[Please read the Instructions before jumping in]
Lucien stares into the pool, trying to see something, anything, even his own reflection, but there’s nothing there, just the blackness of the pool and the lock he sees within it. The surface ripples like water, but he cannot see anything reflected in it.
He tries again to access the lock, thrusting his hand in again, this time holding the key—holding on tight, afraid of losing it—but again, it passes through it with no sensation whatsoever, the ripple parting and then forming again, distorted.
It can never be simple, can it? He frowns down at the pool.
Then again, perhaps he’s going about this all wrong. He was able to alter things in this dream once before—by doing a performance, and dedicating it to a Lord. Lucien tries to caution himself against disappointment. Last time, it was a direct dedication to the Lord he was trying to empower, one who was right there.
But can’t he do it again? Can’t he at least try?
He’s an actor. This is the part of him that’s the most powerful. It has to mean something.
So, what scene to do, and who to dedicate to?
Lucien makes a face at himself, because the latter question is much easier to answer than the former. He probably should do the Moonlit Lord again, since this is a dream, and he’s looking for guidance in it, but…
Well, Lord Crow just visited him. Lord Crow gave him information, and Lucien has given very little back except a tease and a promise. Lord Crow sent him into this dream. Besides, Lord Crow’s portfolio includes thieves, and he’s already helped Lucien undo a lock. Why not this one too?
With that decided, the scene is easier to decide on as well. It’s a pool, so he should perform a scene of reflection. And the very first scene that he ever dedicated to Crow was one of those. It just seems fitting. He lost the last scene he dedicated while in the empty dream, was unable to remember it again but… the show will be over soon. He won’t be playing Arcane tonight, and cannot imagine wanting to end the play with Arcane dead regardless. So it’s fine if the scene leaves his memory after this.
He is already kneeling in front of the pool, the pose he’d need for this scene anyway. He takes a moment to focus on Arcane rather than Lucien, and draws a deep lungful of nothingness, then begins: “I cannot kill! 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, then so must it be, and at least my body will do at least some good, though my heart could not.”
And here is normally where Revelle declares Arcane weak and kills him. Instead, Lucien plunges his hand, with the key in it, into the pool.
He feels coldness around his hand, something like water but not water, and then—the pool exploded outwards in spikes of black feathers. The key hits the lock, and dissolves, and he feels fear grip his heart as the metal slips through his fingers, but the lock is opening. A sacrifice, a trade. He tries to let it go and not mourn.
And then the feathers rush back in, fall into the pool with a splash, and he sees a reflection in it:
He sees himself, as Revelle, beautiful and mournful and angry. He sees Shuni as Logos as well, prideful and standing alone. And he sees… he thinks he sees Frederik as Arcane, but he has no face, just a mass of flesh in its place. Lucien almost recoils from the vision, but it pulls back to a wide shot, and he sees that the stage they are on is the face of a clock.
Twelve figures stand around them, and some are easy to identify: the glow of Sol and the Moonlit Lord, the mass of plants that is Lord Vine. Others are difficult for him to make out from above like this, and the figure at the twelve o’clock position is completely obscured, simply a shadow, as if something is blocking it from being possible to identify.
The hands are moving toward twelve. Revelle stands on the hour hand, waiting for the others to act and force her to move. Logos stands on the minute hand, jerked irrevocably closer. And Arcane stands on the second hand, hurriedly rushing towards midnight, and pulling the other hands along with it.
It is the finale, Lucien realizes with a shock. He felt like he had more time, he was sure he had more time, but no, this performance is the finale, and they are out of time.
The camera pans up from the stage and he sees strings above it that run to both Arcane and Logos, puppeteering them. The strings loop up over a beam and down again to the hand of the obscured figure at twelve o’clock, and Lucien is staring so hard to try to figure them out that he looks back to the performers only in time to see a knife fall. He does not see who is wielding it or who it hit—only that there is so much blood. It rises to the surface of the pool, coats it in red, bubbles out of it and pours over him and—
He wakes up gasping, alone in his own bed. The sun has set; the moon is rising, and it is evening outside. His heart is pounding, and with every pulse of blood through his veins he knows without a doubt that tonight is the last show. That they will reach the finale tonight and with it, the ritual is coming to an end.
Staring up at his ceiling, the blankets wound up in his fests, he wonders if there is anything he can do to prepare in the short time before the last performance will begin.
The play must go on.
[Please leave suggestions for Lucien in the comments.]