When it came again to the question, it is Gavin who suggests that they start at the head of the council table and then go round deosil so see where the thinking was. There had been enough shouting for one evening, and they all need to catch the scant sleep they could before the barrage that followed every nightfall began.
Mab, Ardry’s Queen, who most now considered a widow, begins. She speaks for House Gwydion in a voice that was once light and music. “I have not changed my mind in the past few days. They have finally come for us, and…the King will not return. The stone is broken – there will be no new King. Not for us. Perhaps there will be a new throne for the beast of Balor to sit upon, for I shall break my husband’s seat before I suffer such a thing to happen. Now you sit here waiting for the end, or you flee, and think of revenge, or you go out and die fighting valiantly. I care not, as I have already said. I have chosen my end.” As she speaks, her shapely hands clench and her long fingers flutter. In her grief and anger, it is hard to look at her at all, but the movement in the otherwise still room cannot be missed.
Next, Dutchess Lydia of Fiona straightens in her chair. There is still a smudge of blood beneath her bright green eye. Her mouth pulls taught in a firm line. “I will not surrender to those…things out there. Never. Perhaps we can still hold. Perhaps…something will happen. There are still some we have not heard from – ” she cuts off Duke Niels and he shakes his head “from some quarter we have not seen. And even if there is not…I will not surrender. That is that. You leave, and there will be more for me and mine.”
Usually patient, the newly raised Duke Niels of House Doughal shrugs his huge shoulders. He will never be accustomed to the company of Sidhe. “I think this war is over. We’ve lost hold after hold; glen, trod and moon-gate have been taken. We are scattered and trapped, each in his own hold, waiting. Perhaps…they were right, about one thing at least. Perhaps it is time for the throne to change hands.” There is tension, and he pushes through. “Perhaps. Anyway, we’re fucked good and deep, and it won’t stop anytime soon. Calling it something else won’t change that. So we take what we have now and we call it.” He leans back when done, huge arms folded over his breastplate, and looks to Gavin.
The one Scathach present has no title. His House forbids it. Yet he commands some of the best warriors left to the Summer Court, and the fidelity of his house to the Seelie Code is above question. After a few false starts, he speaks, as if to himself. “There is still one hope. There is Jason.” Mab sneers; Lydia rolls her eyes; Khalid’s dark eyes are unreadable; Silis sighs. “My House will stay and fight to the last if we must, but I see little hope in it. A new King -” He stops when he sees the look on the Queen’s face and says no more.
Even though he is an Eshu, a commoner, Khalid’s voice is a match for any Sidhe. It is the sound of the night sky. “I have spoken with the commoner council that now heads House Liam. “He says it without a hint or irony or defensiveness, both of which would be forgiven. “We believe that the Summer Court should surrender, and that is our vote. If we fight and lose, we will be gone. Broken forever. If we fight and win, what will we win, when it is finally done? How many dreams will die in the meantime? Will we ever recover? There is the rumor…that we do not return…anymore. If that is true, we must end it. Now.”
“It is not a rumor.” Silisetheleen, now speaking for House Eiluned, like a knife in each noble heart. Her sightless eyes are unflinching. “We do not return. That door is closed. Every death is like cold iron – pain, and then you are no more. Mortal. Sundered. Shadow. Void. The Winter Court as well. The world no longer sees by our light. We are answers to a question that is no longer asked. We will fade. This is our last war.”
“It isn’t our fault, you know. There is nothing we can do. We are in the grip of forces far beyond ourselves. Perhaps, when time turns, we will turn as well, but I cannot see very far. The horizon is quite close, and beyond it, only emptiness.”
“I say this so that we do not needlessly squander any life, any moment, until the end. What do we do? I do not know. What will be…will be.”