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Widow and Casualty

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To serve the Spider, one must be methodical in building a web and tireless at spinning threads. Willing to lie in wait for years without wavering in attention. Able to counter setbacks gracefully, reconnecting the tiniest strands of broken silk, always keeping in mind the long game. Rash judgements are not an option, only well-thought-out plans executed with patience.

Rosie Thames has been playing the long game for years. She doesn’t consider herself an impatient person.

That doesn’t stop her veins from freezing with frustrated anger when the End’s Casualty waltzes into the Institute ten minutes later than scheduled, bleeding profusely from a gash at her hairline, and announces, “I’m here to make a statement!” with a ghoulish grin.

Sighing inwardly, Rosie runs a hand gently through her hair in an attempt to self-soothe, letting the slight stickiness of spidersilk strands woven into it remind her of why she needs to stay calm. When she feels composed enough, she lifts her glance and scolds, “Ria Mirti, you are a walking statement, and you’d best not let anyone See you.”

The Casualty swipes one hand across her forehead, treating the blood that threatens to fall into her eyes like little more than sweat. “Oh come now, let me have some fun. Is there anything wrong with confusing the Watcher a little?”

The flash of playfulness that crosses her face is infuriating. Really, couldn’t the End have chosen someone a little more mature for this role?

Rosie supposes not. Ria’s childish flare for the dramatic is part of what makes her so effective at inspiring fear.

“The Eye will only play its role if its servants don’t know they’re confused,” she sighs, trying not to sound tired of repeating herself. “You’re fortunate the Head is distracted with his new Archivist right now.”

“Yeah, yeah.” With an unnecessarily pained groan, the Casualty sits down across from Rosie and closes her eyes, lapsing into a deep focus as she wills her own wound to close. When her eyelids flutter open again, brown irises sit in place of red ones. “Sooo, what do you want me to do? There’s got to be a reason you called me here.”

Rosie reflexively starts to protest the assertion, then stops as she registers the faint smirk quirking at the edges of the Casualty’s mouth. Provocation – a flustered response – is what’s wanted here, what’s expected. She refuses to give Ria that satisfaction. “The new Coroner needs a bit of a push,” she says instead. “He’s been wading in the shallows of Terminus for months, and - what ?”

The smirk has returned to the Casualty’s lips, accompanied by one raised eyebrow and shoulders that shudder slightly with silent laughter.

“Oh, nothing. Go on; I’m very curious about this ‘Coroner in the shallow End’ situation.”

Of course Ria would narrow in on the potential for a joke there. Rosie acknowledges her quip with nothing more than a mildly exasperated sigh before continuing onwards. “Well, his path to becoming has been… complicated by the presence of a fledgling Beholding avatar he seems to have gotten close to - one Gerard Keay.”

“Keay? As in-”

“Yes, as in Mary’s son.”

“Really? Last I heard, he was burning Leitners and making trouble for the Lightless Flame.”

The Casualty sounds preemptively dismissive in her recollections, and Rosie is only barely able to hold herself back from gritting her teeth as she replies, “Yes, well, he had the Beholding’s help in all of that.”

Huh . Who would’ve thought? Mary hated the Eye.” The words drip heavy with doubt.

This time, Rosie cannot keep the tense snap of irritation out of her tone as she replies. “You of all people should understand the desire to oppose a parent’s wishes.”

Every molecule of air in the room freezes, following Ria’s lead as she goes completely still – deathly still, Rosie thinks wryly to herself.

The Casualty’s eyes flash congealed-blood red in a weak, quavering threat. Rosie allows herself the smallest of laughs at the sight.

“I don’t like being mocked ,” Ria seethes, drawing herself up from the chair to full height.

The action is wobbly in spite of itself, insecure enough that Rosie doesn’t bother to match it.

As the Casualty spins on one combat-boot-clad heel to leave the Institute, Rosie calls a last warning after her. “Do yourself a favor and take Gerard seriously. He’s growing quite powerful these days.”