Perdita is a Half, neither lowly human, nor powerful Per, with few good choices for her fate.
Edward is a human, with little future ahead of him.
They have one opportunity for escape–working for the spymaster Lord Vortex, whose theater is a front for his work on behalf of all of Gloriana. But in order to do so, first they need to solve the mystery of Perdita’s origin and why it matters so much.
“You were my favorite pet.”
Lady Sovereign sighed quietly as she watched the eyes of her human, Thomas, dim. Lovely eyes, they had been. Green. Green like Ivy, soft and round.
That was good. If she survived, perhaps she would write a poem in his honor.
She had saved him for last, and for her ritual blade. The least she could do for him. She laid out Thomas’s limbs slightly next to the altar; his throat still gushed blood. It was possible they would treat him better if they knew he’d been a favorite, and only a favorite would be placed next to the soft carved wooden altar to the Knowing and the Unknowing. Perhaps they would treat him worse. She wished she’d been able to have his child, some small legacy, even if the child would likely end up nothing more than a whore.
Her stupid husband and fool son had botched the reign terribly. Not even fifty years had gone by—the standard election—and yet still here she was, watching her sweet pets destroyed humanely rather than leaving them for savagery, knowing her garden would inevitably be ruined by those tasteless rubes of House Justice, who should have stayed in the law courts as far as she was concerned. House Jubilant by birth; House Jubilant by marriage, The Lady Sovereign had little to show for it. All her true-children dead in the past year by intrigue or in battle, not even a Half as legacy.
She’d been a fool to care for this creature enough to consider a Half with him, but Thomas had asked so nicely and he had been her favorite pet. Still, The Lord Sovereign had laughed when she had requested it.
“There are more important human families.” He smiled down at her. She hated when he smiled down at her, he was a fool.
“There are no important human families.” She scoffed. “There is only us.”
He had liked that, her scoffing at the foolish humans who thought they could flatter him. He disliked her even coming to him with the smell of the humans on her. Sometimes they would offer up a daughter even for the long death in hopes it would appeal to him. Idiots. The Lord Sovereign was a fastidious man with a keen sense of smell and had no interest in something that repulsive.
She liked repulsive. She liked their dirt smell, like plants. She liked their rough unfinishedness. The Lord Sovereign disliked taking lovers amongst the Halfs.
Which she supposed had been his downfall. It was, after all, Not Done. That’s why Halfs were made. Lord Day, whose daughter he had seduced, had instigated the overthrow. Lord Justice would never be so intelligent… so creative as to instigate it himself.
She could hear noise far down the polished marble and painted corridor that led to the terraced garden, despite the elegant draperies and carpets that minimized sound. She thought she saw smoke, off in the city. An orange haze. A pungent smell.
“My lady.” The serving maid, human. Stinking of fear, she stumbled over a fallen pet.
“Careful, Lower Maid..” The Lady Sovereign wandered over to the pet and righted him. Ah, a new one. She’d never even sampled him; couldn’t quite remember his name. Sad—she thought she remembered he’d been some sort of musician. “What is it?” she asked the serving girl.
The girl had trouble speaking for a moment. She wished more of the higher servants had been able to stay. The Halfs. The human smell, on top of the blood of the pets, was a bit much for her. Perhaps this one knew her fate? She hadn’t quite thought humans capable of that kind of fear or forethought. Interesting.
“Your carriage is ready.”
The Lady Sovereign took one last look around her artfully fallen columns, her sacred ympre trees, the grafted fruit trees so favored of the Knowing and the UnKnowing, and sighed, pulling a small piece of Ivy the color of Thomas’s eyes from the nearest perfectly disheveled bed. She hoped the Knowing and UnKnowing would appreciate and protect these precious offerings. Especially Thomas.
Odd she thought she’d almost detected surprise when she slid the knife across his throat. As though his fate had not become as evident as hers was now. Slowly she followed the shaking servant girl past the corridors. She heard metal… not iron? She shuddered. The human Iron Corps frightened her. How could they be controlled? If they had returned to be used against that fool husband of hers, well, perhaps it only served him right.
The carriage was at the end of the pebbled back drive. Her dear sweet Half-Jubilants were there waiting for her—Araminta, her body maid; and Locasio, her footman. Quickly, she dispatched the human maid and the carriage drove off before the human girl managed to crumple to the ground.
“I am grateful.” She sighed. She knew Locasio at least wished to speak, and would not until she did.
“Safety awaits” her Half-Jubilant footman intoned in that portentous voice that usually made her smile. But not today. Not even that.
“Indeed.” The Lady Sovereign nodded. “If safety exists.” Araminta held her hand, and they rattled off into the night as The Lady Sovereign mused that it was always best that the Halves be reminded they were not Whole.