It had surprised her to find him waiting in her room, though she had known he would come. The discord that always accompanied his presence made her pause a half second in her step, but she continued into the room, closing the door as she normally would have, and facing him full on. It wasn't like anytime she had before met with the Dark King. It was not dressed in arrogant airs, no taunting smile, he wasn't even looking at her. He was sitting, a melancholic weight heavy on his shoulders, beside her bed. On the floor, with his back against the frame, and his head down.
Srcha felt a moment of pity for the Dark King. A moment of sympathy and one of sorrow, but she did not say such. Instead, she spoke to him, almost as if the situation were normal, but a bit softer still, "I did not invite you here."
Irial looked at her with a sorrow filled gaze, then he lowered his head again, but only enough to shade his eyes. His lips moved up into a pathetic, self-deprecating smirk as he answered her. "I wouldn't expect you to, Sorcha. This court has always left something to be desired in the way of good company."
Sorcha frowned, slightly irritated at the jab. She still stood, letting a light silence drap about them. Part of her wanted to let Irial be. To let him sit and mourn and have nothing more to do with it. The larger part of her, however, could not resist the inclination to do as always was done, and perhaps did not wish to try to resist either. "Why have you invaded my home."
The silence stretched a little longer after that, before Irial let his head fall back onto the bed in a careless manner, resting his arms out on both sides of him and stretching in a comfortable manner. Sorcha was the tiniest bit relieved, but did not let too much of that emotion slip. Instead, she chose to feel the irritation of the Dark King making himself comfortable in her home, in her court. It was untidy having so many emotions slipping out of her. Especially unacceptable to have such feelings for a Dark King. Irial let out a deep sigh, as if releasing the tension from his body, but she saw him coil up further.
"Why do I ever come here, Sorch?"
Sorcha frowned at the name, not liking the way it sounded in the least. She wouldn't correct him, though. It would only give him pleasure in a way she was unwilling to give. "You tell me, Irial. It seems you come only to be disruptive to me."
Irial turned his head to look at her, and there was something very off about him in that moment. His eyes were almost depraved, not in the way she was used to from him, and his smile seemed...broken, felt like the best word. It mended quickly, though, to something more... temptuous, more dangerous. He had risen and approached her in a heartbeat, standing closer than she wanted to be comfortable with. He wore a lazy expression, reaching out a caressing the air beside her bare arms, as he asked, "Do I disrupt you, Sorcha?"
She didn't want to answer that. Instead, she repeated, not moving from her spot. "Why have you come into my presence, Irial?"
He turned away from her, walking towards the open window in her room. A window that she had not let open and she wondered if he'd been indulging that disgusting habit of his while he'd waited for her. Gazing out the window, head leaning almost out, he responded. "Beira has finally made a move."
Sorcha knew. Banananch had come to her, as the maddened faery always did, to tell her of the conflicts she hoped to use against her at this time. The war incarnate faery had told The High Queen the tentative walk that Summer and Winter had begun, had hoped to trip one of them up, or else to move Dark to strike out against Winter to preempt damage to Summer. Irial had always been a wise, if unscrupulous, regent, however, and so he had not played into Banananch's hands. Unfortunately, Beira had. The High Queen knew precisely what had transpired between the two. She had seen all the possibilities, knew which to be more likely than the others, and based on Irial's presence, had also deduced precisely which thread had come to pass.
Sorcha didn't say any of that of course. No matter what comfort she might wish for the Dark King, she wasn't going to make this easier for him by saying that she knew. Even though it wouldn't jepardize her, she wouldn't give him any leeway. Not even now. It had to be him, or had to be not at all.
Irial looked at her when she didn't respond, locking his gaze to her own. No one else could look at her and make her feel as out of control as he. As if all her emotions, even the ones locked deep within her, where on display and he was studying each one. It made her want to shiver, made her uncomfortable, made her...pleased, in a way. A way she would not let even Irial see. Still looking into, he said, nearly in a whisper, "Miach is dead."
She knew that to be the outcome, but it still saddened her, hearing it said out loud. Miach had been a good king, though he had very questionable taste. Finding a friend in Irial and a lover of Beira. Sorcha chose to look away from Irial as she responded. "That is regrettable."
Irial looked at her then with a nearly heartbroken expression before he turned away. "Regrettable." He repeated. "Regrettable..."
Sorcha walked over to him, placing a hand on his shoulder. It was the least she could do. All she could do, in fact, to lessen the blow unbidden. She nearly wanted to offer him, though she never would and was certain that he would not accept her aid, to lessen his sorrow with a glamour. It could work fairly well, especially if he did not fight it. But neither of them would truly chose that course. "He did not deserve to die."
"No, he didn't." Irial said. "Especially not at the hands of Beira."
"You could not make his choices for him." Sorcha said, offering him comfort.
"I knew that he would die, though, and I did nothing. She told me the Winter Queen would kill him if I did not act." Irial said, torture plain in his voice.
"It is never wise to listen to the mechanisms of War." Sorcha told him seriously. "You made the right choice." She told him.
She didn't answer, watching him try and contain his sorrow. After the silence lasted long enough, she asked him, "Would you have rather taken his place."
The pause after her question worried her for a heartbeat, before he inhaled deeply, then answering in a sad chuckle, "No, I would not."
It pleased her, though she kept the feeling locked tightly away where he would not get to it, to see him sating himself from her emotions. To see him getting a rise out of her. It meant that he was not entirely overtaken by sorrow. It would... sadden her... to see an Irial that did not recover. She asked him what they both dreaded for her to ask, but what could not be avoided in this play of policy that she always adhered to. "What do you want from me, Irial?"
The Dark King looked at her with an utterly heartbroken expression. The he looked away from her, took a breath, then turned back, slightly contained. "He is dead, Sorcha." He repeated. "He is dead. That is why... I am here."
"Irial," She began, but he did not allow her to speak further. He moved close to her, inches from her face, and asked in a whisper. "Does this mean nothing to you?"
It almost hurt that Irial would ask her that and she let slip the barest threads of sympathy and sadness that she felt as she answered. "It does not please me that he is dead nor that Banananch's mechanism have wrought such an outcome."
Irial allowed his head to fall onto her shoulder and she felt stiff a moment with his proximity. His arms wound around her, pulling her closer, and she could feel the tears slipping from his eyes and soaking her skin. It felt obtrusive to have the presence of the Dark Court surrounding her, but she did not push him away. Slowly, as if it took Irial a moment to remember their places, he lifted his head from her. Carefully keeping his face to the side of her, he whispered to her, "She won't stop with the submission of Summer. None of us are safe. Not even your court, hidden away as you are, is out of sight to her."
Hesitating for a moment longer, she wrapped her arms around him in return. "Beira grows more ambitious with each passing day." She told him.
"And what can be done." He asked in a desperate plea.
It was only in the presence of Irial that she let her mask slip enough to shed any tears. For the death of the Summer King, for the trials that she had already seen ahead, for the strain that the Dark King, not one whom she could call a friend but whom she shared a type of confidence with nonetheless, would come under. She hated her answer, but it was the only answer she could give. The only answer she would ever give. "You will do what you must for your court."
A full day, Sorcha and Irial were cloistered together in mourning of the dead Summer King. Once tears had been shared and advice invariable discussed and dismissed, they talked about Miach. Despite being hidden away in Faery, Sorcha had had an interaction or two with the dead king. She told him, as she would not another, her true thoughts on King Miach, and Irial shared many a memory of his friendship with the Summer man. Despite any and all protest delivered or hinted to by Sorcha, he shared those memories in ungodly detail. But it was... perferable, mourning this way. Sorcha, did not often get to mourn, even those she was found of. The Unchanging Queen could not have such ready emotions or such deep connections that should entail mourning. Sorcha almost did not think about the loss she would have had if Irial had not come to her and allowed her to relieve her emotions.
It was only as he was leaving, when he leaned close to her and pressed his lips to her in a barely there, friendly more than lustful, kiss. He smiled at her, brushing a hand over her cheek, before he left her. That was how she knew, not only for his own sake, but for her own, as well, Irial had come to her. Because she could not, would not, feel such emotion outside of the compromising presence of the Dark King. Only when she could plausibly deny being herself, could she feel the emotion so undue to The Unchanging Queen.
Sorcha would never say that she was grateful. As she glimpsed the slight smile that played on Irial's lips as he left, sincere for just a moment before converting to his usual arrogant air, she knew that he was well aware of what he had done. Once she was alone, smiled to herself, daring to speak aloud. "Well done, Dark King."