Title: The Pawn King
Series: FE10 AU
Character/Pairing: Micaiah/Pelleas in a sense but pretty dark stuff
Day/Theme: January twenty-second / darling, we go a-drowning
Summary: She loved her country more than anything. The end would justify the means. Highly AU, MicaiahPelleas, in a sense
Rating: R
Warnings: Death, cynicism and heterosexual sex. This isn't fluff, people.
Note: In the sense of a completely 100% canon FE fic, Micaiah here is terribly OOC. However, this is AU and certain events made her far more ruthless. In essence, I was trying to get ahold of her character and somewhere between character talks with Myaru I started penning down a darker take on Micaiah. It grew to be quite a bit more bleak in the end than when I had started with this idea. Looking through this I'm pretty sure I turned Micaiah into a sociopath.

I.

She opened her hands, birdseed in them and one small sparrow flitted down. She kept her hand absolutely still, hardly daring to breathe until she lifted her other hand, slowly, slowly and captured the bird. The key was trust. To step along and make them think that she was in fact a peaceful thing, not to be feared.

And that was when she would strike.

Selling sparrows as pets in tiny woven cages was a way to earn a few extra gold coins outside fortune telling. She didn't think of what fates she had consigned them to. She captured them and turned her ears deaf to their warbling cries. They swayed as she carried the cages back to market. Tweet tweet, whoosh tweet.

Whatever happened to them wasn't her concern.

Micaiah had one true love in her life, and that was her country. Backward, frozen and hateful as it was, she cherished each grain of soil as if it was gold, or grain from the heavens. Flesh died, beorc were weak and laguz were slaughtered. Living things fell too quickly but the terra firma, that was forever.

The winds blew her skirts as she walked the path back to the gates of Nevassa. Their king was dead. They were a conquered nation. There were rumors of princes and dark gods and goddesses reawakened but no one knew for sure.

Supposedly, Ashnard had a hidden heir. Just as Crimea had a hidden child, so had Daein. A faint premonition came upon her, settling like dust on her shoulders. One of these many rumors were true, and a prince did exist. A boy would be found, wether a lie or the true prince, she couldn't see. All she could make out was a silhouette of a boy, gawky and quiet collected within his books.

Soon he too would be snapped up from his freedom and put the cage of the Keep

II.

It didn't take long for the inevitable. A new heir hidden in the desert sands. A king plucked up from the orphanages clothed in rags. It was the things of fairy tales, but reality often had an utter lack of happy endings.

Such tales never said of the poisons of court, especially to someone unused to them. A trusted lamb thrown into a den of wolves. Tales never said of what it took to govern or the meters of law to be considered. Those tales had nothing to offer him at all but a false sense of buoyancy and false hope.

.

It was a simple thing, to gain entrance to a castle. Become a simple dusty maid and no one gave you a second look. With the right timing, one could learn a lot through thick doors that perfectly captured the conversations beyond.

And perhaps, with a stronger king, she would have had to stoop to that level. However, Micaiah was no simple peasant; she was gifted with foresight. The plan seemed too simple, too easily won, but she tried it none the less. A fortune telling, for the newly crowned king, free of charge. Beyond her expectations, the offer was accepted. It wasn't long before she was lead through the outer walls into the heart of the Keep. She breathed in the stale castle air with each resounding step. Even years later the stench of blood and death remained. It had only grown more subtle, not disappeared entirely.

The sins of the father were not so easily wiped away.

From those narrow-necked, labyrinthine tunnels it opened up to the throne room. Little stymied the overpowering, tomb-like feel of the grey slabs of stone. The tapestries were unraveling, and dingy in this poor lighting. The torches flickered, inadequate for the space around them.

At the far end was the boy-king. He was young, and naivety dripped off of him like water. He always had the appearance of being somewhat unkempt, even in royal attire, and he held all the awkwardness of a serving boy. As she watched, he rose unsteadily from the throne, as if he were crumbling from the weight of the cloak on his shoulders. He bowed clumsily to a courtier at his left, which a large faux pas for a king. It took him some time and confused glances to realize his mistake, and when he did, he apologized profusely, which was an even larger social blunder.

The king tripped and stumbled his way through the rulership. He was a country orphan who had suddenly been presented with a royal duty and a royal burden. King Pelleas wasn't given to the usual arrogance the royalty, indeed he was on the complete other side of the spectrum. He hardly had a shred of self worth and betrayed his very unkingly personality far too often. Her first impression that while gentle, he was soft, like clay. And just as easily molded.

Already he bent to Izuka's every will, even Lady Almeda made the proper decisions for the boy-king. He even was grateful for their manipulations, and considered them a great help. It was so sad, such a sweet fragile pawn-king. A bird snatched up and forced to sing for its new masters.

He looked up at her with such wonder, just waiting for her to open her hands and catch him in her snare. To a boy such as this, such a cage would be liberating.

And when his eyes met hers, he stared transfixed for several moments, stuttered an apology and lowered his eyes. She hummed and checked through her crystal ball, a useless, pretty instrument, only smoke and mirrors. It gave an aspect of wonder to the telling and caught the light in a way to catch the attention of children and adults alike. Peasants could be easily fooled to thinking the reflections were a good omen, a spirit's smile at their wishes.

But Pelleas did not mind the crystal ball, his wonderment was all for her. He seemed especially intrigued by her hair, not in a gawking manner, but in adoration. Long and silver, strands like a spider web.

She assessed the manner with a calm frame of mind. A simple prediction, one meaningful enough to be remembered when the time came. He would be awed, even more so than this moment. She knew he would call her back to his side, finding solid ground for the first time in her predictions. She could use this school crush to her advantage and win him over to her side. A sweet word, fingers folded and beckoning him into her bed. He would not be hard to win over to her ambitions.

It would only be a matter of time.

The country wept, salty water falling from ruined stone. She could hear it now, that mourning, humming in her ear, a constant pleading. The dying country ached under the weight of its own decay.

The kingdom could be hers for the taking.

.

These days lies came so easily to her lips, almost without question of their existence. Micaiah remembered a time that she once was so painfully idealistic. They all had been so hopeful, their little band of vagabonds, thinking a group of ragged teenagers could beat the army.

In that last battle, the last day she would see her compatriots alive, Micaiah foretold them winning. It was that day she learned the tenuous bonds of fate, and how fickle they could be; as if the gods played a thing of marionette and strings for their own amusement.

She had not foreseen the ambush that would flank and soon overwhelm them. That hadn't been in her visions at all.

Edward had been the first to go, in all his recklessness, Leonardo fell to wounds soon after, dying within moments of his dearest friend. Laura had been ambushed, her white robes blossoming red with her own spilled blood. After that, Nolan couldn't hold the tide, nor Aran. Soon they too fell.
And Sothe, Sothe had been the last to fall. She had rescued him up from the streets once but hadn't been close enough to catch him a second time. He was cold and still when she found him. His eyes glazed, dried blood over his vest.

Her clothes were spattered and there was wetness running over her cheeks; not tears, for she resided in an empty plane where there was nothing but that great emptiness and blood. Edward's blood, Leonardo's blood, Laura and Nolan and Aran and Sothe...

Her single misstep had caused them their lives.

She wandered after that. If she had been blessed by the gods as it was often said, then she wondered if that was the reason she had been spared. She was a ghost for those weeks, walking with the dead. Her beloved ones, her soldiers. When she returned it was as if she had truly died with them. There was no more idealism, only the cold, shackling touches of cynicism.

Realism she called it.

How many years ago had that been? Whoever made that adage lied. Time didn't dull the pain. She heard and felt their pain as if it had happened an hour ago. As if it had been that very moment. As the years passed they remained in her thoughts and mind, festering with their death masks and otherworldly pleas.

She had taken to watching the kings in succession. They were all quickly felled. It was a thing of life. As Ashnard, whose tyranny rendered their country unto ashes and his family sunk in mysterious circumstances, she did nothing. She felt disconnected and detached. It took her years before she could bear to care again. But the flame of revolution within her wouldn't be snuffed out so easily. Their deaths had not killed her compassion, it had fine-tuned it. It was sharpened and made taut. It was a deadly kind of caring; a kindness worth killing for.

.

The threads spun and coalesced but did not tangle. After Micaiah's prediction was proved true, the king hired her full time as an advisor. The king furnished an elegant room whereupon he could reach her at any time. It was brighter than the rest of the castle, warmer as well. The fireplace was always stocked. The king would heap gifts small and large upon her. He looked for excuses to sit upon her bed and listen to whatever came to mind. She drew closer to the king day by day. She was with the highest of his advisors, Izuka and Almedha. Each were opposed to every word that came to her mouth and yet she had an advantage. The young king worshiped the ground she walked on and loved her as if it were a sickness consuming his very body and soul. He followed her around in awe and wonder as helpless as a newborn duckling. It was so easy to captivate him. A smile, a word of praise and he would follow whatever reform or funding she asked of him.

Loyalty to one's mother and finder could not break the obsessive pangs of love.

Still, his love was somehow chaste. She'd made comments a tad suggestive and let her hands rest over his and was rewarded with nothing more than stammering and blushing. Most royals would have had her within their beds by now (some would have even tired of her and found a new girl by now) The most King Pelleas had done was a walk at night (starlit, when the moon was full. A thing the poets deemed perfectly 'romantic') even then he had barely strayed from the topic of the kingdom and hadn't even the nerve to kiss her when the walk was finished.

It'd finally took her laying back on that giant oversized bed and undoing the lacings of her bustier to get him to realize the connotations of what she'd been implying for weeks. She'd bathed in scented oils bought with her earnings for just such a seduction. The dress had been his gift; a fashionably low-necked dress for court, one fit for a queen.

Her nipples grew hard under the frosty Daein night air. Gooseflesh prickled and tightened her skin. She saw his eyes drawn to her and his cheeks inflame. She thought for a second he might faint.

"You're—You're beautiful," he stuttered out.

"I am yours, King Pelleas," she said. "Do with me what you will."

"M-Micaiah! I..." He gulped.

She looked expectantly at him, but he looked to the ground, studied the patterned tiles before he looked back up again.

"Is it true? Am I dreaming again?"

She leaned up and crawled over the territory of the bed until she was directly before him upon her knees. She embraced and leaned into him, letting him feel every curve even through the thick flowing robes of a king.

"It's real, it's real," he whispered.

His arms closed around her. His hands were awkward and modest; he didn't dare touch farther than across the uppermost portions of her back. She had already done the work of disrobing for him, and a good thing she had. Attempting to undo a brassiere might drive him into a nervous breakdown.

He took a long look at her, drank every detail of her in to commit to memory. It was not lecherous, but shy and reverent. Pelleas buried himself against her neck and breathed in the scent of her in the single most gentle gesture she ever had felt. He kissed there, hesitant, soft and loving gestures. Still, every touch of his reeked of innocence. She had been correct to guess of his sheer inexperience.

"Would you prefer I guide you, King Pelleas?"

Would you prefer I take control?

Relief flooded over him. "Would you?" he said. "I– It's my first time and..."

She took his hand and he said nothing more. He was far too captivated by the smoky, smoldering look in her eyes.

"I would be honored to."

I would be glad to take over your kingdom.

She started first with that heavy cloak of his kingship. It fell away at her feet. He stood with his hands stiffly at his sides while she began to unlace and unbutton the elaborate vestments.

"I can do it," Pelleas mumbled.

"It's easier this way," Micaiah replied. She peeled them away, one by one. Leggings and robes drawn of lamb's wool and fine hewn linen. Blue fine cloth and gold thread enough to feed villagers for months. When the last of his clothing had fallen and pooled to the ground she nipped at his neck, racked her teeth over his pulse and heard him draw a shuddering breath in deep to his lungs and just hold it there, as if he was savoring the moment. The taste and touch and feel of it, so tactile, so new.

With no barriers now she pressed against him and spun him just around until his back was facing the bed. Before he could question, she pushed him down. It took effort, and it was more gravity than her strength that made him fall. The featherbed cushioned the impact. Micaiah laid down beside him and brushed her hands over his hands where they met her bare thigh. He touched against her breast, cupped it. The gesture was a hesitant, apologetic question. She kissed the knuckle of his thumb as a response. Yes, you can. Yes, yours.

Micaiah climbed up and over until she sat astride over him. Her wet hair cascaded down over his skin. His hands were fluttery and anxious like butterflies at the small of her back. Lower, guiding.

The way he looked up at her was with a sort of awe, as if she was some goddess incarnated into flesh. Maybe he thought her as such. It was a pleasing thought. What woman didn't want to be worshiped deep down in a dark, hidden corner of her soul? She traced playful fingertips over his chest. He was stronger than he looked. Perhaps then, he was just a boy trapped in the body of a man.

She'd conquered him long before he'd ever touched her, from that first moment when he stared at her like he believed her to be the love of his life, that mythic soul mate that so many pinned their hopes on.

Micaiah knew how easy to it was to lose herself in sex. Flesh met and for that fleeting second of time, the jumbled horrible world would commingle into something peaceful. It was a powerful thing, to wield the force of one's body. Blood rushed in her ears as she scraped her teeth over his skin. Her heartbeat quickened, became a wild and untamed thing as she let herself fall into the rhythm of flesh and warmth and bodies fusing. Losing control for those stolen moments wasn't the prize, it was the gateway. Power was the true climax for her. The look in his eyes that left her no question of whether she would be queen, but when – that, that was the height of pleasure for Micaiah.

.

From the bedside he was her willing puppet. Micaiah knew ensnaring him wouldn't be difficult, but she hadn't taken into account just how much he craved love. Unlike most men she had encountered it was more than just the simple act that he desired. She had overestimated Pelleas, and in her cynicism labeled him more man than the boy he was. His need was to be treated tenderly. He wasn't like those she'd known, who wanted the pleasure and then the solitude of an empty bed; he always wanted her to stay through the night, no matter what the consequences. Pelleas would offer her any treasure she desired, but it was her heart he was trying to purchase, not simply her body.

Izuka and Almedha's warnings grew faint compared to her whispers. She was queen in all things but name and that would come soon. The king was too honorable and too bewitched by her to keep her a simple whore and throw her out when she grew uninteresting. He was a romantic, completely unsuited to the politics and affairs of the court. Surely her king would be horrified that the former king had cast his wife aside and almost had his child killed. King Pelleas would be scandalized at the king before Ashnard's habit of keeping several mistresses at a time as well as his beleaguered, longsuffering wife. He had so many that often he mistook their names or called his wife by the name of a mistress.

Pelleas in his naive ways thought that sex was the highest act of love expressed. But Micaiah knew better. Deep down below the cloaking of romance, sex was a weapon; a form of currency to be rendered. She was not unused to trading sex for favors. Months after the demise of her little troupe, she had taken up with a shopkeeper. He was a short, beefy man who had a bristly moustache and a family. A brown haired, skeletal thin wife and three hungry children like chirping birds all perched at his hearth. She felt no guilt at the food she stole from their mouths or the money he paid to give her bangles – bangles she still kept to this day as a reminder. She felt nothing at all.

Before that, she had plied her body to any man – or woman who would pay for it. It took her years before she could use her talents and have faith that fate would not cruelly tug away the fortune from her grip. An exchange of gold for a chance to invade her body and temporarily conquer and for that moment make it theirs. There were worse ways to earn your bread but not many.

But this was both harder and easier than before. Those before her king had expected simple lies. She would say the expected things and be as submissive or assertive as they wished to receive her gold. Pelleas asked for the one thing she could not give him: love.

A reasonable facsimile of well-told lies was all she could offer. Thankfully, he was gullible and did not delve too deep in whatever excuses she would give. The lovesickness had gone far too deep, the virus had penetrated his heart so far that reason floated away on dizzying flights of illusion.

He was so deep within her spider web that death would be his only escape from these machinations.

Daein had become an almost unrecognizable place under her quasi-rule. Now there were Laguz reforms and rights, State help for orphans and a bolstered intellectual program that sought to lift the peasants from their ignorance. In one fell swoop she had dusted away everything that had been the founding grounds of Daein. She sold precious treasures and gave the money back to the people. And the people in turn adored her. She was their Silver lady, their Dawn Maiden. A peasant like them and his peasant advisor ruled their country now. Life could be nothing but goodness with their Reformation King and his Silver Queen beside him.

.

The Keep was a large enough place that many things could be hidden from the view of the public. It was not hard to keep away from Izuka and Almedha when their interferences proved
too much of a frustration.

Pelleas, her loyal pawn king would go with whatever she wished for. He was besotted, and she cultivated the seeds of that with private trysts to cement his infatuation.

Today he lay in her lap as if their roles were reversed, she the royalty and he the mere peasant graced with her presence. She brushed her fingers through the soft blue curls. He was perfectly satisfied to be on his knees before her with feet with his legs curled underneath him.

His hands slowly began to ascend under the provinces of her skirts. It is the humblest, most unforceful advance. A request of her presence, her body. His breath was on her thighs, warm and asking. She pulled up her skirts the rest of the way and he buried himself against her. There the king was, pleasuring her, loving and bowing to her. He was king in name only from the moment he had met her. Every movement of her fingers brought another jerking of thread and her marionette danced.

Micaiah tangled her hands in his hair as her thoughts slowed. Liquid, as slow as tree sap dripping. She closed her eyes so hard and sudden that there was white stars behind them. Her breaths were sharp and ragged. Pelleas was no skilled lover but he had improved from those first clumsy fumblings in the dark. And unlike most of the other customers she'd encountered, he cared about her half of their unspoken bodily contract.

Micaiah bit her lip as she sunk into a warm well of pleasure. After that compact moment, the incline was sweet. The pulse-racing, blood rushing heat slowed and her muscles felt spent, yet relaxed.

Pelleas wiped his face on his cloak and she gave him the gift of a smile. She reached down and stroked the side of his cheek and he leaned into her touch, and covered her hand with his.

He was innocent, darling and his heart was pure. Had she met him before the massacre, maybe things would have changed. Maybe she could've believed in him. She could have mirrored back all those idealistic, foolish notions.

Whenever she looked at him, all Micaiah saw was the woman she used to be. Standing to her noble-mindedness and unwinnable wars. She saw fractured ghosts of a girl leading her battalion to their deaths. Sometimes it was all she could do to look away.

.

Micaiah was no longer given to being hidden. She unapologetically made her way into court. She sauntered in and ignored the searing glances of the last king's harpy. She did not associate herself with the shallow nobles of court.

She was the king's, it was as clear as if he had branded her and left the crest of Daein upon her skin. When a noble complained of her influence, a whisper would set the king far away from their griping. She was too popular with the people and the king himself to be assassinated without lasting recompense upon Nevassa.

Micaiah had little to fear in a place where most considered her akin to a god.

.

Whenever Pelleas was discouraged, Micaiah comforted him. She had become his Silver Lady as well as the populace's. She was a caricature of herself, some paragon seen in a flawless light. They made her a god in their own image of her. And Micaiah, she allowed it.

Whenever he needed–which was often–she would attend to him. Kind words that he never seemed to notice sounded hollow and echoless through the vast stone halls of The Keep. Meaningless things of hope and idle optimism. These were the easiest lies and yet these were the ones that sickened her most.

He'd bury himself against her and seek comfort deep within her. She never refused him for every night spent in his arms was another chance to request her own wishes. Regardless of her own desires, pleasing the king was paramount over any ailment. And he was easy to please. Even had she turned frigid against him King Pelleas would have forgiven her. He would have forgiven her anything. To him, the ground she walked on was a sacred thing, a thing to be cherished. She could do no wrong in his eyes, and for a pawn, that was a laudable trait indeed.

Love turned people into fools. It could be quite convenient at times.

III.

Izuka disappeared not long after the coronation. There had been no notes, nothing left in his empty apartments. His books had been carried away and nothing lined the spotless bookshelves where dust had once settled.

Almedha grew more vicious with Izuka's disappearance. The mad, almost queen circled her like a bird of carrion, a hawk bent on rending her flesh. She was an imposing woman, tall, and with a foreign sense of elegance that permeated how she carried herself.

"You're a witch," she spat out. "You've cast some spell upon my son and lead him astray."

Micaiah said nothing, but thought and thought and you're a mad king's cast aside whore.

Almedha's upper lip curled up in a sneer. Her teeth seemed abnormally sharp, a carnivore's teeth. My, what big teeth you have.Her eyes were the eyes were those of a predator, a cold, calculating woman who had nothing left to lose.

When Micaiah saw herself reflected in those eyes, a chill ran down her to realize how alike their expressions were.

"I serve the king to my best abilities," Micaiah said. Her voice was flat. Emotionless. She could not slip when she was this close. As much as she despised the woman, forcing her out could hurt the chances.

There was always the slim chance that Pelleas might be guilted into something despite the choking tendril of his infatuations that she held onto.

But Micaiah knew, an instinct, a soft word she had come across. Like sand under her fingertips. The mad king's plaything was not beorc. She lacked that humanity.

She knew that Pelleas was not the same lifeblood. There was no trace of monster in Pelleas, no beast to be unleashed. His skin smelled fresh and innocent, there was no aftertaste of ash and sulphur over his skin.

But Almedha was useful, even within her raging, crazed state. Micaiah tailed her, on the pretense of amity. Her king was pleased, and Almedha could manage a front of civility from time to time.

But Micaiah was in truth, biding her time and waiting for that piece that she knew Ashnard's whore had found out. The thought that the almost queen could have kept a fact hidden, a flaw under wraps haunted her until Micaiah obeyed. The voice that led her was the voice of fate, with its cruel ways and feathers and childish giggling.

Almedha already stewed with some sort of memories. Micaiah could hear them soaring by, specters of dancers passing by her mind. She thought deep, deep into Almedha's thoughts and stole a tiny fact. Seemingly innocuous, seemingly useless. A fact gleaned of power of a king who had used a pact to his advantage.

Micaiah snatched up that thought and caught it within her web, she saved it for later when she would surely come upon a need.

IV.

He came to her one night when the summer night was clear and calm and everything seemed bright. He buried himself against her with such despair that it was if his insides themselves were being rent in two. She could not get him to talk. Tears had welded his mouth shut.

He breathed her, stole her and the happiness and illusion she represented. He was in love with someone who didn't exist: the vision of her within his mind. He clung to her and the ideals she represented. And she let him canonize, deify and adore her. She reached around the edged of his consciousness. She felt him and for him and drew out the poisonous feelings which coiled inside of him. She touched and she felt and she knew.

The mark on his hand must burn. What a foolish thing to do. What a foolish boy he was.

She hadn't gotten to him quite fast enough, or she would have ousted that traitorous underling before such foolish contracts were drawn up. She would have had him hanged like the betrayer he was. Already he had damaged all the fragile things she had set in motion. At this rate she might not have a kingdom to save by the time he was finished with it.

It's alright, it's alright she whispered into his hair. But he had failed, a much larger failure than using the wrong spoon or bowing to a lesser noble. This blunder would cost him everything.

.

She left at the dawn. He had tried to get her to stay with him a little longer, but would not relent. She assured that it would be his life she would win. She was his savior now, as she had been from that first moment. He loved her all the more for this.

She traveled for days, weeks down the route to the place where she had dreamed of. It was not in the capitol of Begnion, but the outskirts. She let the fates guide her with their whispers of lost bloodlines. She had learned of the blood by sheer accident several years back. Upon chance she had encountered a traveling bishop with the darkest hair flowing down his robes – robes a bit too fine to be a true impoverished pilgrim. She recognized the like in him immediately. He was alike her in more than blood; he too was an accomplished liar.

She filed it away for future usage. Some sister she never knew living out an entirely different life in another country. One was born an orphan, one an Apostle.

Days later she found where her dreamings had lead her. They were encamped in a clearing far outside of Sienne. The fallen Empress and the Raven king. She had left without the rest of her entourage and clucked like an angered hen. All that feather-ruffling was a front more than anything else. The biggest feeling that she could feel on her sister was clouds of swirls and confusion.

The raven king stretched his wings and regarded her with an idle, almost liquid sense of languidness. He considered a small, frail looking girl no threat, yet his wings were not folded.

Micaiah did not waste time with pleasantries. She nodded to him and began a seduction of another kind.

"You, Raven king. Would you like to make some gold and free us all?"

"Gold and freedom you say?" He half smiled, an assured smirk.

"It's tempting, but I'm under another contract," he said. "Care to stay around till this one is finished? I can help keep you busy until then..."

She ignored the comment. It was something she could certainly get away with, for even if King Pelleas did find out about this indiscretion, he could be easily persuaded that it was a falsity – No, even though it'd be a lie to say that she didn't hold some form of attraction to the Kilvan King, sex was hardly something she indulged in for mere pleasure. Sex was for power, for keeping her grip and payment in line. Surely she would enjoy herself, but with Sanaki controlling this Raven King, what would it avail her? Nothing.

"I'll talk to her. I'm sure she will see the common ground we share."

"She's over there," The Raven King said. He seemed completely unaffected by her rebuff, and even bemused by her response.

And she did. Empress Sanaki sat on a tree stump as if she was in the imperial Begnion gardens themselves. She drank from a teacup made of fine china. Whether smuggled out or an ordered theft by her sticky-fingered Raven King, Micaiah didn't know.

Micaiah thought she would feel the same tone, the singing in her blood that she had experienced with the lying bishop, but she only felt faint echoes among Sanaki. She could still feel the influence of that man all around her.

Sanaki's gaze on her was hard, demanding. Before Micaiah could say a word the Empress lifted her chin and spoke her mind. "Well? What is it you want?" she sipped a bit of the steaming tea before she continued. " If Naesala didn't destroy you, then you must be a messenger of some sort."

"I'm not–but I come with a certain bit of information."

Sanaki crossed her legs, set aside her tea cup and set her whole attention upon Micaiah.

"Go on," she commanded.

And Micaiah did. When first laid the plans out to her, Sanaki raised one elegant brow, but still hid behind a mask of indifference. Micaiah knew that this was simply the Begnion armor, she had heard of such things in the time she spent wandering after her loved ones had passed.

Empress Sanaki was open to the idea. It did not take much. She was certainly not beyond making her traitorous senators die a painful death. The more agonizing, the better in her opinion. She'd prefer to watch and smirk at their cries for mercy, but an accident within the deep woods or a ravine was also acceptable.

Naesala was just as happy with this prospect. He had craved their blood for some time. The gold was just a bonus to securing their freedom. He alighted like a great dark nightmare, his wings like the darkest night in motion above their skies.

The senate's days were numbered.

.

Black wings descended from the sky, sharp beaks and talons rent and ripped through weak, unguarded beorc flesh. It was a massacre to rival the burning of Serenes. Carrion birds, birds of theft and bad luck took upon the esteemed senate. Limbs were torn away, organs still beating were clawed out of them. No mercy came to their shrieks. Their goddess did not hear their cries.

Death came to stay for a visit at Begnion.

.

Micaiah had almost thought to reveal her blood connection with Sanaki before their parting. She kept silent. It could be invoked at some latter time when the cloak of Daein was upon her shoulders. Then, then was when she would need to show her hidden knowledge. The lying bishop that had so shaped her sister would surely have done the same.

All three of them were now free from the curse that had lain in their blood. None of them were given to the sentimentalism that had once defined her. None of them felt like embracing or remarking much over the events that had transpired. Naesala brushed off his impeccable suit, nodded to his lady and lifted her into his arms for one last flight.

"They'll welcome you back," Micaiah said.

It was a prediction she knew would come true.

.

By the time Micaiah returned Pelleas had already bitten his nails raw and bloody. He didn't smile anymore. All his blushes were of shame, and not from too much skin or a shimmer of her hair. He had sunk in some great bog of his own mistakes and this quicksand was pulling him under.

Nothing could save him from himself.

His fingers twisted and clung to threads of her hair as if they were ropes and lifelines to which he could be saved. When she returned he embraced her as his sole air, his savior. His arms around her was stifling, crushing. She couldn't breathe from the weight of all his love and adoration.

"I'm sorry," she said. "I looked through the cathedral's of Begnion themselves and could find no way to solve this."

"I...have found a cure," he said.

"What is it?" She asked. She tilted her head curiously, her hair spilled to the side in silver falls. It was overdone, another lie to the sea of lies she swam in but he did not notice.

"..Later, I'll tell you everything later once you've rested."

He was more passionate that night, or more desperate, she couldn't tell which. Each kiss felt like a farewell. He clung to her with the force of a strangling vine. She was suffocated by his sentimentality, his pure, untainted love. She was overcome with the hallucinations of a girl who smiled and believed and would have readily accepted his touch and his quiet revolution. The thick scent of fear assuaged her lungs at the sight of her. Perhaps another night Pelleas might have asked, but he was too lost to realize any sadness beyond his own.

When they had finished Pelleas laid his head upon her chest and she could feel the depth of his sadness permeate her skin and straight through to her beating heart. Like needles, sharp, thin needles sinking down.

Only the moonlight spilled in through the slit in the heavy maroon curtains. It was the sole light within the wide King's suite. Moonlight revealed little of the sharp angles of wood and spears and mementos of other kings. In these lines, Pelleas had barely lived long enough to leave his mark. His reign thus far had been inconsequential, a bare indentation on silk.

For once, Pelleas did not tarry long with post-coital closeness. Reluctance marked him as he untangled himself and plucked up his now-wrinkled vestments. He again donned the linens and lambs wool and silken parts until the cloak was again over his shoulders. He walked unsteadily, almost a drunken stumble into the light splayed out upon the floor.

Sensing that this was a cue, that he had beckoned her to collect her things. It was a dirge, a final dance as she picked her clothes from the cold floor and put them back upon her sweaty, sated body.

The moonlight silhouetted his shape against the walk. It caught silver in his twilight blue hair and sunk in like lullabies. He opened his mouth to speak but no words came out, just a shaky breath.

He closed his eyes a moment, as if to contemplate his next words. When he opened them again, he looked dead, the kind of hope-killed almost dead that she knew. A look she had seen within her own eyes in a pool alone washing away the stench of death from her skin. It was the first realization of how ugly the world truly could be, the moment when a loose thread unraveled everything beautiful life had seemed to be.

"I want you to kill me," Pelleas said.

King Pelleas pressed the blade into her hands with trembling hands. He tried to smile with some bravery, but the overwhelming sadness never left his eyes. He had already accepted the inevitable.

She considered it for a moment, the heaviness and the feel of the cold metal within her hands. It felt welcome and right there, as if it belonged.

"It's the only way," Pelleas said. "I read in a book within the library that detailed what happens...everyone, all the people in Daein will die unless...Unless I die first."

She was silent and waiting. Her stony heart did not beat in worrisome angles like his.

He was on the brink of hyperventilation. "I– I can't do it so please–before I lose my nerve."

She saw the girl staring back at her, a girl of years ago with her face but infused with hope. It circled her in smiles and hung around her in an aura of light.

Micaiah swallowed. Her mouth tasted bitter and metallic. She made her choice.

"You'll be remembered as a hero," Micaiah said. She gripped the stiletto within her hands. The ghost girl of herself looked mournfully at her. She gripped the handle tighter just to spite the shade of the girl who had lead all her loved ones to die.

"I loved you, more than anything," Pelleas said.

"I know," she replied.

He closed his eyes and waited. And just as he had asked, she in turn slit his throat. He made a gurgling sound and opened his eyes one last time to gaze at her. It was not a condemning or demanding look, it was simply a look of saddened love: the same puppy eyes he had always given her.

She should have stabbed the heart he had so freely given her, the innocent, foolish, pathetic and weak heart that had loved her with every beat. But what use did a queen have with a pawn? She had exchanged upon reaching the other side, a loss of a pawn for a queen. It was a fitting trade, a trade he had to pay for with his life. She could have kept him around had he not failed so utterly. How many had been sacrificed for his foolishness? She couldn't risk some blunder for her kingdom. A choice had to be made, Daein or a foolish pawn king. She had made it when she guided the steel in her hands, surprisingly light and the curved stiletto tore his skin and muscle and life away.

She felt no regret when his lifeless body crumbled to the ground and red spilled over the floor. She felt nothing at all. She'd buried all that feeling with Laura and Edward and Leonardo and Nolan and Sothe. Miciah wiped the blood from the blade upon her clothes. They would have to be burned. She collected the thoughts that came to her mind. Still. Calm.

An assassin came, from Begnion, perhaps. A last mark left by the now fallen senate. She would ensure that Sanaki's name was not dirtied. Beyond the bond of blood, she wouldn't want to turn aside a formidable ally.

There had been a struggle, and although she had tried to protect the king that assassin had simply been too strong. That would require proof, she thought. She pulled the knife across her chest above her thin, bird bone clavicle. It was just deep enough to be convincing.

With his last words, her king had begged her to carry on his–their country. He had told her that he loved her more than anything (The moon, the stars, all those tired poetic cliches) and his fall was complete.

Theirs was a tragic tale. She was his secret queen, married in a midnight hushed ceremony for it was forbidden. Peasants loved such tales. Pelleas had been suitably enchanted to leave them no argument that he had been utterly in love with her. And she had lied convincingly enough to fulfill her half of the bargain.

The tale was done and told. The king had been the perfect ill-fated hero. It was almost the truth. She would laude him and make sure that history remembered him, not for his own sake, but hers. His death had solidified her popularity. Everyone pitied the grieving widow who had watched her only love be killed by an rouge assassin. What a terrible thing for any woman to endure.

And she, the untold queen was carrying his child. Who could deny that she had his silver ring? Who could deny that the people loved her? The only ones who could have possibly said otherwise were a traitor and a madwoman. The traitor himself had long ago been executed for crimes of war. And who would believe the crazed, cast aside whore of a tyrant king?

She wore the cloak now. She bathed in fragrances that the late king had so lovingly procured for her. She was arrayed in the pinking shades of morning, the perfect colors for their Dawn Maiden. It was to be a dress of coronation, though the first intent had been a wedding dress.

Micaiah pressed a hand over her abdomen. Four months and she showed just enough to be convincing if wearing the right clothes, and enough to hide when donning something more flowing. Either gender, she would name it after the fallen king. It would be the perfect move. She would make them remember the king and live on the afterglow of his tragic end.

Checkmate.

She had a certain premonition then, that this child would be a near replica of Pelleas. A walking specter where every word and look would contain that same haunting adoration. Fate would dredge back every memory as a form of revenge.

But then, that was an acceptable outcome to Micaiah. She was used to ghosts. She had clung to her ghosts for over the past twenty years. Pelleas was the first to join them by her own hand.

Maybe on that side he'd finally find the remains of the girl he had been in love with all along.