As the councillors conversed and debated amongst themselves, Lord Starlequin sank into a corner chair and drummed his fingers on the plush armrests, staring aimlessly into space. It was clear from the furtive looks, the cold glares, the quiet whispers that stopped under his glance that the others were plotting against him. The dice were cast, and his honeyed words and soulful arguments would serve him no longer. The cold, soft shadow of approaching death hung upon him like a silken cloak, and he found a strange kind of comfort in its inevitable embrace.
He sat quietly as his fellows built the case for his execution, ignoring the pointed looks and hushed accusations as he thought back over his life. Not such a terrible one, really. Like many nobles he'd been born to privilege, but he'd done the best he could to see that those under his care and command suffered as little as possible, to ensure that none in his charge should languish under the burdens of poverty or hunger, illness or senseless violence. He had not been perfect, but he'd found something he believed in, and he had lived his life in its service with neither regret nor hesitation. His parents would have been proud, he thought, and that too gave him comfort.
And Starlequin remembered the pleasures he'd met, the countless men and women whose embraces he'd enjoyed and whose beds he'd been honored to share. He considered attempting to decide which had been his favorite, who among his myriad lovers had touched his heart most, but decided not to cheapen the exquisite beauty of their encounters with so base a thing as ranking them. Still, as the court's session began to draw to a close, it was Ana Lucia's face which came to mind, dark brown curls cascading over her radiant visage, and Starlequin smiled to himself. That would be a most fine memory to accompany him to the grave.
The young Lord looked about the room one final time, taking stock of those around him with a clarity he'd rarely experienced before and wondering who among them were truly as human as himself. Lord Mayerling was almost certainly innocent; an obnoxious little toad he may have been, but Starlequin had come to believe his misguided intentions were still noble. Ladies Imogen and Marguerite, despite the venomous opinions they appeared to harbor toward him, were perhaps mortal as well. But two of the other ladies struck him as something more...sinister.
First, Lady Mithlomwen, who seemed to Lord Starlequin constantly distracted, who graced the court infrequently with her presence and even more so with her words. Several others had offered their King their wisest council, yet she had remained silent as tombstones. Was she perhaps hoping to avoid drawing attention to her own wicked agenda?
And then, Lady Xandi, with her fragile and soft-spoken exterior, a perfect disguise to encourage would-be victims to lower their guard -- before she tore out their throats. Starlequin had listened as intently as he could to the debate over him between the Lady and Lord Ryven, the pompous little pastry cook who even in the midst of these atrocities had proven he still thought with his appetites. He supposed he should have been grateful to the man for at least attempting to mount some kind of defense of his honor, but the Lord realized that his compassion would not stand against the rising tide of accusations. No, he too would turn against him in the end, bowing to the pressures of their peers just as Geeklet had done. Ryven could not be faulted for joining the crowd...but Xandi might well could. Indeed, Starlequin began to suspect she may have played a larger hand against him than he'd imagined from the beginning.
The end approached, swift as the wind and carried on tides of hatred and suspicion. Starlequin sought out the object of his suspicions and caught her eyes. A slow, sad smile passed over his face, and he discreetly pantomimed mild applause in her direction. "Well played," he mouthed silently, and tipped his hat to Lady Xandi.
Only one thing left to do, now. He sat back in his chair, head held high, and watched his final act unfold...