Cathak Tyr sat on a hilltop, watching as Juggernaut continued its slow slide through the Shadowlands. The creature had begun to move within minutes of the Maskâ€™s death, fading gradually as it passed ever-deeper into the Underworld, but it didnâ€™t seem to be in any major hurry. After a full day, it was still faintly visible as a silhouette on the horizon â€“ a few of General Ejavaâ€™s soldiers had proposed hunting it down and trying to destroy it, but the Roseblack was content to let it depart.
â€œAmazing sight, isnâ€™t it?â€ Tyr turned vaguely, and then sprang to his feet with a salute. Tepet Arada, the Wind-Dancer the greatest general of House Tepet, laughed easily and gestured for the younger soldier to sit down, letting himself slide down onto the ground and crossing his legs like an old peasant. â€œMakes it all sort of worthwhile.â€
Tyr nodded thoughtfully, sitting back down. â€œWe got a scoutâ€™s report from Lookshy. Apparently, the â€˜major operationâ€™ that they didnâ€™t want to talk about was an attack on the Walker in Darkness, designed to be simultaneous with this one. Theyâ€™re reporting him destroyed, as well.â€
Arada nodded. â€œThe catâ€™s out of the bag, now, and the Deathlords have a lot of enemies. Not the least of which are our mysterious friends who told us about all of this.â€ He glanced back towards the camp, where a faint bustle of motion began as the evening watch changed over. â€œI dunno about that Kyla girl, but she seems alright. Sheâ€™s no Anathema, anyway. Never seen anything quite like her.â€
Tyrâ€™s thoughts drifted to a very different pair of individuals, but he nodded. â€œNeither have I, sir. Iâ€™ve heard some gods can work sorcery like hers, though. Maybeâ€¦?â€
â€œMaybe.â€ Arada shrugged. â€œMy niece trusts her, thatâ€™s whatâ€™s important. And she really pulled our fat out of the fire here.â€ He laughed. â€œNever would have imagined it, a year ago. All the Dynasty pulling together to actually fight someone weâ€™re supposed to, instead of each other. Nagazzerâ€™s got a hell of a long reach.â€
Tyr paused at that. â€œYou really think the Dynastyâ€™s that bad?â€
Aradaâ€™s mood drained away. â€œSometimes I do, boy. When I think about how we could have stopped the Bull. About all the assassinations and corruption. The Dragons would weep to see us.â€ He fell silent after that, and Tyr fell silent with him. The two sat side by side and watched the setting sun.
â€œExcuse me, General Arada.â€ The voice broke through the silence, and both Dragon-Bloods turned to see the soldier standing there. â€œGeneral Ejava requests your presence.â€
â€œOf course.â€ Arada heaved himself to his feet, and Tyr stood to salute him. â€œStop that, boy. Iâ€™m here as an advisor, thatâ€™s all. Iâ€™m still retired.â€
â€œOf course, sir.â€ Tyr grinned faintly.
â€œBah!â€ Arada shook his head, trying to disguise a smile, and turned to follow the soldier. And it was in that moment that Tyr saw something glittering in the soldierâ€™s hand, just as the old general glanced away, and he realized that he hadnâ€™t been meant to.
â€œSir!â€ The warning was almost shouted too late. Realizing that he had been spotted, the soldier spun with impossible precision, water flowing from his skin as he brought out a pair of slender needles in each hand and jabbed them towards Aradaâ€™s exposed hand, four lightning strikes as each needle left his hand. The Wind-Dancer flipped backwards, letting the first glint off armor, the second fall harmless to the ground. The third caught him in exposed flesh, but the fourth flew high as he flipped, embedding itself in a tree. Arada landed easily, blinked in sudden pain, and fell to the ground with a strangled cry.
Tyr unhooked his skycutter from his waist, thanking the Dragons that military protocol dictated he wear it here, despite the lack of any remaining enemies. The would-be assassin was already drawing forth new needles as he threw, and the jade boomerang sliced through the air to shatter the needles in his hand. Tyr saw the damning glitter of poison as they fell and cursed again, the skycutter returning easily to his hand. â€œWho are you?â€
â€œWhy should you care?â€ Waves gathered around the assassin as he leapt forwards, and a pair of needles drove at Tyrâ€™s eyes. With a muffled yelp, the Dynast rolled backwards, letting his attacker fall short, and threw an answering attack with his skycutter that flew wide. â€œYou are my third target, so it suits me for you to be here now!â€
Tyr backpedaled, realizing that he was again outmatched. â€œMe? Iâ€™m a target?â€ Fire blazed around him as he poured Essence into his Charms. If someone in camp noticedâ€¦
â€œImportant enough to your House, foolish boy. But your future ends here.â€ The assassin lashed out suddenly with his leg, and Tyrâ€™s skycutter sailed into the underbrush. A second kick caught Tyr in the chest, and he stumbled, but he quickly recovered and set himself into a defensive posture. The assassin grinnedâ€¦ and then his expression went slack, as Aradaâ€™s daiklave smashed through his chest. The Wind-Dancer faded into being, his Charms dying, and shook his head grimly, pain still etched in his features.
â€œThe Dynasty. Any success must be met with treason. Thank you, boy. Another of those needles, and I would not be standing.â€ His face was harsh. â€œBut why us?â€
Tyr looked down at the assassin, and his heart clenched. â€œHe said I was the third. Not the second.â€ He looked up, and caught Aradaâ€™s horrified expression. Without another word, the Wind-Dancer turned and leapt, and the sky caught him in its passage as he bounded away. Tyr broke into a run, already knowing where Arada was bound.
By the time he reached the tent, he was sure. It was too quiet, and there was a crowd gathered around, drawn by Aradaâ€™s passing. Tyr looked around, hoping someone else would be the first to enter, but found everyone looking at him. Steeling himself, he stepped into the tent.
Arada knelt on the ground by the table, a table which had been overturned in complete silence. He held his burden softly, tears falling from his face, and his voice was a hopeless whisper. â€œNo, we won, girl. We did some good. It canâ€™t end now. It justâ€¦â€ He trailed off, and looked up. Tyr took an involuntary step backwards as Arada stood, the wind gathering around him again.
Aradaâ€™s voice was as hard as the gathering storm. â€œItâ€™s too late. Inform the army that the Roseblack has been murdered.â€