At the heart of the Midland Kingdoms, the immortal and the mortal met in a chamber of crimson and gold.

"Lord Nikolas Fury." The Voice of the August Presence vibrated with elegantly restrained power from behind the finely carven rosewood screen that shielded Her from merely mortal eyes, and Fury bowed low before it, reflecting that there was likely truth in the rumour that the current physical vessel of the White Queen had Fae blood somewhere in her distant past. She had clear talent with the singing magics, of that there was absolutely no doubt.

"My most Puissant Lady," he intoned. "I stand ready to execute Your slightest command." Which was both true and untrue — Her commands merely coincided with his own goals, for now — but he trusted his Jeratai mind training to keep those secrets safe even from Her nigh-omniscient sight.

"You have assembled the lists for your unit?"

"Indeed I have. The Weapons Mage and his Fae-Born Healer; the Shadow Walker and the Striker From Afar; the Beast Within the Man, and the Paladin Out Of Time. I await only Your permission to proceed."

"Make it so, and do not fail Me — or the Midland Kingdoms shall fall before the Weaver of Lies." A pause, surely not a hesitation. Surely not. "His plot to overthrow Our dominion must be repelled with the greatest ferocity. I have placed my trust in your judgement, Son of Jeratai. Your life is forfeit if you fail to fulfill your sacred vows."

He bowed again, and this time he kept his head lowered when he straightened. "They shall not fail, Your Eminence — rather, they shall triumph, and avenge the insult that has been cast in Your radiant face. This is my vow, and if I betray it I will face death gladly."

"It is well spoken. Go, and walk with the blessings of darkness and of light." The radiance beyond the screen turned away, its vision flashing across reaches beyond the audience chamber, and Fury took his leave, his heart beating serenely in his breast while his mind wove the relentless strands of a much bigger web than even the White Queen could possibly suspect.