A gaggle whispered cattily in the corner as late arrivals trickled into the hall. “The Maiden brought a guest?!” “I haven’t seen her with anyone since before the-” “Don’t say it! Do you want old sour fangs to go flying off again to his ‘Neverending Sky’?” “Yeah, he finally showed up. Who pulled that off?” “Oh, did you see who it is? “Who what is? What are you talking about?” “The Maiden’s date, er guest.” “Hm… I don’t think I’m going to spoil it for you. Just you wait.” Standing at a refreshment table trimmed far more plainly than this collection of grand beings would typically endure, the Silver Tongued Deceiver nursed a drink, an amber blend in a low glass. For once this trope of cultural misappropriation had dressed sensibly, though amongst the flamboyant and outlandish characters at the party his choice of a tailored burgundy suit and black shirt made him appear more the host than a guest. The Deceiver played at a lock of his long grey-white hair, uncharastically free from its braid and flowing down to his waist. Yellow eyes spotted a truly unique sight approaching and the snake’s grin peaked with newfound curiosity. “Unrisen, you are the last one I expected to see here, and I think I can say that honestly.” The Deceiver’s smooth voice was welcoming to anyone who didn’t know him. A specter of a man, the Unrisen Watcher was the only creature to speak for the Endless Void, or more appropriately from it. The fact that he was here, in person, was quite a feat. “I expect that makes you uncomfortable.” The Deceiver wasn’t sure if the question meant his honesty or the wraith’s presence. The answer was the same regardless, “Oh, I’m not one to turn down a new experience. Might I suggest a drink? This one is called an Old Fashioned, or I could get you a Hardball. These otherworld names are so much fun. Between the Sheets is a particular favorite.” Raising his hand more to show off his half-finished drink than to share it, the Deceiver was still disappointed when his new guest refused, an insubstantial hand waving it away. “I have unfortunately become quite familiar with these otherworlder terms. That is why I’ve come to the council. We have a matter of great importance to discuss.” “Council?” the snake chuckled. “Is that what you think this is? Nothing will get decided here. Oh, there will be plenty of gossip, and probably a few good insults. It’s a perfect place to collect dirt on our colleagues, but not get anything done. With all the curious new drinks, invites sent to the right social circles, and a few seeded rumors, it’s almost as if someone planned it this way.” The Deceiver’s eyes gleamed, giving away everything he intended. “Then we have already lost.” The wraith delivered his somber words with his same even tone. “I didn’t say you couldn’t talk to me.” The Deceiver put his arm around the wraith’s shoulder and a bit thru it, shivered, and quickly withdrew. “Oh, you are cold.” He pondered for a moment, scanning the room and noticing quite the draw of attention, even if most were keeping their distance. Not exactly subtle, were they? “How did you get out, anyway? You and the Transition were close once, were you not? But if that stare is meant for you… it can be hard to tell who the Transition is staring at-.” The Watcher either hadn’t noticed or didn’t care. “We were never close. I did The Transition’s bidding until I was no longer needed, and then I was thrown to the Void.” “How’s life in the… Void these days?” The Deceiver realized at once he’d slipped in a common tangent in the most uncommon of conversations and regretted it immediately. “We endlessly suffer, alone only with our fears. And more arrive every day.” For the first time, the wraith’s tone slid from steadfast into somber, and as slight as the change was the Deceiver could feel himself being pulled into that endless chasm that was the Void. He had nearly joined the Unrisen when the Premiere had locked him away after the Collapse; when his followers had been hunted to extinction. The mere existence of the Endless Void was the cruelest of jokes played only on the lost souls of the faithless and abandoned gods. With all of his will, the Deceiver pulled himself back from the edge. He was no longer abandoned. The Void had no claim on him. “Always so dramatic. I like that,” he smiled his charming smile. “On the bright side, you have more company.” The Watcher continued seemingly unphased by the Deceiver’s playful jabs, “Terror has returned to the world. The Ancients have returned, and none take action. That is why I have come. That is why I asked her for a favor.” Recognition finally dawned, though the Deceiver hid it with an eternity of practice. But something still tugged at his thoughts. “You are perhaps the only one I know who wants fewer followers. And yes, I am well aware of the Ancients’ return. Getting the rest of them to listen, however-” He interrupted himself, locating the question that had eluded him, “Wait, you asked who a favor? Oh, not her!?” Bobbing thru the crowd was that unmistakable nest of white hair belonging to the axe of the moon herself, the Pale Maiden. She’d taken some care to style the mop, though it was clearly resisting. Thankfully, her dress drew most of the attention. It was stunning, even the Deceiver had to admit, though only to himself. This was, regrettably, the new Pale Maiden. The Deceiver didn’t particularly like either of them, but this one from the other world, the one that sometimes called herself Saoirse, lacked her twin’s sensibilities… and apparently her alcohol tolerance. “Lewis, you said our deal was I got you to the council,” the Maiden stumbled into the Watcher, grabbing his arm for support. “and you’d be mine for the whole evening.” To the Deceiver’s surprise, she didn’t pass thru the wraith; in fact, she had no difficulty holding onto his intangible form. Her drink wasn’t so lucky, sloshing up and over its wide glass. The Watcher looked down as liquid gold poured thru him and onto the floor. “No, I said I would grant you any favor within my power.” “Lewis!-” A snicker came from below the table. The Deceiver cut it off with a well-placed stomp that landed with an unexpected squish. He prepared to cover up his odd behavior, but it was unnecessary. The Pale Maiden was dragging her companion into the crowd, their conversation trailing off. “Do you remember how we spent the week after the battle of Xiory…” “I have set free my memories to preserve my sani…” “Oh, this is an evening you won’t soon forg...” The Deceiver inconspicuously bent down to clean up the spilled drink. This task was beneath him, but it offered an opportunity. As he looked below the table, the horrible beauty that was the Mistress of Midnight came into view, hiding in the tablecloth’s shadow. Laying before her was a dwindling pile of olives, each skewered with a tiny sword. She bit down on one while slowly removing the miniature rapier. Her pleasure was palpable. “You are very lucky, worm, ” she threatened, flicking a sword at his shoe. “that I am no longer hungry.” Ignoring her awkward threat and the olives squished below his soul, the Deceiver asked, “You did hear that?” “My sister and her ex, I almost gagged.” “No, what the Unrisen said. Terror has returned as well. The situation is worse than we’d expected.” “Than YOU expected. This has nothing to do with me.” The Mistress’s attitude of disdain irritated the Deceiver. “Oh, I’m not the one who has to deal with Envy-” “Do not say that name here!” she shouted, before going silent. The two looked out at the room. A gaggle whispered cattily in the corner, pointing at an odd couple center stage, one of moonlit white and the other of wraith black failing miserably to dance while a crowd of flamboyant and outlandish characters mingled, gossiped, and threw a few good insults. With the Event, the gods of the other world, and even now the Unrisen Watcher leaving the Void, if only for one night, The Silver Tongued Deceiver had seen a lot of firsts recently, but this, this reunion, was probably the last.