“Do you remember, before the ordeal?” Raguel said. He tapped gently at Lectra’s armor. “Before…this?”

The Grand Scholar turned away. “Yes,” she said. The word sounded hollow, turned aside from within the armor like a glancing blow.

“You used to be so much sweeter, so much more affectionate,” the tiefling said. “The Dark Room changed all that.”

“It changes everything,” said Lectra. She didn’t need to add that was the point of the whole ordeal, letting it linger, unsaid and powerful.

“Now, seeing you again after so long…you seem to be a slave to your studies, to the arcane. Tell me, is there one hour, one moment of the day that you’re not thinking of your poisons and subtle curses?”

Lectra’s head lowered, and the armor rattled as her shoulders slumped a moment. “No,” she said, a single syllable with the outline of a sigh.

“Experimenting with poisons and curses on everyone and everything. Including me, of course. Your big experiment. To change the nature of a being and twist it to your will. Was it worth it? Was it worth making something–someone–so low that they had to look up to you like unto a goddess?”

The Grand Scholar turned, meeting Raguel’s line of sight with the eyeholes in her helmet. Then she lifted the visor, revealing the face the tiefling well remembered from the old days – melancholy, brow furrowed and eyes keenly intelligent, with a kind of quiet beauty. She was paler, thinner, almost ghostly. No hint of a smile, but not sorrowful either.

“I liked you enough to try and hide the worst things,” she said. “The Lectra you remember is only half what she ever was.”

“I sense a strange, restless, depression in you,” Raguel said. “I sometimes wondered if you resented the immortality, the armor, Nevra gifted you with. Now I think I know.”

Lectra closed the visor of her ornate helmet with a dull clang. “Think what you like,” she said, her tone once more harsh, metallic. “I have work to do.”

“As do I,” Raguel said. “A noble aasimar laid low to live as a tiefling. We are both living a mockery of what we once had, looking up to something at once alluring and unattainable. Is that not true?”

At this, the Grand Scholar stiffened a moment. Then, she slumped back and walked away. “It was nice to see you,” she said over her shoulder. “Don’t be a stranger.”

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