March 22, 2017

In Which Searle Is Justice

October 14, 1203

"So." Business as usual, Riona didn't bother with a greeting, which suited Searle just fine. They'd been practically raised as siblings, and they saw each other frequently enough that formality was superfluous. Some thought Riona cold, at least if not compared to her sister--but, frankly, those same people might have found her to-the-point manner admirable had she been a man.

Of course, if she had been a man, who was to say that her sickly mother would have chanced any additional pregnancies, such as the one that had produced said sister? And if said sister hadn't existed, Riona--man or woman or whatever--couldn't have possibly been the person she was today.

"I take it this urgent summons of yours means that our suspicions were correct?"

"Indeed. My contacts within the Retribute itself confirm that they received Danthia's request." Searle fought the urge to roll his eyes. His cousin Danthia, at least, was far too stupid to further her own regicidal plots. It was rare enough that the Retribute risked its own cover on the assassination of a monarch, never mind if her sisters, nephew, and three-going-on-four children were also included in the contract. Selfishness was useful if not necessary to a degree, but it defeated its own purpose if it failed to acknowledge the agency of others, their ability to act counter to the selfish aim desired.

"Dear Lord. Don't tell me: some elaborate scheme to push Roderick closer to the throne."

"Exactly that. She didn't mention Farilon, but I don't doubt she'd smother him in his sleep shortly after if he did end up making her a queen. I don't even think Roderick would be safe, now that he's old enough that he wouldn't need her as regent; she could push for his early marriage and dispose of him once a malleable grandson was in the picture."

Riona sighed. Little as she liked being Danthia's minder, she was the only one left with any shred of affection for the woman. That didn't mean that she couldn't see beyond that love. Searle had once had a beloved brother, one who had become something twisted and irrational to the point of cruelty, one whose death had been a mercy to more than just himself. Danthia would be her own undoing one way or another, but Lord knew who else--what else--would be undone in turn if her demise kept solely to her own hands. "The Retribute isn't fool enough to murder a popular queen."

"Especially without anyone they'd deem deserving of being framed." A Retribute assassin, so Searle had heard, would introduce themselves to their mark in one of two ways: 'My name is Justice', or 'My name is Mercy'. "They see themselves as judge and jury where judges and juries fail. They won't take a contract for the sheer point of being paid, even if someone like Danthia could offer them enough coin to eliminate seven or eight royals."

"And a less scrupulous lone assassin would have lacked the resources to pull off such a feat. A fortunate thing for you and the other puppet masters of the world, such chaos trapped in its own brand of order." Riona clasped her hands together, as if in prayer though Searle doubted she had much prayer left in her. "The Retribute now have Danthia herself on their radar, don't they?"

"Likely. She didn't put her name to her letter, but they'll make efforts to trace a request like that one. They won't kill her unbidden, but if a client marks her as a target, she won't be in the clear."

"'My name is Justice'." Riona bit her lip. Her mother, Searle remembered as well as he did his own name, had often done the same, often when dealing with Danthia. "It may be a selfish thought, but I believe I'd rather my sister die at Mercy's hand."