Isaac knocks at the door of the diplomatic suite the next morning. It’s as if nothing has happened. Cora is invited to the same cavernous dining room, and you follow at her heels. Aside from Isaac and a waiter, nobody else is there. You’re served tea, fresh fruit, Belgian waffles.
The Archivist appears once again, with Tove, and the blonde. Antara. Ironically, you know her name now, but yours is still not hers to know, and it never will be. She glares at you from across the table, but says nothing. Tove doesn’t look to be in a particularly good mood himself; despite the pastries that he shovels into his mouth, he looks as if he’s slowly chewing a lemon.
The Archivist, on the other hand, seems pleased. “A revised contract, Domina,” he says to Cora, sliding a slim folio across the table to your mistress. “I suspect you’ll be pleased. Run it by your people, of course, but consider the issues we ran into last night resolved.”
Cora says nothing, for a moment that stretches, and then she nods. “Thank you, Lord Archivist.”
Under the table, she squeezes your hand.
Once everything is signed and sorted, your lawyers satisfied, their lawyers satisfied, there’s some equipment in bulky crates to be transferred, and some Infernal personnel that will be accompanying you out of the Library for cross-training. There’s not much for you to do, as you’ve already packed your mistress’s personal luggage, so you kneel quietly at Cora’s feet as you both watch things being moved into a Library freight elevator to be hoisted out of the Basement. It’s already a comfortable role for both of you.
Unfortunately, the equipment is Tove’s. The personnel are Tove’s. And although the Archivist is already there, although he isn’t needed at all, Tove himself pops up again to “supervise”. You can’t seem to shake His Grace, the Earl of Bloody Shadows, 55th Master of Overdue Books.
He grumbles, “Domina, I must once again warn you that I am doing this under protest. If you’d stick to the original plan, you know, it’d be much more elegant.”
“Thank you, Your Grace,” Cora tells him calmly. “I’ll take it from here.”
His veil slips. “You little serpent shit. You’ll take it, indeed. You’ll take my plan, and you’ll fucking blow it.”
Tove grabs your mistress’s shoulder with one of his massive clawed hands.
“But don’t worry, I’ll be there to watch your sneaky fanged ass burn and fail, and then I’ll carry on as if you’d never walked in here, you worthless bitch.”
At that shouted insult, something snaps inside you. So much for comfort.
You rise from your kneeling position at your mistress’s feet, your will breaking through the venom and the orders but only because you love your Mistress so much that you can’t breathe another breath until this piece of shit demon noble pays for what he’s said and done your rage and your loyalty and your love and your will and your submission come together burning they feel physical it’s as if you can hold them in your palm wrapped around your fingers manifest you blink and there it is a broad blade of feelings and kinked space and twisted light hard to look at but when you leap at Tove to tear his filthy hand off of your Mistress to put him down — there is an immense tearing noise, and a harsh crack — it seems to be real enough.
Tove’s clawed and armored hand lies, severed, on the floor, some distance from your stunned mistress, arcs of dark purple blood everywhere. Tove screams, but still manages to bring up his other arm. That’s fine. Your next move will end him entirely.
But the Archivist bellows, “ENOUGH!” as he leaps and backhands the Earl of Bloody Shadows into a wall, and Cora’s gaze flicks to you, and she says four words, four words that take all of your will away like turning off a light, “Theta, remember your place.”
The blade disappears in a spasm of nothingness, and your consciousness with it.