chapter 1

The year is 289 LC and after five years the Great System War enters its final phases. The Lunar Republic has been driven to the brink of collapse while the Eternal Empire of the Shadow, EES, stands poised to claim total victory. The fleets of the six divine families of the EES have out maneuvered and outclassed the seven fleets of the Republic’s Moon Guard. The superior tech of the EES has won over the superior numbers of the Republic.


Majestar:
It is this grim reality that weighs heavy on the mind of Danella Tagar, the twenty year young High Chancellor of the Republic. She was only fifteen when she inherited the monarchical title after her father’s assassination, the act that started the war to begin with. She stares out her office window down at the green surface of the terraformed Moon. Many miles above those who she governs she sits in the grand, ornate orbital colony that is Majestar.

“This feels wrong”, she mutters as the amethyst eyes of her reflection stare back at her.

She closes her eyes and pushes the thought aside as she walks back to her desk. That thought can explored another day. Today she must concern herself with survival. Danella taps a button on the side of her chair and a hologram schematic projects itself in front of her. It’s the complete details of a daring mission she has been asked to authorize, Operation Prodigal. After looking through the details for a bit she fiddles with her silver hair as she contemplates what she should do. She taps at the screen in her chair’s armrest and calls her Grand Marshall.

“Yes, High Chancellor?”, his voice projects into the room.
“Sir Dayne. What was that Earth phrase for a desperation play?”, she asks.
“A ‘Hail Mary,  ma’am.”
“Is that what Operation Prodigal is?”

Long silence.

“Yes ma’am”, he recalcitrantly responds.
“Is this the wisest course of action?”
“High Chancellor, you throw up a Hail Mary not because it’s wise but because it’s the only hope you have left.”
She grimaces, “Then we really don’t have a choice. Tell Captain Kan to commence Operational Prodigal.”
“At once, ma’am” he declares before ceasing communication.

Danella sighs heavily as she leans back and stares up at the ceiling.

“Father, what would you have done?”, she asks the ether.


Mars Orbit:
Far away from Majestar and the Moon a seemingly ill kept hauler comes screaming out of Mars orbit as it blinks out of existence in a flash of blue light as it enters warp. Emblazoned on the sides of the starship is an orange demon’s face with three claw slashes in front of it painted with a savage zeal. This symbol loudly declares to all who see it, “We are the Marauders. Be afraid and die.”

Inside the dimly lit corridors of the ship a quintet of criminals, thieves, pirates, terrorists, and murderers celebrate their latest score. Their leader is a towering and imposing man who’s amber eyes pierce through the shadows obscuring his face. Artificial fangs glimmer as he smiles sinisterly. High above them the sixth passenger has slipped his restraints and is making his way along the rickety ramparts. The tall, muscular man sneaks his way through the hazy, dark passage ways of his prison towards the hangar bay. There he finds ‘the score’. Six advanced prototype mobile suit Gundams, fifty foot tall robotic weapons of mass destruction, that had been stolen from the Olympia-Anu Conglomerate.

The man knows that the instant they drop out of warp he has to be ready to go. He finds a space suit and climbs into one of the Gundams.

“Alright bud, you ready?”, he asks the suit.
It’s large white eyes and chest piece activate as if answering him.
“Good. Don’t look back.”

With a flash of blue light the Marauder’s ship blinks back into existence as it exists warp in Earth orbit.

“Now!”, the man yells as the Gundam lunges forward shattering its restraints. Every alarm in the ship goes off filling the already hazy and dim corridors with strobing yellow light. The leader’s sinister smile turns to teeth clenched with fury and they all rush toward the hangar bay. As they enter the active Gundam swings its buster sword into the hangar door, tearing it wide open.

As the vacuum of space pulls everything that isn’t strapped down into the void the leader braces himself against the doorway. He resists even as the weight of his four companions comes crashing into his back. With tremendous effort he pushes back their combined weight  into the hallway before the airlock door seals itself. From there he snarls as he watches through the window as the black Gundam dives through the opening in the side of the ship.

As they fly through space towards Earth the Gundam’s eyes flash as its audio signalers electronically chirp.
“Yeah bud. I think we’re going to make it”, the man responds as if it actually spoke.

The Gundam soars toward the blue planet with several massive storm systems visible from orbit.


On board the Laconia:
Inside the unlit Admiral’s quarters onboard the flagship Laconia of the EES, two lovers lie unclothed beneath the satin sheets in each other’s embrace. One man and one woman. She is a slender woman in her early twenties, her long red hair reaches down to her mid-back, and she is Alexandras Arden: Admiral of the Arden fleet. She rests her head on his chest; him being a relatively tall man with blonde hair, also in his early twenties, and Rhegal Lucas: Lord Hand of Emperor Karn. Rhegal’s face is obscured by shadow.

They are content in each other’s arms. Both have been awake for a little while but neither wants this moment to end. Alexandras gently caresses his chest with the tips of her fingers. As her thoughts focus the caressing becomes a less gentle tapping.

“What’s on your mind?”, Rhegal asks.
“Why don’t you read it?”, she responds.
“Because I like it when you tell me.”

Her lavender eyes look up and lock with his blue. They smile and sweetly kiss one another before she rests her head upon his chest again as he holds her a little closer.

“Soon, Alex…soon”, he answers.
She sighs, “Why must it be a negotiation?”
“Because your family wasn’t keen on letting their heir marry a bastard of a lower family.”
“Well that was before you were appointed Lord Hand…”
“Before they thought I was the quickest path to the throne”, he pointedly quips.
“Can you blame them? I mean ‘Empress Alexandras’ does have a nice ring to it.”
“Yes, yes it does.”
“What should we name our future prince or princess?”
“I was thinking Toni.”
“Tony?!”
“Yeah, Toni. It could work for a boy or girl. Besides, all the empire will be expecting some grandiose name. Why not surprise them with something simple?”

She giggles and he chuckles at the thought.

“That would be nice”,  she says.
“Just as soon as the Lucas’ quit using their golden boy as leverage”, Rhegal sneers.
Alexandras gets up close to his face with hers, “Enough of that! Soon they’ll be my family and I won’t suffer to hear such disrespect.”
“Yes my once and future wife”, he smiles as he speaks.

They close their eyes and hold another. After not nearly long enough a buzzing sound goes off. It’s the alarm and both groan at it.

“Must we?”, he asks.
“Hop to soldier”, she fires back.
“Yes ma’am”, he salutes as he rises and marches over to the closet as she wraps herself in the sheets.

While he’s assembling the parts of his uniform she makes her way toward the bathroom door. As she flicks on the light she stops.

“You should wear your Black”, she says, “you are the Lord Hand now.”
“But I look so much better in my Reds,” Rhegal says as he exits the closet wearing his Red uniform, masked helmet covering his face.
“Must you hide your beautiful face?”, Alexandras laments.
“It was my father’s.”
“And you’d make him proud.”

They share one last quick kiss before he salutes and excuses himself to complete his
rounds.


Site CCXXXI:
On the far side of the base from where the flagship is docked is the testing/training facility. One of the Arden Fleet’s primary responsibilities is the development and training of new Reds, what the EES refers to its Gundam pilots as. Given that a single Gundam can do the work of entire army Reds are held in high regard. The Whites, cadets, designated with either sufficient potential or noted for Starborn abilities get sent to site CCXXXI for evaluation and training. A trio of such soldiers walk into the facility located in the cylindrical space station.

After several hours in the mobile suit simulator they get their results. The two young men’s results are either inconsistent or middling. The young woman’s are consistently among the highest in 2C3XI’s history. Occasionally even surpassing Lord Rhegal’s numbers from his time here. Important people are starting to take notice, people like Lord Rhegal.

As the Whites are cleaning themselves up after the session Rhegal enters the room. They salute him and he excuses the two men. There he stands in his full formal Reds, his father’s mask, and Hand’s rank. She being an eighteen year old with her dark brown hair held up in a bun by a purple head band, wearing white fingerless gloves, camo tactical pants, and a white tank top. She’s about half a foot shorter than him but she carries a cold intensity that is backed up by her lean muscle and striking blue eyes that are just like his.

“Kamille Yui?”, he puzzles out loud.
“That’s me, my lord”, she responds tersely.
“Isn’t Kamille a boy’s name?”
“It’s also a perfectly serviceable girl’s name, sir.”
“I suppose that it is.”

Rhegal takes a long moment to try and analyze her.

“You’re a Starborn aren’t you”, he says.
“How did you…”, she starts to say before being cut off.
“I can’t read your mind. That and your scores are clear indicators.”
“So it’s not just propaganda. You’re one too”, she says mildly excited.
“Indeed”, Rhegal responds as he levitates and takes notes with a pen, “How advanced are your abilities?”
“Not very”, she says as she poorly scribbles her signature with that pen.
“You underestimate your telepathy.”
“Is that so?”

Rhegal closes his folder and stuffs the pen into his coat pocket.

“I can casually pierce most telepathic barriers but I can’t with yours”, he says.
“Is that a fact?”, she says with some pride.
“So what are you trying to hide from me?”, he asks.

Her cold confidence breaks and she grows visibly nervous, eyes widening.

“You will answer me Yui”, his command is foreboding.
She covers her face and begins to shake as she speaks, “Please don’t tell the Admiral.”
“Tell the Admiral what, Yui?”
“That I…that I…”, she struggles to say the words.
“Say your peace now or suffer the consequences.”

“That I have the biggest crush on you!”, she screams very loudly.
“What?”, Rhegal is befuddled.

Her stoic mannerisms have given way to seemingly latent girlish tendencies.

“You’re amazing! heroic! brave! handsome! cool…”, she rambles faster and faster.
“Enough!”, he bellows, “Now I understand.”

Clearly embarrassed the young lady tries to compose herself. Rhegal smiles, he finds this display endearing.

“So then I suppose I have either very good or very bad news for you.”, he tells her.
“What would that be?”, she replies nervously.
“I’ve decided to take you on as my apprentice.”

She glomps him.

He sighs as he pushes her away, “but this type of behavior is not permissible.”
She snaps to attention as she shouts, “Yes sir! It will cease immediately!”
“Good. Be ready to fly tomorrow.”
“You mean…am I a Red now?” she exclaims happily.
“Almost. As I’m sure your aware, we have the new model arriving tomorrow. I need to see how you handle the real thing.”

It takes every ounce of her energy to hold her salute. Rhegal dismisses her and she all but prances away. He smiles as he watches her. Once she’s certain that she’s out of sight she drops the act. Her cold confidence is back and she looks back with disgust.

She finds her way back to her dorm. It’s immaculately kept and devoid of all flare or personality. With a laser focus and adamant purpose she composes a message.

“Hey mom!
I have great news, well I can’t say just yet but I can’t wait to tell you!!! XD
Oh I finally got your gift. It’s everything I could ever hope for! Can’t wait to see you and the family tomorrow! :P”


On board the Jiha:
Somewhere out in space a Bubo class assault cruiser hides amongst some meteor rubble. On board it a tall woman with white hair receives the message. She walks to the bridge where a tall shirtless man with jet black hair, signature sunglasses, and military jacket hung over his shoulders sits in the Captain’s chair.

“Captain, tomorrow is go”, Commander Yoko tells him.
“You’re nervous”, Captain Kan tells her.
“And you’re not?”, she sighs mildly annoyed his confidence, “Of course your not.”
He chuckles, “Believe in Satie. She’s the Republic’s last hope. So hold her high in your thoughts and dear to your heart.”


Site CCXXXI:
Back in her dorm, Satie lies awake thinking about her encounter with Rhegal. At the same time, he lies awake thinking about her. Neither can shake a profound but nebulous feeling about the other. They both get up and stare out their windows. Somehow they know each other is doing the same.


The following morning finds the undercover Satie continuing her masquerade as “Kamille Yui”. The hapless fangirl act is going over so well that it makes her sick. It is with iron resolve that she prevents herself from digging her nails into Rhegal’s arm as she hangs on it.

After what feels like an eternity to her they finally arrive at the Laconia’s hangar bay. There the new unit, her target, is being unloaded, the Gundam Reta. The state of the art mobile suit has the distinctive red and black color scheme of S series commander units.

“Is that the new S series?”, she asks fishing for information.
“No. Actually it’s the first MSGT”, Rhegal unwittingly confirms her objective.
“It’s not a DT?”
“It’s not a dark type. It’s the first ever grey type.”
“Please tell me I get to fly that!” she feigns girlish enthusiasm.
“Indeed you do.”

Playing her part she kisses his cheek. He wipes it way.

“What did I say about this type of behavior?”, he chides her.
“I’m sorry my lord”, she apologizes.

Satie straps into the Gundam Reta with her EES space suit as Rhegal observes from the hangar while Alexandras oversees from the bridge. The countdown begins and Satie presses a signal button hidden in her necklace. Just before launch she blows a kiss at Rhegal and somewhere deep in his soul he realizes that he’s been had.

Before he can react the Gundam Reta is launched as a Bubo class assault cruiser comes out of warp immediately next to the space station, and every alarm in 2C3XI goes off. The dozen ships guarding the space station are caught off guard by the suicidal tactic.


On board the Jiha:
Captain Kan laughs in fervent triumph as the rest of his crew slowly gather their spirits after narrowly obliterating themselves coming out of warp.

“Fitzgerald!”, he barks at his ensign on the coms.
“Yes Captain my Captain!”, Nick responds as tries collect himself inside his warp suit’s cockpit.
“Great work on the jump! Be ready to do it again the instant Satie’s on board with that thing!”


On board the Laconia:
Alexandras is observing her fleet’s seeming inaction against the enemy.

“Why aren’t they firing?”, her first officer asks in credulity.
“Because the enemy is too close to the colony. Their laser and turbo cannons would rip us to pieces”, she responds calmly.

As certain as she hates them for showing her up, she also admires the enemy’s tenacity.

“Shoot it down!”, Rhegal’s voice comes over the coms.
“We can’t Lord Lucas. The enemy ship is too close to the colony”, she replies.
“Not the assault carrier”, he clarifies, “shoot down the Reta!”

The EES ace launches with his MS-DT “S” series commander unit, the Strike Maul. The high speed blitzing unit is in hot pursuit of the Reta.

Alexandras stops to consider the situation.

“Admiral, your orders?” one her officers asks.
“Launch the Prejudice and Karenina!”, she yells.

Shortly afterward two “L” series Gundams launch; one green and yellow, the other red and light grey.


Site CCXXXI:
Satie flies toward the colony wall closest to where the Jiha should be. She knows this thing is supposed to have a Dark Drive, a piece of tech that magnifies her Starborn abilities. As she has the suit fling its arms out to its sides it rips a giant hole in the colony. Indeed it does have one hell of Dark Drive. The Gundam Reta jets through the opening as the vacuum of space starts sucking everything into the void.

The Strike Maul rushes forward. Rhegal knows that he doesn’t have more than 3 seconds to clear the opening before the emergency shielding seals the opening. He could break off but he’s not going to. The Strike Maul blitzes through the opening a split second before metric tons of carbon steel slam shut sealing the opening.

“Great work Skye! Now get on board”, Commander Yoko orders Satie over her coms.

With covering fire from the Jiha she could probably lose the Strike Maul but she’s not going to miss this opportunity. Satie has Reta ignite its beam saber. Rhegal has the Strike Maul ignite it’s beam staff. Both are red.

“It doesn’t get anymore real than this, traitor”, Rhegal says to Satie.
“Come and get me, Tiger”, she says to him.

The two Gundams rush one another. The Strike Maul spins and summersaults wildly while the Reta patiently defends and dodges the assault. The units’ beam blades get caught in a mutual bind.

“How advanced are your abilities?”, he asks.
“You want to find out?”, she replies.

The each break off their blocks and prepare their strike. Each fires off a powerful telekinetic wave that pushes one another back an equal, substantive distance. A true draw. However, Satie uses the distance to make a break for the Jiha. The Strike Maul starts to pursue but breaks off when the ship starts to cover her withdraw. The Reta reaches the carrier and it prepares to make its jump to warp.

“Open fire! Don’t let them escape!” Rhegal screams at the ships surrounding the enemy.
“At ease Captain”, Alexandras says, “Prejudice and Karenina, what’s your status?”
“Prejudice synched”, Liza replies.
“Karenina synched”, Leo responds.
Rhegal sneers, “Blow them out of warp.”
“Yes sir!”, they reply.

With those words the Jiha threads the needle between the tight enemy formation and blinks out of existence in a flash of blue. As it does so two smaller flashes of blue follow it.

Fin

Next time on Mobile Suit Gundam Reta:
Operation Prodigal so far has been a success but that may not last…The Gundams Prejudice and Karenina are in hot pursuit in warp! What’s this? Our heroes only have one warp fighter! Our lives are in your hands Gabriel. Next week: Archangel

The snow on the ground starts singeing into steam the split second before a raging torrent of rainbow light impacts the ground like a waterfall impacting the rocks. After a moment the brilliant light dissipates into the cloudy sky leaving a lone man standing in a burning Celtic rune. That could have been conspicuous but fortunately I’m on the edge of the Wolf Wood and the Bastard’s castle is around the bend…and JESUS CHRIST IN HELL is it cold!

Monk’s attire! What in the goddamn hell was I thinking?! Run you idiot run! The faster you run the quicker you’ll get warm!

Things are off to a great start! Well it’s not all for naught. There are two dragons flying over the castle, so that means they’re here…unfortunately that means the King Other has the third and the Wall has been breached. We are out of time. That’s the calculated risk I made and now I got to make the best of it.

With the depth of the snow, it is quite deep; the castle is a little less than an hour’s walk away. I could get there considerably quicker but I don’t want to be too eager to show my cards. Besides, this gives me time to make some assessments. There’s good news and bad news. The good news is that my theory about the Cosmic Weave being present in this world was correct; the bad news is that I can tell that by virtue of the overwhelming Dark presence I can sense to the north. I do sincerely hope that is the King Other and his army and not just him; otherwise he could easily be on par with a Dark Emperor.

Land untouched by industrial revolution is truly a sight to behold. Like nature herself this place is beautiful and unfathomably dangerous.

As I draw nearer the sounds of the army camps grow louder and more distinct. Good, they’re assembled. They are here by the tens of thousands. It’s good but with the Wall breached it is nowhere near enough. Everything is going to come down to those dragons and the King Other. If he falls so does his army and the war is won. That’s why I need to make sure that the Bastard can take him out.

So a couple questions occur to me:

  1. a) How do I get in the castle?
  2. b) How do I talk to the Bastard and the Queen?
  3. c) Am I better or worse off if the Seer, the Bastard’s crippled younger brother, has seen me?

The first two questions essentially boil down to, “tactful or bombastic”. The third is more vexing. On the one hand if he has seen me that means he’s gotten a lot better at his job, on the other hand it makes my job more difficult. We shall try to be tactful.

Getting through the gate was considerably easier than I anticipated. Apparently I’m assumed to be a local commoner and let through with little explanation. Once I’m on the inside of the forty foot walls the true size of this stronghold is made apparent to me. Between the furriers, armorers, and regimented soldiers actively training there very well could be over ten-thousand people behind these walls. Being tactful might get me nowhere very quickly.

Bombast it shall be.

Go to where the soldiers are training. With as many people as are gathered here it is only a matter of time before someone of significance makes themselves available. It doesn’t take long before the Dog’s distinct murmuring of, “cunt” and “fuck off”, catches my ear. It’s hard to miss the towering knight of great renown and his fire kissed face…but the real question is, “where is she?” If I picked a fight with her that would get the attention I seek.

Don’t look for her, she’ll never be found if she doesn’t want to be. Sense her.

Too easy, her presence is like a shadow in the center of a well-lit room. Of course she doesn’t know how to cloak her presence, she’s never had to. My eyes are drawn to the veranda over-looking the square and indeed the Young Assassin is there. All that is left for me to do is to pick this fight.

I walk towards the center of the sparring area, discarding my robe as I do. Bo staff in hand I point up at her and issue the challenge. The Dog is most displeased with me. I mildly mock him and he challenges me. This will suffice.

He picks up the Blacksmith’s Warhammer but before we begin I impose a restriction on myself. Hand halfway down the staff I draw a circumference around myself. His victory is solely predicated on forcing me out of the circle. The fight begins.

Truly he is a man worthy of his reputation, but I’ve stacked this deck. He’s surprisingly quick for a man of his stature but with the advantages I’ve empowered myself with I am ten times quicker without even trying. He gets one swing before I’ve swept him clean off his feet. With an audible thud he lands on the flat of his back.

Properly motivated, the Young Assassin comes down to meet my challenge. As we begin I close my eyes.

She is very good, beyond her physical limits good. Clearly she possesses the necessary qualities to be trained in more advanced arts. With time and the right training she will be far greater than I ever could be, but for now I am simply operating on a level several tiers removed from her. She is disarmed after I successfully bind and torque the rapier out of her hand.

A fervent command to cease at once is issued her older sister, the Lady. She is strikingly beautiful and rather tall for a young woman…and not at all pleased with me.

A short while later I find myself being badgered by a host of questions by her in the court. Seemingly she is more furious at my treatment of the Dog than her own sister. Huh, I’d forgotten that she was sweet on him for the times he had protected her in the past, though a low-born commoner presuming to challenge the royalty is not being overlooked.

Her fire red hair seemingly blazes with her anger. It takes all my will power to not be a flirtatious idiot.

Since the lord has returned it is his judgment that I must answer to, to my great fortune.

Later that day I am brought before the Bastard and he is holding court with the Queen and the Seer. Good. He exceeds my expectations by asking questions of me as opposed to berating me; who am I, where am I from, and why am I here…I dance around the answer as best I can. This provokes the Queen to respond.

Now is my chance.

Feigning obstinence angers her. She begins to roar with authority, asserting herself. As she does I can sense her connection to the Cosmic Weave and her growing presence in it. I prick her ego and her anger starts to turn to rage. As she berates me with threats of dragon fire I instruct her to hold her hand out, focus on my throat, and clench her fist.

As she does my throat constricts and I’m levitated off the ground. I chuckle as I gasp for breath.

Shocked by her own ability her rage instantly dissipates and her grip is released. They demand answers and now is when I make my pitch.

I explain the Cosmic Weave, how people are able to tap into it, how she is such a person, and how I’m here to train her. What I don’t mention is the Bastard’s equally strong presence in it. This prompts debate among her advisers. Her foremost advisor, the Imp, is a man I’d very much like to consider a friend. Very few people warrant the same respect I have for him. Alas, circumstance precludes that possibility. I am unknown quantity of dubious merit who possibly imperils their future. His distrust and suspicion of me is warranted.

The Queen however is intrigued, and bartering is engaged. Her initial proposal is to accept under the condition I swear fealty to her. Neither the Imp nor the Bastard are pleased with this. This leaves me in a bit of quandary. My purpose is achieved but I cannot in good faith abide such an oath. However quaint it may seem, I was raised in a country that fought to be free of kings and that is a profound truth in my soul I cannot ignore. I am here so that she can break the wheel, so that eventually the crown will end.

To accommodate a middle ground I swear allegiance to her as a ruler but not her crown. Perplexed by the distinction, she reluctantly accepts. My standing with the Bastard and the Imp is not improved by my insistence on the technicalities. The Seer has nothing to say and seems completely absent from the world around him. His abilities have overtaken his humanity. While it is great that his competence and capacity are increasing at an exponential rate, the inverse correlation with his communication skills most certainly is not.

The next several days are spent familiarizing the Queen with the basics…I am a thief, beggar, and pretender…, “luminous beings are we”, “it surrounds us and binds us”, “do or do not”. Whether it be her heritage, her quotient as half of the Messiah, or just natural aptitude she clearly has a profound and advanced grasp of beast bonding. The Bastard has a prodigious natural talent, I can clearly sense it.

Yet I am utterly reluctant to entertain the notion of training him. I tell myself it’s because we don’t have time for my attention to be divided between two students but I don’t really buy that. Maybe it’s something I sense in him or it’s something inside myself, either way I find myself gravely resistant to his training.

Some more time passes. The Queen’s advancements are prodigious and she is increasingly amused by this idea of “a republic”. Everyone has apparently caught up to the knowledge that he is technically the rightful heir to the throne. Their affection for one another is tested by this realization even though he is blatantly uninterested in pressing his claim.

His sisters are quite the lot however. The Young Assassin has become obsessed with surpassing me. Though she is surrounded by darkness while he is pure light, I find myself preferring her as a second apprentice over him. The Lady is rightfully cynical and suspicious…of me. Her suspicion and distrust of the Queen belies a bizarre possessiveness over her brother. Knowing them as characters I anticipated the inverse.

Eventually reports of the King Other and his army drawing near begin to come. The armies begin to mobilize and prepare for siege. The Queen is not ready.

I didn’t give myself much time because I knew I could stall for more. Such occasion is called for. The Queen and I speak at length about the red door she holds in her conception. Through my staff I channel it as a portal but before we open it I inscribe the image of a great Eastern dragon upon it. You know his name.

Just before we open the doorway the Bastard intercedes, demanding I cease my “sorcery”. It’s amusing because he’s not wrong. The Imp joins in, concerned but fascinated by what lay beyond that door. With a wave of my hand the door opens and searing bright light floods through. As I walk through I beckon them to join me.

They cross the plane into a small temple. From beyond its steps stretched an endless white void. Confused and awestruck they demand to know what this place is. I explain to them that this is a chamber of space & time, where one day outside is the equivalent of a year in here. The Queen is eager to continue her training, the Imp is adamantly opposed to the notion (yet again I find myself oddly sympathetic to his position, given that position is in opposition to me), and the Bastard reluctantly agrees…on one condition. That he joins us for our time in here.

Against all my instincts, I agree to his terms and suffer the consequences for it.