By Ismene

My name is Gina. My mind is still my own, for I loved Lady Asellus from the time I set eyes on her, without the assistance of any aura of charm, and I love her still, though something darker than mere mysticism has awakened in her blood. I am Gina, and everything I tell you now I saw once, though I am unsure how long it has been. Time means nothing in Facinaturu, and I have been here so long that it is lost to me, as well.

Orlouge was dead. There could be no doubt about that. His soulless shell was fast disintegrating into shimmering talcum, iridescent fragments of rose that coated Lady Asellus with a second skin of shimmering pearl. No member of her assembled band dared disturb her, perhaps transfixed by the gentle ringing of the dust as it settled, or perhaps by the twin streams of silver tears coursing from beneath Lady Asellus's closed eyelids. Perhaps even those born outside of Facinaturu held some measure of respect for the passing of one so ancient and powerful. I know that I did, even remembering His tyranny.

Ildon watched the chiming cloud dissipate with a mixture of regret and misplaced loyalty, some part of him screaming 'traitor' in the inner recesses of his mind. Zozma, in a contrast that, taken in itself and apart from the situation, would have amused bystanders, was clearly suppressing the urge to clap his comrade across the back in a fraternal spasm of satisfaction. Silence, possessed of his usual intensity, maintained careful observation of Lady Asellus; she remained poised at the heart of the glittering mist, the Asura raised as it had been when she delivered the final blow to whatever shriveled organ Orlouge possessed in place of a heart. Rouge, the lone human present save myself, regarded the opposite wall with the abstract discomfort of one attempting to solve an answerless riddle. He smiled at me, albeit weakly, as Rastaban led me in, and I knew that he was grateful for another human presence.

In the end, it was he who deigned to approach Lady Asellus, placing a single hand on her shoulder. She opened her eyes. Time held its breath. Her eyes gleamed with the same unnatural translucence of the powder coating her skin, their irises stained the color of strong wine. Rouge gasped, pinned by that gaze, as her lips curled in an inhuman smile. She raised the Asura in a single, fluid movement and backhanded him with the hilt; he folded like something boneless. Her voice rang in the glass chamber like a thousand windchimes, or like a thousand harpstrings vibrating simultaneously.

"Do not presume to touch me, little human."

Zozma mouthed a single expletive and vanished, the only trace of his former presence the echo of the harsh word. Lady Asellus ignored his passing completely; she turned to face me, the same eerie smile playing across her features.

"Ah, Gina. My Gina. Come to me."

I was drawn to her as I have always been, despite her transformation, my power of speech fading into the inner confines of my soul. Lady Asellus bowed her head toward me to place her lips to my forehead ever so briefly, like the brush of a moth's wing against the skin. Her lips were cold, and smooth as marble.

The slightest sound gained the attention of everyone present, the merest click of metal upon metal. Silence stood with both arms outstretched, crosshairs of his handgun trained between Lady Asellus' eyes. Only he dared to meet her eyes without flinching. Only he dared to raise a hand against her at her seat of power. Lady Asellus' reply to that click was cool and deceptively light.

"Banished one, my Father stripped you of your voice. Be gone, or I shall strip you of your sight as well."

The echo of his single shot threatened to crumble the glass foundations of the room, but it was Rastaban's blood, rather than that of Lady Asellus, that pooled on the floor like a fragment of the sky that lost its way. He stood before Lady Asellus with one arm raised, the bullet embedded in his sword arm. Silence's expression conveyed the malediction he could not voice, until Ildon voiced it for him.

"What did I tell you? She is nothing more than another Orlouge."

Asellus countered with the same undercurrent of warning with which she had addressed Silence.

"Ildon, your presence is unwanted. Be gone."

He complied instantly, and Silence with him, a final dark prophesy accompanying his fading form.

"This is the end of Facinaturu."

"Child of Light, Child of Night," Lady Asellus whispered after them, "You cannot run from me."

She lowered herself to one knee before Rouge, still rattled from her earlier blow, myriad threads of blood working their way from his temple down the side of his face. Lady Asellus brushed his cheek with two fingers and raised them to her lips; his eyes snapped open instantly, the glaze of fascination all too obvious to those familiar with it.

"Little magician of the realms, you are mine now. Find them."

He rose and bowed to her wordlessly, then was gone.

Lady Asellus turned to face Rastaban, her expression unchanged despite the fire kindled in her eyes.

"What of you, Rastaban?"

He bowed, low and graceful, the very picture of a devoted madman.

"I am with Lady Asellus, of course. It is what I wanted."

"Good. Go and fetch Zozma. He is, no doubt, under the impression that he defeated Orlouge. I must show him who holds the soul of this realm."

"It shall be done."

With that, he too was gone. The slow poison of fear began to curl about my heart like smoke rising from the end of an exquisite stick of incense; despite its musky scent, I could not desert Lady Asellus. She was all I knew. She is all I know. I tried my best to smile at her, to convey my support, but my heart felt her hand wrapping about it and would not allow me to finish the gesture.

"I'm afraid..."

"Don't be frightened, Gina." Lady Asellus replied, taking my hands in hers. "Now we can live happily ever after, forever. I have the power to do it. You will see."

Her laughter seemed to come from the depths of Facinaturu rather than merely from her lungs; I am certain that Ildon and Silence heard it, as they maneuvered the infinite passageways of the labyrinth woven by Chateau Augille. Rastaban and Zozma must have heard it as well; perhaps it even penetrated Rouge's ensorcelled mind. It caught me up and numbed my mind, turned my heart to ice for its duration, and everything went black for some time.

I am no longer human, but I am still Gina, and as I lie in my coffin, I can touch the fragments of Facinaturu's dreams. Ildon, in the end, could not bring himself to leave the realm. He went as mad as Rastaban, and left Chateau Augille long ago to remain on the outskirts of Rootville, listening to the eternal flame. Lady Asellus sometimes seeks him out when she requires his opinion on matters of strategy, and he gives it. He has never asked to return to the castle, and she has never offered. Silence and Zozma sought out Rouge's twin, who was meant to kill him even before Lady Asellus bent his soul to her will, and through that, set him free. I am unsure of the results of this; there is only one of them now, and whether it is for revenge or some other reason that he has laid siege to the castle I do not know. He and the other two are far more powerful than even Lady Asellus anticipated; they have entered Hell and emerged largely unscathed, and they are dismantling Chateau Augille layer by layer. I do not know if I will die. I do not know how long I have 'slept,' or if She will bother to wake me. I am no warrior. There is only one thing that remains. Whether I wake or sleep, live or die... My last memory will be... Her laughter.

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