The funeral of Twice-Born Millia was a quiet affair. Thetram Nash joined the Silver Court as they gathered around the small memorial crafted by one of the younger members, Dougal Steelhammer. There was no body â€“ it had already been cremated properly in Yu-Shan. This memorial was simply for the family.
Alakazar broke the long silence, as the gathered nobles watched him. â€œI named Twice-Born Millia for her bravery. Her world was taken from her, and she claimed it back. She died as she lived â€“ in the performance of her duty. We will remember her, as she would want. And we will live on, as she would demand. The Silver Court will never forget the lines of fate that bound us together.â€
Each of the nobles bowed low, and stepped forwards. Each dropped a small memento of their time with Millia on the memorial. Some were more at ease with their grief than others; mourning was something that was strange to the youngest of the Courtâ€™s adherents. It was the oldest who felt Milliaâ€™s loss most keenly, and they gathered after the funeralâ€™s close â€“ Serafin, Alakazar, Nash, Gwydion, Varich, Ailil, and Eiluned.
Ailil spoke first. â€œI assume that we are going to find and destroy the one who took her away from us.â€ He eyed Nash balefully, out of the corner of one eye. The Sidereal remained injured from his battle, and he watched Ailil serenely, more at peace than Serafin had ever seen him.
Serafin shook her head. â€œI will bring her killer to justice, if he still lives. But there are dire things on the horizon, and Millia would not forgive me for seeking revenge while people were in danger.â€
â€œHm.â€ After a moment, Ailil nodded. â€œVery well. The Conduits, I assume?â€
â€œExactly.â€ Serafin looked up at the sky. â€œI can feel them, faintly. Not enough to pinpoint locations, but enough to know that the Yozi are spreading across Creation like a poison, using their Conduits as wedges. They have entire nations under their control, hordes of demons, and Creation is their battleground. Even the Silver Court canâ€™t stand against them alone.â€ She sighed. â€œTheyâ€™ve learned Autochthonâ€™s teachings far too well, and in all the wrong ways.â€
â€œThereâ€™s an irony to it.â€ Nash smiled grimly, almost a grimace, his calm evaporating. â€œThe Exalted save Creation from them, and now we hand it back.â€ He frowned. â€œThe Sidereals are shattered, but theyâ€™ll organize as best they can. If they hadnâ€™t destroyed the training camps, we would have an army of Solars to aid us.â€
â€œMore manipulation. The timing is too perfect for it to be anything else.â€ Serafin nodded. â€œAnd the Lunars will do their best to fight this as it begins, but Iâ€™m afraid a lot of my old brothers and sisters are going to die in the coming days and weeks. We have weapons, but we need more. We need to unify Creation as much as possible â€“ and we need more than one Primordial on our side.â€
â€œGood luck with that.â€ Nash laughed darkly. â€œYouâ€™d sooner convince Kejak to put a Solar on the Scarlet Throne than convince a Yozi to protect Creation.â€
â€œNot a Yozi. Autochthon.â€
There was a pause, as the Silver Court exchanged confused and curious whispers. Nashâ€™s eyebrows rose. â€œYouâ€¦ know where he is?â€
â€œWellâ€¦â€ Serafin trailed off, fishing through her thoughts, and formed the query in her mind. Gaiaâ€™s response was immediate. â€œNot exactly. No.â€ As Nash sighed, she grinned. â€œBut I might know how to find who does.â€ She stood. â€œNash, Iâ€™m going to need access to Yu-Shan, as quickly as possible. There are gods we have to track down. Meanwhile, the Silver Court has to try and find out where the Yoziâ€™s bases of power are. We canâ€™t strike them until we find them. Most importantly â€“ donâ€™t let them find us. Weâ€™re officially at war, everyone. And itâ€™s going to be a big one.â€
Each of the people nodded. Nash smiled. â€œIt shouldnâ€™t be hard to get you into Yu-Shan.â€
â€œNo, but it will be murder to get the information I need. A god has it, and she canâ€™t give it to me without tilting the Competition. Thatâ€™s where youâ€™ll come in. You need to find the list of the Solar Circle that Autochthon trusted, at the end of the First Age. Youâ€™ll need to find out if their Shards are in existence, and whether they have revealed themselves. And since youâ€™ve removed yourself from the Celestial Bureaucracy to join our side, youâ€™ll have to do the whole thing secretly.â€
Nash whistled softly. â€œThe Record Of Active Exalts, huh? That could be trickier. Might take a few months.â€
â€œIâ€™ll have plenty to do in the meanwhile.â€ Serafin nodded to him. â€œAlright, letâ€™s get to work.â€ The others stood and filed out, leaving Alakazar behind.
Her husband walked over to her. â€œAre you alright? This Conduit processâ€¦â€
â€œItâ€™s very strange. I have Gaiaâ€™s thoughts swimming in my head, but I can barely grasp them. She has to really work to frame her ideas in ways I can understand.â€ Serafin sighed, sitting down, and Alakazar sat beside her. â€œWhich, I gather, is why it took her so long to get the message across that she wanted this.â€
â€œYou couldnâ€™t have done anything differently.â€ Alakazar took her hand gently. â€œMillia knew the risks of her job.â€
â€œThatâ€™s what Gaiaâ€™s opinion is. That death is natural.â€ Serafin paused. â€œAnd I had so much longer than any mortal does. But it still hurts.â€
â€œI know.â€ Alakazar sighed. â€œHer story is done, now. And ours, it seems, goes on.â€ He looked up. â€œIn her name.â€
â€œIn her name.â€ Serafin nodded, looking out the window. Flicker curled at her feet, purring softly. Outside, the sun was rising on the new year â€“ Calibration was over, and a new Age was dawning. Though many would not know it, Serafin knew that compared to the fights she had fought, the coming months â€“ possibly years â€“ would be harder and longer. Her old life was over, but a new one was coming. She watched the stars fading as the sun rose. â€œForever.â€
Serafin Gaiaâ€™s Conduit, Alakazar The Sky Dragon, Thetram Nash and the Silver Court will return in Age Of Blood And Bone
And that is the end of the Tales of the Second Age. Now, their stories done, everyone can join together for the insane super-story that will be Age Of Blood And Bone. God alone knows how long that'll run.
More seriously, I have one last extremely short story to run, which both is and is not part of the Second Age stories. After that, I'll start the prologue of my Third Age stories. Good times!