The bed looked excruciatingly comfortable, fitted with luxuriantly soft blankets and pillows stuffed fat with down. It also looked undisturbed; its intended occupant sat motionless in a chair in one darkened corner of the room, enduring an interminable, sleepless night with fingers steepled together beneath a grim and grievous expression. The sound of the Kingsman's axe slicing through Lady rottenaim's throat still echoed in Lord Starlequin's ears, a cruel and taunting reminder of his unforgiveable misjudgement the previous evening.
He remembered her last moments as she was led silently to the block, not a word of complaint or denial of guilt passing her lips nor a tear of remorse gracing her cheek. How her eyes had met his, and how...oh, merciful God, how he'd smiled, boastful and triumphant, so certain she was in league with their murderous tormentors. He'd thought the worst part had been watching her corpse with a crumbling surety that at any moment it might burst into flames or crackle to dust. But no, there was so much worse to come, as they searched the lady's room and discovered her true identity. The rest of the night had been spent in silent prayer, in hopes that God Above would forgive him his trespass; Starlequin knew he'd never forgive himself.
Tears of shame and guilt had fallen since sunset, dried by dawn, and now Starlequin rose to rejoin his fellow courtiers. He dressed from the wardrobe he'd brought along, colors considerably more sedate than those he'd sported the day before, greys and dark reds, and completed the new morning's style with a thin, silver collar and two silver bracelets about his neck and wrists. Silver, that was what all the old legends said, wasn't it, for warding away unnatural creatures such as those that plagued them now? Starlequin dearly hoped so; he had precious little left in which to place his faith. Doubtless the others would suspect him even more ardently now, leaving him painfully few allies to defend his innocence. Given his part in rottenaim's death, he would hardly blame them. Perhaps he would speak with Lady Analise; they had spent a few moments the night before sharing their thoughts on those they suspected, and he felt they'd earned some measure of each other's trust. He could only hope she would feel similar.
This morning's arrival to court was far more punctual than the day before's, and he waited patiently for his chance to speak with Analise alone as the morning business was conducted. However, it quickly became apparent that their full coterie was not in attendance; both Lady Analise and Admiral Eden were conspicuously absent, leading several among them to immediately fear the worst. And rightly, as it happened, both bodies being discovered mere minutes after a search began. It was plain from the grisly condition of the corpses what had transpired. Admiral Eden's murder was particularly disheartening; such a clever and cunning opponent was shi, how much more fearsome must hir assassins have been?
Restless and caught between fury and despair, Starlequin paced through the hallways and came across the Lady Imogen and Duke Aiden conversing quietly beside one of the many open balconies overlooking the courtyard below. At the mention of Lady Analise's name a sliver of his composure fractured, and he slammed one fist forcefully against the smooth stone wall, jarring both Lady and Duke's attention.
"If it was your failure to protect her, Sir Duke, then it is my failure as well, and compounded by my own blind stupidity. She spoke to me also of those she distrusted, but did not see fit to share with me any names. And coupled with the death of Lady rottenaim, it would appear my foolishness knows no limits." Starlequin extended a bloodied hand to the Duke, his expression etched with grim determination as he looked from lady to gentleman. "I cannot say now who I suspect of this foulness; my judgement has already proven most poor, and I cannot yet bare to risk another innocent's life until there is no other choice. But without hesitation I can pledge you this, my friend: we will hunt down these blasphemous monstrosities, to the ends of the earth if need be, and we shall deliver them to their final judgement. And may God have mercy on their miserable excuses for souls."