Fourteen hundred words, geez.
â€œReally, Serafin, you disappoint me.â€ The Bodhisattva was a blur of black and silver as he fought, his thin daikalve effortless bridging the spaces around him as his anima cradled his body, spinning to deflect a thrust from Serafinâ€™s claws and returning with lightning speed to slip around Flickerâ€™s pounces, sending the behemoth flying across the room. It recovered with a hiss, dropping into the shadows and vanishing, only to reappear directly above its prey and drop. Without missing a beat, the Silver Prince hopped backwards, avoiding the blow. â€œDid you think that a Fair Folk behemoth, however well-crafted, was enough to bridge the gap in our powers? If it werenâ€™t so amusing, it would be insulting.â€ He pressed forwards, and Serafin leapt backwards and flipped across the wall to avoid a storm of blows. â€œNo army of elder Exalts? Not even a Circle?â€
Serafin caught the anger in his words, hidden behind layers of bored amusement. She smiled lightly, reversing her retreat to bounce off the ceiling, drop-kicking towards the Prince in the same instant that Flicker, mirroring her actions, rose soundlessly from the floor. The Princeâ€™s stance shifted, his sword sweeping up as he danced to one side, and Serafin and Flicker pushed off each other to avoid his counterthrust. â€œIâ€™m sorry, Prince.â€ She said sweetly. â€œI thought Mnemon had you well in hand.â€
â€œMnemon?!â€ The barb struck home, and the Prince swung at Serafin with true ferocity for the first time. â€œA Dragon-Blood? You expected a foot-soldier to be able to challenge me, even for a moment?!â€ His expression shifted into amusement, a moment too late. â€œYou are a very funny woman, Serafin. The world will miss your wit. But not for very long.â€
â€œIt just burns you up, doesnâ€™t it?â€ Serafin laughed. â€œThat those mere footsoldiers managed to beat you.â€
â€œAs usual, you understand nothing.â€ The Princeâ€™s expression didnâ€™t alter.
â€œWell, no.â€ Serafin shrugged, slipping around the Princeâ€™s attacks to slice at him. He stepped back away from her, refusing her the leeway for even a testing blow, as he moved to keep Flicker from looping around him. â€œI told you, Prince. Iâ€™ve never considered you before. I donâ€™t know anything about you.â€ She saw the almost imperceptible flinch, and smiled inwardly. He might be her match in combat, but he was giving himself away. â€œI donâ€™t even know why you want to do this? You say you donâ€™t care that the Dragon-Blooded overthrew you, but youâ€™ve spent most of your afterlife becoming a messiah to the people of Skullstone. You seem pretty desperate to recover your power to me.â€
â€œPower is ephemeral.â€ The Prince snarled the words, his blade a solid wall of soulsteel as he began to advance. Serafin was forced back under his approach, as Flicker once again slipped into the shadows and vanished. â€œPossessions are meaningless. Existence is fleeting. Even memory fades, Serafin.â€ He glared at her evenly. â€œWhat would you know about my motives? Youâ€™re a child compared to me. You havenâ€™t seen the truth of the world â€“ that everything will be lost. Even if, by some miracle, you managed to beat me here? It would mean nothing. Your deeds, your precious heroism, your very name will be forgotten.â€ He stabbed forwards suddenly, and Serafin dove beneath his blow, her claws driving upwards towards the skin of his hand in the same instant that Flicker appeared from behind, hands outstretched to twist his head around. Without hesitating, he slammed his head backwards, sending Flicker flying, and twisted his wrist to bring his blade down. Soulsteel and moonsilver clashed, sending sparks across the room, as his eyes and Serafinâ€™s met. â€œThereâ€™s no reason to hold on to the ephemeral.â€ The Prince said grimly. â€œBetter to end it all, to end the fruitless politics and pointless veneration, the love and the hate and all of the tangled waste that is Creation.â€
Serafin stepped backwards, her expression suddenly soft. â€œSo thatâ€™s it.â€ She said quietly.
â€œExcuse me?â€ The Prince raised an eyebrow.
â€œThey forgot you.â€ Serafin shook her head. â€œThatâ€™s what this is about. Itâ€™s not that you were killed. Itâ€™s not that the Dragon-Blooded took your place as rulers of the world. Theyâ€™ve forgotten who you were, havenâ€™t they? They donâ€™t even know your name.â€ She sighed. â€œFor that, youâ€™ll damn the world?â€
â€œYou think you can gain all of that from a single conversation?â€ The Prince snickered.
â€œIâ€™m the conduit of Gaia, and the bride of the Fae. If thereâ€™s one thing I understand, itâ€™s why people do things.â€ Serafin replied.
There was a moment of hesitation, as the Prince searched for something to say and found nothing. His sword remained ready for her next strike, but she simply watched him solemnly, claws ready but not about to strike. She spoke before he could. â€œThereâ€™s still time, Prince. To turn away from this insanity before it destroys you. To be remembered as the Deathlord strong enough to break away from the Neverborn.â€
â€œThere will be no one left to remember anything, Conduit of Gaia.â€ The Silver Prince raised his sword once again. â€œYou like to talk, and I appreciate that. It will be our final conversation, most likely, since youâ€™ll be dead and I wonâ€™t be talking to anyone before the whole array goes down.â€ He smirked. â€œAnd I do appreciate your obsessive need to â€˜saveâ€™ people. But youâ€™re wasting your time. Iâ€™ve made my choice, and words wonâ€™t stop whatâ€™s about to happen.â€ He glanced past Serafin, to the massive control array, and smiled. â€œItâ€™s over.â€
The array sprang to light, filling the room with a soft white glow. Mnemonâ€™s voice echoed over the speakers, emotionless and cold. â€œManse Initialization complete. My sensors recognize an intruder in the Grid control room. Shall I take action?â€
â€œPlease, do so. And begin the destruction of Creation.â€ The Prince smiled widely. â€œGoodbye, Serafin.â€
â€œUnderstood.â€ Mnemonâ€™s voice said firmly. Serafin crouched in place, watching the Prince, glancing to the control panel.
â€œDonâ€™t bother. I have the Hearthstone of the Imperial Manse. You canâ€™t do anything but dieâ€¦â€ The Silver Princeâ€™s words broke off as the starmetal conduits worked into the wall flared with purple light, spreading almost instantly to the moonsilver glyphs that covered the room. Light lanced out in all directions, filling the room, and he responded instantly, his anima rearing up around it. â€œStop! What are you doing?â€
Serafin, unarmed by the light, stepped forwards, hammering blows down on the Prince. His Essence responded, and he flickered in and out of existence as he tried vainly to find somewhere to protect him from the Gridâ€™s defenses. As she fought, Mnemon spoke again. â€œI am removing the intruder from the Manse.â€
â€œIâ€™m not the intruder, you idiot!â€ The Prince reached to the hilt of his sword, where the Hearthstone of Creation glittered. â€œIâ€™m the master of the Manse! I command you to stop!â€
This time, there was emotion in Mnemonâ€™s voice. â€œI refuse your request.â€
â€œRequest?â€ The Prince stared in utter shock at the walls around him, his Essence bleeding away. â€œIâ€¦ what?â€
â€œIt was the one route you could never understand.â€ Serafin said quietly, her sorrow an odd counterpoint to the ferocity of her blows. â€œYou were so focused on control that you never considered it.â€
Mnemon was less kind. â€œWhen did I ever say that the Hearthstone controlled the Sword?â€ Her chuckle filled the room, as the Prince was forced to one knee, his anima growing dimmer by the moment.
â€œButâ€¦ the sacrificeâ€¦â€ The Princeâ€™s eyes widened, as, far too late, he understood. â€œYou let me kill you. You wanted to die.â€
â€œOf course.â€ Mnemon said. â€œMy mother never controlled the Imperial Manse, Bodhisattva. She merely communed with its guardian. A position that you so thoughtfully gave to me.â€
â€œClever, Mnemon, clever. But I wonâ€™t allow it!â€ The Silver Prince launched himself towards the orichalcum chamber where Mnemonâ€™s corpse still lay, daiklave outstretched to smash the room to pieces. Serafin was faster, stepping into the path of the blade and catching it on her claws. The impact drove her back, but the Prince was losing power fast, and his follow-up blow was easily avoided.
â€œI enjoyed matching wits with you, Silver Prince.â€ Mnemon said. â€œBut itâ€™s over now. Goodbye.â€
The Princeâ€™s anima collapsed, and the light speared him through. His skin began to dissolve, every mote of his being drawn into the fabric of the Sword of Creation. â€œMnemonâ€¦ well played.â€ He said faintly, admiringly.
And then, a moment later, he was gone.