Cersei is uptown, gloss and money, high-class parties and social graces and the gnawing ennui beneath. The white queen of New York, golden and glorious - a whitewashed tomb, gilded and false. Once she thought the night was hers, and she acts like she still does. But she is clawing to stay atop the heap, clawing and burning and fearing that any moment could be the moment she meets her end, that any hand could wield the stake.
She is not the only queen in New York.
Melisandre is lower Manhattan, the furthest edge where the streets' neat grid comes unlaced and wanders toward the water, grit and conversations in worn brick doorways and the garbage bin fire to warm lost men's hands. A red queen, red for blood, red for life. Instead of seeming like their kind concentrated down to its basest level she seems unnatural, alluring or frightening by turns, with a pull like that of blood itself.
Both had kings once.
Cersei never says she did, but everyone remembers her mirror image, the warrior in gold. Most think he fell after a long fight, overwhelmed by impossible odds. Only Cersei saw what was left of him when he was found at last in a hunters' stronghold, torn apart. Only Cersei heard his whispered plea and gave him his wish.
Melisandre never speaks of hers. He'd told her to stay, to wait, to protect things while he was gone and it wouldn't take long, only a few hunters and wasn't that the sort of thing he'd destroyed a thousand times before? He'd lingered for days after the stake pierced him, stubborn to the last, and she could feel him fading alone in a cold alley but could not find him though she tore the city apart in her anguish. She'd felt it when he died, heard her name on his lips.
In that, Melisandre and Cersei are alike.
They stand at the center, the seething heart of the city of cities, white for death and red for blood, caring not at all for those caught in the maelstrom they create between them. Perhaps they are two sides of the same coin, perhaps the same side on different coins. Melisandre has no use for coins and Cersei has too many. They fight for themselves, for those they've lost, for New York itself, as if somehow ruling alone over all will set everything right, and there isn't enough room, isn't enough blood in all the world to fuel them or to shed to pay for what they can never have again.
Neither is certain that they hate the other. Both are certain that it doesn't matter if they do or not.
And night after night the city burns, in swaths of shattering glass and mortal and immortal flesh, until only the queens remain and the only thing left to win is to win.