Ragara Jarrus strode through the corridors of the Imperial Palace, lost in thought. Recent events had him concerned about the place his house would hold in the new order â€“ and as one of the masters of House Ragara, perfectly positioned to control the Regentâ€™s ear, it was critical that he be able to act effectively. It was, however, becoming increasingly clear to him that House Ragara could not take the throne. Which meant that he might actually have to support the Roseblack. The idea of a firebrand like Ejava on the throne twisted his gut, but nothing like the fear when he thought of Mnemonâ€™s ancient enmity towards his house. No, it was probably for the best thatâ€¦
His thought was cut off abruptly as the shape slammed into him from the side. Jarrus had no time to react, no time to think. Brass claws slammed into his gut as he and his sudden assailant sailed through the air. His Essence rallied weakly, then faltered. He stared into the dark eyes of his enemy, and as the two fell towards the courtyard, he saw a green sunburst glittering. He opened his mouth to scream, and the claws slammed into his throat, cutting off his breath.
A moment later, the two slammed into the statue of Pasiap standing in the courtyard below, one arm raised in gratitude to the skies. Jarrusâ€™s broken body cracked the stone of the hand as it landed, and the stranger flipped lightly from him to perch on Pasiapâ€™s great head. Jarrus tried to turn to face him, but found that he could not move. As his vision darkened, he heard the stranger speak.
â€œJustice begins tonight.â€
Vâ€™Neef yawned, setting her book aside. She glanced at the clock in the corner of the room, watching it tick quietly for a moment, and then nodded to herself. Standing, she stretched for a moment, and started towards bed. It was late, and there were Calibration festivities to attend tomorrow â€“ and those for victory.
She walked to her bedroom suite, opening the door, and two things happened at once. The wind in the chamber suddenly gusted, the wards she had laid shattering in a moment, and a great bear took shape in the centre of the room, shouting out to her: â€œAssassins, milady! Danger!â€
The motion slowed her, just enough that the daiklave suddenly thrusting through the opened door towards her caught only the edge of one arm, instead of plunging through her heart.
As Vâ€™Neef stumbled backwards, she recognized Iselsi Haspur, a man she had thought dead years ago. The huraka flew forwards, blocking her from Haspurâ€™s view as it roared with anger, and the Iselsiâ€™s anima flared to life, waves coiling around his sword as he slashed at the elemental with three devastating blows. It fell backwardsâ€¦ and an arrow flew from behind it, embedding in the would-be assassinâ€™s shoulder.
Vâ€™Neef let a hand trail across the elementalâ€™s side, and as the gruesome-looking wounds closed over to old bruises, she smiled coldly. Vines coiled up from her hands into the shape of a bow, and an arrow formed from Essence sat on its string. â€œDanger indeed. Letâ€™s see about removing it.â€
Ledaal Gaman stumbled as he collided with the young functionary, and the stack of books he was carrying teetered dangerously. The woman moved quickly, steadying him. â€œIâ€™m very sorry, sir, I didnâ€™t see you, I didnâ€™t meanâ€¦â€
â€œEasy, girl.â€ Gaman smiled. He knew how intimidating he must be to her â€“ as one of the three leaders of House Ledaal, his reputation as a sorcerer and power-broker was severe â€“ but he was too jubilant to be annoyed. â€œYou should get to bed, young lady. Tomorrow will be a festival day.â€
â€œYes, sir!â€ There was something slightly odd about the earnestness with which she spoke, but Gaman shrugged it off. Everyone was in high spirits lately, after all. She moved off down the hallway, and he smiled faintly.
â€œDanger, Lord Gaman! Assassins!â€
â€œWhat?â€ The strange being popped into existence directly ahead of him, and Gaman stumbled. He quickly recognized it as an Umodji â€“ a smoke zephyr, child of Florivet. Such creatures gained joy from spreading information, and made good messengers â€“ and terrible keepers of secrets. He raised an eyebrow. â€œWhat danger?â€
â€œThe Lady Mnemon has been attacked by House Iselsi! They seek to destroy all of the powerful figures in the Dynasty! Danger!â€
â€œThatâ€™s absurd.â€ Gaman chuckled. â€œI have seen no suchâ€¦ noâ€¦â€ He stumbled again, and his books fell to the floor with a clatter. The corridor was spinning around him, and he tried to think.
Poison. But howâ€¦ abruptly, he remembered the soft touch of the girl he had collided with. It was impossible, wasnâ€™t itâ€¦
The zephyr tilted its head as Gaman stopped breathing. â€œLord Gaman? This time is not for quiet! Lord Gaman!â€
Cathak Cainanâ€™s bedchamber was nearly silent. The great leader had already stepped into bed, and his soft breaths wafted through the room â€“ as did the faintest stirring of air drifting across the floor.
â€œD-urk!â€ The creature swam into being, already opening its mouth to yell, and Thelos struck like lightning. He didnâ€™t even have time to register its shape before it was destroyed.
With anyone else, it would have been enough. But Cainan was already awake and flipping off the bed, sweeping his swords out from where they lay under his pillow. His keen senses scanned the room.
Thelos sighed, and let the wind die for a moment. â€œCainan. I had hoped you would yet sleep.â€
â€œWhat is the meaning of this, Thelos?â€ Cainanâ€™s voice was hard.
â€œA new order begins today, Cainan. It is a shame, really â€“ I have always respected you. You may be the only leader of the Ten Houses who is truly good at heart. But that very strength ensures that you would never join us â€“ and I will not insult you by asking.â€
â€œTreachery against the Realm?â€ Cainan shook his head. â€œI thought better of you, Thelos.â€
â€œNot treachery. Justice. The wind blows, Cainan. All the corruption must be scourged, that a new and better Realm may rise. Adorjanâ€™s realm.â€ Despite his vow, Thelos found himself hoping that Cainan might understand. But as the Dynastâ€™s anima blazed to life, fire roaring against the wind flowing around Thelos, he knew it was not to be.
A man leapt from the ground, brass razor claws digging into the wall, landing on the remains of Cathak Cainanâ€™s balcony. Quickly, he looked around the room. His attention had been drawn by the gouts of flame bursting from here, and though he knew that others would arrive soon, he had to ensure that his master was safe.
Thelos was kneeling in the room, next to the body of Cathak Cainan. Gently, he closed his adversaryâ€™s eyes. â€œMay your next life be lived in the purity of the Yozi.â€ He glanced over to the window, and smiled. â€œAh. Your progress?â€
â€œAll three destroyed, master. And you?â€ He tried to keep the worry from his voice.
Thelos took a step forwards, and his leg buckled. He looked down at it in annoyance. â€œI fear my first target was a difficult one. I will have to abandon the other two. Come, we should leave.â€ He smiled, then, joining his pupil at the window. â€œIt is a glorious night for Adorjan.â€