VIRTUTIS ET CONSOLATIONIS
My name is Malcanthet, the Succubus Queen. The Empress of Love, the Meretrix. Greatest daughter of the First Monster, the only one who had a chance at usurping the Mother from her throne. I am love and hate, courage and fear. All who see me love me, and despair.
But I was betrayed. Cast out of my home, first by Necessarius and their bombs, then by those rats who had called themselves my succubi. Agrat Bat Mahlat refused to shelter me, choosing instead to steal my broken throne. Naamah set her hounds on me, her spies and her shadows. Even Xinivrae, my own dear sister, refused to lend me aid when I needed it most.
So I escaped. I fled my city, my home, and found a new one. Not for long, I told myself. I only needed a few weeks, just long enough to lick my wounds and regain my power. In the meantime, my Riven, those most loyal to my heart, would remain behind. They would prepare the city for my return, remind the people who and what was coming for them.
But weeks turned to months. Months turned to years.
And then my sister died. Xinivrae, my blood, my love. Killed by one of my own. Poor lost, frightened little Ling. She had tried to cast aside the mantle of the succubus, but I knew that she was still mine.
They were all still mine.
America had gone to war against my Domina, my home, my betrayers. I had supported them as much as I could, in my own way. I didn’t send any Riven, of course, but I sent money. A few more of those echoes, a few more lamps. Whispers about how to fight vampires, suggestions about how to kill trolls.
Well, now America had lost. Been sent home with their tail between their legs. I was disappointed, at first. But perhaps it was for the best. My home would still be there when I returned. My betrayers would still be waiting to be punished.
And I knew just how to do it.
Domina had sent ambassadors. A pretty name for a band of bickering warlords. I knew most of them. I owned some of them. And I would own all of them. They would return to Domina and throw open the gates for me. I would remind the city of why I was queen.
Then I would speak to my mother. One last time.
But not now. Right now, other things were on my mind. There was a man kneeling before my throne. A baseline, but only because all of my people in this cursed city were baseline. No toy maker meant no improvements. No change. Nothing at all but the same faces, with flaws I couldn’t fix. Weaknesses I couldn’t remove.
“Speak,” I said. My voice was honey and chocolate, warm and sweet. I had spent years perfecting it. Even without my pheromones, anyone who heard it would shiver in delight.
The man remained kneeling. “Your Majesty. We have captured three spies at the cafe across the street.”
I smirked. I did so love when a trap justified its expense. How much had that silly little cafe cost over the years? And yet, on the rare occasions when fools actually attempted to spy on me, it proved worth a thousand times what I had spent on it. I had agents in all sorts of interesting places thanks to that little cafe.
“Who are they?” I asked. “More FBI? Or has the CIA finally decided that I’m worth the trouble?”
“They are Dominites, Your Majesty.”
I frowned, and sat up. “What?”
“At least one of them is. Most likely all three, but—”
I stopped listening. My mind was racing. Who could have found me? I never left Miomanta. None of my Riven here were given any obvious signs I owned them. No tattoos or emblems, and they weren’t allowed to take drug tests. Even the Dominite girl shouldn’t have aroused suspicion, if she had been tracked.
That meant whoever it was knew the meaning of Miomanta. That was a very short list of people.
“These Dominites,” I said. “Describe them.”
“Two baselines and a demon. Baselines are male and female, possibly native New Yorkers. Demon is female. Horns, eyes, teeth, and a tail.”
I frowned. That didn’t sound like anyone I knew. Unless they changed their toys since I had left the city. Which was possible, but it was more likely that they had simply sent one of their underlings. Yes… that made more sense. Still a bit improbable, as it required a warlord to hear about this domain, but not too wild.
“Put them in the Red Playroom,” I said. “Tie them up, and keep guards watching them at all times. Especially the demon.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
I waved my hand, and he rose to leave. I plucked some grapes from a bowl next to my throne. It was being held by a pretty young woman in a gauzy harem dress.
My Riven stopped, looking back.
I raised an eyebrow. “Yes?”
“Your Majesty… I assumed you would wish to interrogate them immediately.”
“In time. But not immediately, no. Give them a few hours to stew.”
The Riven bowed low. “Of course, Your Majesty. Apologies for my impertinence.”
I waved him off again. This time he left without turning back.
I smiled to myself. Yes, a few hours should be enough. But I wasn’t going to be sitting around doing nothing during that time. These intruders might not be spies, but scouts. Domina had sent ambassadors to this city—what if they had snuck in an army? It would have to be a small one, of course, but Dominite armies did not have to be large to be dangerous. If the ambassadors themselves decided to fight me, I would find it difficult to drive them off.
Of course, I had spent five years preparing for an attack. I was not a fool like my sister, wallowing in my own hedonism.
I snapped my fingers. A man appeared next to my throne instantly. He was baseline, just like all the others, but wore enough tactical gear to weigh down a giant. He had at least six guns, a Kevlar vest, and a riot helmet under his arm. And those were just the things I could easily identify. I was sure he had explosives stashed somewhere on his person.
“Yes, Your Majesty?”
“Assemble the Malcatari,” I said. “All of them. Equip them, and ready them for an attack. Tell them to assemble in the entrance hall.”
“Of course, Your Majesty.” He bowed slightly. “But if I may ask, who are we expecting to attack?”
Behind the Scenes (scene 305)
Ah, Malcanthet. I’ve been waiting to use her for so long. I’m still not sure I properly portrayed her odd mentality, but this is the best of my attempts.