Alright, let's see if I can't get this rollercoaster moving again. Another two parts in this chapter, and then after a brief interlude, back to the Solars.
The Perfect of Paragon frowned, taking a sip of wine as he considered. â€œAre we certain about this information?â€
â€œAbsolutely.â€ Eiluned, Queen of Stars of the Silver Court, bowed her head respectfully towards the Perfect, then proceeded to deliver her report directly to Serafin. â€œI spent over a month in the region, my lady. I saw all of the Eyeâ€™s machinations, and went unseen in return. If he is truly a Deathlord, then I am a Shinma.â€
â€œHm.â€ Serafin leaned back on the cushion that the Perfect had provided for her, scratching her head. â€œWell, that explains why Saloy Hinâ€™s had such an easy time of it in the Southeast. He isnâ€™t dismantling a Conduit at all â€“ just a pretender.â€
â€œWhich leads us to the question of who our mysterious fourth Deathlord truly is.â€ The Perfectâ€™s frown deepend, and he looked across at his fellow Conduit. â€œAnd what this means for our own plans.â€
â€œWe have to go forwards with them, and hope the false Eye can keep Saloy busy until weâ€™re done.â€ Serafin shrugged, standing easily and stepping over to Eiluned. â€œThank you, Eiluned. I know this mission was a hard one.â€
â€œIt is good to be home.â€ That tacit admission was the closest that the introspective fae would ever come to admitting how dangerous her quest had been â€“ that and the way that she failed to flinch and push Serafin away when the Lunar caught her in a hug. The simple fact that she accepted it, more than anything else, told Serafin how worried her vassal and friend had been. Still, after a moment she tactfully disengaged herself, bowing in turn to Serafin and the Perfect. â€œIf you will excuse me, I must see what troubles my brother has caused in my absence. Where is he staying today?â€
â€œUmâ€¦. last I heard, he was sharing Fionaâ€™s tent.â€ Serafin suppressed a grin at Eilunedâ€™s rolled eyes; both knew how long that arrangement was likely to last, but neither was particularly surprised.
â€œThen I shall seek him there. Good day, my lady. Sir.â€ Turning, she glided from the room, leaving Serafin alone with the Perfect. He sighed heavily, sinking back on his cushion.
â€œI will never understand them, Iâ€™m afraid. How you managed to subvert a dozen nobles of their magnitude is a tale I would be impressed to hear.â€
â€œOh, it was all my husband, Iâ€™m afraid.â€ Serafin grinned wryly, but her expression turned serious. â€œNow. I assume you have a problem with our plan?â€
â€œIn light of this information? Yes. Taking back the Lap and cleansing the areaâ€™s shadowlands will require a near-total commitment of our efforts. If Saloy has realized he is not embroiled with a true Conduit, and I imagine he has, he could strike at our flank almost unopposed while we are sealing the Lion back into the Underworld.â€
Serafin sighed, and nodded slowly. â€œI know, but we donâ€™t really have a choice. Wesmaken is turning his attention northwards, to help his former wife fight Creation. With An-Teng no longer challenging the Lion, all of the progress that weâ€™ve made is about to wash away on the tide. We canâ€™t stay trapped between two enemies, and we canâ€™t lose the South along with the North. Boxing the Lion in is our only hope of salvaging things.â€
The Perfect considered for several long moments, and then sighed. â€œI suppose.â€ He took another sip of wine, then spoke delicately. â€œSerafinâ€¦ I think you can see how this war is turning as well as I can. Without Autocthonâ€™s support, we are not going to win.â€ He hesitated a moment, and then pushed on. â€œDo you think his power will be sufficient?â€
â€œYes.â€ Serafin stood fluidly, turning to smile at her companion. â€œAs long as there are enough of us around to use his gifts. Autochthonâ€™s power has never been his own, after all. It is only with enough allies that he can truly shine.â€
â€œTrue. Ironic, then, how few of them he had.â€
â€œYes, I suppose so.â€ Serafin stopped in the doorway, glancing back at the Perfect. â€œIt might have been different.â€
â€œIt might have. If I had supported you when you first came to me, in the days of the Uprising. But the sands of history have long since poured over that decision.â€ He paused. Serafin had an odd expression on her face. â€œWhat?â€
â€œNothing. I just wish you wouldnâ€™t do that.â€
The Perfect raised an immaculately-groomed eyebrow. â€œDo what?â€
â€œSpeak as though you actually are She Who Lives In Her Name, and Iâ€™m Gaia. Weâ€™re Conduits, not the Primordials themselves.â€
â€œYou are not, perhaps.â€ The Perfect shrugged, following Serafinâ€™s lead by standing. â€œI feel what She feels, know what She knows â€“ and She knows what I know. Within my limits, I am very much a part of her being.â€
â€œI guess. Gaia never needed that degree of synergy.â€
â€œThat is unfortunate. It is a joy and a delight to be a part of something greater.â€ The Perfect walked to Serafin, who smiled easily and brushed past him as she strolled down the corridor. Over her shoulder, she called back.
â€œPerfect, Iâ€™m married. Iâ€™ve already got that.â€