“But,” said the Matriarch, “if you even think to betray me, I shall tear your soul to pieces myself. Never forget, Jonas Mireille, that I gave you life, and there are plenty of others who would offer all their soul to stand where you are now.”
“On the morning of midsummer,” she said. “When the sky falls dark and all eyes turn towards the summit of Avalon.”
Mireille looked up at the Sultan, towering over him, guards flanking his sides, blades at the ready. Around them, the gathered patrons watched in silence, waiting for their master to dispense his judgement, to condemn the man who stole souls, the man who made monsters. All his sacrifices, all his schemes, all for nothing. He could feel the cold warmth of Ketos against his chest, but the moment he moved to claim it, to cast its spell across the watching crowd, the Sultan would have his head. And, if he surrendered, if the Sultan claimed that crystal for his own, removed Mireille from its protective influence, then she would realise what he had done, that he had tried to betray her. He was, as some might say, between the Erebus and the deep, dark sea.
“You know, Jonas,” said the Sultan, “it hurts to see one of my own betray me, but it hurts even more to see that he betrayed me because of a woman. I could have given you women! I could have given you a whole harem to tend to your every need! But no, you had to turn on me. And for what? What wish did your master promise that I could not grant?”
“Bring me Aliza Adel, and I shall teach her to love you.”
“Never forget, Jonas Mireille, that you are expendable.”
He felt her close to him, her body as warm as the sun, her breath as sweet as the spring. Even after all she had heard, she still trusted him. And then, without so much as a warning, she reached into his shirt and summoned the only thing that could save them both.
In the temple he called home, in that secret sanctuary where he worked the Matriarch’s orders, where he sacrificed souls to spin the wheel of Samsara, she emerged from the pool a vision of perfection, pale of skin and silver of hair, her voice a song to shatter any heart. Until now, until this moment, he thought he could resist her, that Aliza Adel, or Emily Fomalhaut, or whatever name was really hers, was just a bronze-skinned, blue-haired mockery of a maedan — perhaps one of those whose genes had lost their potency from generations of breeding — but no. Nothing close. Instead, she was as pure and as perfect and as beautiful as any he had known. And, unlike the Oracle and her daughters, she had no ties to the Matriarch. She existed outside of the circle. With Aliza Adel, he could have everything he ever wanted without fear of consequence.
Outside that room, all the world wanted him dead. He had nothing to lose, nothing left to live for.
And so Jonas Mireille fell to his knees and drank in paradise.
And so the maiden cast aside her masks, and drank in his soul.
“Was it worth it?”
The seer and the shadow stood atop the tower, atop that phallic declaration of Jonas Mireille’s lust. Dark winds buffeted a mess of silver hair across the maiden’s face. “It was worth it,” she said.
High above, a single hairline fracture raced across the sky.
Chapter 40 End
Only one chapter left of episode five?! That went by faster than I expected…