"You," the Archon said, slamming open the heavy wooden door.
The masked figure chained to the stone wall looked up weakly, and said nothing. The Archon stomped up, cape swirling in the still air, face brimming with rage, eyes subtly aglow.
"Challenging me already?" the Archon said, ripping the mask off. Blond hair spilled out, and Rosalind's eyes glared out at her captor through dark bruises. "I expected resistance, yes, but not stupidity."
Rosalind hung from her chains in silence.
"At least it looks like you've paid for your brashness," the Archon sneered. "I hope those hurt."
Rosalind stared stoically.
"I suggest you speak to me," the Archon said, "I'm looking for someone to make an example of. If you persist in this disrespect I might just make it you."
Rosalind shifted, chains clinking. Her eyes glazed over, as if listening to something distant. Then she broke into song, a calm alto a cappella:
"There was no damage when I took my leave
And trod between the sphere and weave.
My plot was subtle; I'm afraid
the prize I'd seen and hoped I could retrieve
Became the price I paid."
The Archon digested this. "Serves you right," he said. "At least you're not denying it. What made you think you could get away with it?"
"Dear Keeper, I object," Rosalind sang. "For I believe
I broke none of the laws you laid."
"Stop that damn singing!" he snapped, pacing around. "And I told you quite clearly any intrusions as the Changes unfolded would be dealt with harshly."
Rosalind smiled. "You told us any violations of the rules would be dealt with harshly. You were quite clear on that point. Your rules very specifically don't forbid interventions."
The Archon whirled. "I said --"
Rosalind's voice shifted to match the Archon's -- "'I don't want to see any of you on the Weave. For any reason whatsoever. It does not belong to you, and I'm going to make that painfully clear to anyone who thinks otherwise'" -- and then back. "What you want is immaterial, Keeper. We all have rules to follow. If I have broken one of them, show me, and I swear to you with whatever oath you desire I will avoid breaking it again. Otherwise, unchain me, and leave me to my wanderings."
The Archon's eyes flared into blank white light. "You want to see what rules you've broken?" he thundered. "Very well."
He grabbed Rosalind by the chin, jerked her head forward, and stared into her eyes. Her body stiffened, then spasmed. The Archon stepped back as she sagged wordlessly in her chains.
"You visited the Weave," he said hollowly. "You ... saved one of them. From a car accident." He blinked, and the glow in his eyes subdued itself. "Hence your injuries, I assume."
Rosalind gasped, but said nothing.
The Archon's eyes again glowing fiercely: "You ... moved him elsewhere. He awoke 24 hours later." The light in the Archon's eyes faded and he seemed to refocus on the room. "I cannot see his new life significantly affecting the Weave. Nor his influence on those around him. Nobody whatsoever saw you." He began pacing again. "Unbelievable. You did follow the letter of the law. You didn't even tell him your name."
Rosalind chuckled, softly, like the tinkling of crystal. "How could I?"
The Archon's eyes narrowed. "You know what I mean. You didn't identify yourself. You didn't even communicate with him. He --" the Archon frowned. "Though clearly, from what he's done since, he saw you. I see. Singer, if you ever take this form again or discuss this persona with him, I will take it as evidence of major thread-tampering and react quickly and accordingly."
"I understand and accept, Keeper," Rosalind said. Her face, her form, gradually softened into an amorphous humanoid blur. "Is that all? I'm sure you have many violations to attend to."
"Answer me this question first."
"Yes?" the singer asked, its voice again perfectly indistinct.
"Why?" the Archon asked.
"Why?" the Archon repeated. "Self-sacrifice is very unlike your kind. If you truly wish me to believe you broke no rules, explain what you think you have to gain from your generosity."
The singer cocked its head, listening. Far in the distance, a faint chorus had changed its tune.
The singer quickly picked up the melody, substituting its own words:
"You and I and they have learned
What it will take to win.
And someday, when the weave is turned,
The scramble will begin.
Every dreamer I save
From a merciless grave
Is one whose support I have earned.
If you wish to avoid
Those who'd see you destroyed,
Preparedness is hardly a sin."
The Archon listened, then chuckled. "It's always the game with you lot, isn't it?" He waved a hand, and the singer's manacles popped open. "Someday, when the Archon is struck down, things will change. Well --" and he swept toward the door with a flourish -- "good luck with that, singer."
The blurry form sagged to the ground, listening to the fading sounds of the Archon's retreat. Finally, some time after the noises had vanished beneath the whispers of the distant chorus, the singer got up ...
And threw back its head in a long, exuberant laugh.