At the Fountain's Verge

At the ball, Gwendoline eventually found Gennifer, who was dressed in a Corvid’s mask, but her voice and manner still gave her away.

Gwendoline, who always wore her mask of office, came in only the barest of costumes, carrying a basket full of apples polished to a shine — her mask ensured that everyone recognised her for who and what she was, and so did Gennifer. “Shaper,” Gennifer said when Gwendoline approached. They moved away from Gennifer’s friends and sat on the fountain’s verge, under the stars, listening to a pair of nightingales.

“How is Kirra?” Gwendoline asked.

There was an awkward silence, and Gennifer seemed unsure how to answer.

So Gwendoline said, “I’m sorry. That was inappropriate. I want you to know that I don’t hold you responsible any more.”

With her off-hand, she passed an apple to Gennifer from her basket, and took one for herself. Biting in to it was sweet, but not as sweet as seeing Gennifer biting in to her own.

When they parted, and Gwendoline was walking away, she thought of her sense of calm, and also of the first things the poison would do to Gennifer.