Chejop Kejak strode through the halls of the Bureau of Destiny. Around him, panicking gods rushed to and fro, frantically co-ordinating efforts against the threat that was boiling up around Creation. The majestic ceilings echoed with the sounds of confusion and panic, through which the Sidereal moved like a beacon of serenity, untouched by the chaos unfolding in all directions; his anima still glittered from his recent exertions, drawing the attention of gods who had not seen signs of peripheral Essence use in the Master of the Bronze Faction since the days of the Contagion.
He met Harakken Cyrus near the Loom. Cyrus bowed. â€œWelcome back, Master Kejak. How did it go?â€
Kejak grimaced faintly, starting towards his office. â€œThe Conduit of Chorifa is destroyed, but it cost. What is our situation?â€
â€œThere were seven more incursions today, bringing the total to twenty-eight.â€ Cyrus shrugged helplessly. â€œEvery one is consistent with a Conduit of a Primordial, Master. The Pattern Spiders are already adopting their actions into the Loom. Six of them were cut off rapidly, and have not spread further. A number of others have gone diffuse, becoming all but impossible to track. But I think I can safely say that there are seventeen living Conduits of the Yozi, and four of the Neverborn.â€
Kejak nodded after a moment of consideration. â€œThen Gaia is taking part in this as well. Interesting.â€ He stopped at the doors to his office. â€œWe have to gather the Inner Circle immediately, to plan our response. The situation is dire, butâ€¦â€
â€œWe are the Inner Circle.â€
Kejak froze. â€œWhat?â€
â€œEvery other member of the Inner Circle is dead, Kejak.â€
Kejak shook his head. â€œImpossible. There were five of us yesterdayâ€¦â€
â€œMarik traveled to Crystal, trying to stop the Conduit of Ghroth. Yisella went to the Hundred Kingdoms to oppose the Solar that Oramus is controlling. They are both dead. And Patreyaâ€¦â€ Cyrus trailed off despondently. â€œPatreya was on the trail of a Conduit within Yu-Shan itself. No one has seen her in hours, nor has any attempt at communication succeeded.â€ He looked his old mentor in the eyes. â€œThe Bronze Faction is dead. The Bureau is dying. Itâ€™s over.â€
â€œNo. Not yet.â€ Kejak put his hands on the doorâ€™s handle again. â€œWe can still recover. I will send a message to Ayesha â€“ the time for factions is long passed, and we will need every weapon we have. There are still dozens of Sidereals active; if we organize properly, we should be able to defeat at least three more Conduits this month alone. Every Exalt in Creation must know what is happening by now â€“ we can use the Solars toâ€¦â€
â€œDamn it, Kejak, what will it take for you to realize you failed?â€ The sudden shout stopped Kejak, and he turned slowly to see Cyrus standing there, fists clenched with rage. â€œDoes the entire world have to fall into Oblivion for you to see the truth?â€
And in a frozen instant, it all became clear to him, as the discharged Secret now spoken revealed everything within Kejakâ€™s mind. His voice was soft as he spoke. â€œHow long have you believed that, Cyrus?â€
â€œCenturies. I realized the truth when the Contagion brought Creation to the edge of destruction.â€ The younger Siderealâ€™s voice was thick with bitter anger. â€œIt stuns me that you could think anything else. Every time you see a problem, you are willing to destroy half of Creation to save the other half. But we never save anything. Everything just continues to collapse, until you have to throw half of Creation away again.â€ His jaw set grimly. â€œWell, this is the last time. The final sacrifice. After this, we can actually start to rebuild.â€
Kejak shifted his stance, falling into the Charcoal March of Spiders Form. He felt his injuries strain in protest, and sternly bid them silent as he watched his foe. â€œYou killed Petraya.â€
â€œAnd Millia. And half a dozen others whose only fault was trusting you.â€ Cyrus brought up Charms in response, whose natures eluded Kejak. â€œOne last sacrifice. You taught me well how to do it.â€
â€œYou were my pupil.â€
â€œYes, amazing how they always turn on you, isnâ€™t it?â€ Cyrus practically sneered the last line. â€œBut it couldnâ€™t possibly have anything to do with you. Youâ€™re Chejop fucking Kejak, the all-knowing lord of Creation!â€ With that comment, he leapt forwards, snapping out a kick. Kejak knocked it aside, brushing through the strands of fate to spin and spread a layer of blows towards his opponent, each charged with the raw power that he commanded. Cyrus slipped through the blows like a thread through a needle, as the hallway exploded around him.
â€œYou are a fool, Cyrus. The visions of the Yozi are false.â€ Kejak twisted Essence around his wrists, forming a cascade of Fate that could not be ignored. In response, Cyrus called up a simpler magic, letting his form ripple like water as a thousand blows passed harmlessly through him.
â€œThe Yozi are the only ones who see clearly.â€ Cyrus did not smile. â€œIt is your visions that are tainted. Have you looked upon the shining Creation that our efforts wrought? I have seen where it leads, Kejak. To the dead swallowing everything, while the Exalted bicker and scheme and the Incarna watch with disinterest. And if it takes one final sacrifice to avert that fateâ€¦ so be it.â€ His fists moved in a blur, commanding the obedience of their target to cease from moving. Kejak responded by asserting his destiny to avoid them, letting them fall upon the exquisite statues and ruined walls, as the ceiling cracked and fell around them, leaving the blue sky of Yu-Shan shining brightly above.
â€œThe Incarna saw well, my pupil. As, it seems, you never did.â€ Kejak felt sorrow overwhelming him, and forced all of it into his blows. With each one, he knew the shame of battling his pupil, and that in turned strengthened the blow to come. In response, Cyrus rolled backwards, letting his own anger wash over him like a shield as he moved through the Forms to counter Kejakâ€™s. The elder shook his head, his brilliant green anima shining against the soft blue of Cyrusâ€™s. â€œEven weakened, I am your superior. It was foolish to begin a fight you could not win.â€
â€œNo, Kejak. I simply took advantage of your blindness.â€ Cyrus gestured, and the world tilted with him. â€œYou could never submit to another. We are alike in that way â€“ neither of us trust in the Incarnaeâ€™s plans.â€ He laughed. â€œThey tried to warn you, as best they could. Only Chejop Kejak would ignore their pleas. And that is our difference, as well. I am not afraid to call upon my master.â€ As he spoke, the air rippled and shifted. A thousand lines of fate ran down from the sky, filling the broken hallway with lines of convergence and requirement. Kejak shifted his posture, unleashing a devastating attack against Cyrus, who simply let himself ripple into the water again as destructive Essence blew Kejakâ€™s office to flinders.
â€œGoodbye, Kejak. You have ushered in the end of the Second Age. The Third will be a time of change, but it will not be yours.â€ Cyrus still did not smile. â€œFor what it is worth, Iâ€™m sorry it had to come to this.â€ As he spoke his final words, the strands began to tangle and twist. Kejak shifted his posture to retreat, only to find that his way was clouded with imposed destinies and tangles. With a tremendous effort, he marshelled the Essence-Shattering Typhoon, tearing the tangles asunder and shattering the trap in a storm of broken Essence patterns. And beyond it, he saw the truth.
He was no longer in the shining city of Yu-Shan. Now, he stood on the gleaming plain of Chorifa herself, with Sacheverallâ€™s tendrils coiling around him. It was the Primordial itself that he had struck, forcing it merely to withdraw. And around her were dozens of monsters, which he catalogued and recognized within moments. The Third Circle souls of Sacheverall and Chorifa, every last one save their fetiches â€“ presumably secured safely in another location. They were waiting for him, and prepared, their power fully marshaled. Any three of them, he could have defeated even in his current state. Any eight he might destroy at his best. But this was a force beyond his ability to combat, and he knew at a glance that any method he might use to return to Creation could not succeed before he was torn apart.
Kejak set himself again, his anima leaping around him, and he nodded grimly, broken Essence gathering in his fingers. â€œSo be it. I will die, but not alone. Who will be the first to join me?â€
And thus ends Breath Between Ages, as well as the Second Age of Creation.