of privacy with Jimena. The others queue out of the room without complaint.
“When?” I ask.
“When will it stop?”
“I am sorry sister; I wish I had an answer but I do not. Lord Ceron could help you… Ah, perhaps later. Know that once this is over you will be free and have as much time as you need to recover. You have been either hiding or fleeing since you became one of us. Consider this, you will be able to visit any of our cities and be welcomed as a guest.”
“I am not so sure…”
“You will be welcome here, in Charleston by my clan and in New Orleans by the Ekon. There are libraries, teachers and trainers you will call upon. There are wonders to visit and parties to attend, people to meet who were alive when Columbus was soiling his britches. Think about it.”
“I can’t. I can only… never mind. Let’s get this over with, I will not be able to calm down until I know I am safe.”
Weakness. Powerlessness. I had forgotten for so long how it felt and now I am reminded of it once more, in this room filled with old monsters.
“Did you plan on cheating during your duel against Jimena of the Cadiz?”
“Did you do anything that could be considered cheating”
“Did you know you would face her in battle?”
“You must have suspected something to happen though?”
“I expected something to happen, yes, so I was very surprised when she stabbed me in the heart.”
The members of the jury shift, perhaps amused? In any case, my innocence in subverting an Accord’s sponsored duel should be established. It was not my ploy, and if they doubt my word, they can always ask Ignace for confirmation. That is one less tool in the Lancaster’s arsenal of slanders and half-lies.
Next, Salim has me go into details about the many tasks I had to do for Baudouin. My answers show a deep understanding of their structure and priorities, something that a barely contained thug would not have known. I briefly explain why the trophy-hunting mage’s attack and Nami’s subsequent rescue made Moor doubt my allegiance, and how she did not hesitate to use me in her arena. Moor tenses visibly at the mention of how much money was probably involved and Barlow looks suddenly quite interested.
Take that you dishonest hag.
Salim’s measured diction calms me down and I realize soon that the three members of the jury intentionally subdued their aura. They do not feel so domineering anymore, instead, they are slightly protective. Yes, they are dangerous, but not to me or at least, not right now.
It still takes all my willpower to stay upright. I just want this to end. I will go on a little bit more and all will be fine.
Barlow stands up to interrogate me.
Salim’s advice was to answer the truth and not to worry about any impression I left. So, I will do that. I do not think hard, and I do not play coy. I answer concisely and that’s it.
“You went back to see your family, didn’t you?”
“Did they welcome you back?”
It doesn’t seem to go as well as Barlow thought. I suppose that after considering me as a bloodthirsty moron for so long, the Lancaster ended up believing their own myth.
“When did they throw you out?”
“They did not. I left the same night and maintained a loving relationship with my father until his death three years ago.”
And so on.
“How many people did you kill during your flight from New Orleans?”
“Some mortal to slake my Thirst, and a vampire.”
“You disposed of a fellow coven member to mask your treachery?”
“No, I killed her because she was about to slay Aintza,” I say as I point to the Servant in the room. A shocked gasp escapes the Hastings Lady’s mouth.
“She had already broken her fingers,” I add helpfully.
Of course, at that time Aintza was not yet bound to Jimena, though I fail to elaborate on this specific point.
“Ahem. Yes. But what about after that. How many mortals perished by your hand?”
I count. The three idiots who were lynching that escaped slave named Toussaint, incidentally the first time I got drunk. Then father Perry and his entourage.
“Six,” I answer, and explain who they were and the circumstances of their demise.
Barlow ends with a few perfidious and slanderous comments, implying that my testimony is unreliable and that I may have killed those I had been feeding on without realizing it. He points out to the increased number of disappearances during that time period, to which Salim objects. This ends his counter-interrogation.
Already, members of the jury display signs of impatience. They make it subtle enough not to insult their host but easy enough for the rest of us to pick them. The fact that they sit slightly behind Constantine helps. Salim smiles and introduces the next witness.
“The plaintiff questions my client’s ability to function alone. I will now demonstrate without the shadow of a doubt that she strived and succeeded beyond what can be expected from a one-year-old fledgeling as soon as she escaped her tormentors. For this, I shall call upon the testimony of King Loth of Skoragg.”
Erlingur stands up and skulks his way to the front with a box in his gnarly paws. The artefact is an intricate silver construct with a needle on top, and a moderate magical aura emanates from it. It tastes like…
It tastes like Loth, like mountain and steel! He made the enchantment himself.
“Erlingur, please state the reason for your visit,” says Salim. It is extremely subtle, yet I notice that the Courtier’s expression is just a bit amused.
The reason soon becomes obvious.
“Loth ashked me. Aye, a knew him as a wee bairn. Ya ol’ walloper he sed, ya spend aw day scunnert oot yer mind in ya fucken hoose loik a pure twally, ye disnae wanty go oot he sed, so a sed shut yer gob ye hackit goon ‘fore I batter it, a don wanty, so he sed, get oot ‘fore I burn doon yer gaff a got a job fer ya so I sed aye and here I be.”
Silence falls over the room. Constantine’s gaze drills into Salim who looks on placidly. The Hastings lady opens a fan to mask her obvious smile.
“What did he say?” the Speaker asks, annoyed.
“Erlingur is here at the behest of King Loth.”
“… I see, and what task was he given?”
“I know,” an extremely low-pitched and gravelly voice says.
The one who speaks is the Natalis Lord. His voice is surprisingly soft for someone his size, and his words are slow and measured.
“It is a voice record box, a Dvergur creation. They are very precious and rarely used. He is here to open it.”
“This one can only be activated by the blood of a relative. It is a safeguard to prevent the message from being tampered with,” the lord with the long gray hair adds. His voice is still a basso though not as low as his neighbor’s. He also has a strange accent even in Akkad. There is rhythm to it, as if he were reciting.
Constantine considers the item with curiosity. He’s probably never seen one before.
“We shall hear your kin’s message then,” he says.
The sentence is barely finished before Erlingur pricks a thumb on the device. The box shines blue with runes, then an illusory globe rises in the air. It vibrates slightly with each sound the enchantment produces.
“Am busy! Get tae fuck!” my friend’s inimitable voice says. A rare emotion fills my heart and I raise both hands to my chest. Loth’s aura spreads through the room now, as if he were here.
“Is that bloody thing even on, ah yes. Ahem.
“My name is Loth of Skoragg. I have spent the past century in North America and for ten years, I welcomed within my home and hearth Ariane of the Nirari. During that time, she respected all the terms of our arrangement without fail. Never did she kill one of my citizens, and never did she endanger my life or secrecy. She showed loyalty and candor in her dealings, curiosity and ingenuity in her pursuit of knowledge. She fought by my side and bled with me no matter the odds or the risks to her person. She helped me face my demons and made me a better man, not out of self-interest but because she wanted ta help. She was in turn an apprentice, a confidante and an aide, and more than that she was a friend. A real friend who I would risk my life for without a sliver of hesitation. Ta all of ye oversea bloodsuckers, whoever ye are, ye have a diamond in yer midst and I regret every day that she can’t be here with me instead of these arse-licking, unruly ninnies. What good Hunts we would have, hah! Anyway, I’ve said enough. Ariane if ye’re here, next time we meet I’ll make ye a gun that will blow an asshole’s head clean off from a mile and then do it five times more without reloading, ye’ll see! Awrite. This is King Loth, signing off.”
The sound bubble dissipates and I let out an uncontrolled gasp and lightly bend forward.
This emotion is so fleeting and precious that I forgot about the whole hearing to focus on that elusive warmth in my chest. I let it go through me. Only when it dissipates in the cold recess of my unbeating heart do I open my eyes again and straighten out. Both the jury and the Speaker are looking forward though I know they saw my reaction. They pretended not to see my momentary weakness. That is a sign of respect.
On the other bench, the Lancaster discomfort is obvious.
If I had to judge how the Hearing is going for them so far, I would have to use the word “disastrously”.
Despite their numerous setbacks, Barlow hasn’t given up yet.
“Erlingur, the two of them spent ten years together. Would it not be possible for your King to have been under her influence?”
Ah, trying to discredit the witness in front of his grumpy uncle? Brilliant idea, moron, let’s see how that works out for you.
“Ye’re off yer fooken heid ye daft cunt,” the old man’s spits, shivering with rage, “dinnae talk mince course we checked his mind, ya wee fanny!”
“He respectfully disagrees,” adds Salim, deadpan.
The only sound is the groan of wood as Barlow’s claws slowly dig into his desk.
“I think this is enough,” Constantine declares while glaring at the Lancaster side.
“One last thing, sir, if I may,” Barlow interjects respectfully.
Gah, when will you give up? Constantine remains silent which the lawyer interprets as permission to continue.
“We also have proof that Ariane of the Nirari allied herself with the White Cabal, a hostile religious order of mages who inflicted great pain upon our House. We argue that her cooperation with an enemy of all of us is a crime that requires punishment.”
“And the reason why you did not mention this before?” Constantine asks, out of patience.
“Our witness is Melusine of the Lancaster. She recently suffered a tremendous loss and we would have preferred not to cause her undue stress.”
Melusine stands up and replaces Elringur at the front.
This is going to be good.
“Melusine, after the battle which cost your Vassal his life, you bore witness to Ariane collaborating with the enemy, is that correct?”
Silence. Melusine’s shoulders are tense and her face is a frozen mask. I dare not imagine the tumultuous emotion ravaging her mind right now, and I rejoice that she decided to honor our oath above her loyalty to her clan.
“Is that correct?” Barlow repeats with visible anger. If I had been humiliated like he was, I would be angry too.
“Melusine you forget yourself. Answer the question,” he insists as Lady Moor’s eyes throw daggers at the little minx. A condemning silence! This could not have gone any better.
The sound is barely a whisper, so silent that the mortals could not have heard, and yet for us it is like thunder in a blue sky.
“Pardon me?” Barlow half-screams.
“She saved me. You want an answer? I’ll give you an answer you sanctimonious twit. That blonde glorified peasant saved my life that night. She dragged my maimed body through fire and smoke and broke through while I could not. She showed cunning and ruthlessness, sending one group of worshippers to slay the other and fought fang and claw while your mistress fled with her tail between her legs! All of this because she nabbed their precious warlord and didn’t deign to cover her tracks like the DUMB BITCH SHE IS,”
Melusine is screaming now. I bet they can hear her on the other side of the bay. Nevermind my earlier comment, this is a thousand times better than silence.
“Moor you conniving piece of shit! My Arthur died because your stupid self could not be arsed to do things right and you sent me without backup to clean your shit! And now you ORDER me to help? You think you’re smart? You think you won the game? When the throne receives my report on your embezzlement and your scams, not even the miles of dick you normally gobble will save your scrawny ass from retribution!”
Forget the bay they can hear her in London.
“Loyalty to the cause? Hah! Fuck the cause, fuck the clan and fuck YOU!”
The room grows quiet. Or at least I think it does, my ears are still ringing. By the Watcher. Wow.
I am floored.
Barlow and Moor gawp like a pair of beached fishes, aghast.
“Anything to add?” Constantine adds politely while the irate redhair is still gasping for air.
“I… I want House status!”
“As a political refugee, I presume?”
“Your petition is accepted. Lords and Lady of the jury, I propose we stop here. Do you need time to deliberate?”
“And what is the verdict?”
“I, Jarek of the Natalis, reject the Lancaster claim.”
“I, Sephare of the Hastings, reject the Lancaster claim.”
“I, Torran of the Dvor, reject the Lancaster claim.”
“The Lancaster claim is rejected. The request is granted. Welcome to the Accords, House Nirari.”
And that, as they say, is that.