by Dan Hiestand
What Light Remains
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
You can't go around building a better world for people. Only people can build a better world for people. Otherwise it's just a cage.
Fight till the last gasp.
The Republic of Veil’driel Parliament was laughing around the table, pretty hysterically, as Senator Katic was wrapping up one of his stories. It was the first dinner or occasion of the old boy’s club that Aleister had been invited to and no doubt it was because of his suddenly changed position, falling more in line to what they wanted, the day before. Indeed, that had been his main motivation for doing so. To be brought to this table, on this night, in this way.
“… and he looked down to the thing, holding it there in his hands book wide open, pages falling out of his back pockets ….” The laugher rose to a near obnoxious level now. Some of them into what he was saying and laughing legitimately, others not, all laughing, whether they were afraid of him or truly amused varied on what he was saying. All of them except for Aleister, whose odd smirk could have been interpreted as amusement at the story, but looked vaguely out of place, like it was not related at all. “… when he said, if you’ll excuse me, First Consul, I’m usually quite organized.”
When the story was done, and the laughter – both real and faked – had subsided, Katic had near tears in his eyes he was so amused and took a long exhale, working now on his fourth cup of wine, he clanged a salad fork against it and motioned down to Aleister.
“Preator Ducheyene,” he started. “It’s something of a tradition at these quaint little affairs of ours to honor our newest and first time guests with an after dinner cigar, could I interest you in this?” he snapped his fingers and a servant in white walked up with a silver platter, he lifted the lid to reveal a single cigar.
“Ah,” Aleister said, sitting up a little straighter in his chair and leaned over picked it up off the tray, raised it a little and then looked with mock suspicion all around the table. “Isn’t poison is it?” he asked.
Another round of laughter.
“Well, no,” Katic said as a joke. “Luckily for you, you saw reason yesterday and the poison was no longer necessary.
The laughter intensified.
Now Aleister leaned over to the side, raising his eyebrows slightly while the servant withdrew a silver lighter and sparked it holding it to the end of Aleister’s large cigar.
“Ah, yes, right,” he stated, pausing to puff until the cigar was fully lit. When it was, he rotated it towards him, looked down at the wide red cherry, and satisfied, he dismissed the servant with a satisfactory nod. Then he leaned back in the chair. “About that, I’m afraid that was an act. A ruse to get me invited to this very spot, this very dinner that you guys run, at this very time.” He punctuated the dramatic news by crashing the heels of his boots on top of the table, rattling glasses, silverware and everything else that was on there, they crashed on top of the table one after the other as they crossed over each other. At first, when he had first talked, there was some laughter that continued on, though the one on Katic’s face had vanished completely. By the time Aleister was sat back, boots crossed on the table, puffing on his ‘initiation cigar’ all was utterly silent, the High Council of Veil’driel all staring at him. Some with confusion, or in Katic’s case, something more seemingly sinister.
A stare Aleister met head on, meeting it and locking eyes, his words spoken in the subtext of being meant for everyone there, but were quite obviously meant for Senator Katic, but then his eyes floated over to the First Consul as well as he started to bring the cigar back up to his mouth. “I’m afraid we have some rather … unpleasant business to discuss.
The room Thean had led Jace into was adjacent to the main garganduant ball room, but it was still elegant and beautiful, immense windows jutted out of the building like a ship keel looking out on a courtyard full of happy people gathering on a courtyard with lanterns of every color. When he was a kid, he had once attended the Fairlawn City Harvest Festival, and that’s what it kind of reminded him of.
Before the window, a wide plush bench stood, and Thean sat down on top of it.
After a few moments of no progression Jace looked around, kind of stunned and clearly confused.
“Umm … you’re not gonna … like kill me or anything are you?” He remembered playing the odds about a week ago when the golden rider was riding towards him, and now as the time went on, he found himself thinking of them again, and he hoped Darvin’s 70% estimate held true.
“You were supposed to have a meeting with the Tear today, were you not? After your,” he smiled. “Carnival display?”
“I was busy. I meant to, but I …”
“Yes, sure you were. Well now, because you skipped that, it’s fallen on me to explain some things.”
“Sir, that really isn’t …”
Jace walked over to a chair near him and sighed as he took a seat. Then he looked over and actually smiled at Thean.
“You’re drunk, old man,” he said with a smile.
“Yes,” Fenlow quickly answered. “You bet your ass, I am.” Now he looked down at his glass filled halfway with red liquid that almost had a strange glow to it, moved the glass in a circular motion, looking down into it, and then back up to Jace. “30 years ago,” he said, just jumping into it. There were reports of strange attacks happening out in the wilderness. Merchants told tales of being robbed by magic, explosions, men using bright colored gemstones and plants to create explosions and do things out of thin air. Then, when a high ranking dignitary and his family were attacked during one particular time to an old retreat home they had out on the plains, the Council contacted the Outrider Order, and asked Constable Farrell to send a point team to invesitage the strange occurrences by any means necessary.” He trailed off, reflecting. “Constable Farrell,” he said, with a half breath half grunt. “A real merciless son of a bitch, that one,” he said. A few minutes passed and then he remembered himself, looked down to his drink. “Right,” he said, looking back up to Jace. “It was called Operation Longstreet.”
For years I wondered what you must have on him, knowing it must have been something, now I know.
And I also know who the golden riders are.
“Operation Longstreet?” one of the Senators asked and then there was some mumbling around the table. “What in blazes are you talking about, Praetor Ducheyne?”
Katic’s eyes hadn’t left him and Aleister never wavered, still.
“Senator Katic? Consul Leverette?” he asked while never taking his eyes off of the Senator. “Care to fill the rest of these fine gentlemen in?”
“Everyone get out,” Katic said.
And for the first time, Katic took his eyes away from Ducheyene, but only just briefly to the rest of the men sitting around the table.
“Out. Now,” he said with venom and this was beginning to cause a stir.
“Okay, okay, now let’s calm down,” Leverette said, patting the air and sounding exceedingly nervous. “Please, gentlemen, let us have the room for a moment as we work this rather private matter out.”
The rest of the Senators, while not at all happy about it followed out, and the servant followed them out. Katic watched them out and after the heavy door closed, Leverette, still standing, was the first to speak.
“Alright, Preaetor Ducheyene, what exactly is the meaning of this?”
“Who cares what he wants!” Katic yelled out with venom. “This is an outrage!”
“What do I want, your Grace?” Aleister asked, he still looked very relaxed and tweaked some ash over the side of his armchair. “It’s quite simple, really. I want to talk about the Illumanar, the mysterious golden riders you’ve known about since the beginning. I want to talk about the compromise you made so that you might walk the halls of power.” Now he looked over to Katic. “I want to talk how you’re desperately trying to betray your country a second time to save yourself.”
Katic stood up.
“You don’t honestly expect to sit here and listen to this?!”
Aleister nodded a little, flicking ash off of his cigar.
“Well, yes, I do as a matter-of-fact,” he said with a smirk. “Otherwise how will you feign outrage in the upcoming moments? Not to say I don’t understand, however,” he said looking over to Katic. “If anyone has reason to make a deal with the devil, it’s you….”
Anger overtaking him he looked down and Katic was almost growling out his words.
“I should have known … we all should have known. How you spent so much time with the wizardess during her time here. Conspiring with her, conjuring up these lies.”
Artemus stayed cool, calm and colleted. Precisely the calm and always being in control that drove Katic mad. It was passed on to him by his father, the outrider blood in his veins.
“What was the deal, anyway? Make it easy for the army to infiltrate Veil’driel and maybe you could head up whatever puppet government he put in place? Or maybe he just wouldn’t have his men cut you into pieces? Funny enough, you betrayed your country for nothing. Because the army on its way, from across the sea, are gonna cut you into pieces anyway. Artemus, you see, was merely counting on your cowardice. A cowardice he knows all too well because of your actions 30 years ago, isn’t that right?”
“I don’t have to sit here and listen to this!” Katic started and then started to storm out of the room.
“No, actually, you do,” Leverette said, staring at Aleister and holding up a single finger. “I’m through lying. I’m sick from all the lies. What do you wanna know, Aleister?”
“You can’t honestly be entertaining this-”
“Don’t make me call the Scarlet Guard, Neville.”
For the first time, it appeared as if there was something other than rage in Katic’s eyes. Indeed, there was fear.
“Sit,” Leverette said, in a way he hadn’t talked to Katic ever and he complied like a child. Then he looked back to the Praetor. “Okay, Aleister, you have what you wanted, where would you like to begin? Operation Cool Name, if I recall.”
Aleister flicked some ash, nodding.
“Operation Cool Name was during the administration of Consul Heywood, isn’t that right?” Artemus began. “There were mysterious magical attacks happening in the plains, and he assigned a politician, top secret, to act as liason to the High Council on the mission.”
“To the High Council,” Thean was saying, drunk.
Jace was suddenly struck with the memory of Tillian Bren being there during the Fairlawn campaign, but said nothing.
“Who was it?”
“Never knew,” Foy said. “It was kept anonymous. All communication was done through the liason through written communication.”
“Is that normal?”
“Hell no, it’s not normal. But nothing about this mission was normal. It’s all about politics, and this has been done before. That way if something goes wrong, they can pull the plug, deny everything, and there’s no way to trace it back to the First Consul or to the liason we were talking to.”
“Nice,” Jace said sarcastically.
Now Thean started to drift, scratching his chin.
“For months there was no word. We looked everywhere, followed leads, we’d go to where the attacks were taking place and then there’d be nothing. Like ghosts. And some of the attacks. The attacks were beautiful. People with melted spines, entire families, butchered, often times for their possessions or sometimes there would have been nothing of value taken at all.”
Jace was transfixed. Outside through the window he saw Malcolm. Too far away to see detail cuz he was above, but he could tell it was him.
“Until one day, we caught up with them.”
Jace was leaning back, like a child being told a story.
“We eventually followed their trail. We caught up with them,” he paused, appreciating the significance. “On the edge of Terrill Silva.”
But Jace did not react.
“We battled them but they had superhuman strength, manipulating precious stones to give them things like superhuman strength and all kinds of things. Agility, so fast you couldn’t even catch them. During the battle we were rescued when Jaden appeared and saved us, but Artemus had been severely injured. In fact, it didn’t seem like he was going to survive.”
Jace sat back a little, already seeing the parallels.
“For months he covalesced at Lornda Manor and we all hung out there. She told us about Ciridian, how we forgot the name and about how everything had become divided and cold over the long generations. Much of what you learned in the communion vault through the word of your cousin and Artemus, is what we learned over our stay there. To Ailmar and I, it was all very fascinating, but Gabriel became obsessed. Burying himself in the library there, always hungry for more information.”
“Then what happened?”
“When Artemus regained consciousness and made a full recovery physically, there was something different about him. He began having visions and things. Growing more distant, more focused, more single-minded. He and Jaden began to grow closer, she would tell him the complexities of things and we would just seem to naturally understand them. Shocking us all, and they started traveling the entire world together. And they…”
“Oh, you know,” Thean said, drunk.
“Became a couple,” Jaden suggested, and she walked in.
Foy followed her in and closed the door behind them both as Jaden went on.
“Falling in love, whatever you wanna call it.”
Jace raised his eyebrows, shocked by he words and sudden appearance.
“Why do I get the feeling I’m being amushed?” he said.
“Because you are,” Foy said.
Jace looked over to Thean with a frown.
He squinted and remembered from his vision, though he wasn’t young anymore he saw the resemblance.
“Gabriel Foy,” he said.
“Yes. Congraultations. Pay attention.”
“The attacks continued, started to get worse, and the Tears hidden throughout the land started reporting what was really happening. It wasn’t just Orinus and Valith, but they had a group of followers. Supernatural thugs, and they were starting to attack the villages on the plains. Orinus and Valith were of the belief that Tears should rule the world. An unfortunate position which has caused problems around the world since the beginning of time as you all know it, since the splitting of the Sun Kingdom and its merge into the existence as it is defined today. Most of which was never reported as while the Republic claims rule over the lands they don’t really control them.”
“So what did you do?” Jace asked.
“I told them we were going to have to go to Bryce Valley, home of the shamans, as they were hidden by the same illusion magic. They were the most powerful magical beings on the planet, tuned in to a point beyond any Tear, but they purposely stayed out of sight of the world and isolated and hidden in places all over the continent. Later, looking over their civilization, people in Veil’driel and Sindell would call them druids, and we needed their help before Valith and Orinus, those thugs could do any more damage. We went to the Valley, we used their help, they helped us beat Valith and Orinus but they all retreated into Sindell and started causing the same kinds and amount of problems.”
“I went back to Fairlawn to alert our mysterious political liason, to drop a message of our project into the assigned box,” Thean said.
“But you didn’t deliver the message of correct progress, did you?” Aleister was saying, and Katic was very still, seething. “You never relayed to the First Consul or High Council that these magical beings had retreated into Sindell, with the help of a wizardess called Jaden and our Outrider point team? You took Fenlow Thean’s report and you lied. Because you were afraid of the revelation of magical beings. You hated what they represented, you were scared..
Leverette crossed his hands and put his elbows on the table and put his chin on top of it and sighed.
“These magical beings, these sorcerors and heretics posed a threat to national security, to everything we believed in. They had to be slaughtered, not aided. You think you can coexist with them?”
“So you sent word to Sindell. You sent word to bomb Bryce Valley because that was the headquarters of where the magical beings threatening our continent lived. You took the information provided by the outrider point team of this concentration, these powerful beings in Bryce Valley, and you told the King of Sindell, William Bryce’s father, that the only way to save his kingdom was to destror Bryce Valley, knowing that it was only a small part of the supernatural population on this continent that had done bad things led by two rogues called Orinus and Valith.”
“Yes, two rogues,” Katic seethed. “With a group of followers, and thank god for that. No being should have supernatural powers on this earth except for the Gods in heaven. How long before there were more and more rogues? Before they all went bad? They could form an army at any time and wipe us all out!”
“But they didn’t,” Aleister said. “See that’s the thing. They existed thousands of years before any governments on this continent, in secret, watched over by Jaden from her isolated place in Lornda Manor, the shamans staying in Bryce Valley. And yes, there were bad apples in Valith and Orinus who eventually made them known to this entire continent. If they had ill intentions towards us, the majority I’m talking about, they would have acted long ago and they didn’t. and when the time came, and those bad apples came out, they helped us. The shamans in Bryce Valley, Jaden from Lornda Manor, they helped us.” He leaned back looking at Katic. “But you had your classified top secret information. You knew their hideout, where they hid themselves for aeons by illusion magic, and this was your chance. You could use the Sindell Air Force.”
“Yes, and I’m not ashamed of any of it. I would do it again!”
“How did you do it?” Artemus asked.
“Enough of your questions!” Katic shot back.
“We sent a scout,” Leverette said. “In secret through back roads in Bryce Valley that would not draw attention. We sent him to Sindell City to tell them everything you just said. And the only way to save their Kingdom would be to bomb Bryce Valley.”
“With the outriders still there!”
“Collateral damage, to save our entire continent!” Katic said.
For the frist time Aleister was angry and stood up, his chair falling to the ground behind him.
“Shut your mouth!” he yelled down and Katic seemed startled. “There is an order on this continent far older than any nation. They lived in secret, passed down from father to son to daughters for aeons, the population on this continent. See, why the Tears, these magical beings lived on this continent were a secret to us, they were not a secret to the order or underheard of. This Order was called the Illumanar.”
Leverette and Katic exchanged a glance.
“What are you talking about now?” Katic asked.
“Oh, well, it doesn’t surprise me that you’ve never heard of them,” Aleister said, still furious. “I myself didn’t know of them until last evening, when Artemus told me.
“You can communicate with him?” Leverette asked, astonished, but simultaneously nervous.
“I was in the communion vault last night and he contacted me.”
“Haven’t you been preaching that he is a traitor for the last three months?”
“I have,” Artemus said. “And he is. But he no longer has any reason to lie to me. He’s already accomplished his goal in luring our forces away from Veil’driel. His trap is already sprung. And so he has no reason to lie about this secret order I was telling you about. The Illumanar.”
“Golden riders to you,” Jaden said.
Jace scratched his chin, he was beginning to get a little angry.
“Go on,” he said.
“They’re an ancient order, their sole purpose to protect the Tears, protect magical users in times of need. In times of great threat to the Tears they were called on to be defended.”
“That time came thirty years ago,” Thean said, and he stared at Jace awhile after speaking to gauge the reaction. A reaction that barely registered as he was still looking at Jaden waiting for her to go on.
“While we were in Bryce Valley, a scout was called, one of Senator Neville Katic’s personal emissaries ran through the Valley, and when we stopped him, he said he was sent to warn Sindell that Orinus and Valith and their supporters retreated into Sindell. And that was their immediate decision after being warned. And we were all to stay put in Bryce Valley.”
“What we didn’t know,” Foy said, was that he was really going to tell Sindell to bomb Bryce Valley under false pretenses. That it was the only way to save their kingdom. Three days later, as all of us were in the valley, the valley was attacked by the airships,” Jaden went on. “During the bombing Ailmar Ducheyene was killed,” he glanced over to Thean. “Thean and I raced to try and save the population from their home in the caverns, but we were too late, they all caved in and everyone was killed.”
“It was because we mapped the Valley,” Thean said. “You see? As part of our reconnasicne we mapped the entire Valley for our government. They used that to tell Sindell where exactly to strike so the people never had a chance.” He said as if he deserved hatred from this, never got over the guilt, but Jace just looked back to Foy.
“When we returned to the Valley floor, after the attack, we found Ailmar Ducheyne was dead there, Artemus was critically wounded, dying. Jaden was standing over him.” Now he stopped, as if this next part should have special importance to Jace. “His wounds miraculously healed, and he was restored.”
“How?” Jace asked.
“Because he was fulfilling a destiny,” Jaden said. “When the Illumanar are needed, they are captained by someone picked by the fates, the very powers that the Sun Kingdom is all about. The greatest ambassador and champion of the most powerful nation in the land to lead the bodyguards, the Illumanar of the Tears while simultaneously trying to find a peaceful resolution.”
“That person was Artemus Ward,” Thean said.
“He and I returned to Lornda Manor,” Foy said.
“And Thean returned home with my father’s body,” Aleister said. “He wanted to tell the population the truth about what happened, but you convinced him not to. You knew the truth, knew that you were all responsible, but convinced him that for the sake of national security, secrecy was the best option. That the people wouldn’t understand or could not be trusted. Like the government of Veil’driel has lied and covered up to the public since it’s inception going all the way back to Jonathan Silva’s expedition where the government’s explanation, rather than simply admit what happened, stunted expansion.”
“Oh, and now you will blame us for that I suppose? Why not for bad weather as well?”
“Maybe not you personally, but the philosophy of your forefathers passed down and down and down. A philosophy of hiding the truth and half truths and politics.”
Leverette leaned a little forward.
Aleister went on.
“So, too you covered up what happened in Bryce Valley. Said you didn’t know what happened to Foy and Artemus and why not? Artemus was a big hero of the time, but the populace barely knew of the others. So you made Thean Constable, his life dream to calm him down, and to also use him to instill the ideals you wanted. You used him to fade the prominence of the Outrider order more and more, thinking you won this whole time. That the magic users, these wizards had been blown off the face of the earth.”
Katic leaned back.
“And then your chickens came home to roost, didn’t they? The attacks on Fairlawn City. You must not have known what to do until my cousin pushed them back near single-handedly. Then Jaden arrived, you found out Artemus was working with her. Must have been nerve-racking at first, but lucky for you he had never found out it was you,” he looked to Katic. “Katic who had been the political liason who betrayed them all.” Aleister leaned back. “Only he did, Neville. He knew everything.”
“How?” Jace asked. “How could he have found out the mysterous liason that betrayed the original point team?”
“Arkhelan told him. Arkhelan can see and know things in ways we don’t know about. He told Artemus everything, about Neville, Leverette, the betrayal.”
“Then Hazel got sick using the Tunnels of Armegeddon,” Jaden said. “And it must have been the last straw. Though I thought he was still loyal to me, he apparently wasn’t. As it turned out, he was using his knowledge of Veil’driel and scouting prime targets for the tears that were not obeying me any longer but obeying him under the authority of Arkhelan. All the while feeding me false intelligence of mysterious armies occupying Veil’driel, the same lies he used to take over the rest of the continent. All in his quest to conquer it all, to hold dominion over all the nations and await Arkhelan’s arrival. Seems so foolish now, but it’s amazing what you’ll believe when you want to.”
“Yeah,” Jace said. “He tried to kill you in Bryce Valley. He’s the one who sent Valith and Orinus.”
“I would guess that now.”
Jace looked over to Thean, disappointed and a little hurt.
“And you went along with all of this. You knew the government was covering up this tragedy, were phasing out the importance and the grandeur of the Outrider Order, the prestige, until it declined,” he remembered something Artemus had told him in the caverns. “To where Senator Bren, on that first night, had to be told what an Outrider was. You presided over the decline of our order and for what? Why? They wanted to cover up what happened in Bryce Valley and you let them!”
Thean did not react, or get angry, he sat there and took the accusations as though he felt he deserved them.
“At my request,” Jaden said. “He stayed Constable to train you personally when the time came, and to watch over you until that time came.”
“To watch over you, boy,” Foy said. “Because of who your parents were.”
Jace leaned down and put his hand on his forehead.
“Oh please don’t tell me this is the part where you tell me my father, who I never knew, was some legendary figure and now I have this grand destiny I never knew about.”
“No. Your father was a womanizer, a gambler, and a drunk,” Thean said quickly.
There was a moment of silence, and the slight disappointment of Jace.
“Oh,” he said, suddenly thinking that secret destines weren’t that bad.
“Your mother,” Jaden said. “It was your mother is how I knew.”
“We thought it was Aleister at first, the son of Ailmar,” Foy said. “But by his fifth birthday, we knew his path, while equally as critical was not the one we thought.”
“I asked Fenlow to watch over Ailmar’s whole family, however, and five years later you were born. Your mother died in child birth, and you were sent to live with your grandfather. Your grandfather was the last Illumanar Captain who was not needed. Ailmar was next, but was killed in Bryce Valley and it passed to Artemus.”
Jace was still animated.
“And this has to do with my mother?” he wondered if he was purposefully not getting it.
“Yes, your mother,” Jaden said. “Sara. Sara Du-”
“-cheyne! I will not stand for any more of this blather!” Neville was yelling.
Aleister finished. And the look on First Consul Leverette’s face said it all. (good reason for saying his name right here.)
Aleister was looking at the Senator again, and he slid a thick herald to the center of the table.
“What is here is a copy of tomorrow’s herald, the biggest Senator Tillian Bren has ever written. It includes everything I’ve just said tonight and your work to impede progress in the High Council just to save your own ass. They will know the fight is not just being waged in Sindell, but right here, at our doorstep …. And within it as well. You see, as a former military liason for the High Council himself, Senator Bren takes such violations quite seriously. What you see in front of you is a copy of tomorrow’s herald. His biggest yet. Everyone is going to be alerted to the approaching army, the truth about the original point team, Artemus, everything. They will know that the only fight is not just in the Kingdom of Sindell. But here at home as well. And we will also use this new information to edit opening sequences in High Council chambers.”
Now he looked back over to the First Consul.
“I always wondered why Katic didn’t run in your election. I know he would have beaten you, and so did he. But you had proof, you kept all of the documents that tracked his role in the liason duty of the original Bryce Valley mission. You kept them to blackmail Katic, to keep him from running against you. Not even sure if you agreed with it all, but injustice is a small toll to pay to walk the halls of power, eh your Grace?” He leaned a little more forward and pointed to the giant herald that by dawn would be circulating over the entire republic. “You see, last night, when Artemus contacted me, he told me about those documents and where to find them, which I did, in your secret archives. Proving everything he says is true. Which is another reason you had to diminish the standing of the Outrider Order, because you needed to downgrade the clearence, as usually, the Constable would have all rights to see such documents as they have the highest security clearence.”
Leverette, a man who always had so much energy for his age with a spring in his step suddenly looked very much his age. A man caught and defeated, an elderly man as if his political power was draining out of him the same as life force.
“The good I thought I could have done, Aleister,” he said. “I had to keep Katic from being First Consul. He was going to beat me. I didn’t agree with what he did, but what choice did I have? It was the only way to keep him out of the Consul office. From being the most powerful man in the Republic.”
“Yet after you did that, Katic could use it against you. By admitting what you did, blackmailing him and the real reason why he didn’t run, he had information that could bring you down as well. Information that could have destroyed both of you.” He looked over to Katic, “and that’s how you two stayed. Cancelling each other out for decades since. Doing more damage. And when Jaden arrived here there was nothing you could do, Katic, but go along with it as I worked with her. As Creed worked with her and she saved our servicemembers’ lives and helped this Republic day after day. And yet here you are, trying to sell out your country, the country she risked her life, continues to risk her life along with everyone in our country and the Kingdom of Sindell. You claim to try and save Veil’driel from the wizards? And yet you yourself are the true threat. The true reason for destruction. Becoming the very thing you sought to prevent or fight against. A theme that has permeated this entire continent for far too long, a chain reaction sparked by you, thrity years ago.” He leaned back again. “Sparked by both of you.”
Katic stood up
“You’ve signed your death warrant tonight, Praetor, and that’s all you’ve done.” He looked down to the herald. “Do you think this drivel, this fantasy fiction will ever see the light of day? Do you think I would let the likes of you bring me down? The son of a brute footsoldier?”
“This is your chance,” Aleister said to First Consul Leverette. “A real chance to do something good in your administration. Admit what you’ve done. Come clean.”
The First Consul stood up, glanced at Katic.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
Katic looked from the First Consul to the Praetor, an expression that was momentarily unsure all at once reassured and cocky, smiling with a wide smile of yellowed teeth.
“Guards!” he yelled.
All at once the Scarlett Guard came in and kicked open the door, half a dozen soldiers, standing around and behind the Praetor.
“Arrest this man on the charge of treason! He’s been conspiring with the traitor Artemus Ward,” he picked up the herald. “And spreading sedition, inciting rioutous material.”
Aleister stood up slowly, unmolested.
“Artemus Ward is only a traitor because you made him that way, Senator. And you gave rise to an ancient army, the Illumanar. You’re the traitor, and you are under arresst.”
“What are you waiting for?” Katic yelled, a little shocked.
“Do as the Senator asks, on my authority,” Leverette added.
The Guards still said nothing only stared.
Now the two men’s attention went down to Artemus’ ring, a sapphire, glowing just slightly, and Artemus was rotating it on his finger.
“Fitting, don’t you think,” he started, spinning the ring on his finger. “My father’s ring. Sapphire. Fitting that you betrayed your nation,” he looked to Leverette. “And you your conscience until there was none left at all,” and now here you are. Coming full circle with another sapphire. Almost poetic, one would say.”
“You’ll be the doom of us all!” he yells, knowing he was caught he admitted everything. “Those magical people will kill all of us! Unnatural demons, all of them! The world will not be safe until all of them are dead! I saved this country! I’m a hero!”
Now only three of the guards and the First Consul were left in the room. The three scarlet guards behind Aleister waiting for his lead.
The First Consul all at once lunged for a sharp knife on the table, where not long before they had laughed around it, happily as an army marched on them. He picked it up and retreated fast to the corner, but Aleister was on him in a split second, somehow grabbing the man’s wrist, knowing what he was planning, the sharp blade just over his wrist. Still, the guard waited.
“Please, Aleister. Please let me. Please let me go this way.”
For a moment they had a stand off, and the guards didn’t advance.
For a moment or two it seemed like Aleister was going to let the old man do it. But finally, though he looked like he took no pleasure in it, said “I want you to think about the Outriders of Veil’driel who died in Bryce Valley in your cell, sir,” and squeezed the old man’s wrist hard enough to where the blade dropped on the floor. “I want you to think of my father.”
He stood up out of the crouch.
“Guards,” he said and they came and took him out, leading him past the other shocked High Council members, led out in shame and quiet.
One of the guards stood behind as Aleister stood there, quiet and still in the abandon room.
“Sir,” he said, and Aleister didn’t move a muscle, staring out into space. After awhile the guard tried again. “First Consul.”
At this, Aleister turned to him slightly.
“What will you have us do, sir?”
“Start mass evacuations, as many as you can, anyone who can’t fight into Avaleen, tell the rest of the High Council that there will be an emergency sesson called at dawn, give me time to work some other things out. Then return.”
“Yes, sir” the guard said, and then left, closing the door and leaving
Aleister in there alone.