Chapter 397: A Path Diverged


The air of the Cerulean Savanna, home of the Thyestes Clan, was warm and dry, but a slight breeze always blew over the grasslands, making the tall blue-green blades dance like ocean waves.
We called this the Warrior’s Wind, a magical phenomenon conjured millennia past to ensure that the pantheons training out in the hot savanna would always have a breeze to cool them.

I could see the savanna for many miles in each direction from my perch, over the top of the blue-tiled roofs of Battle’s End.
Our sprawling village grew in shades of red and blue from the very center of the Cerulean Savanna, and was the place all pantheons thought of as home, even those from other clan’s who had never lived here.
It was the heartland of all our race.

“The way your eyes drink in the sight of the savanna, one might be forgiven for thinking you expect never to see it again, old friend.”

“Sharing such tidings brings me no solace, Lord Thyestes,” I said, dragging my gaze away from the horizon to focus on the many-eyed pantheon lord, “but I fear it may be so.”

Ademir’s four front-facing eyes all focused on me, while the eyes at each side of his head moved rapidly, tracking even the smallest motion around us.
“Are you ready to tell me why you’ve left Indrath Castle, then?”

I steadied my breath and adjusted my posture, which was slipping.
A sign of my inner turmoil, I thought.

Ademir and I were both high above the ground, carefully balanced atop towering poles no larger around than my pinky.
A spiral of such poles filled the central courtyard of Battle’s End.
The shortest and thickest were to the outside of the spiral, and they grew thinner and taller until reaching the central rod, which was delicate as a needle.

We were several poles from the center, across from one another.
Ademir had taken a slightly higher, thinner pole than I, and while I could have gone higher, it would have been an act of disrespect to speak down to my lord.

As was tradition, the higher-ranking pantheon also chose the training pose.
Ademir had opted for the relatively simple blade-dancer’s pose.
Matching him, I balanced on one toe with my left leg stuck out at a downward angle behind me, my toes pointing to the ground.
My hands were held stiffly across my body, one palm-down at the level of my core, the second palm-up before my stomach.

“My service to Kezess has ended,” I said at length.
This proclamation was followed by another long pause as I considered my words.
“I am not a sword to be swung without consideration.”

Ademir broke form just long enough to flick a venomous hunter fly from the air, then slid effortlessly back into the blade-dancer’s pose.
“Few asura now alive can remember the time before Kezess Indrath forged the Great Eight and brought the clans together.
Epheotus was a place of endless war and death, a wild and untamed world full of walking catastrophes like the living mountain, Geolus.
It is said that the Cerulean Savanna itself was flattened by pantheons wielding the World Eater technique in battle against the dragons and hamadryads.

“And Kezess has long taken credit for ending that age, forbidding the use of the World Eater technique because of its history.
Its use nearly destroyed our clan, our race, and all of Epheotus.
It breaks not only the world, but the caster as well, and so the pantheons of that age realized it would be better to live in subservience than die among the shattered remains of our world.”

A sudden truth revealed itself to me, and the knowledge left a bitter-cold sickness in my guts.
“Lord Indrath refused to allow our clan to forget the technique.
He demanded that at least one Thyestes pantheon always carry knowledge of the World Eater technique, so that he could use it if necessary.”

Ademir did not respond.
He didn’t need to.

I thought back to my training, the crushing weight of my pride as I worked for decades to assimilate my teacher’s knowledge of the technique.
The eager young pantheon that I had been thought himself a righteous guardian, a protector of sacred forbidden knowledge and of his clan, his people, of all Epheotus.

And yet my pride had made me easy to manipulate.

Just like young Taci.

Because Kezess needed us to be willing to use the World Eater technique if he so commanded.

“I am afraid I must leave Epheotus,” I said, the words sounding as tired as I suddenly felt.

“I know,” Ademir replied.
His head turned slightly, and one bright purple eye stopped its rapid movement as it focused on something.
I followed the line of his gaze.
Wren was hurrying toward the base of the balance posts, waving a hand to get my attention.

Ademir released the blade-dancer and settled into a rest pose.
“I won’t insult you by acting as though I have wisdom to share with you, Aldir.
You are a paragon of our kind.”

“Thank you, Lord Thyestes.” Then, seeing how agitated Wren was, I added, “Excuse me,” before leaning off my perch and falling.
I caught my momentum at the last moment and touched down softly on the hard-packed ground.
“Wren, what is it?”

Wren was stone-jawed and spoke stiffly as he said, “My golems have seen a force of dragons on the move through the savanna, led by your old buddy Windsom.
Something about their pale, scowling faces and the way their knees shake with each step tells me their mission isn’t a peaceful one, but that they also don’t seem too terribly excited about what they’ve got to do.
Do you think, just maybe, that has something to do with you?”

“Dragons? Marching on Battle’s End?” Ademir growled as he landed beside us, the threat in his words unmistakable.
“Now of all times? If he thinks I’ll let this outrage stand—”

“Peace, old friend,” I said, touching my closed eyes and then resting my hand over his heart.
“I ask for your vow, Ademir.
Do not involve the clan, whatever comes of this incursion.
They are not here for the Thyestes.”

“They may come for one, but they’ll find us all, Aldir,” he said firmly, starting to turn away from me.
“No member of the Thyestes Clan will—”

“Then you must banish me.”

Ademir was so caught off guard by the interruption that it took him several seconds to comprehend my actual words.
He scoffed, but didn’t move or speak.

“Lord Thyestes, I have given every moment of my very long life—sacrificed everything outside of my duties—to protect my clan and people.” Moving my hand up to the back of his neck, I gently pulled him forward until our foreheads touched.
“Now, I am prepared to go willingly into exile to do the same.
But you must let me.”

His hand rested on my forearm for a moment, then he pulled away.
Craggy lines of pain marred his usually calm features.
Several seconds passed, and I sensed him gathering his strength.

“Go then.
You…are banished, Aldir, from this place and this clan.”

As he said the words, a scorching fire ripped through the flesh of my neck.
The Brand of the Banished.
A physical symbol of my lack of a place within Battle’s End or the Cerulean Savanna.
The pain was like nothing I had ever felt before, and yet I did not allow myself to express it beyond the grinding of my teeth.

“No pantheon in Epheotus will aid you.” His voice grew rough and emotional as he said the last.
“But know that you still may find aid and succor, should you need it.
If you do seek respite in the lessers’ world, go to the place known as the Beast Glades on their continent of Dicathen.
The ancient dungeons there still contain many secrets, and perhaps even assistance for any wayward sons and daughters of Battle’s End.”

The road of my life had been both long and strenuous, but before I had always known it finished here, at Battle’s End.
Now, that future was gone.
Despite having asked for it, it left me feeling momentarily disoriented and adrift, cut off from my own future and fate.

At the very least, it frees me of the burden of ever teaching the World Eater technique to another, I realized as an afterthought.

Then Wren shifted, his clever eyes reading me as plainly as if I were one of the story tapestries in Indrath Castle, and I settled into my new direction.
For a being as old as I was, new was a difficult concept to wrap my head around.

But I wasn’t rudderless.
I knew where I was going next, even if I didn’t understand what might come of that journey.

And so, with a final bow to Ademir, who could not meet my eyes as I was no longer of the Thyestes, I turned on my heel and marched from the square and into the wide, packed-earth streets of Battle’s End.
Eyes followed me while pretending not to as I passed the homes, training yards, and merchant stalls, all of which were now shut to me.
No one wished me farewell or good luck, or bayed me good health and strength on my travels, as was tradition.

It hurt more than I had imagined it could.
My lack of respect for Kezess and his decisions fomented into hate in that moment.
When I used the World Eater technique, I sacrificed my honor and pride.
That had been bad enough.
But now he had taken my home and heritage as well, and for that, I would never forgive the lord of dragons.

It was with this bitter, fury-fueled fire blazing within me I stepped beyond the boundaries of Battle’s End, but it was fear that kept me from looking back, fear that the loss would sweep my legs from beneath me if I did.

The savanna grasses grew shoulder-high to either side of the well-trodden path, their aquamarines, cyans, turquoises, and teals endlessly whipping back and forth in the Warrior’s Wind.
The grasslands no longer felt like a softly rolling ocean, but ten million spears marching at my side toward my oldest and dearest friend among the dragons.
It was something, to think that the savanna still stood with me.

It was not long before I found them.
I took some small, vindictive pleasure from seeing a dozen dragon soldiers stop suddenly, like their legs would not carry them any closer to me.
Windsom, who was leading them, lifted his chin and dragged his most imperious mask across his face, waiting for me to approach.

“Aldir of the Thyestes Clan, I have been sent to—”

“Of the Thyestes no longer,” I said formally, cutting across his haughty speech.
“I have been banished.”

Windsom’s eyes narrowed.
“A convenient shield for your clansmen, but it also simplifies things for Lord Indrath.”

“You are here to arrest me and take me back to receive Kezess’s judgment,” I said, taking a step closer, the magic connecting me to my weapon, Silverlight, tingling across my fingertips.

The soldiers’ hands tightened around their weapons.

Windsom’s expression remained impassive.
“Only if you make us.
Lord Indrath demands your presence immediately, and we are here to compel your acquiescence.” His brows arched and he straightened yet further, his mana swelling in a poor imitation of true King’s Force.
“With violence if necessary, although Lord Indrath and I both believe you will come peaceably.”

I scanned the faces of the soldiers.
I knew them all.
Brawny Tassos I had saved from a phoenix flame-rider during the skirmishes after Prince Mordain disappeared.
The twins Alkis and Irini had been trained by Kordri since they were just children.
I was surprised to see Kastor, who was one of Lady Myre’s private guards.
But then, I was quite unsurprised to see the glowering Spiros, who I’d demoted for his callous and bitter attitude toward the other clans, and who had hated me ever since.

It was just the same with all the others.
I knew them.
I’d trained them, fought with them, commanded them.

That was why he’d chosen these dragons.
Not because of their strength—although they were each powerful in their own right—but because they had served and fought alongside me.

And now those years of service counted for nought.
Like Windsom, they were entirely loyal to Kezess, and they wore their loyalty like a blindfold, ensuring they saw nothing but what he wished them to see.

Right now, he sowed fear among them, I could see it in their eyes.
These dragons were ready to fight me, but afraid to do so.
As they should be.

The wrath reared up like a hades serpent within me again.
I thought I was done with death.
After Elenoir, I had neither the heart nor stomach to end more lives, or so I’d told myself.
Now, looking at these once-friends and allies, each of them ready to lay down their lives to protect Kezess’s lies, I made a decision.

If they did not value their lives, then neither would I.

“I won’t return, not by choice, not by force.”

Windsom could not entirely suppress his surprise.
His eyes widened and his right foot slid back half a step.
The aura emanating from him wavered.
“You have changed, old friend.
I see nothing of the once great General Aldir left in you.” Turning to Spiros, he nodded.
“Alive if possible, but Lord Indrath would rather have his corpse than nothing.”

“But, Lord Windsom, you assured us that—”

Irini’s question was cut short as Spiros thrust his short spear forward and shouted, “Take him down!” Then the soldiers were moving, breaking into formations of four, with Spiros, Tassos, and two others closing first.

Silverlight shimmered into my hand in the shape of a curved kopis, and I stepped into Spiros’s charge.
The curved blade caught his spear, which I pulled up to block a downward cut from Tassos’s overlarge two-handed sword.
A longspear thrust at my back snagged the fabric of my tunic as I pivoted, and a burning whip cracked before wrapping around my forearm.

Twisting, I hurled Spiros and Tassos backwards while ripping the whip-wielding dragon off his feet.

The longspear thrust again, but Silverlight snapped out and caught the haft just below the forged tip, shearing it in two.

Time began to slow.

One of the soldiers teamed with Alkis and Irini was glowing with golden runes that ran along her tan flesh.
Another was standing between her and me, two short, leaf-shaped blades raised defensively.
Alkis and Irini were to either side of the pair, their weapons up, but their focus was on each other as they shared some silent communication.

Opposite them, having circled around me, the last four dragons were transforming.
Their physical forms swelled outwards, bumping into one another, scales racing over their bodies as the humanoid features melted away to become reptilian and monstrous.

I saw only a splash of colors: white and gold, blue-black, emerald green, and the burning orange of distant fire before turning back to the more immediate threat.

The severed spear tip was still somersaulting through the air.
I took hold of it, spun, and let it fly at the rune-covered dragon’s left eye.
The defending twin blades came up and knocked the projectile aside, but not before the rune-covered dragon’s eyes flinched shut.

My mana signature melted away as I channeled Mirage Walk.
Before her aevum spell could fully take form, I pushed mana into every cell of my body and stepped out from between my attackers, past the dragon bearing two blades, and just beside the rune-covered soldier.
Her eyes snapped open just as Silverlight pierced her core.

The slowly building weight of the time-stop spell snapped like a frayed rope.

Spinning, I hurled the dying dragon into her protector, sending them both crashing to the ground.

Silverlight jumped out of my hand and slashed through the burning whip, the end of which fell to the dirt and writhed like a dying viper.
At the same time, a shadow fell over the battlefield.

The now fully-transformed dragons wheeled in the sky above.
The largest, her scales glowing white and gold, opened her jaws and breathed out a cone of blue fire tinged purple with aether.

Silverlight shot back to my hand and I slashed the air while calling upon the force-type mana arts of my kind.
The flames were slashed into two separate halves, and the soldiers all around me were forced to dodge as the attack burned away the ground to either side of me.
The white-gold dragon twisted rapidly in the air, folding in her wings and diving to avoid my strike.

Pirouetting, I carved a wide arc around me, projecting out a scything force.
The savanna rang with a sound like forge hammers falling on hot steel as the force crashed against the soldiers’ aether-infused weapons.

All except for the man with the twin leaf-shaped blades.

Half-risen, his furious gaze still on his dying companion, he brought his blades up far too late, and my attack struck him full across the chest, rending his armor and opening his flesh.
I sensed his mana flicker and die before his body had even hit the ground.
A moment later, the rune-covered woman faded as well.

This was yet another cruelty I would lay at Kezess’s feet.
These deaths were as much his work as mine.

“General Aldir, please, stop this madness!” Irini shouted from beside the road.
She had thrown herself into the savanna grass to avoid the dragon’s fire and was bleeding from cuts all down her arms and legs as the Warrior’s Wind whipped the grass about.
“We only meant to—hurk—”

A blade of cyan grass thrust up underneath her chin, piercing her skull.
Her misty pink eyes blinked rapidly as she stared at me with dawning terror, then the grass all around her was cutting and slashing, ripping her to pieces.

The savanna was burning, I realized.
The dragonfire had set it ablaze.
It was under attack, and so it was fighting back.
Defending itself and the pantheons.

“Irini!” her brother shouted, his voice cracking.
He sprinted for her, no threat to me, and I turned my focus away.

Two of the transformed dragons dove from opposite directions, one unleashing a ball of blue fire from its mouth, the other a beam of white lightning.
Hidden within the maelstrom of spellwork, I felt Spiros’s shortspear whistling through the air, and from another direction the whip cracked and cut toward my legs.

With Mirage Walk already active, I was able to instantly step from place to place, easily avoiding the attacks.
Or rather, I should have been able to do so, but when I tried, I felt myself slam into some invisible barrier.
My shoulder ripped free of its socket from the force of the impact, and I went stumbling back.

The spear hit me just below the breastbone.
With a purple shimmer, the aether infused within it punctured my mana.
The pain of it traveling through my body and lodging against the ribs near my spine was nothing compared to the brand still burning on my neck.

Dropping to one knee, I took the butt of the spear in one hand while lifting Silverlight over my head with the other.

A transparent sphere of cool light wrapped around me just as the dragon’s breath-weapons converged.

Fire and lightning crushed in on the barrier, and Silverlight trembled in my fist as she drank desperately from my mana.
Violent ripples ran through the shield.

It shattered.

I burst upward, running along the beam of lightning.
With a screech, the blue-black dragon breathing it out snapped closed its jaws and banked sharply away.

An instant later, Silverlight cut the air, projecting a wide arc of cutting force.
Blood burst from the dragon’s underbelly, and it listed to the side before careening into the savanna, where the grass came alive, turning the blues and greens to dark crimson.

Curved claws like scimitars closed around me, pinning my arms to my side.
The massive bulk of an emerald green dragon blotted out the sky above me, and both dragon and I began to tremble.

“Go, Kastor!” the white and gold dragon shouted, and I understood.

The trembling became a vibration, and the black scales took on an amethyst sheen.

Kastor was teleporting us back to the base of Mount Gelous.

I released Silverlight and groped for the end of one of the large claws.
When I found one, I twisted my wrist, resulting in a splintering sound as the claw shattered in my grip.
Kastor flinched, and his remaining claws closed hard around me.
Dull pain overrode all sensation in my left arm, which separated from my body and fell from between the dragon’s talons, taking Silverlight with it.

As the sword tumbled free, she whirled around and flew up just above me, then slashed at Kastor’s emerald-scaled ankle.

Still partially contained within the severed claw’s grip, I began falling.

Spiros hurtled to meet me.
He had partially transformed so that lustrous black scales covered his flesh and wide wings sprouted from his back.
His eyes burned scorching violet, and fire was flickering between elongated fangs.

I kicked free of Kastor’s severed claw, rotated, and swam around Spiros’s wild thrust.
Silverlight was back in my hand, and she drew a raw, red, gory line from Spiros’s shoulder to hip.

In the same motion, I carried through with a short, sharp cut, the force of which sheared through everything between me and the ground, including the whip-wielding Urien of Clan Somath, who burst apart in a shower of blood.

With a fierce tug, I pulled my arm back into its socket just before striking the ground.
I hit hard, using the force to kick up a cloud of dust to obscure me, even for a moment, while I tracked the remaining dragons’ mana signatures.

On the ground, Tassos and the longspear wielding dragon, Orrin, both of the Indrath Clan, stood shoulder to shoulder to my left.
To my right, in the distance, Windsom had fallen well back from the combat.
Alkis, Irini’s twin, had vanished.
Taken by the savanna, I was sure.

In the sky, I could hear Kastor cursing his pain while the other two transformed dragons continued to circle the battleground.

“Let this end,” I boomed, not speaking to any of the dragons in particular.
“There is no need for the rest of you to die as well.”

“Traitor!” Tassos shouted, the word rolling like thunder across the savanna.

Through the cold fury of my rage, I felt my heart thump painfully.
This, coming from a warrior whose life I had once saved, who had sworn to return the favor someday as he grinned through the pain of his flesh regrowing over burned limbs…

Could none of them see what I could see?

But no, of course they couldn’t.
Even I hadn’t seen it, not until Kezess had forced me to use the World Eater technique.
Until then, Kezess’s control over my worldview had been absolute, a veil so subtle and ethereal that it could not be seen or touched.

It would have been better if I could show them.
Perhaps another could break Kezess’s spell someday.
But because I could not, it would be too late for these dragons.

Sensing around me, I felt the walls this time before I utilized Mirage Walk.
Distortions in space itself, invisible to every sense except my thoroughly-honed pantheon’s instinct.
One of the dragons was utilizing aether to block the near-instant bursts of speed allowed by Mirage Walk, the Thyestes Clan’s “secret” technique.

But of course, when all clans answered to Kezess, there were no secrets from the dragons.

Silverlight shifted forms, becoming an ornate silver longspear, and I thrust at the invisible barrier.
Though the dragons’ ability to influence aether had made them the strongest of all the races, they did not control it.
Creating something solid, such as an invisible barrier, was a subtle use of their influence that even the strongest of aether-wielders would struggle to maintain against the application of pure force.

The barrier shattered.
High above, the white-gold dragon howled in surprise and pain.

Tassos was already moving, his two-hander radiating a black-purple glow that seemed to draw the light from the very air.
To my right, Kastor turned into a dive, shooting toward us like a dark star.

Tassos was strong, one of the most physically powerful dragons I had ever commanded.
His ability to encourage aether into his weapon made him a truly deadly combatant.
But I had trained and fought beside him, commanded him, and I knew his abilities better perhaps than he himself.

All of his strength was behind the swing, aimed directly at my neck with force enough to shatter any defense.
I delayed my forward lunge, channeled Mirage Walk, and took a single step.

Like a sovereign cobra striking, Tassos repositioned his blade, pulling it in tight and drawing it across his body in an impressively quick maneuver.
If I had stepped toward him, his blade would have been perfectly positioned to deliver a killing blow.

But I hadn’t.
My step had been just to the right, barely a half-step, but enough to take me out of the range of his original sweeping cut.
That short step occurred with such speed and momentum, however, that when I released Silverlight, it flew as if it had been fired from a godbow.

Kastor’s mouth opened to unleash a blast of lightning, and Silverlight sped into his throat.
The dragon went stiff as an old fossil and collapsed to the ground, dark green wings splintering and neck twisting unnaturally as the diffused savanna light glittered off the wreckage of emerald scales.

Tassos hissed in anger and frustration, his blade blazing.
Beside him, Orrin Indrath raised clenched fists, and mana began to swell between them.

Sickly sweet smoke was wafting across the path from the smoldering savanna.

A dragon roared in the sky.

The earth shook.

A ring of ground around me collapsed, falling into an infinite void below.
Screaming wind came boiling up from the void like one of the ancient elemental beasts that once roamed Epheotus, turning the narrow pillar of earth on which I stood into a prison cell.

Within the raging hurricane ripping upward from the rent in the world, the roughly shaped, nearly-invisible planes of spatium aether could just be seen, like glass in water.

Through the wind and aether, I could see the sweat shining on Orrin’s brow and how his fists shook with effort.

The void prison spell was no mean feat.
Opening a hole to the void was dangerous at the best of times, but channeling its power was dangerous for all but the most talented mana manipulators.
Orrin Indrath had always chafed at his position of guard and soldier.
He sought above all greater magical strength, to stand out among his clan, the greatest of all the clans.

A dragon had to reach high to stand out atop Mount Gelous.
This one, it seemed, reached too far.

Holding out my hand, I summoned Silverlight from the depths of Kastor’s corpse.
Twirling the spear, I drove it down into the circle of packed dirt beneath my feet, projecting a wave of force deep, deep into the ground.

The pillar, carved by Orrin’s spell, splintered and broke to pieces before tumbling down into the void.
I flew upwards, hovering, fighting the growing pull as the void thrummed hungrily, devouring all that touched it.
The wind went up and up and up, and it grew more and more difficult to keep flying.
But the situation was escalating outside the spell’s circumference far more quickly.

The roar of the wind was too loud for me to hear anything being said, but the way the two transformed dragons wheeled about in panic and how Orrin’s entire body shook suggested very clearly that he was struggling, and failing, to control the spell.

Painfully slowly, I began being dragged back down toward the void.
My attack had disrupted the shape of the spell, making it unstable.
Eventually, Orrin’s hold over it would collapse, but that wouldn’t help me if I’d already been unmade in the oblivion below.
And so I reared back with Silverlight.
She became a slim, beautifully-crafted rapier and left a silvery arc in the air where she cut.

Below me, the void roiled, the black-purple nothingness bucking and shifting as it devoured the force of my attack.
I slashed and thrust and cut, each blow reaching far beyond Silverlight’s gleaming point, pouring more and more force and mana into the void.

The walls of wind were growing steadily more unstable.
Orrin’s form became indistinct, his edges blurred.

The spell broke.

The magic ripped Orrin’s physical form apart down to a cellular level, nothing left but a cloud of his purified mana, and even that quickly faded into the atmosphere.

I was left hovering over a deep, circular pit that ended in a rough patch of broken rock some hundred feet below.

Tassos stared, mouth agape, at the place where his cousin had ceased to be.
Silverlight thrust forward, and his neck opened with a spray of arterial blood.
Both hands flew to his throat, but they couldn’t stop the red running through his fingers.
His sword fell to the ground, the aetheric glow infusing it blinking and going out.
He followed it a moment later.

The flying dragons pulled back, one beautiful gold and white, the other the orange and red and yellow of a sunrise, both radiating a powerful aura of fear as they circled tightly in the sky above Windsom.
“What do we do?” the white-gold dragon shouted down.

“I think we have seen enough,” Windsom said, feigning sadness.
“It is clear the once mighty and loyal Aldir Thyestes has been lost to madness.
We will return with a greater force.”

I flew toward Windsom, rising slowly so I could comfortably look down at him.
“We never should have continued to follow Kezess after the djinn, old friend.”

Windsom's nose wrinkled.
“Lord Indrath.”

“We should have seen what he was then.
We have a chance to do so now.
Make things right.”

Windsom was shaking his head and scowling.
“You simply proved too weak to carry out the duty assigned to you.”

I hadn’t expected Windsom to show remorse or change his allegiance, but I still felt the stabbing pain of regret and loss knowing that we were now truly enemies.

No more words were exchanged.
Windsom conjured a portal and stepped through it.
The two surviving dragons turned and flew away at speed.
I let them go.

Movement to my right caught me off guard, but it was only Wren in his floating earthen throne.

“This is what Kezess wanted,” I said with a sigh, speaking as much to myself as Wren.
“For blood to be shed, so that he could paint me as a monster and erode any support I might have remaining in Epheotus.”

“Quite fitting for that high-functioning sociopath to use the very soldiers you helped train as fodder to paint you as a monster.”


“You know, I think it might be time to get the hell out of here,” he went on, watching the dragons recede into the horizon.
“Property values in the Cerulean Savanna are sure to go down considering the infestation of dragons here.
And void holes.
And killer grass.” He eyed me skeptically.
“Did you know about that, by the way? A little warning would have been nice.
What if I stepped on the wrong blade of grass and all the others got pissy and turned me into titan confetti?”

“This is hardly the time for japes,” I answered, too cold inside to find any amusement in his words.

He shifted in his seat, leaned back, and rested one leg over the other.
“I beg to differ.
There is no better time for gallows humor.”

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