I woke up to light streaming softly through the curtains and into my room. I blinked as my vision adjusted, hearing a light knock on the door.
Myrrh stepped in with a silver tray, presenting me with an absurdly large breakfast.
“Whoa, Myrrh are you feeding me or all of Hell’s battalion?”
“You have a long day of negotiations ahead of you, Zara. You need all you can get.”
I looked down at an array of meats, fruit and eggs. It did smell pretty good.
“I give. Did you eat yet?”
She looked surprised at the question.
“You haven’t had breakfast and you’re bringing me a buffet?” I asked incredulously, “You are working way too hard and on too little pay. Wait…are you being paid? I really hope someone’s paying you for all this.”
“Yes, I’m being paid.” She assured me, “Though that hardly matters. Serving you is an honour in itself.”
I pulled a face, popping a strawberry into my mouth.
“Don’t make me laugh. There’s no honour in serving me.”
“You’re a war hero.”
“I’m a glorified murderer.”
“Is there really a difference?”
I raised an eyebrow, surprised at her response. She seemed like she might retract her statement but I waved away her concern.
“No. You’re right. There isn’t.”
I chewed thoughtfully, before swallowing a mouthful of buttered toast.
“Do you see honour in serving a glorified murderer, then?” I asked, curious.
“It doesn’t matter what I see.” Myrrh replied diplomatically, “I’m just a servant.”
“You’re also my friend, now.” I shrugged, “And I think it matters.”
For a split-second I saw a combination of surprise and irritation on her face before it was replaced by her normal, placid expression.
“I think there’s honour in helping others, regardless of their past.”
“Hmmm…good answer.” I replied, “Next question: why didn’t you eat breakfast?”
“Okay, then I order you to share this massive tray of food with me.”
“Are…are you certain?”
I took a piece of toast and held it in front of her mouth before she finally conceded and took a bite out of it, taking the toast from me.
“As you wish.” She muttered over a mouthful of crumbs, chewing miserably.
“Isn’t that a little harsh?”
Lucifer blinked, feigning a look of surprise.
“Harsh? Purgatory started this. They cost us thousands of lives. And they lost. It’s about time they learned their lesson.”
“They’ve lost people too. I think they’re already learning it.”
“What do you suggest, Commander? We slap them on the wrist and hope they think better next time?”
“Asking this much from them is asking for a next time. We can’t just march in there and proclaim you the king of the entire dimension.”
“Oh really? And why not?”
“That’s asking for a civil war. And neither side can afford that right now.”
“What do you suggest, then?”
“We take the land that’s historically and rightfully ours, and leave them theirs. We open up trade with them. Actively promote better relations – “
“ – Commander, we just came out of a war. We’re not trying to make friends.”
“So you want to keep Purgatory an enemy?”
“That would be fantastic.”
“But we’ll end up fighting another war!”
“Which we’ll win, again.”
I sighed, exasperated. Zeus hadn’t nearly mentioned how difficult this would be. I was sitting in a room with Lucifer and the rest of the Council (Athena and Dionysus), and was trying to dissuade the very proud King of Hell from absorbing Purgatory as a lesser state.
It was hopeless.
“I thought you didn’t want your people to suffer.” I sighed, propping up my head with one of my arms.
“What?” Lucifer asked, his petulance momentarily forgotten.
“Whether or not you care about Purgatory, punishing them for the sake of it is going to do nothing but breed hatred and violence. And, for both sides, it’s the uninvolved general public who’s going to suffer.”
Lucifer’s expression softened.
“But…we have to make a point here. If we don’t punish them, what’s to stop them from attacking again?”
“Honour? Shame?” I offered, “Obviously, something was wrong between our nations for this to happen. We have to make ourselves their allies.”
He sighed, leaning back in his chair. I could watch his instinctive pride battling with his intelligence. He knew what I was saying made sense.
“Why must you be so obscenely reasonable?” he muttered, “Fine. We leave the general populace alone. But the outspoken supporters of the war, generals or advisors, I’m sending to Tartarus.”
That was a victory in my book.