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Extract: "The Girl on the Liar's Throne" by Den Patrick

The Girl on the Liar's Throne

A Rescue from Darkness

The girl sat alone, burdened by forgetfulness and incomprehension. That she was a prisoner was not in question, but the reasons were lost to her, just as she in turn was lost to the darkness. The ever-present silence weighed heavily on her slender shoulders, at once oppressive and maddening. How long had she been here? How would she escape? Questions needed answers, answers lost in a mind that failed to recall the subtle and the obvious. What was her name? Why was she here? 

Her stomach growled, a distraction from summoning memories that refused to return. Many hours had passed since the guards had brought her food – might they not forget her as she had forgotten herself? She shifted, sliding from a crosslegged position in order to draw her knees up to her chest. It wouldn’t do to move too far lest she got wet. This much she did remember. A solitary island of packed earth, just a few feet in diameter, rose above a fetid sea. The simple mound offered a reprieve from the icy waters of her existence. Certainly her ragged shift offered scant insulation. Fingers numb with cold teased at the scrap of cloth tied across her mouth. The veil was a curious affectation for a prisoner, yet the reason for it eluded her. Was it custom? Was there something that required cover? She left the rag tied in place, trying to ignore the terrible thirst.

A tawny light appeared in the abyssal black. It came closer, bobbing with a hypnotic motion that soothed the nameless girl even as her stomach called out for sustenance. A form appeared, gliding across the freezing, filthy waters like a phantom. Robed and hooded, the figure made graceful motions with a pole, as if spearing slow-moving fish. The figure glided forward further still, the lantern revealing it stood aboard a gondola. It drew ever closer with eerie grace. A splash as the pole dipped beneath the water. It did not rise again. The gondola slowed just feet from the island of earth and foulness, the dark held at bay by the lantern’s nimbus. The girl blinked and held a hand to aching eyes.

‘It’s very early,’ said the figure. ‘I couldn’t sleep. There’s no one to talk to up there besides Myrmidons.’ The figure gestured with one hand at the heavens. The girl looked up to discover they were made of stone. But she’d already known that. Another fact in a constellation of truths that dimmed in the darkness of her mind.

‘We used to to talk so much.’ The words came from beneath the hood, spoken softly, the voice rich and strong. A woman’s voice. ‘We spoke of philosophy and politics, republic and feudalism, fears and sometimes hopes. And then you stopped speaking to me, busy at your machines, busy with Virmyre.’

The girl on the island shifted as memory failed her once more. What was Virmyre? she wondered. A hiss escaped her, but words would not come to form the question.

‘You were my greatest student, the brightest mind not just of your generation but of all generations. Now look at you. One sip of the waters at your feet and you’ll not remember a single word of this conversation come the morning. It’s what makes you the perfect confessor.’

The nameless girl regarded the penitent, realising her robes were deep red. At another time this figure would have clutched a silver staff, yet now she held a simple wooden pole, adrift on a lake of forgetting.

‘All those hours of education, and now Erebus has reduced you to a dumb animal, shitting in the darkness. One created to rule Demesne, one trained to lead. Not much of an ending for one like you.’ The hooded figure sat down in the gondola, mindful not to rock the narrow vessel for fear of overturning it. ‘I never thought it would it come to this. I’ve let him destroy you and diminish me by extension. Demesne and all of Landfall are suffering, because of this.’ She gestured at the Stygian scene, disgust dripping from each word. ‘They say Lucien is threatening trade sanctions. War will follow.’

A tiny sound, a sob quickly muted. When she spoke again there was steel in her voice, but it sounded tired and brittle. ‘War is coming to Landfall, and there’s nothing to be done about it. Erebus won’t be turned and Eris is too selfish to care.’

A pang of sympathy afflicted the nameless girl, sympathy for the woman in the narrow boat. She did not understand the nature of her worries, nor recognise the names she referenced, but an anguish pervaded every syllable. The pain of those words haunted the space between them. She held out a hand, but the hooded figure snorted with contempt.

‘How can anyone rescue us from this darkness?’

The question wasn’t addressed to her, was just sour rhetoric to sink without a trace beneath the frigid water.

‘Sometimes I think I envy you. How nice it must be to stay here and drink the waters. I’d take the sickness and the cramps to be free of the things I’ve done and the people we’ve lost. Just a few sips.’ She slid her fingers over the side of the gondola and pierced the surface of the water. ‘But not today.’

The woman rose, using the pole to steady herself, then turned the gondola back the way she had come. The nameless girl stood also, reaching out with both hands like an infant wanting comfort. None was offered. The figure on the gondola receded, taking the lantern light with her as she went. Only her words remained.

How can anyone rescue us from this darkness?

* * *

The nameless girl waited as hunger gnawed at her innards, thirst clawing her throat. The darkness magnified time, made a madness of it. No way of tracking the hours or the minutes of her incarceration. One sip of the waters at your feet and you’ll not remember a single word of this conversation come the morning.

Words eddied like unseen current. And then the silence was broken by a sound that had always seemed part of the background, but was now leaden with significance.

Drip, drip, drip.

Fresh water. She stumbled from her island cage, gasping as the mire chilled her calves, then her thighs. She waited for the swell and splash to abate.

Drip, drip, drip.

The sound was beautiful, a pure thing unsullied by the dank, sickened gloaming of her prison. She waded deeper, the chill rankness enfolding her waist, sucking down the mean fabric of her shift. She cast about blindly for the source, slowly, so as not to dilute the sound with her passing.

Drip, drip, drip.

Her heart raced. It was so close. A spatter on her forehead, and another. Her stomach became light with anticipation. She pulled the rag aside from her mouth, her head thrown back ecstatically.

Water, clean water.

Each drip sated a thirst long denied. She stood until she could bear it no longer, stood until her neck hurt with the effort of angling her head back. She stood until her legs were numb from the icy mire. The nameless girl stumbled through the water, keen to find the island of packed earth, but the darkness confounded her. Her legs cramped and froze, leaching away the joy she’d discovered. Her effort to drink clean water would see her freeze to death in the oubliette.

The oubliette.

The name of her prison. Something shifted in her mind. The nameless girl shivered. The oubliette, where people were thrown to be forgotten, out of sight and out of mind. Her legs gave out and suddenly she was on her knees, hands casting about for something, anything to steady her. Such a cruel irony her body should betray her just as her faculties showed promise of return.

New light appeared.

This time the gondola bore two warriors girded in plate and leather. Curving helms hid their faces, the lower sections crafted to resemble mandibles. The girl pressed a hand to her ragged veil, almost remembering something, elusive and dreadful. The warriors’ helms sported visors in the shape of chevrons, a gauze behind concealing their eyes. Armour protected chest and forearm, thigh and groin, all painted a ruddy brown. The hilts of short flat swords jutted from hips, the weapons of Myrmidons.

Myrmidons.

Another word from distant memory. The nameless girl hoarded it in a corner of her mind, hoping it would remain sacrosanct from forgetfulness. The Myrmidons’ voices broke her fractured wondering. They drew the gondola up close and chided each other not to fall in. The light they brought caught the mound of earth, an ugly silhouette above the water. The nameless girl regained her perch and shivered.

‘She fell in,’ said the first dispassionately.

‘It’s a wonder she hasn’t died already.’ The second Myrmidon had a softer, kinder voice, but not much. The timbre of their voices gave them away as women.

‘It’s not deep enough to drown in.’ A note of pique from the first.

‘Says you. I didn’t mean drowning anyway. I meant on account of all the disease. It’s not clean.’

‘They say she has some magic on her though,’ said the first. ‘Maybe it protects her.’

‘The strega princess.’

The first Myrmidon grunted. ‘I heard they called her the Silent Queen.’

The nameless girl, eager to hear more, blinked in the lantern light as the Myrmidons handed over the food.

The Silent Queen. I am the Silent Queen.

‘She looks different today,’ said the kinder of the two.

‘Of course she looks different. She’s been up to her shoulders in all this filth. She’ll freeze to death down here.’

‘She’s supposed to stay alive,’ said the kinder. ‘If she dies the Domina will kill us too.’

Figlio di puttana. We’ll have to come back with a blanket.’

* * *

The nameless girl, now reinvented as the Silent Queen, watched them leave, tearing into the meagre food provided while digesting all she’d learned. It had been the Domina who’d ventured down to confess her regrets. The fact they thought her capable of magic was laughable.

Still, it’s ever the province of the ignorant to mistake technology for sorcery.

The food left her dry. The bread in particular was stale and absorbed the moisture from the cavern of her mouth. No matter. She steeled herself against the cold to come and waded into the mire once again, following the sound of water as it fell from the ceiling. The clean water spattered her cheeks. She drank it down, giving thanks for the Domina’s words, now a chorus in her ears.

One sip of the waters at your feet and you’ll not remember a single word of this conversation come the morning.

She shivered and drank. Oubliette. Myrmidon. Domina. She was drunk on names remembered, intoxicated at the prospect of recovering more, remembering others.

I am the Silent Queen. A thrill of relief and excitement swept through her. Not yet a name, but a title and certainly an improvement on being a shivering girl in the dark.

* * *

The Myrmidons returned to find the Silent Queen atop her mound of unlovely earth. They poled the gondola closer, the water lapping about the prow of the boat.

‘I’m telling you, she looks different today.’

‘Just throw her the blanket and let’s go.’

The kinder of the Myrmidons leaned forward from the narrow boat extending both hands. There was a scratch across the top corner of her breastplate, the mark a memory of the armour preventing injury, perhaps saving her life.

‘Try to keep warm. Careful now. It’s heavier than it looks.’

The Silent Queen took the blanket, noting the weight inside the folds of coarse fabric. She gripped it to her chest, nodding in reply.

‘Come on. We’ve been down here long enough,’ said the second Myrmidon, fussing at the gondola pole. ‘We’re needed at the Ravenscourt.’

They pushed off, taking the lantern with them, leaving the Silent Queen to discover her contraband before the light faded entirely. A stoppered clay jug, the fluid inside scentless. More clean water. Another thrill of excitement. The gondola glided further into the darkness, the sound of muttered discontent fading. A half-loaf of bread, fresh from the kitchen. A cup of olives only slightly dry. All were gone in a matter of moments. Of the things the Myrmidons had brought, the food was a poor second.

The Ravenscourt.

The word rang like a bell. Once it had been the centre of her universe.

It would be again.

The New Order

The Girl on the Liar's ThroneEris sat on the throne of Landfall, regarding the Ravenscourt with heavy, lidded eyes, lost in thought. The legs of that great seat were fashioned from four helms in the style of the Myrmidons lest any forget who supported her rule. The arms of the throne were two scabbards, holding the short wide blades of the soldiers who protected her, while the back of the seat was a Myrmidon breastplate. A sunburst made of beaten copper sat at the top, forming a halo behind her head. This was not a throne that had been crafted so much as welded together, assembled from the very fabric of violence. It was designed to awe, not for comfort. Eris drowsed despite the shortcomings of the throne; she had not slept the night through since her brother’s death. The succession of hours lost to wakefulness had frayed her nerves, shortening her temper. Losing life to a blade in Demesne was unremarkable in times such as these. Losing kin to illness was unthinkable.

The Ravenscourt was a wealth of shadows. The many windows her predecessor had installed were now shuttered for the winter; the darkness suited her deception. Baroque candelabra on stands fashioned as twisting figures shed pools of golden light, the artifice at once stunning and unnerving. The pieces, each the height of a man, were set at intervals along the edges of the chamber between thick columns.

The doors at the far end of the Ravenscourt creaked open, the Myrmidons bowing to the figure who entered. Only two people inspired such respect, Eris, in her guise as the Silent Queen, was one of them.

‘They tell me you’ve been visiting your favourite pupil,’ said Eris, her voice loud in the emptiness.

‘Once the spymaster, now the spied upon,’ the Domina replied with a scowl.

Eris grinned, masked behind her turquoise veil. Less hidden was the gleam of spite in her green eyes. The Domina, attired in the rich crimson robes and square hat she had made her symbols of office, crossed the cream and jet tiles of the Ravenscourt. A silver staff almost her equal in height occupied one hand. She was a lonely piece on a vast board, pawns depleted, the loyal knight turned traitor. Even the rooks had retreated to the countryside to be spared the new order.

‘Surely there are greater matters that require your attention than my whereabouts?’

‘Perhaps.’ Eris sighed, then shrugged.

‘Why bother sending watchers after me?’

‘I make a point of concentrating on the tasks that bring me the most amusement.’

The Domina drew close to the dais, her grip on the staff tight, the thin slash of her purple-painted lips the same.

‘You’re not supposed to be talking,’ said the Domina. ‘The Silent Queen doesn’t speak, or had you forgotten that rather important detail?’

Eris rose from her seat, raised her arms, gesturing to the empty hall.

‘And who precisely am I playing impostor for? Not you. Certainly not the Myrmidons – their loyalty is without question.’

‘This whole charade will come to an end if you’re discovered,’ said the Domina, ‘and not one of us will survive.’

‘Survive?’ Eris stepped down from the dais until she was face to face with the Domina. ‘You should be grateful you survived the transition to the new order.’

‘Without me there wouldn’t be a new order,’ whispered the Domina, her eyes straying to the vast black curtain on the gallery behind the throne. Bronze leaves decorated thick brocade, the effect autumnal. The drapes concealed the source of their power, and their enslavement.

Eris stepped back and shook her head. ‘I suggest you put an end to Anea before she remembers herself. The Orfani have an aptitude for escaping death.’ She clasped her hands before her, chilly fingers laced together. ‘If that happens all hell will be unleashed.’

‘I’d say we’re well acquainted with hell already,’ whispered the Domina, ‘but some are more reluctant to admit it than others.’

The doors to the Ravenscourt opened once more, silencing their argument. Viscount Simonetti wandered in, loose stride carrying him to the throne. He was tall in a way uncommon to the men of Landfall, fair of hair, with watery blue eyes behind optics perched on his nose. The archivist had enjoyed Anea’s favour. She’d entrusted her library to him, and his diligence had been rewarded with a title. Eris struggled to tolerate the man.

Simonetti bowed. ‘My Queen, Domina. The clocks have struck noon. The nobili wait.’ There was a moment’s pause. Neither of the women reacted, still seething from their many cross words. ‘The Ravenscourt is still meeting today, I trust?’

Eris raised her hands and signed, Yes, of course. I just needed a few minutes with my most trusted aide.

Simonetti exchanged a look with the Domina, and Eris wondered if he’d picked up on the sarcasm. The Myrmidons opened the doors before archivist or Domina could comment. The first to appear was Viscount Datini. He regarded the world over a blunt beak of a nose, a look of affront on his lined face. Age, or perhaps anger, had turned his hair pure white. Datini kept his hands behind his back – Eris knew it was to steady his palsy rather than a patriarchal pose.

‘Viscount.’ The Domina nodded; Eris did the same.

‘My lady, Domina.’

‘Good morning,’ said Simonetti.

‘What’s good about it?’ replied Datini. His mouth was a downturned slash of sourness, eyes dark and deep set.

Is something amiss, Viscount Datini? signed Eris.

‘No.’ His frown deepened. ‘Nothing. That is to say my wife . . . Never mind.’

Eris had no need to press the issue; the Domina’s spies had reported just that morning. Viscountess Datini had sent a significant sum of money to their outcast son in the south.

‘We’ll speak afterwards,’ said the Domina, the words calming the disgruntled old man.

‘Never marry, if you can help it.’ Viscount Datini shuffled away on unsteady legs.

Is there something I should know? Eris signed, keen to test the depth of Simonetti’s knowledge.

‘Only that his age exceeds his politeness,’ replied the archivist.

And?

‘The Verde Guerra claimed the lives of two of their three sons,’ said Simonetti in hushed tones. ‘The viscount made their surviving son an outcast some years ago, much to the chagrin of the viscountess.’

I see. Simonetti wasn’t telling her anything not widely known. The archivist was holding back or too busy with his books to keep abreast of the court.

‘The viscountess is lodging with House Prospero and is now a confidante of the duchess,’ added Simonetti, as if this too were a secret.

‘Speak of the furies and they’re sure to appear,’ said the Domina in a low voice.

Duchess Salvaza Prospero walked the length of the Ravenscourt with her head held high, an earnest pageboy of ten summers struggling to keep pace. She wore a black jacket with military undertones, a riding skirt in a matching hue and smart boots. A sash of silk in purple encircled her waist. Purple and black, the colours of her house.

‘Hardly attire suitable for the Ravenscourt,’ said the Domina from behind her hand. ‘She looks dressed for the hunt.’

Perhaps she is, signed Eris.

Once, the duchess had used her enviable figure to seduce Demesne, but she had adopted an altogether different wardrobe since the departure of her daughter, Stephania, three months ago. Salvaza curtsied and bowed her head to the Silent Queen. Her page sketched a low bow, a wary cast to his gaze.

‘Good morning, all.’

The Silent Queen had yet to be formally crowned, so she was queen in name only. Technically, the duchess outranked her, but Salvaza didn’t have the Myrmidons under her command.

‘I do so look forward to news of our belated elections.’

Salvaza Prospero’s smile failed to reach her eyes. Anea Oscuro Diaspora, the real Silent Queen, had offered her fledgling republic the chance to choose a ruler; now Eris found herself burdened with the promise.

‘That should make for an interesting session,’ said Simonetti, earning him a sharp look from the Domina. Salvaza curtsied and retired to one side of the Ravenscourt.

Maestro Fidelio and his wife waddled in, followed by a dozen courtiers and aides of various houses minor. The maestro governed House Erudito, Demesne’s seat of learning.

At least these two can be relied on to stay silent, signed Eris.

‘They know which side their bread is buttered on,’ agreed the Domina.

‘Both sides if I had to guess,’ muttered Simonetti, earning him another sour look, this time from both of the women. ‘Yes, well, if you’ll excuse me I need to ah . . .’ Simonetti crossed the room to Duchess Prospero, who looked unsettled by the newest arrival to the Ravenscourt.

Marchesa Contadino, Medea to her confidants, and more recently canoness, entered the hall. She displayed great presence despite her small stature. The white and blue robes of her order lent her a luminous quality in the darkness. Another sister of Santa Maria walked at her shoulder, Agostina, who it was said had nursed Medea through grief-stricken days verging on madness. Agostina’s eyes glittered blue and green in the candlelight, whereas the canoness’s gaze showed only darkness. It was the look of revenge waiting to be unleashed. The canoness and the sister approached the Myrmidon throne and bobbed curtsies, not nearly deep enough for Eris’s taste. Medea flashed a cold look at Duchess Prospero before retiring to the opposite side of the Ravenscourt.

‘I wish she had fled Demesne with her children,’ said the Domina, a note of regret in her whispered words.

The next man to enter was not of noble stock but a representative of House Del Toro. He had adopted Anea’s dreams of a republic without a moment’s pause. Drago Romanucci was nut brown in the way of men who worked through the seasons; he walked with a soldier’s contempt. His tremendous disdain for the Ravenscourt, worn so clearly on his face, was matched only by his physique. A grey and white cloak lay across one vast shoulder, battered boots reaching powerful thighs. A fine sword, which he wore to the Ravenscourt with a flagrant disregard for etiquette, rested in a white enamelled scabbard. The blade was a none-too-polite reminder that House Del Toro were militant supporters of Lord Contadino. And never more so since his murder. Drago Romanucci gave a perfunctory nod as he crossed the room and stood close to Medea like a faithful hound.

* * *

Other houses – Elemosina, Sciaparelli, Shiavone, even the far-off Previdente – had sent representatives. They were second sons or daughters playing at the role of emissary, pursuing petty politics. They made furtive deals or sated selfish pleasures. Some were simply unwanted cousins, sent far from their estates. Various scribes and messengers filtered in, but few if any displayed enthusiasm. The nobili faked polite bows and curtsies when necessary, but the majority wore their feelings on their faces: disapproval, distrust, disappointment.

I see House Albero have failed to send a representative. Again.

‘There are strong indications they’re aligning with House Contadino of late,’ replied the Domina from behind her hand. ‘Word has reached me that the children were sent there following Emilio’s death.’

Eris sighed, eyes scouring Landfall’s finest. She struggled to find a single soul she had a kind word for.

I used to think Demesne was the arena for those who dreamed of power, signed Eris, turning to take the throne. The Domina stood before her, blocking her gestures from the few who could decipher them.

‘And now?’

We seem to be a dumping ground for the dispossessed; a latrine for the waste others would flush away. Half the people in this room only care for themselves. The other half hate us.

‘I’d say it was a good deal more than half.’

Which?

‘That hate us,’ replied the Domina, ‘although the groups aren’t mutually exclusive.’

Eris was tired of the Domina’s constant complaints, of her sour demeanour, of the blank look that haunted her eyes. But there was one Eris loathed more than even the Domina. He was late of course.

Dottore Allattamento, veteran of the Verde Guerra, physician to any number of nobles in Demesne. He’d recently begun teaching a new intake of students at House Erudito. This alone was a source of disgust to Eris. The dottore had an impeccable bedside manner, but his skills were questionable at best. And there was the none-too-small issue that he’d failed to save her brother.

Sabatino. The name entered her like a knife.

Dottore Allattamento bowed at the throne from the far end of the Ravenscourt, wary of approaching. He was dressed in a severe frock coat of black damask and grey striped britches, clean shaven with hair cut short in the way of soldiers. The dottore took a position alongside Viscount Datini, who paid him a retainer for his services and provided an apartment in House Fontein. Eris found it difficult to drag her eyes away from the man. She wanted to make him suffer. She wanted to make him hurt in the way she did. She wanted him sleepless and despairing during the small hours.

‘Do you want to start? Or should I wait for you to finish glowering at your subjects?’ said the Domina, clutching her silver staff with impatience.

I may start by sending you to the oubliette, signed Eris, the motions short and sharp, seeing as you are so fond of the place.

‘Wouldn’t it be convenient if you could rid yourself of me so easily,’ said the Domina through a sneer. ‘Perhaps you’ll find yourself there one day.’ The Domina turned her back before Eris could respond, slamming the silver staff against the floor three times. The Ravenscourt dropped to one knee.

‘This session of the Ravenscourt is open. You may bring your concerns before Lady Aranea Oscuro Diaspora.’

Eris fidgeted. How she hated that name. How she hated to be reminded of being merely a copy, a splendid fake, a counterfeit queen.

Duchess Prospero cleared her throat and the Domina nodded.

‘Lord and ladies of Landfall, fellow cittadini of Santa Maria, select of Demesne, the elections we were promised back in Ottobre have yet to materialise. Has Lady Aranea Oscuro Diaspora has reneged on her promise for a fair and democratic republic?’

Eris began signing immediately, the Domina giving voice to the words that tripped from her fingertips.

‘As you are aware, our finances have not recovered from the formation of the Myrmidons –’

‘And whose fault is that?’ complained someone from the back of the Ravenscourt.

Eris continued, the Domina glowering at the heckler ‘– and we have yet to stabilise the economy or the conditions of those who work the land. The last thing we need is an election, throwing an already struggling system into flux.’

‘My lady, Domina,’ rumbled Simonetti. ‘If I might add something?’

‘Please do,’ replied the Domina, failing to conceal a sneer.

‘As archivist, I recommend we divert money from our extensive war chest to other pursuits, such as reopening the library and furnishing a new apothecary.’

Eris all but rolled her eyes. This was Simonetti’s favourite song, and he never tired of it. She’d considered giving in just to silence the man.

‘You can’t eat books, and people can’t afford medicine when they can barely feed themselves.’ Marchesa Contadino had swept onto the floor, placing herself directly before the throne. 'None of this would have happened had you not formed the Myrmidons. How much money have you spent creating swords and armour for your new army?’

Eris’s fingers flicked and danced; the Domina watched and translated.

‘I rule Demesne and I decide how the treasury is spent, after taking advice from the Domina naturally.’

‘How convenient,’ shouted the marchesa, ‘when it was you two who decided to arm these creatures and to spend our taxes feeding and housing them.’

A sickened hush fell on the Ravenscourt.

It was no secret that the Myrmidons were not entirely human. Eris signed her riposte to the Domina. Tell this bitch that Lucien Marino’s strength grows by the day; we have to protect ourselves.

The Domina nodded, turning to Marchesa Contadino.

‘Lady Aranea Oscuro Diaspora says she is greatly troubled by developments in the south, and that her only wish is that Demesne and Santa Maria stay protected in the years ahead.’

Eris shifted on the throne and skewered the Domina with a stare.

Marchesa Contadino took a step toward the dais, looking up at the women with cold fury. Eris realised her mistake. The Sisters of Santa Maria often took vows of silence, emulating Anea, even down to her use of the silent language.

The marchesa raised her voice. ‘That’s not what she said!’ Medea Contadino turned to the assembled nobles.

‘What did she say, ah, I mean, sign?’ said Simonetti. Eris glowered at him.

‘She signed, “Tell this bitch that Lucien Marino’s strength grows by the day; we have to protect ourselves.” ’

‘Oh dear,’ said Simonetti and began to polish his optics.

‘Lucien Marino’s strength only grows because the cittadini are fleeing to him for better lives. The formation of the Myrmidons caused this; they were never a reaction to southern aggression.’

She turned back to Eris and pointed a finger. ‘Best remember that this bitch understands the silent language.’

Eris turned to the Domina and made a fist, pointing her thumb toward the floor. Moments later Myrmidons were dragging the marchesa from the Ravenscourt, and Agostina along with her.

Lock them up for an hour or two, then throw them out onto the street, where they belong.

‘You shouldn’t have done that,’ said Domina. ‘Opposing the church is dangerous, no matter how annoying their spokesperson.’

Just be grateful I did not send you with them.

The rest of the session dragged through the long hours of the afternoon, Eris struggling to bring her full attention to the task, haunted by the Domina’s words.

I’d say we’re well acquainted with hell already, but some are more reluctant to admit it than others.

---

The Girl on the Liar's Throne, the third book in Den Patrick's gothic and glorious Erebus Sequence, is out on 21 January from Gollancz. Buy it now from Foyles, Waterstones or your local independent bookstore. You can even find signed copies at Forbidden Planet.