Justinian Sigma was witnessing something terrible that he’d never imagined he’d see.
“Oh, my otherworldly vision!” whimpered Fiordespina Maganza, wrapping her arms Morgaine’s small form. “Is--this--it? Shall I die in your arms?”
Morgaine stood on her tiptoes and patted the taller woman’s head. “No--you’ll be fine, Despi! My necromantic might shall see you through!”
Fiordespina regarded the undead Cthonique fondly. “Oh, my Queen of the Beyond!” She kissed Morgaine on the forehead. “With your blasphemous self here, death seems not only nothing to fear, but a positive delight!”
Justinian turned away. Not only did it feel like spying--but the more he looked, the more he found himself considering the--mechanics involved. And that was just wrong. Glancing out to the floor he saw that Nisrioch Cthonique still stood there, smiling and waving, at the crowd, even now that Belberith had left with Orrill, citing urgent business back at the Ashurana airship. “Come now, everyone!” he declared cheerily. “Let’s not panic. If you stay here I can protect you. Leave, and--well, things get--more questionable.”
Malagise Chiaramonte, still standing next to Nisrioch on the floor, gave a hearty nod. “His Excellency is not fooling. Why, the Law of Sympathetic Resonance alone guarantees our safety, provided we do as our hosts request and do not leave this estimably well-protected little chamber.” The Duke gave a broad smile, which he doubtless thought was comforting. As he looked around the room, it occurred to Justinian that there was a steadily dwindling number of people to comfort. The Belfior Maganzas had fled, as well as quite a few random hanger-ons and about half of Skadi and Ull’s respective Jarlthings. But the Dark Lords of the Fangs themselves were still there, with Alcina Ashurana and Psyche Zenobia, as well as the Mongranes, seated near Elaine and Jean, and a little further off, the rest of the Chiaramontes, who sat there in stony silence. Nisrioch clicked his tongue. “They do not seem to be cheering up, my good Duke.”
“Mmmm,” agreed Malagise with a nod. “Perhaps--perhaps a song would do the trick, eh?” He looked around the room again. “Keep people’s minds off the problems?”
Nisrioch gleefully clapped his hands together. “An excellent notion, sir! Excellent and exquisite!” Reaching into his sleeve, he drew out his harp.
“Ahh!” said the Duke with a grin. “Is that a spatial pocket created through aetherial manipulation?”
“Indeed it is!” replied Nisrioch cheerfully, as he began to strum his harp. “I find it to be so much more flexible than simple apportation. You are clearly a knowledgeable man in the mystical arts.”
“A dabbler, sir! A mere dabbler!” said Malagise with a dismissive wave of the hand. “I merely happen to be doing a few minor experiments in that area, and thus recognized the principles you were using. That is all!” He coughed politely. “Now--may I choose the song?”
Nisrioch gave a nod, as he tuned his harp. “I would consider it an honor if you did.”
“Excellent.” Malagise cleared his throat, then glanced at Nisrioch. “Ahh, yes--this one begins with a bit of spoken verse. So I will recite it, and you can see if you recognize the tune. If you don’t--I’ll hum it. Very well?”
“Sounds simply smashing,” replied Nisrioch.
“Very good,” said Malagise. He struck a pose, and began to recite.
“‘When the day's begun
The mighty sun
No rivals will he brook
Alone he gleams
His light it streams
And on him none can look.’”
Justinian became aware that a chilly silence had spread over the rest of the room. Looking around he saw everyone was staring at the Duke Chiaramonte with a mixture of terror and interest. He turned to Morgaine and Fiordespina, who actually seemed to have noticed someone else in the room for the first time in quite a while. “What’s going on?”
Morgaine blinked. “This--this song--well--back when Dad was Dark Lord, this was sort of the Resistance’s anthem.”
Fiordespina gave a sigh. “All the times I heard it around the campfire when I was in exile. I can almost recite it by heart…”
Malagise continued to recite, as if oblivious to the unease he was causing.
“‘But then comes night,
With gentler light,
Shed by many a star.
Together they share
With no sorrow or care,
The sky that spreads so far.’”
The Duke turned to Nisrioch, who smiled and began to play his harp. Malagise gave a nod and started to sing. To Justinian’s surprise the Duke had a lovely baritone.
“There's room enough for all,
To war there is no call,
We are all one in the night
We do not need to fight
Why do we struggle and brawl?’”
As Malagise sang the next part, Nisrioch joined in.
“‘There are many stars in the sky
Shining from on high!
In the dark of night,
They share their light
The countless stars in the sky!’”
And then as Justinian watched, the entire room joined in the song.
“‘Why follow the day?
We know a better way!
Great things are done
When many are one,
So does the Lady say!’”
Once again, Justinian found himself realizing that he was an outsider here, seeing all these people singing the words to a song they all knew and he didn’t. And for the first time, he realized that wasn’t necessarily a good thing. Though of course, he quickly put that thought out of his mind. Or tried to.