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tous les mêmes

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Ember thought Moon was the scariest Raksura imaginable before realizing that Moon was just a cranky line-grandfather trapped in a consort's body. But he's never going to meet a queen as terrifying as Moon's mother. He tries not to sweat, watches her brood over Indigo Cloud's best tea set across from Pearl.

"I heard," Malachite says, "that you almost threw my son out of your court."

Ember chokes on a lungful of air.

"Well," Pearl says, sweetly, "I heard that the Arbora in your court almost killed our first consort after he was dragged there on your orders."

The scar tissue of Malachite's wings glints in the low light. "I heard," she says in a low, whispery rumble that makes every individual hair on Ember's arms rise, "that you let him go."

In a fight, Malachite will tear Pearl apart. Ember swallows, licks his lips. He can…

"Stop scaring my consort," Pearl says, and takes an annoyed sip. "I only let this stubborn son of yours go so Jade could get him back, because nothing else was getting through. He's as paranoid as you are."

The pressure in the bower vanishes so abruptly Ember's ears pop. There's a sound like silver ingots tumbling together - Malachite's laughter.

"He thought this place worth coming back to," the old queen says. "For that, Pearl of the Indigo Cloud, I am grateful."

"And," she adds, "nobody yet called me paranoid to my face! I'm afraid I might like you."

She and Pearl turn to Ember, eerily similar, their eyes opaque with silver. "Ember," Pearl says, "go and rest."

"We're not going to fight," Malachite says, languidly, and lays her dark hand heavily on Pearl's wrist.

Ember bows to them and flees, resolving to let Moon figure this out for himself when he comes back.