Jon really should've known better than to send her on this trip.
"I am somewhat surprised that the famed Lioness has so little to say," he'd said from behind her, and she'd caught a faint whiff of cinnamon and blushed. "Your outspokenness is legend, even here in Carthak, Sir Alanna."
She had bitten back her instinctive sharp response, and found herself tongue-tied.
The Emperor simply smiled. "Perhaps you would be more comfortable speaking out in private," he said, practically oozing consideration. "Shall we?"
Alanna was many things, but she was not a fool. She knew exactly what a private conference with the Emperor meant.
She followed him anyway.
He was weirdly, almost disturbingly, more attentive than any of her other lovers. He did not so much as loosen a tie on his clothes until after he had her utterly naked in his bed, trembling at every expert touch of his fingers.
"So even the great Lioness is only a woman in bed," he said, voice as cool as his amber eyes, and only the fact that she was too exhausted to move kept him from getting punched. She scowled at him anyway, and he laughed.
That had been the first night, and the next morning, when the diplomatic conference went better than anticipated, she knew it was only partly because of Daine.
The second night, he had been rage, barely tamed. The Stormwing's gift was a sly insult, and everyone knew it; only his iron self-control and knowledge that she had not been the one to offer the insult spared her from his wrath. Only the fact that he wasn't angry at her spared him from hers.
The encounter that night was fierce and bruising, and even more silent than the previous night. This was another kind of war, Alanna thought, and she never ran from a battle.
The next day's conference didn't go so smoothly. Alanna was entirely unsurprised.
The third night, Alanna had still been unsettled from the gods-damned boats. If the Emperor had been unsettled by the walking statue, he'd reacted by turning even more self-assured than before.
"How did you like my fleet?" he asked, leaning over her.
There was no polite answer she could give, and he knew it. She wondered distantly, as his hands traveled confidently over her body, if she'd already lost.
The next day, the conference was still stalled. That night, there were rats, and an impromptu execution, and Alanna was no stranger to omens and portents, and knew in her bones that Carthak was teetering on collapse.
"You've already lost," she said that night, hand rising to touch her ember.
"What makes you think that?" the Emperor said, almost a snarl, as he shoved her back onto the bed.
She said nothing, only smiled. Inside, though, was a ball of worry that wouldn't leave.
She was no stranger to plots and schemes, either. The next day, when Daine was missing and the Emperor stood and accused her of treason and threw them all out of Carthak, and shot one smug, knowing glance at Numair, Alanna couldn't have been less surprised. She was certainly expecting it when Numair refused to leave.
She was a little disappointed, later, that she hadn't had a hand in bringing this villain down. It left things … unfinished, she mused, fingering her ember again and thinking of shades of red and yellow.
Yes, Jon really should've known better than to send her on this trip, Alanna thought.
Then again, he'd never known about Roger.