Red Lake Castle was a hulking, crimson structure with a tower on its northwestern corner that rose much higher than any of its others. The castle also had a port all its own, hidden away beneath the platform, allowing Mariana to take her boat right into its welcoming underbelly. She found Emiliana waiting for her inside, along with Chergoa and Octavia.
Emiliana looked relieved to see her mother. Until she saw Marcos’ body.
“He is going to be fine,” said Mariana. The four small horns on her daughter’s face did not escape her notice, but reacting to them now would serve no purpose, she felt. Instead, she turned to Octavia. “I would like to speak with my daughters in private. Do you have a room we can use?”
“Of course. Follow me.” The old woman led Mariana’s group to a nearby elevator.
Ramira hadn’t said a word this whole time. Mariana shifted Marcos over to her right arm and held her left hand out for the girl. Ramira took it and walked with her.
The journey was painfully quiet.
Shenado took the opportunity to ask a private question. ‘So when are you going to ask me to release your soul?’
Mariana only glanced at her.
‘I know you’re considering it,’ the reaper said.
‘I am more than considering it.’
‘Oh, so you didn’t think you needed to ask, then. You’re just assuming I have no problem with letting you go and taking on your son as my servant, is that it?’
‘I do not see many options, Shenado.’
‘Yes, but are you sure this is the best one?’
Mariana gave the reaper a hard look. ‘You are telling me to let my son die.’
‘I am telling you not to abandon the rest of your children. The whole reason you chose to stay in Aguarey today was because you refused to leave them alone while Zeff was away. And now? We still don’t know what has become of him. They may have already lost their father. Are you going to deprive them of their mother, as well? They need you now more than ever.’