Ladies and gentlemen, the final section of Part 3. Next, we return to In Which for Serafin's Chapter 3.
It was a dark, moonless night, and she stood on the deck of the Realm warship, alone. In the distance, the crackling pulse of the Essence cannon was moving forwards, with dreamy slowness. She thought that perhaps she wanted to run, but she knew that she could not. The light from the approaching destruction cast the deck in a golden sheen, and she found it infinitely fascinating, a tide of destruction that would sweep over her and end her fears forever.
An arm clasped her shoulder, and Citrios stepped up to her side. He turned, keeping an arm draped across her shoulder, and used the other to lean on the railing of the ship. â€œYou shouldnâ€™t be here.â€
â€œI know.â€ Alina watched the Essence blast approaching, feeling oddly detached. â€œBut I canâ€™t leave.â€
â€œHm.â€ Citrios nodded after a moment. â€œFour months is a long time to mourn people you never knew.â€
â€œI donâ€™t know if Iâ€™m mourning them. Just empathizing.â€ Alina sighed. The last four months, the frantic preparations, worrying every day that a Realm fleet would appear on the horizon and ruin everything. But the Realm fleets were occupied â€“ the Roseblack was marching to war, and every ship was needed. Instead of a string of fights, the people of Juriss had found themselves with unending quiet, an ominous peace that couldnâ€™t last. Now, it was Calibration. The sun had set on the year 768, and for five days, it would be dark. The first had passed peacefully, but Alina could feel the danger lurking.
Citrios nodded again, thoughtfully. â€œI know the feeling. Everythingâ€™s moving far too quickly for my liking.â€ He glanced sidelong at her. â€œIâ€™m sorry.â€
Alina laughed. â€œSorry? This is my dream.â€ She stopped, and frowned. â€œA prophecy dream. This is no prophecy.â€
â€œNo.â€ Citrios chuckled sadly.
Alina stepped backwards quickly, sliding easily under his arm. He made no move to stop her. â€œWho are you?â€
The intruder raised both arms. â€œA friend â€“ one constrained by your dreams. This just happens to be the most comforting thing you can imagine.â€ He chuckled again. â€œItâ€™s very sweet, and just a little sappy.â€
Alina didnâ€™t smile. â€œWho are you?â€
The other sighed, and let form slip away. Now, there was only a shapeless presence on the deck with her. â€œI canâ€™t shape myself. You have no experience with me.â€ It turned towards her. â€œLook. I can only appear to you because youâ€™re naturally sensitive. Itâ€™s a loophole, one which Sol was exploiting for a while to improve your prophecies. But he canâ€™t anymore. Heâ€™s not good enough at treading the boundary of whatâ€™s allowed. I am.â€ There was another chuckle.
Alina blinked. â€œSol? The Unconquered Sun was sending me prophecy-dreams?â€ She frowned. â€œHe wanted us in Juriss.â€
â€œSuch a bright girl.â€ The shape nodded once. â€œIf there are more like you, I have high hopes for the Fourth Age.â€
â€œWhat about the Third?â€ Alina glanced at the essence blast, still crawling across the waves.
â€œThat oneâ€™s pretty much a write-off, Iâ€™m afraid.â€ The stranger leaned against the rail. â€œI donâ€™t have much more time. There are three things that you have to know, and I canâ€™t risk the usual cryptic crap. It works most of the time, and itâ€™s a lot less dangerous, but this is too important.â€ Turning towards Alina, it shook its head. â€œFirst, donâ€™t worry about the Realm forces. Theyâ€™re not important. Secondly, you absolutely must trust Nganto, and believe what she tells you today â€“ and follow her plan. Otherwise, youâ€™ll all die.â€
â€œAnd third?â€ Alina couldnâ€™t keep a hint of skepticism from her face.
â€œDonâ€™t face Dukantha. Just keep the blood apes away from Lodaris and Citrios, and let them do it.â€
â€œWhat?!â€ Alina stepped forwards. â€œWhy?â€
â€œI canâ€™t tell you that. The Geas constrains me.â€ The figure smiled again, which was impressive, as it had no face. â€œI hope that we might meet sometimes, Alina. Itâ€™s almost a shame that Sol got to you before I did.â€
And Alina woke to find Citrios gently shaking her. â€œAlina?â€
â€œLuna.â€ Alina swung out of bed. â€œNgantoâ€™s coming.â€
â€œSheâ€™s already here.â€ The words came from the doorway, as Nganto pushed into the room. â€œWhat about Luna?â€
â€œI thinkâ€¦ I think I just saw her.â€ Alina shook her head. â€œNever mind. I take it itâ€™s urgent.â€
â€œFairly.â€ Nganto shook her head. â€œI went to seek audience with Leviathan. He was gone from Luthe, for the first time in over a thousand years. Next, I sought Eight Divine Eyes, the only other Lunar survivor of the First Age, and found that he had taken five elder Lunars and traveled into the depths of the Wyld. I tried to gather allies to fight the Lintha, only to learn that the Emperor Crowned With The Blood Of The Martyrs is sailing against Wavecrest. Itâ€™s like the whole West is going to Hell.â€
â€œThe whole world.â€ Alina spoke softly, and shook her head. â€œSo weâ€™re alone?â€
â€œNot entirely. Iâ€™ve convinced four Lunars to attack the edges of the Lintha fleet, and draw off ships and soldiers. But weâ€™re out of time.â€ Ngantoâ€™s voice was ominous. â€œDukantha has set sail from Bluehaven. Heâ€™ll be here in two days. And the Lintha sail with him.â€
â€œHow many?â€ Citriosâ€™s expression was intent, but it couldnâ€™t match the bleak despair that filtered into Ngantoâ€™s in response.
â€œAll of them.â€ As Citrios and Alina gaped, she shook her head. â€œOver a thousand ships loaded with sailors are heading towards Juriss even as we speak.â€