Armida smiled, preparing her lash. "So... I suppose we battle now?" A dark chuckle left her lips. "I taught your kin the futility of that..."
"We are kin, Armida," whispered Mansemat. "And no, there is no need. We will simply let the Castle decide." He gestured to the spindle, where even now his blood crept up, overtaking hers.
"That is it?" muttered Armida with a snort. "You will lose. You will lose because you are thief. A thief and the son of a thief. Nothing more."
"I am the Dark Lord of the Plains of Dread," said Mansemat. "I am the People's Slave. What are you, Armida? The woman who spent years creating a failed idea of her father's. The woman whose weapons are schemes within schemes within schemes. The woman who betrays somebody with each move she makes. The woman who killed her own..."
Armida's nostrils flared. "He was already dead." She looked away. "It wasn't even him. Just pieces of him. And... he might come back. In time."
"How very nice," said Mansemat. "And completely irrelevant." He crossed his arms. "Why should you rule, Armida, and not me? Give me an answer."
"Why? Because I was born to this!" she shouted.
Mansemat shrugged. "And? The entire story of our line tells us that birth alone counts for little."
"Spoken like the interloper you are. The benefactor of your father's cruelty..." Armida snarled.
Mansemat took a deep breath. "Lady, do not talk to me of my father's cruelty as if it were something I never got a chance to know. Every person in this room--in this castle--in this land--was a victim of that man."
Armida pointed at him. "What a convenient thing to tell yourself! I've no doubt there's a smidgen of truth in it, and that it allows you to utterly ignore my righteous vengeance..."
"I would not even dignify this as vengeance, Armida," said Mansemat. "So far as I can tell, this is merely habit. You are hollow thing now, Armida. Whatever purpose this might have served you once, it is now its own purpose. I suspect if you won, there would be a brief moment of emptiness, and then you would find more plots to occupy yourself."
Armida glanced away. "If you imagine these... childish accusations..."
Elaine coughed. "Ummm, guys... magic spindle... doing something..."
The two Cthoniques turned and regarded it, even as it momentarily vanished in the bright golden glow.