[Please read the Instructions before jumping in]
When better to follow one’s heart than when a knife is in one’s hand? Lucien looks at the knife for a long moment, hearing the shuffling silence of the audience, and then flings it from him so it spins across the stage—the indicator that it’s his character Arcane who should get murdered.
“I cannot kill,” he cries, sinking to his knees and putting his face in his hands. “No jealousy could lead me to harm Revelle, nor my brother Logos. I will try to make amends with them both, and if I succeed, all will be well. But if I fail, and if it means that crows will peck my flesh—” He draws a deep breath. Here is the meaning to it, the ritual, the sacrifice. He tilts his head up, as if Arcane is looking to the heavens, and he sees a glint of light from Lord Crow’s booth that tells him they have made eye contact. His heart is pounding. “—then so must it be, and at least my body will do at least some good, though my heart could not.”
But it doesn’t feel right to leave it at that. If there’s a death on stage, it feels like not giving something to the End will just be an insult. He adds another line: “And if I die, let Logos not celebrate my death! If he does, let him meet his end likewise—” Another electric moment, a chill, a sense of impending calamity. He pushes on. “This is the curse I lay upon him. I will not kill him myself, but if my death brings him joy, I pray that death will come for him in the end.” He’s horribly aware that he’s leaving Lord Vine out, and adds a brief, “Yet if I live, may we all grow from here.” It’s not enough to be a true dedication, not knowing they’ve just planned a double murder on stage, but perhaps it will prevent offense…
Perhaps it will not. That too might be fun, in some masochistic sense.
With that line done, Lucien assumes a position of prayer, and the play moves on. Revelle enters, spots Arcane in prayer, and condemns him for a weak man, one who will not stand up to Logos, and if he will not, then she will have to free herself from him. There is a horrible tearing sensation as the stage knife strikes him. It doesn’t pierce him—they are designed to retract into the hilt—but it feels like his flesh is being ripped from him, and as he falls over he sees the strange, inhuman face of Lord Crow, revealed from its cover of darkness, craning over the edge of his box seat to watch the murder happen.
Revelle laments her fate, but is not able to dispose of Arcane’s body before Logos enters. Logos is ecstatic to see this—he takes it as proof that Revelle loves him, and was eliminating the rival—and attempts to woo her until Revelle, in rage, kills him as well. It sounds to Lucien that she picked up Lucien’s hints and dedicated this death to Lord the End, and he hopes that later in the play, now that Revelle is in the lead role, her actress Katarin thinks to steer things toward Vine so one of the Lords isn’t entirely left out.
Revelle drags both bodies off stage, and Lucien and Shuni give each other pleased nods, then head to the green room. Shuni picks up a book and curls up in a chair to read it, so Lucien gives him space, takes up his prop sword and practices a fight scene that will appear in a later scene, should the play get to it in another run. He gets the sense he’s being watched, but when he looks around, there’s just Shuni deep in his book, and birds backlit by the moon on the rooftop across the way, and he tries to ignore the sensation.
Finally, when the second last act has finished and the play has reached its climactic pause that will be the final scene until the last day, they receive the call for their bows. Both head back in to take the stage again before a cheering crowd. The box seats are empty at this point, to Lucien’s relief; he’s never seen a time when one of the Lords stayed around once the acting is finished.
The show now over, they return again to the dressing rooms, and let the costumers peel them out of their clothes, scrub the makeup from them. Katarin leans over and says, “Good job tonight. I wasn’t entirely expecting to be handed the lead in front of three Lords, of course.”
Lucien winces. “Sorry.”
“No, it makes sense we’d need a double murder when those two are in attendance.” She stretches. The costumers have ripped her gown from her, and are uninterested in her day clothes, so she begins applying those to herself. “Shuni, Lucien, you want to go out for drinks after this? The Fox’s Den is serving until dawn.”
“I’m game,” Shuni says easily. “I missed the last half of the show. Perhaps you can fill us in.”
Lucien finds himself afraid she will. When he knows the details of a show he had no control over, he obsesses over how the next one should go, and it interferes with his sleep. He knows it’d be a good idea, however, so he puts off deciding. “I’m not sure how another drink will settle right now,” he says. “I’ll get some air in the back alley, then let you know.”
“Suit yourself! You know it’ll take me a while to dress.”
Lucien gives the others a nod, and puts his hat on, then opens the door into the alley out back and leans against the wall, staring up at the moon and drawing a deep breath.
He very quickly realizes he’s not alone, and for a moment, incredulous, he fears a mugging. But the man swathed in shadow is an odd shape, too tall, inhuman, and the cane that he taps on the cobbles as he steps forward is familiar. So, although Lucien hasn’t heard it before, is his voice: A raucous, hoarse caw of a voice.
“Are you free?” Lord Crow asks. “Would you care to take a walk with me on this fine night?”
[Please leave a suggestion for Lucien in the comments.]