[Please read the Instructions before jumping in]
Well, this is awkward at best, Lucien thinks frantically even as he lifts his brow with Shuni’s practiced insouciance. He has no idea what Katarin’s prying question even means, and that would be fine if he were Lucien tonight. But he’s having to pretend to be Shuni instead.
The easiest option is just to let her in on what’s going on. And perhaps she deserves it; she is his costar as much as Shuni is, after all, and they are building this play to its inevitable and unrevealed end together.
But he’s already committed to be Shuni, and revealing himself to her would run counter to their agreed plan in its very nature. Besides, he’s not sure Shuni would reveal the truth if asked so directly. So he cannot tell her the truth, either.
Lucien eyes her thoughtfully. She’s fully costumed, in Revelle’s breeches and beautifully embroidered blue and gold coat that she wears in the first scene, when she tries to fight the duel against Logos on her own behalf. (He, as Logos, is far less fancy in a simple black long coat and trousers, ever the lurking villain.) Her long brown hair is tied back in a queue, to stay out of the way during the fight—Katarin’s actual hair is blond, but they have several wigs backstage to help style her to match the script. He makes her wait, watches her impatience grow, and then murmurs, “What if it is me?”
Her eyes narrow. “Then I need to know what you’re doing here.”
One way or another, he needs more details about what she’s asking about. Even if he manages to put her off entirely, that’ll just make her his problem tomorrow, when she goes to ask the same question of Lucien—in other words, himself, again. And if he doesn’t put her off, she’ll keep on after Shuni, and he at least owes Shuni an informed warning.
“I’m performing in the play, of course,” he says, gesturing at the curtain. “What does it look like I’m doing?”
“Have you been having the dreams?” she asks, intent.
“I may have,” he says. He’s certainly been having odd dreams, and he wonders for the first time if Shuni is too. “Have you?”
“I think anyone involved in this should be having it,” she hisses softly. “Listen, I just need to know which side you’re on about this. Are you infiltrating to stop it, or infiltrating to cause it?”
Shit. This is getting into too many questions that he can’t begin to answer. “Stop what? And what about you?”
“The change,” she says. “You know. The change.”
He wants to respond ‘what change?’, but knows that it will give away that he doesn’t know anything. And she’s so adamant that ‘it’ is one of them, so if she is right, it must be Shuni. He casts around for an excuse to end the conversation—
And finds one. His and Shuni’s understudy, Frederik, is eyeing them suspiciously. And no wonder—he might not usually be onstage (after all, he doesn’t look enough like either of them for the director to want to work in a full twist with a triplet), but he has studied both his and Shuni’s performances nonstop. If anyone’s likely to recognize something is wrong, it’s Frederik.
Lucien nods towards Frederik, as subtly as he can. “Not now. Prying eyes. Besides, we have to get started.”
She looks frustrated, but does not retort, just throws her hands up and walks away. He turns and looks directly at Frederik, giving him a smile and a shrug, like who knows what’s bothering her now?
Frederik shrugs back, turning to watch her go.
And then it’s time for the play to begin. While the first scene goes on, he runs through Logos’s lines in his head, trying to get into a character he’s only observed and played off of before, not one whose interiority he’s tried to live. Soon enough, the second scene begins. Katarin is on first, Revelle entering and monologuing to the audience about her freedom, and wanting to prove herself against Logos, and then it’s his turn to stride on with a sneer, facing the audience.
“It’s a duel she wants, and it’s a duel she’ll get,” he announces, staring up at the boxed seats. To his surprise, three of them are full again, the fourth once again empty. Lord Crow has returned, and is watching with apparent interest. So has Lord Vine, who is visible this time, hair like ivy spilling out of the booth, a split smile with little baby’s breath teeth, eyes bright like fireflies, their skin’s texture all wrong. Lord the End has not returned, however; instead, the Moonlit Lord is there, glowing from her booth like a spotlight, pale and brilliant.
It occurs to him with surprise that even if he is not currently the lead, he can—and should—still dedicate his scene, his duel, to one of them. Their showing up for performances is rare enough that he had not thought any except Lord Crow would be here a second time, and has not planned what to do as a result.
[Please leave suggestions for Lucien in the comments.]