â€œSo. That is where we stand.â€ Mnemon's voice was unusually subdued, although she sat on a throne of silver and jade, in a perfect replica of the great throne room of the Imperial Palace â€“ at least a fragment of it. Her robes were heavy with jewels and artifacts, symbols of her dreams that she could never quite manage to banish, despite her best attempts. She looked across at her companion, the dragons on the throne behind her coiling protectively around their Empress for a moment before parting and returning to quiscience. â€œI plan to leave as soon as we are ready.â€
â€œWe are ready now.â€ Across from Mnemon, her companion was much more modestly attired, in a simple white dress. The palace floor sloped up to form a grassy hill, around which the faint outlines of five Dragons slumbered. Serafin, the Conduit of Gaia, was sitting cross-legged on the hill, weaving a simple crown from blades of grass as she spoke. â€œAutochthon is waking. Adorjan wept. It's going to be now or never.â€
â€œHm.â€ Mnemon nodded, inclining her head. â€œThen I have to get moving to be in place when the time comes.â€ She paused, looking at her co-conspirator carefully. â€œWe're both taking terrible risks. If either of us makes a mistake, every person in Creation will damn us.â€
Finishing the crown, Serafin stood with a sad smile. She tossed it to Mnemon, who took it with bemusement. â€œThat could happen anyway. You never struck me as the sort to worry about that.â€
â€œNo, I suppose not.â€
â€œBesides, if either of us makes a mistake, I doubt anyone in Creation will live long enough to learn about it.â€ Serafin didn't smile as she spoke. â€œGood luck, Empress.â€
â€œGood luck, Conduit.â€ As Mnemon woke, the throne room shimmered around Serafin, fading away to an endless field of grass, with rain falling lightly from the sky and fires burning merrily in the fields, somewhere between rural idyll and raw chaos. She smiled to see it. Don't worry, Mother. Despite everything, you and I are still of one mind.
She opened her eyes, sat up slowly. Beside her, her husband stirred and reached for her. â€œIt is not time already?â€
â€œI'm afraid so.â€ Slipping out of Alakazar's grasp, Serafin rose from her bed. Her clothes shifted and twisted around her, shaping themselves into the comfortable dress that she intended to wear to her mission. â€œThose Solars move fast, when they want to, Mnemon's on her way into the Sword, and I've barely got enough time for my own actions as it is.â€ Flicker, sleeping curled up as usual at the foot of their bed, meowed sleepily and she paused to stroke his fur before stepping towards the window. â€œTell the others I love them?â€
â€œNot yet.â€ The raksha king was just as quick when he wanted to be, and he was out of the bed and across the room in a heartbeat. His arms wrapped around Serafin from behind, folding her into his embrace. â€œYou're shaking.â€
â€œI know.â€ Serafin's voice was faint. Alakazar let go just long enough to gently turn her around, looking down into her eyes. He watched them smoulder, saw the deeply-held rage that shook her to the core as she thought about what she would be doing.
â€œWhen you are filled with anger, I can hardly recognize you.â€ The Fair Folk lord spoke quietly. â€œYou taught me many things, Serafin. Above all of them, you taught me how to live in a world without conflict. Just for a moment, I want to live in that world again, with you. Before you go.â€
Serafin swallowed heavily, and her poise broke. She collapsed weeping into his arms, and he caught her easily, stroking her hair as he spoke. â€œMy most beautiful wife, the one who stole my heart. I think back to the time before I knew you, before I understood this world, and I cannot imagine my life without you in it.â€
â€œI don't know if I can do this.â€
â€œYes, you do.â€ Alakazar smiled sadly. â€œYou are the strongest of us, the strongest person I have ever known. You can do whatever it takes.â€ A moment more, and then he let her go. â€œGo. Just know that I will always love you.â€
Serafin stepped to the window. At the foot of the bed, Flicker rose tentatively, to take flight behind her, and she raised a hand. â€œNo, Flicker. Not this time. Stay with Alakazar. Look after him.â€ She turned her attention back to her husband. â€œI'm sorry.â€
â€œDon't be. If you had chosen any differently, you would not be my wife.â€ Alakazar smiled. â€œI'm sure that Millia would agree, wouldn't she? The world must come first.â€
â€œThe world must come first.â€ Serafin tilted her head back. â€œI can't imagine my life without you, either. You completed me, and I will never have words for how much I love you.â€
â€œYou will never need them.â€ Alakazar nodded his head as he repeated himself. â€œGo. The world needs you.â€
â€œGood-bye.â€ A silver shimmer as she stepped off the windowsill, her body collapsing and compacting as it fell, until a silver hawk shot with impossible speed into the distance. The clouds gathered dark overhead as Alakazar watched her go, gathering Flicker absently into his arms as he did so.
It was Fiona who found him there, an hour later, still watching the distance, the rain falling around him. Without asking, she sat by his side, watching the droplets fall. Gwydion came next, standing solemnly behind, and silent Varich after him. One by one, the lords and ladies of the Silver Court gathered, to sit vigil together for the woman they had all come to love, and whom none of them expected to see again.