Whenever an immersion participant was bored, time would blur for them as they advanced to the next thing they found interesting. In a big immersion like this one, that meant the whole spell made lots of adjustments in the perceptual time of each participant. It sped some participants up and slowed others down based on their various roles, so that no one had to wait on the others.
After what Ardent could only regard as the Evil Plot Revealed scene, time blurred forward. They returned to the Moon Etherium. The Moon Host mood was jubilant, buoyed by their victory. They were eager to celebrate the alliance of Sun and Moon, and looked forward to the prospect of new worlds to conquer. Ardent was sure most of the participants weren’t so immersed that they’d forgotten how this story ended. But no one Lorerevovo spoke with wanted to discuss the possibility that something might go wrong with the ritual. Perhaps they didn’t want to betray their roles, or perhaps they hoped the creators would give them a chance to re-write history with a new, happier ending.
Ardent doubted that was the plan, especially given that the creators had already re-written history in this scenario.
But her faction was keeping a close eye on Lorerevovo, so she continued to play his part and did nothing overt.
In the last hours before they entered the Etherium, she talked to Imilasisi about how they were to ‘poison the channel’. “Through a tincture of rowanwood.” That was a mythical drug that was supposed to drain a fey of all aether. As far as Ardent knew, it didn’t exist. “It won’t affect us personally, since the Moon Etherium will already have drained us of all aether. I’ll give you your dose at the feast before the channeling begins.”
The feast awaited them at the Palace of the Moon as soon as they returned. It was a lavish affair that the creators had taken considerable pains to render accurately in both food and entertainment. Ardent found the care taken in those details depressing in contrast to the liberties taken with everything of consequence about this story.
During the second course, Prince Imilasisi leaned over to murmur in Loreveroro’s ear. “I trust you’re enjoying our first taste of the Moon Etherium.” He waved a hand vaguely over Ardent’s soup, and she saw droplets splash into it from his hand. She laughed and gave him a brotherly slap on the shoulder that knocked his arm forward. He dropped the vial in his hand, bit back a curse, and dove after it as it rolled on the table. Loreveroro stood quickly and slapped a hand down over Imilasisi’s where it covered the vial.
“Traitor!” Loreveroro shouted, as all eyes turned to watch the commotion. “Fey of the Moon Host, we are betrayed! My brother’s foul ambition has led him to seek the destruction of both our Etheriums, so that he may have the phoenix rose’s power to himself alone! He has poisoned my food and his own with a tincture of rowanwood, such that when you attempt to channel from us to feed tonight’s ritual, it will cause a resonance that will devastate Sun and Moon alike.”
Imilasisi stared at his brother. “Have you gone mad? It – it’s not true!” he protested to the assembly. “It’s his plot! To ruin the day’s celebrations and the alliance between our peoples!”
“The only thing I am trying to ruin is your plot!” Loreveroro lifted his brother’s hand, revealing the vial. “That is where he stored the tincture. Test it, if you don’t believe me. But trust this: channel from us for this rite, and we will all suffer the consequences.”
“It’s not mine!” Imilasisi objected.
“I haven’t touched it. A simple information spell will verify that. Besides, I don’t care which one of us they think the villain; your plan is finished either way.” Ardent made her prince’s face grin smugly at him.
Imilasisi stood as well, his right hand still imprisoned in her left. “I don’t know what you intend to gain from this betrayal, brother – but you won’t—”
“No!” Prince Wind Rider flew across the table, a shining steel blade in his hand. Ardent didn’t realize until he was upon them why he’d screamed. She hadn’t even seen the knife in Imilasisi’s left hand. In the Moon Etherium, Prince Loreveroro had no fey evasion with which to avoid his strike, nor fey invulnerability to survive it. She felt a sudden pain in her abdomen, and looked down to see blood spilling over Imilasisi’s hand and the knife hilt in it. Then, an instant too late, Wind Rider impaled Imilasisi through his chest.
The Sun Host prince slumped backwards into his chair, dead, dragging the knife blade with him. Loreveroro staggered. “No,” Wind Rider said again, his expression stupefied by horror and disbelief. He summoned aether, pressed it into the wound in an effort to staunch the bleeding.
Oh, sugar, that’s not how healing magic works, Ardent thought. Even if you could heal a Sun Host fey in the Moon Etherium, which you can’t. Loreveroro reached out to pat Wind Rider’s hand. “It’s all right. You stopped him. The Etheriums are safe. That’s what matters.”
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