"I'm sure you're all wondering how I lost a card game to a monkey." The Lady announces to her New Year's party, deck of cards already in hand. Half the crowd recognizes it as soon as she begins to shuffle. If they don't notice how eagerly it bends to her desires, they can't miss the X clawed on each face in Master's blood.
"I came to the Neath for the things I cherish most. Stories to fill my library's shelves and time to spend with my loved ones." That, she says, is why she's invited her darling suitors, lovers, friends, and henchfolk to her spire-emporium to ring in the new year. The old year? If there's any consensus, it belongs to those wearing novelty glasses— smuggled from the Surface at great risk, no doubt— designed so that one's eyes look through the middle digits of 1900. A pair sits on the Lady's face, obscuring her vision when combined with the glasses she actually needs to see.
After a quick aside with the Belligerent Butch ("You're one of mine, but please, refresh me— wife or hoodlum?" "Both." "Excellent."), the Lady rises to her full height to address the entire spire. She thanks everyone for coming, reminds them to take advantage of the wine— it's cheap, take some home— and asks them to gather close. A few in the audience know her as the Spellbinding Storyteller or the Razor-Sharp Raconteur, and she intends to remind everyone why.
Everyone realizes they're in for a treat as soon as she starts the story proper. She gestures for her monkey compatriot and offers him the armchair behind her. She speaks of discovering the Marvellous, how she moved Heaven and Earth to get everyone together— an unfortunately familiar experience to anyone who's tried to arrange a regular poker game— and she relishes in providing blow-by-blow recaps of every match. With each play, she effortlessly summons the exact hand from the deck.
She builds to the final day in the Bazaar's beating heart. Her voice goes low and intimate, but not a single ear strains to hear. She speaks of the thrumming walls, the visions, and, with the occasional simian consultation, the plays. She breathlessly details the intense battle of wits, the calculated give and take, and, yes, the watershed moment. One wager from victory. London. Hers. Forever. An entire city full of stories for her library. All the time in the world in her grasp.
Her clawed gloves clutch her chest. Just the thought of rejecting it nearly stopped her heart. Echoes of the pain nearly knock her off her feet. She knew she couldn't bear to tell her loved ones. The ones that had been with her from the very beginning. The ones she left behind to come to the Neath. She imagined coming home, looking down at their adoring eyes, and telling them the whole sordid affair. She just couldn't bring herself to become the villain of the story.
She laughs. It's that big, hearty, room-filling belly laugh that so many in the audience fell in love with. She throws her cards on the table. "You lose, Pages! You lose, Hearts! You all lose, and the damn monkey wins!" She aims one last cackling laugh at a few specific neighbors. She proposes a toast. "To forging our own fates in the new year!"