The Devil's Dominion

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Chapter 37: Sunset

“My Lord.” A Deshik servant entered Ra-Diavere’s throne room timidly. “There is—”

The great doors of the throne room were thrown open, and down the lush yellow carpet paraded Ranny Marsharin. She had returned quietly to her city, gotten into her rooms in the palace, and dressed herself in the clothes that had once made her the envy of every woman in Anaria.

She was wearing a long gown of yellow silk, sewn through with gold thread, yellow diamonds, and crystals of every size and colour. She walked proudly, with her head and shoulders back, her back straight. Her steps were deliberate and slow; her pace measured and unfaltering. She had come as a Queen returning to her city, not a servant sneaking around.

She climbed the two steps up to the raised dais where The Kindler sat on her throne and paused before the Devil. Instead of speaking to him, she turned to one of the few Caladean servants who had not fled Ra-Diavere.

“I was not informed that we had a guest. Has the Lord Kindler been offered any refreshment? Some wine perhaps my Lord?” She didn’t wait for him to answer. “A Storinean White, of a suitable vintage, girl. Go now.” Ranny watched the girl leave and then turned her attention to the being sitting on her throne. “I will, of course my Lord, forgive your intrusion in my court and the impertinence in your choice of seat. However, I must insist that you do neither one in the future.” The Kindler actually smiled. “And to what do I owe this pleasure, Morschcoda Marsharin? It’s so rare that any of the Remnant traitors visit one of my holdings.”

“Guinira Estaleth is dead. You cannot hide that. The Throne of Deshik Anaria requires an occupant. By Blood-Right, it passes to me.”

The Kindler chuckled. “To you?”

“Don’t laugh at me. Guinira was my cousin. She has no child and no sibling. I am her closest living relative. According to Morschenic Law, which you have followed to a degree and honoured in your past dealings with members of my race, her throne passes to me.” The Kindler could do nothing but stare at the woman for a long time, unmoving and unblinking. Ranny met and held his gaze, never turning her eyes from his. The Servant girl came back with the wine and two cups. She poured and presented to Ranny first. The Kindler raised an eyebrow, and the corner of Ranny’s mouth lifted in a half-smile.

Ranny lifted the cup to her lips and tasted the sweet white wine from Storinea’s northern plains, never letting the cup’s rim separate her eyes from The Kindler’s.

“Why do you want the Throne?” They were the first words either spoke in almost an hour.

Ranny laughed. “If you haven’t noticed, you’re losing this war. Badly.”

The Kindler laughed in response. “No I’m not.”

“Aren’t you?” Ranny’s eyebrows rose along with her voice. “Erygan Dalrey rampages through the north unchecked, and now even the armies that were chasing him have withdrawn to friendly lands. The Morieden Tribes have arisen and retaken Drogoda’s Northern Plains, breaking the Siege of Alquendiro. And Daken Calmi has returned to and liberated Meclarya, killing your own brother in the process.” She took a sip of her wine. “Tell me, my Lord, where is your advantage when a Dragon King can kill one of your brothers while you sit on his doorstep and do nothing?” The Kindler sipped his own wine, unconcerned with Ranny’s arguments. “I have the armies to crush Anaria in a month if I choose.”

“Guinira had those armies as well, and while she ruled in your name, most of Anaria was under her control. Now … much that she took, you have lost since your return.” She took a much longer drink, daring to break eye contact now that she had The Kindler’s attention. “She knew how to fight the Morschcoda. She knew how to beat them. You don’t. And with her dead, you don’t have anyone with that knowledge. And, I say again, Vorteez is dead. Who knows which of the Seven will fall to the Dragon King next?” “Others of the Seven have died before. We are immortal, young one.”

Ranny smiled. “Has Vorteez ever died? Or was he the one who kept you immortal? Was the Master of Pain also the Master of Death?”

The Kindler said nothing. The mortal in front of him was too clever by half, and far too much nerve. He seriously considered killing her; he had killed Morschen and Deshik alike for far less. But, though he hated to admit it, he was intrigued: the bravado, the showiness. ‘If it’s all a bluff, killing her wouldn’t matter. But if it’s not …’ The Kindler made up his mind.

Ranny watched The Kindler closely. She had him playing her game now. And in her game, there was only one rule: Win.

Edya handed Daliana a scroll, sealed with Comni Hargd’s flower and sword.

Daliana broke the wax and read the first few lines. She handed the scroll to Edya and sat down without a word.

Edya read the message. “So it’s true. Ranny Marsharin is The Kindler’s new Regent.”

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