Second-last episode. Weird.
There was a polite knock on the door of Cathak Damianâ€™s office. Two quick raps, followed by a third after a moment. He looked up slowly, distracted from the paperwork in front of him. â€œCome in?â€
The door swung open, revealing Jacint, the Prince Upon The Towers. Adorjanâ€™s eighteenth soul smiled warmly at the Sidereal, inclining his head. â€œForgive my intrusion, Master Damian. A friend asked me to convey her as quickly as possible.â€
Stepping around him, Serafin, the Chaos In Order, Twenty-Sixth Soul of Gaia, smiled impishly. For all that she was a soul of Gaia, Damian reflected, she hadnâ€™t changed much. There was more of aâ€¦ glow, he supposed was the best word, but none of the alienness heâ€™d expected. When questioned, sheâ€™d simply answered that if the whole point of the exercise was to have a soul to represent a human connection, why would that soul not look human?
On reflection, heâ€™d been forced to agree with her. It didnâ€™t make it any less odd, though.
â€œI figure, if you canâ€™t abuse the hospitality of your fellow Unquestionable, what can you do?â€ Serafin said lightly. She turned and bowed to Jacint. â€œThank you, sir.â€ Then she saw the paperwork, and frowned. â€œOh, Damian. Really?â€
Damian smiled back. In the last year, his face had grown wrinkled, and his hair had gone a very respectable shade of white. When he looked in the mirror, he barely recognized himself any more. â€œJust a few last things I need to get done before the party.â€ He gestured for Serafin to have a seat, stroking his mustache thoughtfully. Heâ€™d never bothered with one in the Second, preferring to look young, but life was short. Now. â€œThe upcoming vote on the Golden Dragon Crusade, you know.â€
Serafin nodded. â€œOh, I know. Gaiaâ€™s voting for intervention, if youâ€™re curious.â€
â€œMaybe she can convince Cytherea or Luna to change their votes?â€ Damian said hopefully. â€œLast time I checked, Oramus was voting for no intervention, and all of the Eldest faction was onside â€“ so thereâ€™s Wesmaken, Biraszha Haisz, and Cecelyne backing him. Meanwhile, Autochthon is pro-intervention, and you know how Adorjan, Zuratha, and Thari have started siding with him. Itâ€™s going to be down to the Practicals, I think, and theyâ€™d listen to Cytherea if she was on the same side as Gaia â€“ you know She Who Lives In Her Name trusts the two of them when it comes to affairs within Creation, He Who Follows In His Wake always supports her, and Szoreny usually sides with Cytherea regardless.â€
â€œIâ€™ll ask. Cytherea always gets sore when she thinks sheâ€™s supporting something Luna approves of.â€ Serafin said wryly. â€œYou really think the Primordials will decide this one?â€
â€œAbsolutely.â€ Damian replied, brandishing one of his reports. â€œThe gods are split down the middle on which way to go with this thing, and they almost never change their minds.â€
With a chuckle, Serafin snatched the paper out of his hands, looking over it. â€œYou canâ€™t blame them. The Exalted have dominion over Creation, itâ€™s the Mandate of Heaven and itâ€™s still more or less in effect since nobody won the Competition. Anyway, itâ€™s a cooperation between Solar Exalts and Immaculate monks.â€
â€œYes, if they werenâ€™t burning a swath across the Southern Desert in the name of some vague ideal of righteousness it would be heartwarming.â€ Damian said sourly. â€œYou know, I really thought Iâ€™d seen the last of Peleps Deled.â€
â€œLucky you.â€ Serafin reached over again, grabbing Damianâ€™s hand. â€œNow come on.â€
â€œIâ€™m not quite done.â€ Damian replied. â€œIâ€™ve got these reports to file on the Deathlords â€“ you know that the Sage has been spotted in the Underworld, and we havenâ€™t gotten any armies into the Lionâ€™s domain, plus the Dowager still controls the Well of Udrâ€¦â€
â€œJallen can handle those. Heâ€™s been looking into it. Come on.â€ Serafin replied amusedly.
Damien stood up uncertainly, then fished for another pile. â€œThereâ€™s the whole issue of how to integrate First Circle descendants of humanized Primordialsâ€¦â€
â€œWhich really has nothing to do with you. Why are you even looking into that?â€
Undaunted, Damian pressed on. â€œHouses Ragara, Peleps, and Cynis are still opposing Empress Vâ€™Neefâ€™s claim that the Celestial Exalted have been purified of Anathema taint and restored to gloryâ€¦â€
â€œAnd someone else can deal with it.â€ Effortlessly, Serafin stretched an arm three feet across the table, wrapped her fingers around Damianâ€™s waist like cables, and lifted. Carrying him in the air, she started for the door. â€œHonestly.â€
â€œSorry.â€ Damian said sheepishly, as Jacint inclined his head once again. Serafin placed him at the foot of the road outside the door, and gave him a push, and with a rueful laugh he stepped onto it. â€œI just get so involved in work. Master Cyrus used to say that I would miss my own funeral if there was another report to be filed.â€
For a moment, Serafin walked in silence. â€œYou nearly did.â€ She finally said.
Damian winced. â€œI didnâ€™t meanâ€¦â€ He trailed to a halt. â€œYou know that none of us blamed you.â€
Serafin looked across the flickering landscape traversed by Jacintâ€™s road, as the great being strolled behind them, and they walked the steps towards the Blessed Isle. â€œI know. I shouldnâ€™t haveâ€¦â€
â€œYou came to every one.â€ Damian said. â€œEvery time one of the elder Exalted died this year, you were there at their funeral. Donâ€™t tell me you donâ€™t blame yourself.â€
â€œI donâ€™t regret my choice.â€ Serafin said firmly, not looking back.
â€œDo you regret having to make it?â€ Damian asked.
There were another few moments of silence, then Damian nodded. â€œI wish Iâ€™d been able to save Millia.â€
â€œThat wasnâ€™t your fault.â€ Serafin said softly.
â€œIt was my decision to have her oversee the Iselsi. If I hadnâ€™tâ€¦â€
â€œRegrets are like snow in winter.â€ Serafin stopped, turning around. â€œDamian, Millia knew that she might die for Creation. You didnâ€™t kill her, and I know she would forgive you. I already have.â€
â€œThank you.â€ Damian bowed his head.
â€œCome on, old man.â€ Serafin punched him lightly in the shoulder. â€œYouâ€™re retired, now. Enjoy your twilight.â€
Damian chuckled, as he reached the other end of Jacintâ€™s road. â€œI will.â€