Morgaine snapped her fingers under Cyrus de Sang’s face. “Wake up, sir.”
Cyrus’ eyes snapped open. He glanced around fervently. He was sitting in a dark cell, with Morgaine Cthonique standing before him. For a moment, his hand went to his sword, but then he saw he was unarmed.
Morgaine sighed. “Wouldn’t have worked anyway. Don’t you know the stories? I’m Morgaine Sans Coeur, the Monker, the One Who Is Dead And Cannot Die.”
Cyrus stared at her. “So why take my weapons?”
“Getting stabbed isn’t fun,” she replied. “And I’ve already taken as much damage as I care to for a while.” She idly raised a hand. “So, don’t consider overpowering me. I’m much, much stronger than I look. Even by Erl standards.” She yawned slightly. “Tell me, de Sang--how knowledgeable are you about our religion, here in the Lands of Night?” Her amber eyes looked at him intently.
Cyrus found he had to look away. “I know as much as the next Milesian,” he said quietly.
“Well, that’s rather unhelpful,” declared Morgaine. “After all, the ‘next Milesian’ covers so many possibilities. Do you know the story of the Place of Ultimate Darkness?” Cyrus shook his head. “Oh, excellent! That let’s me do something I love--talk.” She smiled. “In our tales, when you die, you go to Mother Night--or the Black Bitch, as I believe you call Her. She meets you in a place--the Place of Ultimate Darkness, where it is only you and Her. And then you have to explain yourself.” Morgaine waved her hand. “Consider this my low-rent equivalent to that.” She scratched her chin. “Well, actually, I suppose old Astyanax paid a pretty penny for this place, but… it’s a long way from the Celestial Realms.”
Cyrus stared at the Dark Lord with increasing trepidation. “What… do you mean?”
Morgaine looked around the cell. “My brothers are merciful men, you know. And I respect that. No--I admire that. It takes great strength to know when to forgive. And truly, the world is often hard, often muddled. Men do wickedness, out of folly, out of love, out of necessity. But ultimately, I--I am not merciful. I am just. And while I try to follow the example of my brothers, some times, I find myself in the presence of such unrelieved wickedness that I must create a little justice.” Her face grew grave. “This is such a time.”
“So what are you going to do?” spat out Cyrus. “What’s your justice, witch?”
“I’m a sorceress,” noted Morgaine. “Not a witch. And to answer your question--you’re going to face a little test. If you pass--then you leave here, and no one--not even I--will touch you. Otherwise… well, I think you’ll figure it out.” She chanted quickly, then smiled. “Come on in, folks.” Cyrus heard the shuffling from the side of the room. He reflexively turned his head to see what was making it, and then wished he hadn’t.
They shambled into view--a small crowd, of mostly women and children. All showed their death wounds, many of which were horrific and savage--heads bashed in, stomachs ripped open, eyes gashed out. Cyrus gulped frantically. “I… it--how…?” He turned to Morgaine, in fear. “Stop it! Stop it!”
Morgaine shook her head. “Nope. That’s not how it works, de Sang. If you want to get out of here, you have to convince these people to let you out.” She shrugged. “Do that, and you’re free to go.”
Cyrus whimpered, then bit his lip frantically. “I… it was just… orders… The Flamens… I… I didn’t have a choice.” He stared at Morgaine pleadingly. “Please!”
“Not me, de Sang,” said Morgaine as she walked from the cell. “Them.” And then she shut the door behind her.
Nerghal was waiting for her on the outside. “Don’t give me that look,” she said icily.
The ghost sighed. “This isn’t… disapproval, exactly, grandniece. It’s just… this brings back old memories.” He shook her head. “We’re definitely family, my dear.”
“Yeah, love you too,” she said. Morgaine looked away. The pair stood there for a long while in silence. “Thanks for the help. You really… made things easier.”
“Honestly, it’s nice just to be useful,” replied Nerghal dismissively.
“Yeah. Yeah.” Morgaine nodded to herself. “Here’s the deal. You can stay out of the trap for your term of service--provided you don’t try any funny stuff. Do that, and back in you go. How’s that sound?”
“More than fair.” Nerghal frowned. “I think… he’s starting to scream.”
“Ahh. I was expecting that.” Morgaine raised an imperious hand. “Let’s just--enjoy the moment, shall we?” And Morgaine shut her eyes and listened to the sound of the scales of justice being ever so slightly corrected.