This begins Chapter Four: The Blood-Stained Throne, the conclusion to The Dynasty's Shadowed Light
Daylight broke over the Palace Sublime. An old man stood on the peak of the Palace, his robes flapping loosely in the wind. His eyes were closed, and though the light of the rising sun washed over him, he felt only the cold sting of the windâ€™s touch.
Iselsi Thelos was old. At times, even he could not remember how old, and the years behind him stretched out into the mists. Then there were days like today. Days when he could remember every one of the four hundred and seventy-two years since his birth. Remember his childhood under a House that was strong, and proud. Before the fall. Before the deaths, and the humiliations. An entire house destroyed and remade into the puppets of the madwoman who held the Scarlet Throne, generations held slave to the whims of a power-mad queen.
He felt the stirrings in the air behind him, and let his senses expand. He did not open his eyes, for there was no need. The wind told him all that he needed to know. â€œGreetings, Master Cyrus.â€
â€œGreetings, Lord Thelos.â€ Though Thelos often felt old, he knew that he was as a babe before Harakken Cyrus. The ancient Sidereal stepped easily across the roof, and Thelosâ€™s eyes finally opened as he turned to regard his old companion. Cyrus looked tired, the weight of his years pressing down on him. â€œI have news. The Mask of Winters has fallen in battle, never to return. I can also confirm the fall of the Walker in Darkness, the Silver Prince, Princess Magnificent, and the Bishop. According to certain contacts of mine, nine of the Deathlords in all have fallen, leaving only four alive.â€
â€œThat is excellent news.â€ Thelos did not smile. Though the news was auspicious, there was little that brought him joy any more. â€œThe Roseblackâ€™s name will be draped with honours for this.â€
â€œHm.â€ Thelos raised an eyebrow, turning fully to face his old mentor. Cyrus was not looking at him, but was watching the sun rise with a distant expression.
â€œYou do not agree?â€
â€œI do.â€ Cyrus smiled, faintly. â€œThe Neverborn were the greatest threat to our victory in the Competition. With only four Deathlords remaining, they have only four Conduits for their power, and their mad designs will not succeed.â€ He sighed. â€œBut much, much more must be destroyed in order for harmony to be restored. I regret the necessity.â€
Thelos shrugged. â€œThey are the enemies of Order. The world must be scoured before it can be rebuilt, or else the seeds or rot will carry through into the next Age.â€
â€œBut it is not by their choice.â€ Cyrus turned to look at Thelos, and the Dragon-Blood was reassured by the resolve he could see beneath the sorrow. There was no weakness there. â€œIn the last two months, I have slain twelve of my own companions and students, for the sole reason that the Incarnae have poisoned their minds against us. I have overseen the collapse of the Sidereals, and witnessed our ranks dwindle to a mere fifty-six members. I do not regret their deaths â€“ but I will weep for them nonetheless. Sachaverall understands my feelings, for the loss of any part of His design is an event to be regretted.â€
â€œThe wind blows as it will.â€ Thelos shrugged again. â€œAdorjan does not share your Fatherâ€™s sorrow, only the joy that the world may soon be purified. But though she might not understand your pain, I do. Even if I do not share it.â€
â€œUnderstanding is all that I require. In truth, I would not ask you to share this even if I could.â€ Cyrus looked out over the Imperial City. â€œOur positions are strong, at the moment. Even now, the Conduits of Kimbery and Wesmaken seek out two of the thirteen Demon Gates. Our alliance will be strengthened by them.â€
â€œYes, but others are doing the same.â€ Thelos frowned thoughtfully. â€œShe Who Lives In Her Name has sent her champion to the gateway in Gem, and Malfeas explores beneath Nexus. Isidoros travels to the city of Crystal, Kagami strives for sunken Luthe, and Szoreny is taking hold of Rathess. I know that Ghroth bears a gateway, as do Sadagares, Cecelyne, Hegra, Oramus, and the Ebon Dragon. How much will they truly matter?â€
â€œSome.â€ Cyrus shrugged softly. â€œThey will be useful only during Calibration, but they will grant advantages to those who can hold them. And the Ebon Dragonâ€™s gate is useless, sealed behind the defenses of the Imperial Manse, useless to him even with his Conduit.â€ He made a gesture of dismissal, turning away from the sunrise to watch the Imperial City waking. â€œBut we have other preparations to make. The Scouring must begin tonight. Any later, and the activities of our fellows will become known.â€
â€œAnd we cannot have that.â€ Thelos nodded firmly, following Cyrusâ€™s gaze towards the Imperial Manse. He paused a moment, and laid a hand on Cyrusâ€™s shoulder. â€œNever fear, my old sensei. Adorjan stands beside her brother for all eternity. While the other Yozi bicker and squabble, our alliance will guarantee victory in the Competition. And the world can be pure once again.â€
â€œLet it be so, my old friend.â€ Cyrus smiled sadly. â€œThe world prepares to be born anew. I only pray that she can survive the pain that this birth must inflict.â€