Lotus and Çrom didn’t resume at that time, however. Lotus seemed to recognise the distress Çrom was still feeling, even though by now he considered himself to be fairly adept at hiding it. In fact, he reflected sheepishly, if he’d put as much effort into honing his lovemaking as he had to keeping the horrors of undying from showing on his face, he might have been famous for more than just … walking across the urverse and getting killed every time he stopped for a sandwich, as Lotus had so succinctly put it.
“So,” he said, after they’d gotten dressed but settled down comfortably close to one another in Lotus’s little pile of mystic-looking mess. “You’re not just trying to get me on side so you can try for immortality. Your ultimate goal here is to get me to abandon my quest for death, at which point you’ll spring it on me.”
“At no point have I given up on my goal,” Lotus said. “But our goals are interwoven, Sorry Çrom Skelliglyph.”
Çrom had always disliked being addressed by his classical title. He was surprised to find that it didn’t hurt so much, coming from Lotus. Surprised, and a little worried. “As interwoven as our bodies in the throes of passion?” he suggested floridly.
“Even more so,” she replied with her usual merciless accuracy. “There is a risk, after all, that I may die before you achieve a state of acceptance. I would be unable to complete my commission.”
“I like to think your professional pride would force you to bend on that,” Çrom said, “if it looked like you were about to die.”
“I am mortal,” Lotus shrugged. “I could die today.”
“Only if you keep killing me and screwing me for the next eight or nine hours,” Çrom said lightly rather than think about that. “But as happy as I am to keep trying it this way, I did already admit to you that my immortality isn’t sexually transmissible.”
“So did you have a plan for gaining immortality?” he asked. “A plan involving me, but preferably not involving trying to steal the Dark Queen’s Chalice, or freeing the dread Ghåålus so we can kick Him in the nads together as a couple?”
“As a matter of fact I do,” she said.
And then she told him her plan, involving him, for gaining immortality.
“Alright,” Çrom said after a long, awestruck pause.
“‘Alright’?” Lotus repeated in surprise.
Çrom drew in a deep breath. “The best sort of boots for kicking a Ghåålus in the crotch is a pair with good ankle support-”
“That load of high-yield irredeemable twaddle you just told me,” Çrom declared, “is without a doubt the stupidest plan for gaining immortality I have ever heard. Why not just shoot straight at glorification? Cut out the middle steps. Which, just to reiterate, are stupid steps?” he added. “I can probably pull a few strings, get you a-”
“No,” Lotus said. “I am a murderer many times over,” she smiled sadly. “Those such as I do not become Angels, Çrom.”
“Get out,” Çrom scoffed. “I didn’t think there was any other way to become an Angel. They’d probably promote you straight to blackwing.”
“You are mistaken,” Lotus said. “And besides, a Demon has greater freedom, and greater power. Would you not consider a Demon to be a worthy companion, if it came to that? A lover that you would not have to lose?”
“Until some determined Demon-slayer … well, slew you.”
“There is another method we might try,” Lotus said, “for ending your life, once I am a Demon. I am not convinced it would work, but it might appeal to you.”
“Were I to gain the power of a Demon,” Lotus said, “and should the information I have collected prove accurate, I could set you adrift in God-space.”
Çrom stared. “What good would that do?”
“As much as dropping you into the Liminal, in terms of robbing the dread Ghåålus of entertainment … except I understand you would not die of thirst or lose your mind,” Lotus said.
“That’s true,” Çrom replied. “Getting broken down and digested by God-space is much worse.”
“Have you tried being absorbed into the underdark?”
“No,” Çrom admitted grudgingly. “But I imagine I’d return to the nearest convenient point of reality, with a precious new death memory to enjoy,” he shuddered. “No. No. No underdark.”
Lotus shrugged. “As you wish. I did tell you I would not conduct any further experiments, after all. No more deaths until your final death,” she promised. “At least by my hand.”
Çrom looked at her in affectionate puzzlement. “You really think you have it,” he said. “Don’t you?”
“No, Sorry Çrom Skelliglyph,” the Black Lotus said firmly. “I know I have it.”
“But before you spring it on me,” he summarised, “we’re going to descend into Castle Void and steal the dark gift of diabolisation from the Adversary.”
“And then use that power to leverage your promotion to the Earthly Heralds or the Archangelic court or – what exactly?”
“It hardly matters,” Lotus said. “By the time we are done, my past will be wiped clean by the service I have done. I will not even need to kill you to ensure my legacy,” she smiled. “But I will, nevertheless.”
Çrom shook his head. “Lotus,” he said, and touched her tangled coils of hair. “Nothing so gentle. You’re a thistle, a gympie gympie … no, a stinging nettle, I think.”
The Black Lotus grinned. “And I would have all of Castle Void feel my sting,” she whispered.
– Posted from my Huawei mobile phone while sitting in the carpark.