The armory was still, filled with the promise of violence. Cathak Kitano, still wrapped in silver light, raised an eyebrow as he surveyed his new opponents.
â€œIâ€™ve never seen tattoos like that.â€ Serafin watched as a geomantic shape crawled up Kitanoâ€™s arm towards his shoulder, other tattoos swirling aside to let it past and flowing down to fill the gap. â€œA relic of the Yozi?â€
â€œA wise little kitten.â€ Kitano smiled broadly, looking over to Millia. â€œAnd a child of the Loom. Interesting. You, I did not expect.â€
â€œA lot of people say that.â€ Millia shifted her stance. â€œYou canâ€™t escape. Surrender, and tell us your plan, and we can make sure that your death is at least a clean one.â€
â€œSo fervent.â€ Kitano laughed. â€œMy plan is simple. Drive Greyfalls into chaos. Allow the Fair Folk to rampage through it while I take what I require. And really, you are far too late to stop me.â€ As Serafin and Millia advanced menacingly, he laughed again, taking a quick step backwards. â€œUnder normal circumstances, I would stay to show you how foolish you are, but crafting this portal and maintaining Oramakos sapped much of my power. Next time, perhaps.â€ With another step, he walked backwards through the portal, which rippled in his passage.
Serafin sniffed the air, and then grinned savagely. â€œYour first mistake.â€ Without a pause, she leapt forwards, diving through the portal after Kitano. After a second of shock, Millia sprang into a run to pursue her. Tyr paused, looking down at his bloodied armor.
â€œMela watch my stepsâ€¦â€ The prayer was whispered, fearful. Tyr had not spoken a prayer in years, but he figured any help he could get would be worthwhile. Grabbing another force pike, he charged forwards after the two Exalts who had saved his life.
The portal itched at his skin, and he felt himself falling down a dark path, his vision surrounded by shadows, stars flashing in the distance. There was no sun, no sky, no ground, only the sensation of travel. It lasted a moment and an eternity, and he didnâ€™t know whether to be afraid.
And then it was done, and he was standing on a grassy hill, miles outside of Greyfalls. Above him, three suns wheeled madly through the skies of the Middlemarches, one already moving to set in the north, behind clouds of boiling blood. On either side, Serafin and Millia looked around, prepared for a fight. Ahead of him, the akuma that had slain his commander still stood, still glowing, still grinning.
And around them were the fae.
Tyr had a head for mathematics. He spent a moment counting, watched formations shift and transform, and gave up. He knew that there were thousands of them, however. A force like that might crash against the walls, but if they could breach them, it would be disastrous.
If they passed through the portal directly behind himâ€¦
â€œSo foolish.â€ The akuma smiled broadly. â€œYou should not have followed me.â€ Behind him, a trio of Fair Folk nobles approached.
Serafinâ€™s lip curled. â€œElidath Bloodbane.â€
The leader of the nobles bowed extravagantly. His armor rippled with shades of gold and black, its colors changing with every angle and cast of light. His hair was both dark and light at once, and his beauty almost took Tyrâ€™s breath away. He raised his spear in salute to the Exalts facing him. â€œThe lady Serafin. What an unexpected surprise. I will have to return your head to Silverâ€™s Hand.â€
Millia laughed. â€œDonâ€™t count on it. Iâ€™m surprised by you, Bloodbane. I had heard you were of the Church of Balor.â€
Elidath raised a perfect eyebrow in bemusement. â€œYou are well informed, girl. I do hold to the ideals of our Father.â€
â€œThen why are you working with a child of the Primordials?â€ Elidathâ€™s face went blank, and Millia continued. â€œIâ€™d figured that the akuma had found some suicidal fae to throw themselves at Greyfalls, but you? Iâ€™d always thought you had the talent to do better than serve as his distraction.â€
â€œYou are mistaken in the particulars.â€ Elidathâ€™s smile was uncertain, and he glanced over at the akuma. â€œThis chimera works for me. He has fractured Greyfallsâ€™ forces and laid it open for our invasion.â€
â€œOh, please.â€ Millia rolled her eyes. â€œHe played you, Lord Elidath. If he served you truthfully, why is the military order intact? He killed two people. Greyfallsâ€™ forces are still in position to defend against you, and the akuma left a wide trail towards the armory, so there are troops surrounding there too. Youâ€™ll shatter the armory, probably kill a lot of people, and leave Greyfalls weakened. But thatâ€™s all.â€ She paused, then continued cheerfully, ignoring Elidathâ€™s gaping expression and the akumaâ€™s furious one. â€œIn fact, I bet he doesnâ€™t even care about Greyfalls. He just wants whatever that thing he slipped into his armour when we came in was.â€
â€œSilence.â€ Kitano stepped forwards, plucking three hairs from his head and letting them lengthen into knives in his hands. â€œYou prattle, girl. It is not your place â€“â€
â€œIsnâ€™t it?â€ Elidath turned towards Kitano with narrowed eyes. â€œYou did not inform us of any other goal. You did not say that you were akuma.â€ His spear came around to point at Kitano. â€œI think that you should defend yourself against these charges.â€
â€œI am your ally, and they are not.â€ The akuma turned his glare on Elidath, who smiled darkly.
â€œYou are all simply mortals to me.â€
â€œSo be it.â€ With a single, fluid motion, the akuma stepped forwards, grabbing Elidathâ€™s spear by the haft as the noble tried to strike. Twisting under the guard, he slipped something small and dark from beneath his armor and plunged it twice into Elidathâ€™s side. Armor fractured and shattered under the blow, and the noble staggered backwards, falling into the arms of his stunned companions. â€œI have no taste for your games, fae.â€ Tossing the bloodied iron dagger to one side, the akuma turned back to the Exalts. â€œNor do I have time for your pursuit. I have the key I came here for. The rest is merely a favour for an ally. Defeat the fae, or do not. It is all the same to me.â€ Before anyone could react, he was engulfed in shadow, fading from view. Serafin leapt forwards, her claws slicing through the air, but met nothing.
Millia, meanwhile, was still watching Elidath. The noble was trying to stagger to his feet, but collapsed again to the ground. His voice was a whisper. â€œKillâ€¦.everyoneâ€¦â€ The other nobles nodded and stood. One spoke, his voice an ominous monotone.
â€œYou broke our alliance with the Other, but now we will destroy you.â€
â€œI donâ€™t think so.â€ Turning, Serafin grinned. â€œBecause weâ€™re in the Wyld.â€
â€œThat is our domain.â€ The second noble sounded identical to the first.
Serafin smiled, and reached for the Story.