“Euryale.” Stheno nodded to her chainmail-clad sister, careful not to meet gray eyes. From the way silvery serpents coiled and hissed, the Council of Lords had put the younger medusa in a mood. And when she grew angry, Euryale’s gaze was deadly. “I was only thinking on our bargain with Beniryuu.” Stheno sighed. “After the Last War, I had hoped to go back to my woodland glade. Yet here I remain, caged even as those young humans in the other world are, so you may guard me when my spirit walks in a dragon’s waking dream. It’s oddly fitting.”
Euryale scowled, claws stroking air near the belt coil that held her spare bowstring. “Nothing to do with humans is fitting.”
Ah. So it’d been another battle with the Council over the young ones. Not surprising. “Then perhaps we should tell our fellow lords to stop thinking of those of SAO as human,” Stheno said, a bit more sharply than she’d intended. Euryale might champion her vision in public, and save her doubts for the privacy of her sister’s garden, but Stheno was not another weak-willed courtier currying favor. Even if her strength was in divination, not the battlefield. “Some of them are not, even now. And many more of them will be youkai, before Beniryuu’s arcane device runs its course. That their adoption is only of the spirit – for now – and not of the body, makes it no less real.” Her breath caught. “Especially for the warlocks.”
“Warlocks.” Euryale’s scowl deepened. “Creating warlocks. This is madness.”
Stheno cast her a look askance.
“Your power is controlled, sister,” Euryale admitted, grudging every word. “You rule the wild magic that flows through you. But you have a medusa’s will, and millennia of discipline to chain your power. How could any magicless human ever hope to do the same?” She snarled under her breath. “Human warlocks, told they’re sorcerers instead. Sorcerers told they’re wizards! Sister – you can’t think this will work!”
“Remaking the rules of magic, so we may shape it in our favor? It might,” Stheno said thoughtfully. “With an arcane device, with a great dragon’s will to draw all the power of a planar conjunction, with thousands of souls fighting for survival who do not know what magic cannot do… it just might.”
“But warlocks?” Euryale’s lip curled in disbelief.
“The daelkyr went to great lengths to eliminate any Moonswords – and any warlocks who might become Moonswords – they could find,” Stheno reminded her. “Powers they fear, we should nurture. And if we can train Moonswords, restoring the gifts the Gatekeepers struggled to keep alive these six thousand years, only to mourn them as lost to human hate and vengeance… then we may find allies in the Shadow Marches.” And we need allies, sister. We need them. More than you can imagine.