With a scream Julian wakes up eye wide and bloodshot. Panting and covered in a visible layer of sweat he stares into the middle distance unblinkingly. Seemly deaf to any comment he stares till his eyes fill with tears that run down his face. Finally he closes his eyes and says in a whisper “no”.
Iskanda leans in from the chair beside his bed, brow furrowed. “Julian?…Are you alright?”
She closes and sets aside a small leather-bound book and pen, replacing those items with a clean rag to gently dab at his forehead.
Without bitterness julian replies “why do you care?”
“You shouldn’t but you do. Why?” Before iskanda can reply julian looks around quickly. “And how did i get here?”
“Why wouldn’t I care?” She frowns and shakes her head. “We brought you here after the Spires. You were the only one who didn’t wake. Do you remember any of it?”
“Everything we do has a reason on some level. Some think slavery is right others wrong. Id agrue Both sides have people who are good. Why is there good and evil. Humor m.”
(maybe edit a response in here)
Iskanda sits back, tossing the sweat-soaked rag aside. “It’s human nature to have flaws. And to have reasons. Her Lady Justice teaches that impurity of spirit must be balanced with a desire to do good, and that-” She stops with a sigh. “You’ve heard all of this before. But in the Spires, do you recall what happened?”
“i dont recall any of ride over. I recall the fight with that thing. You falling into a pool of its blood and me falling into the same pool. I assume after that was a dream. It didnt seem like a dream tho i was in the ether i think. ..Hows jack.
“He’s…fine. Better.” Frustration flickers over her face but it’s quickly contained. “You must be parched.”
She doesn’t wait for a response before pouring him a cup of water from the pitcher on his bedside table, handing it to him. “Terth used my sword to deal the final blow. It’s had an…interesting effect, and we visited Silla to get his opinions.” She shifts in her seat. “I may start to experience what Jack had. Hopefully it won’t be so extreme.”
“In the spires i was looking for a debate not council, but i suppose your right we spoken about these issues.
listening to her statement and drinking the glass proves diffcult as julian coughs at her final statement. "What do you mean experience what jack did? You mean that nightmare creature altering your memories? "
“Yes, potentially. I’m hoping it doesn’t get to that point. But…it did try to absorb me when we were in the ether. I woke from it with a nosebleed, both there and in reality. I’d assumed it was from injuries, but…” She trails off and looks down at her hands. “That could be an early symptom of the alterations. And we could all be at some level of risk – we were all struck with Uliska’s sword at Ariadine’s estate. Do you remember seeing that?”
“Yes i recall being inside you.” julian says dryly.
The door to the room softly opens as Terth enters, followed by Luca. “I thought I heard Julian’s voice, is he finally awa…” Terth says as he enters. He glances between the sweating, bedridden doctor and the concerned looking priestess.
“I’m sorry, are we interrupting something? We can come back later.”
Iskanda shoots Julian a look for his remark before turning her attention to Terth. “No, not at all. I was watching him and he came to. He seems to be doing well enough. We were talking about the Spires.”
She frowns. “I haven’t gotten to the part with the Laugh yet, though.”
Terth sits in a chair opposite Iskanda and crosses his legs.
“Well if you want to finish getting Julian up to speed, we can wait. Otherwise we should probably start talking about costumes.”
“Were talking about deamons. The fact one or more of us could be infested with its taint. Yet costumes and the laugh are the current worries?”
Looking around the room again julian says
“Am i still in the ether?”
Terth leans back and rubs his eyes. “If only we were so lucky…” then he sits up and looks Julian in the eye.
“Look, we have come to some… conclusions while you were out. One of them is that some of us might still have a demon consuming our memories. Which is serious,sure, but so far no one has shown any symptoms.” Terth gestures at Iskanda “except maybe her nosebleeds, but that still remains unproven at the moment. Until then there are other matters to focus on, such as not being destroyed by the Ariadene coalition, in both senses of the term.”
“So the short of it is that we have made a deal with the Laugh in exchange for their backing in the coming election. They requested we perform in a play to atone for your sins against them and we need to start planning to make sure we aren’t slaughtered on… or off stage.” Terth glances around the room, his gaze lingers on Iskanda as he says the last phrase.
Luca is unable to hold back his excitement upon that last phrase “It’s going to be glorious. We couldn’t have asked for a better deal. You get to keep your life and we get to wade into the thick of combat in front of all of Bastige. Iskanda gets to publicly mock the patron goddess of this city. And Terth…well he’s there for the fun of it right?”. Luca glances at Terth, betraying a sliver of fear that his friend may not make it past the opening scene.
“But you won’t have to worry too much Terth. I’ll make sure you make it past the climax.”
“Yes, it will be wonderful.” Iskanda rolls her eyes at Luca, then looks to Julian. “It’s called ‘The Lady Cries Black, The Priest Laughs Red’ and hasn’t been performed in Bastige for…forty years, did they say? The reason for its rarity is in its bloodshed. It’s half an opera, half a massacre. And we are, of course, the stars of the show.”
" The exsitement of wearing costumes aside theres so much to comment on. One do we know we wont be fighting one another? Two who will we be fighting. Three my life was on the table? Lastly jack said he had nightmares along with the nose bleeds.. which i had a rather vivid dream which had a unpleasant and distrubing themes.."
Terth sighs. “Frankly, I don’t know. Like Iskanda said, the last time the play was performed was almost half a century ago, and I haven’t actually read the text of the piece. From the little bits I have heard of, I think we are on the same side, but if we aren’t, I suppose we should come up with some contingencies if we’re expected to start fighting each other. Blood spells, dull swords, that sort of affair. Barring any shenanigans we’ll be fighting slaves from the blood pits and probably a few stars recruited from colliseum itself.” Terth takes a quick breath. “Remember, it was either this, or we throw you to the dogs, or we roll over and let Ariadene have her way with us. So this is the least worst option we face, in my humble opinion.”
“You see handing me over as a worse option? Im touched. I figured someone would want to put me down like a dog at this point.” Julian says bitterly.
“Sorry for all this.” he quickly adds getting out of bed cutting off any response. “So costumes and stragiety then? What are our parts? What limitations are inplace as assume they’ll dislike me becoming 12ft tall beast as it may not fit into the theme of the play. I assume winning over the audience will be our main goal next to living to end.”
“I was taking the part of the priest’s lover. I believe Terth was going to be the best friend. They said you have to play the priest. Our current thinking is that there will be some powerful illusions in place so we’ll be able to go out in full gear…hopefully.”, Luca thinks for a moment.Qqc. A sad look covers his face, “If we do have to fight each other it may not be possible to take a dive. The Laugh may wait until the last minute to give us our scripts, to throw us off guard and not be able to prepare too much.”
He looks to his companions for their thoughts.
“Well i find we should think like the laugh and work at how to get an outcome we would want. The laugh wants power and me dead. I think these two goals are not up to debate and one i dont wish to happen. So i see three main outcomes to this play.
One we win. Two they win or three we both win.
The laugh owns many gambling houses i see no reason the rule of the house always win should not be their motto. If i die they win. If we all die they win. If we put on amazing show we both win. Now i wasnt there at this meeting but lets say the devil have not commited 100% to team jack. So if we die they can claim it as a gift to win favor with other parties. If i die they get a win and may ease up any attempts to kill the rest of you. Lastly if we put on a good show they’ll win and doing any harm to us would make them look bad. Think of some of the arena battles lucca where a slave has somehow taken down a star with a lucky shot. the crowd do not favor these men with flowers and praise but demand a beast or a new champion. I fear this outcome due to them choosing iskanda part. the laugh besides being entertainers are also brokers of information.”
Drumming on the nightstand julian reaches for his journal.
“so what did i get wrong?”
FOR THE FUTURE SO THIS IS TURNED IN
“I already know what I want my costume to look like. A pure black, silk open front petticoat and matching long skirt that is sewn into by the waist with maroon red thread that will dance around ever so slightly as I move. The overgown will be what is on display. Mainly crimson red velvet. The embroidery will be the shadows of roses with twisting interconnected stems and sparse leaves. When the light catches them just right they’ll shine like spilled blood.
This gown will be edged black frills on the sleeves and around the front opening. The frills on the front will resemble falling rose petals. When I move they will appear to be in motion, cascading to the floor but leaving nothing behind.
To complete it I will be wearing a rose gold choker with a tear drop ruby. "