Chapter 25.1

“But now, alas! the place seems changed;
Thou art no longer here:
Part of the sunshine of the scene
With thee did disappear.

Though thoughts, deep-rooted in my heart,
Like pine-trees dark and high,
Subdue the light of noon, and breathe
A low and ceaseless sigh;

This memory brightens o’er the past,
As when the sun, concealed
Behind some cloud that near us hangs
Shines on a distant field.”

— Excerpt of “A Gleam of Sunshine” By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Their surroundings smoldered, and her ears rang, the call of the void filling her head on an almost maddening level.  The warrior rubbed at her ears as if hoping to chase the sound out, but she knew it was no use.  She’d been near enough explosions and cannon blasts to know that it would take time for that to leave her.  What a stubborn guest, that hollow sound, to invade her thoughts so.  A flickering of affection warmed her chest, and Elmiryn was taken back to battles long since past.  In the static ring, she thought she could hear Saelin calling to her.  What advice could he give her, here?  Now?  Such a stubborn, stubborn guest, this sound.

And such a stubborn, stubborn host, was she.

There was something to the bullheaded almost masochistic nature of people that Elmiryn had always found appealing.  It was the addiction peeking just at the edges of masks that beguiled her into thinking that everything would be just fine after this one thing was taken care of.  As a child, she recalled the almost ghoulish delight at the self-destructive natures that undid adults.  Now an adult herself, that delight had quieted, especially given her recent problems, but still the fascination lingered.  It was what made Nyx enthralling.  What had made Lethia inspiring.  What had made Graziano so amusing.

Now she had (literally) seen that hungry beast of passion swallow Quincy whole.  Yet, that seducing promise that everything would be okay after this one thing was taken care of, rang hollow–like the void Elmiryn heard ringing in her ears.  If the wizard plunged that sword into her heart, it could be the ultimate end.  Elmiryn could see it.  Had even tasted it when her spirit was cast from her body and the world was hers to feel.  If only she could defuse this situation with one good pull of thread, like she’d done to the dust and the air.

But that weave was a great deal more complicated than she’d previously encountered, and it irked her that Meznik could handle it, if only he were inclined to.

“Quincy.” Elmiryn’s voice was soft.  She held her sword off to the side and stretched a hand out.  “Give us the sword.”

“It’s mine,” the wizard said.  Her voice was low and chilled.  A ghostly reminder of who she’d once been when Tonatiuh’s spirit had been inside her, taking all the warmth of her soul and leaving her a cold husk.  But then Quincy’s azure eyes snapped open as Praxidice’s heavy steps crunched near, and they flared with feeling.

Hard to keep indifferent when a giant beast of legend came your way.

The dragon rumbled, its eyes narrowed as it towered over the woman.  It let out a hot breath that fluttered the wizard’s hair.  Elmiryn heard that serpentine voice waft its way into her ears, just as she had heard before.  She looked at Nyx, but the girl showed no signs of hearing this time.

Praxidice’s voice hissed from afar, “I honor our agreement only on the condition that you and your fellows cause me no trouble.  That peace is currently being threatened.”  The last word became an ominous growl.

Though she could not hear, the wizard seemed to understand the dragon’s meaning.  She did not lower the sword even as the beast bared its teeth at her.  “It’s mine,” she said again, her obstinacy giving her voice fire.

“Why kill yourself?  Why now?” Nyx asked.  There was something hard about the way the Ailuran said this.

Elmiryn answered her.  “She’s not trying to kill herself, though she could very well die a fool’s death.” The warrior glared at the brunette in question.  “She wants to take Tonatiuh’s spirit into her heart.”

The Ailuran balked.  “That’s lunacy!”

“You would know everything about it, Ailuran, I’m sure.  So spare me.” Quincy’s eyes cut at the girl before flickering to the dragon again.  “I have to do this.”

“You do not,” a gruff voice said.

Elmiryn saw Sedwick come near.  The warrior sighed a little in relief.  The man was okay.  She said to him, “Sedwick, she’s out of her mind.”

“My mind is here and it is well ordered, thank you.” Quincy snapped.  Her breath sounded short.  The wizard had been eerily calm upon her deliverance from death, or perhaps it had been relief in finally having her sword back–but that relief was fast fading, and Elmiryn could see her resolve waver as clear as ripples on water.  If Quincy had no doubt, the sword would have found a place in her heart already.  Yet she hesitated, trying to bring back her nerve.

There was still a chance to talk her out of it.

“I know what I’m doing,” Quincy said, almost to herself, and Elmiryn could see her grip on her sword turn white-knuckled.

“So then why haven’t you done it yet?” Nyx asked coolly.

Elmiryn glanced at the girl, a little surprised at the lack of sympathy.  Then again, Nyx hadn’t been given many reasons to like the wizard.

“Tonatiuh is an unstable spirit, Quincy,” the warrior started.  “Taking him into your heart is like…” she trailed off, unsure of what to say.

“Inviting a fox into your hen house,” Sedwick finished helpfully.  He slowly began to approach Quincy.  “Please.  Give it here.  We’ll take care of it.”  The wizard watched his approach with growing trepidation on her face.  Then at the last moment she sprung away, and the dragon hissed loudly, wings spreading back as it snapped at her in warning.  She backpedaled until a low wall of rubble knocked the backs of her knees.

Quincy shook her head emphatically, her locks of hair clinging to the sides of her sweaty face and neck.  “You don’t know the trouble I went through for this sword!” she screamed.  “It is mine!  Mine! It was all I had when my home was destroyed.  I’ve fought all manners of creatures and men to keep it in my hands so that one day I could kill the men who gave it to me.  The sword is not complete until Tonatiuh is inside it, and in turn, I am not complete until he is inside me.  I am nothing without this!”  Her voice broached on hysterical, just like back in Gamath.  Tears were shining in her eyes.

Elmiryn threw her hands up into the air and turned away.  “Well…fuck.  I’ll give you this.  For once I don’t know what to say.”  The woman spat at the ground and put away her sword. “Fine.  Run yourself through.  If that’s all you’ve got, then you really aren’t worth my time.”  She gestured for Nyx to follow.  “Come on, Nyx.  Let’s see if we can do something to help the city.” The girl started to follow her, and her tawny eyes flashed with knowing.

Elmiryn kept walking, her ears perked for that moment when–

“Why walk now?” Quincy shouted.  Her voice was hoarse.  Even insulted.  “Why turn and flee when your tongue is still weighed by our oath!?

She’d expected the wizard’s ego to take offense at her words, but her response had taken things too far.  They called Elmiryn’s honor into question, and she didn’t take kindly to it.

With a tight neck, she turned to send a searing gaze Quincy’s way. “Because, you dolt.  I cannot help you in your goals if you would seek to undo them yourself.”  Elmiryn gestured at the mountain of gold and corpses that Tonatiuh had regurgitated.  She tried to keep her hands steady because they had started shaking.  “You will be a gods damned queen of light, shining your attention on all the wrong things.  Your hallmark will be gold and death, and none will weep for your dogheart, least of all me.

“You were supposed to be so much more.  Someone with honor, and skill, and intelligence!  What about your promise to Graziano’s spirit?  What about your goal of finding your husband?  You want this so bad?”  Elmiryn pointed at a grinning skull near her feet, a ruby in its mouth and gold coins scattered about it.  “Then just pierce your heart now, and expect my sword to join your pain and stop this madness from ever happening again.  Praxidice will happily feast on your remains, Paulo will be lost to the four winds, and your husband will walk the earth with a hole in his fucking chest because you, Quincy, could not be completed by anything save the hungry fang of a mad spirit!”

Elmiryn took a breath, a rush of release easing the muscles in her back.  She swallowed at the fist in her throat and was reminded of her thirst.  “I can’t walk in step with something so ass backwards.  I’m backwards enough on my own.”  She turned her body a quarter so that she didn’t face the wizard anymore.  She clenched her fists to keep her hands still.  The shakes had reached their peak.

Nyx touched her bicep, giving it a squeeze, before she turned and went back.  Elmiryn didn’t look, but heard the girl speak.  “Quincy…Praxidice is the guardian of this place, and her sisters are lost.  Give her Tonatiuh.  He will be your end if you don’t.”  The coldness and derision had left the Ailuran’s voice.  All that could be heard was reason and a gentle beseeching of peace.

Her words lingered in the air, edging out the void that had nestled in Elmiryn’s ears.

Everyone seemed suspended, caught in the indecision for what appeared to be ages.

Then there was the sharp sound of a blade cutting into soil.  The redhead looked up.

Quincy was weeping silently, tears streaking down her blotchy face as she backed away from Tonatiuh’s blade, which she had sunk into the rubble before Praxidice. She took one step back, then another.  It was like the brunette had to fight her body every bit of the way, for she curled as if physically pained.

She was saying over and over under her breath, “Baghun, mahar-krun ekhep jukatiba…” Her voice trembled.

The dragon regarded her for a beat before dropping her head low.  Her slitted nostrils flared and she snorted at the hilt.  Then with a twist of her neck, the beast took the golden blade between her fangs.  Praxidice’s neck muscles bunched and her head shook as she tried to crush the sword between her jaws.  The blade flashed, and the warrior thought she heard a distant scream just before the dragon succeeded.  The metal broke apart and crumbled to sand, turning dark as obsidian as it fell.  The hilt, purposeless, lay absent in the dirt.

The air felt lighter.  Elmiryn took a deep breath as did Nyx.  “A shard of the original sun god is lost…” the warrior murmured.  All turned to her, and she explained.  “When Nathric tore Ortus apart, he consumed his pieces.  When the last three pieces were saved, it was assumed that Praxidice and her sisters had taken in the natures of the other four.  But there were only three dragons, and if Nathric, the shadow king, was made full by but one shard of a god…why wouldn’t the dragons?”

“Tonatiuh was a shard of Ortus…” Nyx breathed.

Sedwick shook his head.  “A shard of a shard.  No doubt, Nathric’s remains were scattered by his followers.  If Tonatiuh were complete, he would’ve been in the sky to wage war with his brothers.  Maybe he had found the other pieces of himself and was close to being whole.  Maybe the dragons didn’t take a full seventh of Ortus, but just a sixteenth.  It would explain how Tonatiuh was so strong against them, yet still not strong enough to go to heaven.” He looked at Quincy.  “He needed more.  He had to possess something just to exist fully in our world, like that sword…Like you.” His pale eyes were apologetic.

Quincy’s voice was hollow.  “It doesn’t matter.  None of it matters now.”  She sat on the ground and looked ill, a sentiment that Elmiryn could sympathize with but for different reasons.  The wizard trembled visibly and looked like a small child.  “Oh my gods…what did I just do?” the wizard breathed.

The warrior looked at the tips of her boots.  Her cotton shirt fluttered in the hot breeze.  The acrid scent of things burning sent her thoughts downward.

The dragon, who seemed to sit dwelling on Tonatiuh’s remains, turned and moved toward the remains of her sisters.  She nudged their bloody flesh with her snout and a low whine came up from deep inside her.

“She needs time…” Nyx breathed. She looked at Elmiryn as the woman turned on the spot, taking in the destruction.  “Elmiryn, how do you feel?”

“The battle is done,” the warrior muttered.  “The aftermath…it…this feels like a battlefield.” She shook her head and remembered the rush of exhilaration she’d felt in the past from walking the city streets.  The wine-stained images, the oil slick portraits, the soft crayon memories were white washed in the face of her curse.  But her heart still turned with the fondness she had for the backwards city and its bullheaded, self-destructive, masochistic people. “This is Malvene.  A city.  Home for so many, and once…it was home to me.  This…they were never supposed to know something like this,” Elmiryn finished.  She looked at Sedwick.  “Help me put out these fires, Sedwick.  They’re spreading to the other buildings.”  Her voice took on a note of authority.

The elemental nodded with a resolute look on his face.  “Lead the way.”

Elmiryn turned to Nyx.  “You had business with Praxidice, right?”

Nyx nodded, looking not at all thrilled at the prospect of separating again.  “I promised her a spirit she’s been wanting for a long time.”  The Ailuran looked at Praxidice, and gave a start.  Elmiryn followed her gaze.

The dragon was eating her sisters’ remains.  The crunch of bones and the unpleasant ‘squelch’ of flesh filled the air.

“She’s becoming one with them.  Taking their power,” Sedwick readily explained.

Elmiryn looked around, and sure enough, through the pillars of smoke that curled up from the burning city, she could see the shadowy giants she had spied when first arriving at the shard.  She gave a nod.  “If she doesn’t, then others will come and take what is left.  That would be dangerous.”

Nyx gave a slow nod, though she was clearly sickened by the idea.  “I’ll go check on Farrel then, until Praxidice is…done.”

Elmiryn touched her shoulder, then her hair, and offered a smile.

The girl looked at her softly.  “Will you be okay?” Nyx asked.  “You don’t look well.”

The warrior just smiled wider in response.  Her eyes flickered to Quincy, who had not moved in all this time, tears still falling from her eyes as she stared wide-eyed at the black pile that was once her sword.  Elmiryn gestured for Sedwick to follow her and gave Nyx a jaunty two-finger salute before turning away.  The smile wiped from her face as soon as Nyx couldn’t see.  The man fell into step next to her.  “You sure you’ll be alright?” he asked quietly.

Elmiryn smacked her dry mouth and gave him a sidelong glance.  “This’ll sound weird, and I’d prefer not to think on how you’ll provide it…but do you think you could give me some water?


I watched Elmiryn go with my lip between my teeth.  This was her home, her people that had suffered.  I knew how I’d feel if such were the case for me.  With the battle done with, there was nothing left to do but deal with the aftermath.  The same rang true for all of us.

A look at Quincy told me the wizard was in a sort of shock over what had just happened.  While I knew it had been necessary to persuade her, it made me uncomfortable to know that my bardic ability could bring about such results.

Yes.  I had in fact used my power on the wizard.  I was certain she could see it, being trained in the art of magic herself, but there was no guile in my words.  Were it not for everyone else’s pleas, it may not have worked at all.  If it were up to me alone, the effort would have been lost, I’m sure.  I mean–I just didn’t understand, and surely Quincy would have seen that.  Felt it.  How could anyone place so much value on such a dangerous item?  It was alien to me.  I kept trinkets myself, and especially knew the importance of keeping such a thing when it once belonged to a deceased loved one, but when that item sought to destroy you and everyone around you?  Was it still worth keeping then?  Aside from my discomfort over being associated with such pain, I could not conjure up the sympathy for the woman’s plight.

I turned next to Halward’s remaining familiar.

Praxidice chewed her sisters’ remains slowly, her wings sagged and her head bowed low.  Was this how noble beasts mourned?  I turned away, an uncomfortable feeling claw its way up my spine and into my gut.

I had to find Farrel.

At first it was hard for me to get my bearings because the landscape had been changed.  The new crater overlapped the old.  In the distance, through the smoke that crowded the air, I could see the Halward statue.  Using that as my reference, I reoriented myself and started in the direction that I guessed Farrel to be.  I went far, certain he would have fled to a safer distance.  I prayed that he did.  Tonatiuh’s second impact surely would have killed him if he hadn’t.

“Farrel!” I called, cupping my hands around my mouth.  “Farrel, can you hear me!?”

No answer.  I sighed and tried to pick him out from the desolate surroundings.  “Where are you…?” I breathed.

I searched and searched…but there was no sign of him.  “He really did run away,” I thought.  The feelings associated with this realization were mixed.

I was relieved.  While the simple fact that I hadn’t encountered his corpse either meant he was buried under rubble or perhaps even blown apart to bloody pieces, I chose to believe he was alive.  But then if that were truly the case, I was angry at him.  After all, hadn’t I risked my neck to free him of Volo?  Hidden amidst these feelings was also concern.  Farrel’s twisted sense of judgment could be his undoing in a strange dimension like this.  I felt betrayed, too.  Still vivid in my mind was the memory of a man just trying to do the right thing in a tough situation.

And lastly…I was ashamed.  I felt Farrel’s actions mirrored my character from just a year ago.  I could understand his decision, and for all my feelings, I could empathize with it, as I could not with Quincy.  Did that make him bad?  And if so, what did that say about me?

I felt the pain of being anathema all over again, only I wasn’t given time to dwell.

The sound of wings in the air had me looking up with a start.  Praxidice swooped down to land before me, and her churning of the wind sent dust into my eyes and my hair whipped about my face.  I shielded myself until the air settled once more, and the dragon peered at me, something about her gaze even more electric than when I had first met her.  Her scales had become pristine once more, and glittered a mirror-like gold.  My hairs stood on end to feel such undiluted power.  She was one with her sisters, now.

I nodded once at her.  “To Volo, then,” I murmured.


Quincy couldn’t feel her feet or her hands.  Her head lolled to the side and the tears fell from her glassy eyes.  The obsidian pile of dust before her reminded her of the I’equa tear she had crushed back in Belcliff.  There was a myth about the clear divining stones, stating that they were the products of angels.  The stones reacted to the spiritual environment, revealing any number of things–from damaged intellectual clusters, tainted spiritual landscapes, and abnormal levels of energy.  When an I’equa tear turned black, it meant insidious magic was in the air.

To see her golden blade turned so evil a color made her heart still in her chest.

“You were mine…” she whispered.

She heard the tinkle of metal buckles and the crunch of boots over the dirt.  “These things come and go, little one,” Tristi’s voice said behind her.

Quincy responded without turning her head. “That sword had been with me since I could remember.”

“Isn’t it nice to be freed of such a burden?” Tristi sat next to her cross legged. “I still recall you, a teeny girl, dragging the rusty blade behind you through the jungle.”  He chuckled.  “It was your favorite prop to play with after Hakeem helped you get over your fear of–”

“Are we reminiscing now?” Quincy asked, her voice regaining some hardness.  She glared at Tristi as she wiped at her eyes.  “I’m not a total fool.  Tonatiuh was not a loved one, and memories of him are filled with struggle.  Pain.”

“Then why mourn him?”

“I’m not mourning him.” Quincy looked at the obsidian pile.  “I mourn the things I could’ve achieved with him.”

Tristi chuckled.  “You mean an early death?”

“A victory.  A peace.  Tonatiuh kept my heart still when it was going to leap out of my mouth, and he kept me focused when weakness sought to distract me.  You saw all that raw power.  He took on three powerful dragons and would have won, if only he’d thought about the sword in my hand…”

The champion of luck tilted his head back and sighed.  “Ahhh….to know such ignorance!  Tonatiuh has kept your spirit dormant for quite a while for your heady heart to be so easily charmed!”

Quincy cut him a look.  “What?”

“How old are you now, exactly?”

The wizard paused, ashamed that she needed to think about it.  “I’m…thirty.  I think.”

“An odd thing to hold in doubt, isn’t it fledgeling?”

“Nitwit.  I was never told when I was born, so of course I cannot know the exact number.”

Tristi looked at her, his face somber.  “My apologies.  Jack never told you?”

“Why would he?  He wasn’t present at my birthing.  He wasn’t even there when mother died.”  Quincy felt her tears come up again and grit her teeth, a rush of anger seizing her.  “He came just after the birds took her eyes, and then he whisked me away.”

Tristi cleared his throat and stretched his legs out.  “Ah…well.  I was just trying to point out to you, through your cloud of delusion, the way misguided idealism is ill fitted for one your age.  Your emotions leap away from you, and you let logic lie forgotten.  I’d expect this of an adolescent, not of you.”

Quincy felt insulted–so much so that she wanted to say something in retaliation.  Something nasty.  Something cruel.  But the words failed to come to her, so she sat there glaring at the champion with eyes holding all the wishes of spontaneous combustion.  Tristi chuckled at her.  “Come now!  There’s nothing to be ashamed of!  Did Tonatiuh not steel your heart from all feeling?  Well let those freed emotions rip you apart, and with haste!  I’ve a feeling you’ve years of joy and agony to catch up on.”

Joy.  Agony.

How stupid.

Quincy glared at the mountain of riches before her.  Such meaningless things, mingled with such macabre prizes.  The wizard had no idea whose corpses lay before her, and she didn’t want to.  She looked at the weapons next.  The arsenal that Tristi had rained upon them all was either buried from the impact or destroyed entirely.  What lay before Quincy now were the weapons that Tonatiuh had kept inside him.  Much of it seemed mundane and unrecognizable.  That was until–

“Oh my gods!” Quincy’s eyes widened as she jumped to her feet and hurried toward a long staff she saw protruding from the mouth of a skull.  “My lightning staff!  The one that Master Saerth gave me!” She pulled it out of the skull’s mouth and gazed at it in wonder.  “Tonatiuh consumed this years ago!  I had no idea it was still intact!” She squeezed the staff too hard and there was a great zap that sent the woman to her butt.  Little flashes of energy crawled along the ground before vanishing from sight.

Face twitching, Quincy dropped the staff.  “I…I f-forgot ab…ab-about that,” she stammered out.

Tristi burst out laughing. “Your hair is on end!”

The wizard, blushing, tried to smooth her hair with jerky hands, but let out a cry when she was shocked with static more than once.  She turned her head, and her task was forgotten in a startled laugh.  “And here!” She crawled over the other trinkets and plucked up a large wooden boomerang.  It was painted in faded yellow, with blue stripes at the ends and a lined green triangle at its center.  “My old boomerang!  This is Eate’s Son!  It can conjure up small tornadoes!”  Quincy searched the ground, her eyes excited.  “There must be more!”

The wizard let out a shout and dropped the boomerang.  Stumbling to her feet, she next went and picked up a small wand.  “My Wand of Beasts!”  She looked at Tristi ominously.  “I should use this to turn you into a toad.”

“Having seen you knocked on your sweet bottom, I think I have nothing to fear,” Tristi teased.

Quincy glared at him as she tried to smooth her hair down again.  When this still proved a losing battle, the woman abandoned the effort and went instead for her leather pouch.  Carefully she slipped the wand in, and the item vanished into the magic bag’s vast depths.  Next she returned to the boomerang and did the same.  She stooped and picked up the staff again, this time holding it carefully.  She leaned it against her shoulder and drew the bag closed.  As she did so, she saw something glinting next to her foot.  Quincy’s breath caught.

Slowly, she stooped down and picked up her Ring of Living Death.

“And what delicious little item is that?” Tristi asked.

Quincy opened her bag again slowly and dropped the ring inside.  “A small piece of a nightmare,” she whispered.

“Mmm…yes.  Nightmares.  It was like the one I’d had naught but a fortnight ago, where I dreamt I was a man.  How prophetic!”

The brunette’s hands slowed as she tied the bag to her belt.  Slowly, her eyes fastened on Tristi.  “That…makes no sense.  You are a man.”

Tristi nodded good-naturedly.  “Yes.  Currently.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means I was the contrary before.”

“You were a woman?”

“Don’t you remember my chance magic?”

“Yes of course I do, but I don’t see the use in having your gender change!”

Tristi let out a haughty laugh.  “Ha!  Shows what you know, little bird.  Chance magic is not about suiting my every need.  It’s about utilizing my fortune, and that is an element of chaos for good or bad.  I cannot control it.  If I were to will my magic to turn my opponent into a crying babe, I’d just as soon see my head turned into a potted plant!  Anything could happen!”

Quincy shook her head, her nose wrinkled.  The idea of chance magic was alien to their world, and in all her years reading about the various arcane schools, the concept was equally bewildering and abhorrent.  “So your gender change was a case of…misfortune?”

“Hardly.  Whilst in the male form I can piss upright, have people take me seriously the first time, and feel ridiculously empowered by my genitals.”  The wizard stared at him.  Tristi added as an after thought, “Oh, and there’s certain chance spells available to me in the male form.  My stunt with the lance being one of them.  It’s also easier to touch on certain direct outcomes versus when I’m a woman.  Now when I’m asexual I can–”

Quincy cut him off, visibly repulsed.  “Ah, no…no thank you, Tristi, I…yes, I get the point.”  She shook her head.  “If I may ask, as this has always been a mystery to me, but…what are you?”

Tristi raised an eyebrow as he stood to his feet, his jacket tinkling with his movements.  “What am I?”

“Yes.  What are you?”

“A man.  I just said.”

The wizard bared her teeth.  “No!  I mean what is your species?

Tristi looked at her mischievously as he stooped over and grabbed a handful of the obsidian sand.  “Now why would you need to know a thing like that for?”

Quincy frowned as she watched the man pocket the sand and dust his hands.  “Call it curiosity…” she said slowly.  “I…Tristi, why are you taking that sand?”

He gave her a mild look.  “Can I not?”

“Can’t you ever give a straightforward answer?”

Tristi’s smile took on an edge and the wizard gripped the staff before her, feeling her heartbeat quicken.  “We all must have our mysteries.”

The wizard bit her tongue and looked away.  When she composed herself enough to speak, she growled out.  “Tristi, you are a fool.”

“And thou art a lovely virago, but let’s not let these things overtake us.  Come, come!” He clapped his hands together and gestured at himself.  “You have yet to ask me of your father!”

“What about him?  He’s dead, and that’s all I care about.”

Tristi gave her a weird look.  “Fledgeling, where did you hear this?”

Quincy’s sweat chilled as she regarded the man with a wary turn of her head.  “It was happening all over.  Hundreds of Legends, gone!  Champions dead!  People rising up to hunt them all down!  Amidst it all, I’d heard that a man of the winds had been taken in the South Seas.  Are you telling me I’m wrong to think–?”

The champion of luck shook his head, his fanged smile in place.  “No, no, silly bird!  There was but one champion taken that matches what you say, and it was Ludovico, champion of Eate!  God of storms!”  The man rubbed his chin, his eyes looking up in a wistful way.  “I hadn’t been there, but I’d felt the ripple of fortune from clear across the world.  Such a bad turn of luck to see one so powerful go down.”

Quincy felt ill all over again.  “Tristi, if Jack is alive, where is he?”

“You have to understand, we weren’t all killed.  Some of us were too smart, too powerful–”


“Those of us whose patrons mastered the foundations of our world knew even greater favor–”

“Where is he–”

“Fortuna had a hand in it of course, but Lacertli may have–”

Quincy slammed the end of the staff into the ground, sending lightning jutting up into the sky in a hot spear of white light.  The ground surged with static and flares of electricity.  Then all quieted.  The wizard leaned against the pole, panting, her hair about her eyes as she stared wildly at the champion.  “Where…is…my father?” she hissed.

Tristi gazed passively at the wizard.  The firelight caught his half-moon glasses and concealed his eyes.  His ridged ears gave a twitch and he tilted his head, as if hearing something very faint.  He let out a small grunt, then pulled a coin from his pocket.  He flipped it in the air, and the coin rang as it rose, then fell.  Tristi caught it in his gloved hand and slapped it to the back of his other.  “Call it.  The crown or the scales?” he said.

Quincy narrowed her eyes at him.  Then she whispered, “The crown.”

Slowly, Tristi pulled his hand away.  He looked at her and flashed a predatory smile.

“Jack toils in the heart of the Hellas, fighting the sea beasts of Atargatis.  The treacherousness that has sailors fearful comes from his protracted battle.  He is not the man he once was, little bird.” Tristi tilted his head to the side, his smile twitched once.  “…And though you haven’t asked, Tobias travels to the Far East, to speak with the Queen of the Sands.”  He took a step back, and bowed.  The back of his glove began to glow, and yellow symbols flashed through the air, surrounding him in a sphere.  Quincy squinted, taking a wary step back.  “Now, I fear, I have fulfilled Fortuna’s wishes.  My job here is done.  Goodbye little fledgeling.  Do give Nyx my warmest regards?”  The man looked up and winked once before he flared out of sight–the lights gone with him.

Quincy stared, swaying a little on the spot.  “All these years…they’d both been alive.”  Her expression turned pained.  “Tonatiuh is gone now…”  Then she looked at the staff in her hands, and her azure eyes glinted.

“He’s gone,” she growled.  “And He isn’t coming back.”

She started after Elmiryn and Sedwick, her metal staff over her shoulders.  Her steps were clumsy, and she slipped on the sandy rocks and loose dust, her toes snagging the edges of raised ground and hard edges.  Quincy kept moving, and didn’t look back at the pile of black dust that spread with the wind.  There were other matters to deal with now.  Tristi had been right, there was no use in mourning what could have been.  Her heart was like a rabbit’s beneath her chest, and the brunette felt it beat beneath her jerkin.

I’ve a feeling you’ve years of joy and agony to catch up on.

Joy.  Agony.


Quincy’s brow wrinkled and she slowed as something occurred to her.

“Wait…what did Tristi mean when he said he’d fulfilled Fortuna’s wishes?

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