Author's Note: I'm unsure about this idea. Why? First of all, because it's amazingly hard to capture Melisande. Second of all, because I'm basing this on what I remember from Kushiel's Mercy, and the last time I read it was over three years ago, so my memory may be faulty. I've tried getting my hands on another copy, but all my efforts have been frustrated. Still, from what little I remember of it, Melisande had begun to regret some things, and was aware of her lack of morality. I think that after some time, and with Solon's advice, she would take this path. I also hope I got Solon right, but I do think this is what he'd do.

Because of all these faults, though, I do beg feedback, so I may edit and improve this work. I think the implication of what happens is rather clear. As for a sequel… it would probably be harder to write, especially as I do not know what path I would take. Does she truly regret her deeds and wishes to atone for them, or does she regret the consequences and the fact that she has no pleasure in life? If the latter, does she think that if she cannot survive the thetalos, death would be better than living without pleasure? Still, if any would wish to take it up, I would be glad to help.

/o/^\o\

It was shortly after she heard of the wedding that it had begun.

That was why it so disturbed her. News of the wedding should have left her feeling… accomplished, to say the least. She had schemed and plotted for over twenty years, and indeed, now her son was married to the Dauphine and would jointly rule with her over Terre d'Ange after Ysandre's death. The game of thrones had finally been won.

But if that was true, why was she feeling melancholy?

She prided herself on her self-knowledge. She had attained much knowledge in her life, but the words she had learned from an ancient book from Chin still guided her: 'Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.'

And so, it greatly disturbed her, this melancholiness (perhaps even depression?) that she was feeling. She could not explain it, so she did not know herself; she could not be rid of it, so she could not master herself. And that, above all, was the greatest danger she could conceive of.

She withdrew into herself. She spoke for days on end with Solon, but he had no answer for her. She spent many days and nights meditating, searching herself for answers, and turning even to her books. At length, she even prayed for answers. They did not come.

She understood finally when, one night, she had taken a break and spent the night with Solon.

He was no adept of the Thirteen Houses or even Servant of Naamah, but she had trained him well, and he knew her better. Nevertheless, nothing he could do pleased her at all. Eventually she grew frustrated, and with her crop, began raining blows on him, trying to find pleasure in his pain – and yet it did not come. Eventually she screamed aloud in frustration, allowing her control to slip, and uttered the answer: "Must you take this away from me as well?"

After that, she had quickly regained control, apologizing for his outburst and asking him to leave her alone with her thoughts.

She had not won the game of thrones.

Oh, it was true, her goal had been achieved, but it was not she who had achieved it. Yes, it was her son, blood of her blood who had done so, but that was not exactly true.

It was Phedre's son who had succeeded. All her machinations had not gained Imriel the throne – it was what Phedre had taught him which had gained him it. And no doubt, that was how he saw it as well – Phedre, his beloved mother, teaching him all she knew, giving him the gift needed to reach where he was now.

True he had gained much from her, mayhap as much as Phedre had given him. Moreover, she knew he loved her – but he did not – could not - return to her.

Phedre, her nemesis. Phedre, her conscience. Phedre, the only one who could ever match her. Phedre, her mirror, the only one who could fully love and understand her besides Imriel.

Phedre who had taken everything from her: her land, her plots, her ambitions, her son, and now even her victory.

Phedre, who had all that she had not – life in Terre d'Ange, a worthy consort, who was called 'mother' by Imriel, would still be called in the future 'mother' by a king.

What did she have?

/o/^\o\

Solon understood. She knew he would – that was why she had chosen him, for his wisdom. He told her he had known that it would happen, though he was surprised she had realized it by herself. He himself, he said, had not been aware that was what had caused her distress. Of course, knowing all this, he had been prepared. He told her what he knew, and was unsurprised when she accepted his advice – they had always understood one another. So he gave her a ship and a messenger, and when he saw her off, only asked her that if she could, she would return, if only for a night.

Melisande smiled where she would once had laughed at him, and somber of mien, told him she would try. He nodded; he knew she could promise nothing more, and it grieved him to know this may be the last time he would look upon the one person who could match him. He watched her ship until he could no longer see her.

/o/^\o\

Phedre was surprised when she received the letter. It had been long since she had received one from Melisande, and if Melisande sent any to Imriel, she must have done so directly.

It was short, only two lines – a quote Phedre recognized was from Ecclesiastes, and a line below it:

My dearest Phedre,

"Yea, though he live a thousand years twice, yet hath he seen no good: do not all go to one place?"

It seems I begin to regret. If so, then I must learn the cost, and pay it. You will always have my love.

The only thing that came with the letter was a map of Kriti.