Elaine watched her mother attack the Eremites in the courtyard below her, tearing into them with her power. “Well,” she said to Amfortas quietly, “it looks your plan’s backfiring. My mother’s destroying your holy knights.”
“Mmm,” murmured the Prince casually. “Things certainly appear that way.” His tone was so… relaxed that Elaine had to glance at him, if only for a moment. She immediately wished she hadn’t.
It wasn’t that Amfortas was doing anything overtly horrible. No, he was simply standing there, and watching, much as she was. Only his eyes stared in a gruesome fascination that made the mild smile on his face seem almost obscene. Elaine gulped. “Don’t you care?” she whispered. “She’s killing your men.”
Amfortas gave a pleasant chuckle. “Care? Why should I? Those men were holy Eremites, pledged to live in the service of the Light, and to die in it. They are fulfilling their lives’ ambition. That’s a good thing, my dear, not a sad one.” The smile deepened. “Each time one of those brave men dies, it is a soul going up to paradise, where the Seven may tell him, well done, thou good, and faithful servants.” Amfortas shook his head. “And I… I am making it all possible. It is happening by my will, and in my name. Truly, mine is a blessed existence, to grant such favor to these insects.”
Elaine was silent for a while, merely regarding the man. “You really are a piece of work, you know that?” she said at last.
“The finest one the Seven have made,” said Amfortas cheerfully. Elaine blinked as a knife suddenly appeared in his right hand, pointing very neatly at her throat, while his other hand grabbed her arm. “Now--please come with me my dear. I think it’s about time I had a few choice words with your mother.” With that he gave a little tug, and Elaine found herself being yanked along as he moved down the stairway. Her gaze fell on an Eremite who’d fallen on the ground and was rolling around in a desperate attempt to beat out the flames. She felt a mild burst of sympathy for the man, just a poor pawn in Amfortas’ mad game now facing her mother. And then she got a clear look at her mother. Viviane stood there, her hair flying loose, and her face contorted in rage. Jean was standing in a corner, Elaine realized, looking nervous and frightened--but Viviane easily dominated the scene. Especially when she saw the Prince.
“Amfortas,” she hissed, her eyes lighting up with hatred.
“Why if it isn’t the little Badb, all grown up,” replied Amfortas cheerfully. “The years have been very kind to you. Frankly it makes me glad at this opportunity to renew our old acquaintance.”
“You sick…!” shouted Viviane, before turning to Elaine, who was still processing the fact that Amfortas and her mother knew each other. “Elaine! Are you…? Has he… done… anything….?”
“I’ve barely laid a finger on her, dearest Badb,” said Amfortas. “She is fine and unspoiled.” He shifted the knife in his hand slightly. “Something I can change in a moment, should I wish to…”
Viviane raised her pestle, leveling at him. “Let her go, Amfortas. NOW!”
Amfortas chuckled. “Mmmm… no. No, I don’t think I will do that. It strikes me as particularly unwise.”
Viviane’s eyes narrowed. “You… you’re stalling me, aren’t you? For some… strange reason…” She took a deep breath. “Stupid move. I can kill you very quickly, Amfortas. And I’d love every second of it, you vile freak…”
“And oddly enough, that is EXACTLY what I was going to say about your daughter,” answered Amfortas brightly. “Right down to the cheery feelings that will fill me as I do it.”
“You… Don’t you dare…” spat out Viviane. “I will ANNIHILATE you before you even…”
Amfortas merely smiled pleasantly. “Perhaps. But you of all people should realize just how quickly I can move, when I wish to. As I most assuredly would in this case.”
Viviane stared at him for a long moment. “She’s your daughter, you monster!” she spat out.
Elaine felt a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach as Amfortas gave a pleasant-sounding laugh. “Yes, I rather suspected that when I saw the Pescheour eyes staring at me from an Erl’s face.” He allowed an idle finger to toy with her hair. “Believe me when I say, it makes no difference. One false move, and I will gut her right here, as you watch.”