The Old Alliance
The woman’s attire was not particularly suited for a London November. One would have to be mad—so thought the people that saw her—to go about dressed as she was, in short, unhemmed denim shorts, a low-cut white blouse made of a very light, summery material, and stylish sunglasses, the square-framed sort that covered much more of the face than was necessary. But the chill did not seem to bother her in the slightest. Furthermore, despite the pouring rain, her clothing looked to be as dry as the bone.
After she had been walking along the busy street for some time, her stiletto heels clacking upon the wet pavement, she was joined by a tall, thin man who was dressed much more suitably for the climate. Not an inch of his skin was left exposed. He had the hood of his dark grey hoodie pulled up, and he kept his head bent so that even his face was hidden. An especially observant passerby might have noticed that there seemed to be a strange sort of shadow hanging around his head, which, if studied from the proper angle, almost looked like the phantoms of antlers. Most people did not notice this. Those that did notice attributed it to a trick of the light.
“I’d nearly forgotten that you’re actually three-dimensional,” she muttered to him out of the side of her mouth.
“And what reminded you?”
“The clothing,” she replied. “Without it, you look like a shadow from every angle. But since something must be filling up the space between the fabric, you clearly have volume, and are thus a physical object.”
“I’m flattered, Moriba, by your astounding insight.”
They strode along in silence for a while, their thoughts lost amidst the pounding of raindrops and the whooshing of passing cars and buses.
“Why did you summon me here?” Elnias asked her eventually. “I do not much like this world.”
“We must speak where the Parasite has less chance of hearing us. Here, it is populous and noisy. It is unaccustomed to eavesdropping in such a place as this.”
“Will the others be joining us?”
“Yes. We are to meet them later on. First, though, you and I have matters to discuss alone.”
She led the way to a pedestrian bridge spanning the width of the Thames and stopped in the middle, leaning upon the rail and looking outward. He halted beside her and did likewise.
“The view looks very much like Brysail from here, does it not?”
He agreed, idly watching a tugboat lumber along beneath them. “If Brysail were constructed of tar and crystal.”
“It’s almost beautiful.”
Elnias shook his head defiantly. “These people are blind to beauty.”
“Perhaps you’re too judgmental.”
Moriba removed her sunglasses, exposing her glowing, pupil-less blue eyes, and looked him in the oval of red-eyed darkness that served as his face. “Anyway,” she said, folding the sunglasses up and hooking them on the front of her blouse. “We must discuss the plan.”
“The plan for what?”
“How to get all six of us on the same side,” she responded wryly.
“Ah. I have been working to convince Aita. I believe I have succeeded, more or less.”
“Good for you,” she muttered. “The only problem is that the only way I could get my sister to consider joining us was to tell her that Aita was against us.”
Elnias shrugged. “We could just neglect to inform her otherwise. What Mortua doesn’t know won’t hurt her.”
“That’s exactly the sort of logic that got us into this mess in the first place.”
“Well, what else can we do?”
“Perhaps Viviane can talk her into it.”
“Perhaps,” Elnias admitted. “Except that she seems to forget Viviane’s existence the moment I come into view.”
“Well, since you mean so much to her, maybe you could convince her.”
“She’s obsessed with you, Elnias. She worships you with more of her heart than does your most devoted goblin follower.”
“Really. I was under the impression that she hated me.”
Moriba frowned. “Well, she does. At least, she hates what you did to her. Sorry, what she thinks you did to her,” she amended when Elnias made an indignant attempt to defend himself. “But still, I suspect she would do anything you asked of her.”