[Please read the Instructions before jumping in]
He hasn’t done enough to calm down, Lucien can see that much as he looks at himself in the mirror. He doesn’t even look like himself. Oh, the physical is there — his soft red hair, the hard angles of his face, the dark, dark circles under his eyes, too heavy for how young he is. He’s only in his twenties; how long, he wonders, can he live like this?
No, he can’t let himself think that. He needs confidence. He’s about to step out on stage, where every eye—so, so many eyes—will be on him. He pulls a face in the mirror and is slightly relieved when it pulls the same one back. It’s him, but it needs to become a better him.
Confidence, as always, comes from the outside. He gets the kettle on, and sits back down in front of his mirror. Normally he’d wait until he was at the theatre to put on his stage makeup, but he does it now instead: rouges his cheeks and his lips, lines his eyes to make them stand out. Human features blur on the stage without measures like this. He could be anyone without it, but he must be his character.
Lucien slicks his hair back and puts his hat back on top of it. The kettle is boiling, and so he pours it over into a cup to make his coffee. He stirs sugar in, hesitates, and then adds a splash of something harder. Not too much, but he needs to relax, needs to feel inspired. Besides, depending on which of the Lords are there, he might please them by appearing with just an edge of intoxication. Poisons fall under the portfolio of several Lords, after all.
He drinks his coffee and imagines the peace of the stage, the moment when he steps on and all the pre-stage fear falls away. The lights will be bright and hot; the crowd will be one living creature, breathing and recoiling on his command. And everything will be right. He trusts the other actors, trusts them to do their part as always.
Finishing his drink, Lucien smacks his cheeks, the rouge hiding the flush he knows the drink has brought to them. He slicks his lucky charm into a pocket—an old brass key that he has never found the use for, but which he held onto through that terrible time and so has become some sort of symbol to him—and heads out the door.
When he walks in through the actors’ entrance, he is greeted by what he first takes as another mirror, but when it raises its hand and he doesn’t, he realizes it’s just Shuni. He’s still not sure which of them was cast first, him or Shuni, but Shuni looks enough like him that they could be twins. Of course, that’s useful in the show, but it’s never stopped being slightly strange.
Shuni comes over, draping his arms over Lucien’s shoulders and kissing both his cheeks. “Cutting it close, aren’t you?” he murmurs. “Let’s move along quickly, now. You should know that there are going to be three Lords watching today.”
“Three of them?” Lucien murmurs back. Everything worked; his heart is calm. “Which ones?”
“Lord Crow the Carrion Eater, Lord Vine of the New Growth, and Lord the End,” Shuni says. He slides his grip into a casual arm around Lucien’s shoulders, leading him back. “Is there one of them you want to please most? To speak to? You’re spoiled for choices tonight, but I suppose that has its own risks.”
[Please leave a suggestion for Lucien in the comments.]