chapter 2

The year is 289 LC.
With the reluctant approval of High Chancellor Danella Tagar, Operation Prodigal has been set into motion. The daring and preposterous Captain Kan has lead a successful effort to capture the EES’s new prototype Gundam Reta. Spearheaded by the successful infiltration of the Red training program by special agent Satie Skye, Operation Prodigal is off to a smashing success. Unfortunately for the crew of the Jiha stealing the unit is only half the task. With the entirety of the Arden fleet in pursuit of them, it becomes critical for the heroes of the Republic to stay one step ahead of the enemy…but that will be no easy task.


On board the Jiha:
The triumphant Satie Skye steps out her new Gundam. She is greeted with cheers and chants as she does and they are well earned. Not only did she successfully infiltrate the high security facility, made it to “Red” in less than three months, got out clean with the target, but she held off Rhegal Lucas in a real fight. Maybe people would start recognizing her for her accomplishments.

Satie looks down at the EES emblem on her space suit. She can’t rip it off fast enough. As the loading lift carries her down her fellow pilot Nick Fitzgerald steps out his unit, the Gundam Gatsby. The suave and sophisticated gentleman with coiffed blonde hair and vermillion eyes tips his hand and graciously bows to her. Satie tips her hand back at him. It would appear that the entirety of the rest of the crew is there to greet her.

As Satie steps off the lift she is warmly embraced by the self appointed “mother” of the ship, First Officer Commander Alla Yoko. Just shy of thirty, an inch short of six foot, white haired, with amber eyes the Commander was a comforting…and aprapo of her rank…and commanding presence. She is the reason, focus, and diligence behind the Jiha.

As Commander Yoko steps aside the incomparable and incorrigible Captain Kan steps forward. Grinning from ear to ear the thirty odd man’s man, tall, with his signature sunglasses, jet black slicked back hair, and still not wearing a shirt underneath his coat. He wraps Satie in a giant bear hug and spins her around as he lifts her up. As he steps aside he wraps his arm around his first officer’s shoulder.

The instant the captain is out of the way, Cadet Franz Allister rushes forward. The awkward auburn mop top is overjoyed to see his friend in good health.

“Satie! I missed you!”, he screeches as he stumbles into an awkward hug.
“So I see you’re still the same old Franz”, she mutters as she reluctantly hugs him back.

Franz tries to ever so slyly slide his hands.

“Did you miss me…Sates”, he says in an excruciatingly forced low baritone.

With a single hand Satie easily shoves him aside.

She sighs, “Yup. Same old Franz.”

While Commander Yoko is busy chewing the cadet out the ship’s coms officer, Maria Andalu steps forward. A few years older and a few inches shorter than Satie, her luscious candy apple hair compliments her caramel skin, but what is most striking is her eyes. Those jade pools shimmer with a shine that betrays her as Starborn as well.

“Good to have you back pilot”, Maria says with a cool reserve all the while empathically projecting passionate warmth.
“It’s good to be home”, Satie says as she empathically reciprocates with cool distance.

Maria picks up on it and winces slightly. She is content with a handshake and quietly excuses herself back to her post.

Next the haggard old veteran, Lieutenant Kao son Jinn steps forward. The stress of his difficult life does not rest easy on his shoulders. His prematurely greying hair is poorly combed and his teal eyes brim with sorrow and pain. Kao nervously avoids Satie’s gaze.

“Old man”, Satie greets him.
“Young Wan”, Kao replies.

Satie takes off the necklace and goes to hand it to the lieutenant but he refuses it.

“No no no! That’s yours now”, he insists.
“Thank you.”
“She’d be proud of you.”

His compliment doesn’t quite sit right with her. Satie visibly flinches.

“Yeah yeah”, she sneers.

Lastly there’s Ensign Gabriel Milton. A somewhat short man with long, wavy black hair and eyes red like rubies. With much dramatic flare he quietly salutes Satie who returns the gesture in kind. Only the two of them really know what it means. He glances over at Commander Yoko with disdain in those eyes but only for a brief moment.

Only a few seconds later the alarms go off and Maria is heard over the speakers, “Enemy approaching!”

“Everyone to battle stations”, Captain Kan starts issuing orders, “Fitzgerald get the Gatsby ready for the jump.”
“Good Captain, I don’t know if he can take it”, Nick responds.
“He’s going to have to”, Kan retorts as a matter of fact.
“Yes Captain!”

“Milton, I need you to launch with the Paradise”, Kan commands.
“Yes sir”, Gabriel replies.

Satie starts to move the lift into position so that she can board the Reta.

“Skye, stop!”, Kan barks.
“But sir”, Satie tries to argue.
“Don’t “but sir” me pilot!”, Kan snaps back, “Alla, tell her.”
“Those are orders Skye!”, Commander Yoko shouts.
“I’m good to go.”
“This isn’t about you Satie”, Kan rebuffs her.
“What?”
“We’re not going to risk losing that suit. So get down now!”, Yoko demands.
With a hard sigh Satie relents, “Yes ma’am.”

“Good.  Commander?”, he asks Yoko
“Yes sir”, she replies.
“Would you escort me to the bridge?” he says as he extends his arm for her to hold on to.
Being greatly annoyed she responds, “Can please take this a little seriously?”, as she obliges him.
“Let me think…Uh, no”, he coyly smiles as he speaks.

Gabriel Milton suits up and climbs into the Gundam Paradise, an “L” series warp fighter.

“Before their eyes in sudden view appear
the secrets of the hoary deep, a dark
Illimitable ocean without bound,
Without dimension”, he says as he prepares to launch.

Maria relays his ok to launch and he does so. Jettisoning off into the void of space. As he flies out he sees the two “L” series warp fighters that followed the Jiha. He prepares himself for two vs one combat as the Gundams Prejudice and Karenina that just blinked out of warp.


On board the Laconia:

Alexandras is overseeing preparations to launch her fleet. For all this calamity to befall them she is grateful that the were more or less restocked and ready to ship out. They have to be ready to make the jump the instant her pursuit units make contact. Depending on where the enemy warped that could be three hours or twenty minutes.

While she’s quietly fixated on ship formations Lord Rhegal enters the bridge. He stands tall and salutes her.

“Your orders Admiral?”, he asks her.
“I will meet you in my office in due time, Captain”, she curtly responds.
“Yes ma-am”, he replies without hesitation and excuses himself from the bridge.

After relaying a few more orders to her Grays, commissioned officers, she excuses herself and heads toward her office. There Rhegal is inside and he snaps to attention as Alexandras walks in. Alexandras stands ominous and still until the sliding door closes behind her. Once it does they run into one another’s arms and kiss.

“Are you alright my love?”, he nervously asks her.
“Am I alright? She could have killed you”, she half scolds him.
“Yes she could have but against anyone else she would have killed them.”
“Now is not the time for braggadocio, Rhegal”, she scoffs.
“Alex, I assure you that I am not.”
“Is she really that good?”
“Her numbers, unlike everything else, are not a lie.”

She holds her hands together tight, anxiously clasping and unclasping them.

“When we engage them I have to take point against her”, he tells her.
“I know”, she says holding back her frustration and fear.
“I can’t sit back and watch as my Reds die.”
“Yes. I know, and that’s why everyone loves you”, she smiles faintly.

Rhegal grabs her by the sleeve and pulls her in and they hold each other tight.

“I won’t tell you not to but I am ordering you to come back alive. Be our hero not a martyr”, she says as she rests her face against his chest.

Rhegal takes off his helmet and gently lifts Alexandras’ chin so that their eyes can meet.

“Alex, look at me. No matter what happens I’m never going to leave you. I’ll always find my way back to you”, he solemnly clutches her hand, “I promise.”

They quickly kiss one another. The love birds rub one another’s noses as they pull away, smiling with tender joy, and then he gently holds her cheeks in his hands as they go in for one more long, emotional kiss. Afterward they just stare into one another’s eyes and it’s as if all of time and space fades away…

Until a knock comes at the door requesting the admiral. They stare at one another just a little longer.

“I love you”, she tells him.
“I love you”, he doesn’t hesitate.

Alexandras opens the door while Rhegal puts his helmet back on. She did not expect to see this person standing at the door.

“Mr. Zara?”, she bemuses.

There stands their celebrity charge, Friedrich Zara. A man of average height, in his late thirties, royal blue eyes, light brown hair, but what was most distinctive about his appearance was undoubtedly his large bushy mustache. Wearing his Grays signifying his rank as a commander given to him by the propaganda agencies.

“Ms. Arden…”, he starts.
“Admiral”, she corrects him.
“My apologies. Admiral, I’ve come to inform you that Reds Levin and Austen have made contact with the enemy and that the Laconia is ready to launch.”
“Thank you Commander”, she says as she walks out making her way back to the bridge as Rhegal follows a little ways behind.
“It is my duty.”
“Speaking of, you may disembark and remain here at 2C3XI should you wish.”
“You are generous Admiral Arden but I must refuse. Though I may be but a novice I cannot in good conscience abandon my countrymen on the eve of battle.”
“Hmmm. I find that an odd conviction for a man who rescinded his citizenship”, Alexandras digs at him.
Friedrich smiles, “What can I say, they refused my letter of resignation.”

As they approach the bridge several Whites pass by them. They halt to salute the Admiral but they are clearly excited to see the Commander and have to restrain themselves from trying to speak to him.

“Well the commoners do have an affection for you”, Alexandras says smugly.
Friedrich senses her disdain and it makes him smile, “It does them good to see their own among the upper ranks.”
“Does it?”, she questions.
“I assure you my dear Arden, it does.”
“Then you shall not be dissuaded from your post?”
“No I shalt not”, he insists.
“Very well. Then you are needed at your post Commander. Standby by your Gundam and await further orders.”
“Yes ma’am”, he acknowledges as he heads toward the lower decks.

As Rhegal and Alexandras step onto the bridge the open coms of their fighters can be heard.

“We are engaged by a single enemy Gundam. Another L series unit”, Liza says over the com.
“Do you have the warp point?”, Rhegal demands.
“Yes sir!”, says Leo, “Transmitting them now.”
“Forward that information to the Morrigans and tell them to make the jump”, Alexandras orders.


The Jiha:
If Satie wasn’t part of the crew then Gabriel Milton would easily be the best pilot among their ranks. He soars in and around his enemies constantly harassing them and interfering with their ability to target the Jiha. Beam rifle shots fire past the three warp fighters as they soar in and out of each other’s sights.

“Get em Gabe!”, Satie shouts over the com.

The EES Reds are evidentially flustered but they are also good enough to keeps themselves from being shot down. It’s becoming clear that neither will they succeed in reaching their target nor will the Paradise be able to take down both the Prejudice and Karenina. Gabriel knows what’s coming. The L series warp fighters are the veritable blood hounds of warp travel with their AI’s ability to synch with target warp drives and be able to maintain pursuit through warp. They don’t need to kill the enemy themselves, they just need to keep the scent.

”Nick you need to get your Gundam going. We only got a couple minutes before the rest of that fleet starts showing up”, Gabriel tells his comrade.

Indeed that is precisely what happens. With a blue blink three Morrigan class corvettes enter the battle zone. Very soon the Bubo class assault carrier is simply going to get outgunned and cornered. Unless Captain Kan has another trick up his sleeve.

“Captain, what are we going to do?”, Commander Yoko asks as she stands over him in the captain’s chair.
“Fitzgerald, is the Gatsby good to go?”, Captain Kan queries.
“Sir he is but my good friend can only carry this ship once more before his rest becomes an incontrovertible necessity”, Nick replies.

He thinks on it for a bit before proposing a radical notion.

“Milton”, Captain Kan asks, “their units are the same as yours, correct?”
“Yes sir”, Gabriel answers as he ducks his unit in and out of the line of fire.
“What does your warp synch target?”
“The frequencies sent out by the AI as it calculating where you’ll exist warp.”
“What would happen if you made the jump without the computer?”

The whole crew looks at the Captain with disbelief and you could hear a pin drop in their fretful silence.

“They would have nothing to track, sir”, Gabriel answers.
“Very well. Get back to the ship. We have a leap of faith to make.”
“I’m sorry captain I can’t do that.”

“Ensign that’s an order”, Commander Yoko snarls at Gabriel, “get your ass back here now!”
“Alla”, Gabriel replies, “do me a favor and shut the hell up! If they pick up only one AI making a calculation they’ll assume we’re both making the same jump. I’m going to lead them away from you.”

”Ensign! Don’t be stupid!”, Commander Yoko yells.
“Be brave son”, Captain Kan tells him.
“Yes sir, I will”, Gabriel says.

Gabe don’t do this”, Satie pleads with her friend, “you won’t make it back!”
He smiles, “Knowing you was the best part of my life Satie.”

With that he silences his coms. The corvettes begin to move in. Gabriel begins his warp’s targeting. Nick, placing his trust in his captain, prepares the Gatsby to make a blind jump. All the while Satie makes a mad dash for her Gundam but is stopped by Kao son Jinn.

“I can save him!”, she pleads as he holds her back.
“We’re not going to lose you”, he tells her.
“Let go of me!”, she screams as she breaks free of his grasp and climbs up toward the Reta’s cockpit.
“I can’t lose you too!”, he shouts back at her.

Those words provoke a memory that freezes Satie in her tracks. She remembers back to days when her mother was a pilot and that terrible day when she watched Basele Skye get ripped to pieces by mobile suits emblazoned with the sigil of an orange demon’s face.

“Gabriel!”, her mind screams across space, “I know them. The Arden fleet is where the EES puts the children of important people to pad their resumes. Go at them hard and they’ll panic.”

He hears her and responds, “Thanks…I’m sorry Satie.”

With those words both the Paradise Gundam and the Jiha blink out of existence. The Prejudice and Karenina follow the Paradise in kind.


Site CCXXXI:
The Laconia has launched and the Morrigans have warped to catch up with Prejudice and Karenina. Alexandras plots her next moves. The warp fighter Gundams will keep the trail while the corvettes corral the enemy ship. Once they’ve exhausted their options she’ll move in with the Laconia itself. If they surrender the Reta they will be taken as POWs. If they don’t then she will have them obliterated.

There’s a blue blink in space and she assumes that it’s one of her warp fighters. As it begins to open fire on her ships it becomes quite evident that it is not.

The Paradise soars along firing its beam rifle at point blank range on an Ashura class cruiser and Mangala class frigate scuttling them. Just as Satie said they would, the fleet panics and begins to open fire on the small, high speed, moving target and start blowing themselves to pieces with laser and turbo cannon fire.

“Cease fire! Cease fire! Cease fire!”, Alexandras screams at the top of her lungs.

She looks upon her eviscerated fleet and the calm, collected demeanor gives way to white hot rage.

“Rhegal, murder that bastard!”, she commands with a seething whisper.
“At once my love”, he readily accepts it.

The Lord Hand and greatest Red in the EES makes his way to his unit and prepares to launch. Meanwhile the Paradise is reeking utter havoc. Now that they’ve stopped firing on each other not nearly as many ships are getting scuttled but he is still annihilating their armaments. It dances through explosion and flame, in and out of storms of bullets, and with it’s golden wings and yellow beam saber it is as if it were some kind of angel sent to wreak holy retribution.

The Prejudice and Karenina blink back into existence and their pilots are left aghast at the damage left in their enemy’s wake. Reds Liza Austen and Leo Levin take formation and come in hot against their enemy. Unfortunately for them, Gabriel Milton is no longer trying to defend a target. Free to cut loose he easily overwhelms them. Levin gets his beam rifle cut in half but dodges quick enough to keep the Karenina intact.

In a desperate bid to save her fellow Red, Liza opens fire upon the enemy. It succeeds in diverting his attention. Now the Paradise comes barreling down at her with beam saber in hand. She can’t come anywhere close to hitting it. Just as she’s about to be run through, a flash of red and black sweeps in. It’s the Strike Maul!

Rhegal’s unit solidly kicks Gabriel’s in the face forcing him back, saving Liza’s life.

“Thank you most graciously, My Lord”, she tells him.
“Both of you fall back, now”, he commands.

They heed it and the two Gundams withdraw. This leaves the Paradise and Strike Maul to face each other alone in the wreckage of the Arden fleet.

“Shall we begin?”, Gabriel growls menacingly as his red eyes flare.
“Have at me”, Rhegal responds calmly as he ignites one side of his beam staff.

The Paradise rushes forward as Gabriel tries to blitz the blitzer. With fluid motion and genuine ease does the Strike Maul dodge, deflect, and maim its enemy’s off hand. Enraged, Gabriel rushes forward again. This time Rhegal subverts his strike with a back guard that he ripostes into a thrusting jab that takes the Paradise’s right arm off entirely.

“You are beaten. It is useless to resist”, Rhegal tells his foe.
“Is it now?”, Gabriel chuckles as he smashes the self destruct button.

The lights flash red in the cockpit of the Paradise and the external alarm blares. Gabriel Milton closes his eyes as he embraces his death with serenity. Yet before he can meet his fate the Strike Maul clenches its fist and rips the enclosed cockpit out of the Gundam. Channeling his power through his unit’s other hand, Rhegal telekinetically tosses it away where it explodes uselessly…and just like that the Gundam Paradise is lost.

Gabriel Milton is now in enemy custody.

Fin

Next time on Mobile Suit Gundam Reta:
Our heroes onboard the Jiha managed to get away clean, thanks to the sacrifice of Gabriel. Now that he’s in EES custody what fate shall befall him? Where is the Jiha? Even they don’t know! Next week: Aristoi

Follow to find out!

Indeed he is a natural talent but unlike her, his affinity is for the blade. Years of training have honed his aptitude and grueling experience has tested his steel. As his understanding of and connection to the Weave grows his swordsmanship exponentially accelerates. Within two months he’s as fast as I am and almost as strong. Within four he has surpassed my martial ability in every capacity. By the end of our time in here I suspect that he should be a worthy challenger to any of the great sword masters of the order.

Of course I had him construct his own star saber. He chose the blue blade of the guardian. It suits him perfectly.

While our training and her connection to the Weave has allowed her to supersede the prowess of the great knights of her time, the Queen has no love for the blade. Her growth comes in glorious magnitudes and breadth of skill in which she can manipulate the Weave. Powerful telekinetic waves and grips, advanced precognition, and masterful manipulation of fire. She even has a burgeoning talent for telepathy.

Their training goes magnificently well. Everything else does not. One year is a very long time to be spent in isolation with only two other people. When there is tension there is no escaping from it. When there is a misunderstanding there is no distance to put between you and them. When emotions arise there is no distraction from them.

I am a grey and as such I take from both the Light and the Dark. I do not discourage attachment or emotional experience. Only by exploring one’s emotions may you know them, may you command them. Willful ignorance cannot achieve balance. However, this experience has developed an understanding on the Order’s prohibition on romantic attachment.

Though their affection for one another is powerful and primal, the isolation draws their differences into sharp contrast. Truly they are ice and fire. Over the course of months their passions for one another drift apart. This breeds resentment and begets anger. It serves her well but him ill. The Queen’s affinity for the Dark allows her to focus her hurt into power while the Bastard’s affinity for the Light saps his strength.

Unable to reconcile his pain or turn his attention toward a larger threat, he turns his rage towards me. Though it does empower him, I fear it comes at great peril; for he is naturally averse to the Dark. Should he come to use it it shall be because he is beholden to it and not it answering to his command. If he loses the light then he shall be lost.

More than the Weave is discussed. The Queen and mine’s discussions over the “modern world”, reality, and modern ideals enthrall her. I would be a liar if I said I did not delight in her enthusiasm. She is increasingly resolved to break the wheel as she is emboldened by the possibilities of what could replace it. Brave and bold departures from the sanctity of tradition take root in her thought. Truly, she can free this world and I shall see to it that she does.

The bolder the departure the more displeased the Bastard is with the notion. Some of it he is genuinely averse to, most of it is the poison of jealousy and distrust in his veins. The rift between them widens and when our one year in the chamber concludes, it takes my best to prevent me and him from coming to lethal blows.

When the chamber door opens and we exit one full day later, the two of them are exponentially better prepared to face the looming doom but it has come at a much higher cost than I anticipated. If this world’s Messiah is ‘them’, I may have been an unwitting Judas. The Imp approaches us with wry wit queries as the correlation between the changes in our appearances to our personalities. The Bastard storms off in a fit of anger.

The Imp is rightfully concerned. The Queen assures him that she’ll sort it out. As he’s informing her of any events she may have missed she walks down the hall with my bo staff in her hand. Using it helped her channel her power and she took quite a liking to it.

I feel the faintest prick of a dagger in my back. I don’t how she’s been practicing but the Young Assassin clearly has been.

She informs me that she won. I inform her that is not quite true, as my unignited saber is pointed directly at her chest. She says she wants one. I say that she has to complete her training first.

She asks, “When do we begin?”

I chuckle. I knew I liked her for a reason, “After I have a chat with your sister.”

“Follow me”

She leads me on circuitous path in and out of dark corners. Either she is testing me or arranging my execution. So long as the Bastard isn’t waiting to challenge me to a duel in the catacombs I am exceedingly confident in my ability to survive. Fortunately the latter does not appear to be the case. We appear to simply be avoiding contact as much as possible as we sneak to the Lady’s chamber door.

I sense three people in the room and I can identify all three: the Lady, the Dog, and the Maid Knight. The Young Assassin beckons me to enter before her. There is a strong probability that this may be a trap. No matter, they’re setting a bear trap for a dragon.

I walk through the door to see The Dog and the Maid Knight standing on either side of the Lady. Well it is my fortune that they would appear to be here as guards and not murderers. Good, I delight in knowing that I don’t have to hurt them. They’re good people who are wise enough of the world to be suspicious and discerning. Exactly the kind of people that can help actualize a better world.

I attempt to be witty and gracious in my overture but the Lady is not having it. She demands a full explanation of what I am. To accommodate her I attempt to translate what parts of my experience I can into something familiar for their time and place. What I manage to say is taken with considerable suspicion. Much like my prior confrontation with the Imp, I find myself proud of her opposition to me. It means that she is in fact, learning and improving.

Our conversation is at an impasse. To break the tension in the room I ask her if she would like to learn to dance. She assures me that she has been educated on how to dance. I assure her that no high born has the faintest notion of what dancing is. With a heavy sigh she dismisses me, yet I do not leave.

Her business with me is done but my business with her is not. The guards step forward to escort me out but before either can lay a hand on me, I voice my concerns for her brother, the Bastard.

“What did you do to him?” she asks as she bares her fangs at me.

“Nothing he had not done himself. Before this over he shall need you, both of you”, I say as look back at the Young Assassin.

Though you may not accept it, I am rooting for you, Bastard. My presence may have set you astray but not beyond the reach of your sisters. Emphatically I believe in them as I wish you did. If only you had been witness to their triumphs and torments, as I have, you would.

Before I can leave a messenger rushes into the room. Apparently the Bastard has mounted one of the dragons and is flying north to do something stupidly heroic…alone.

We rush to the courtyard were we are met by the Queen and the Imp. Both her and I can sense the confusion and frustration that clouds his mind. He fears that he has lost her and this is a misguided attempt to win her back from me when I never stole her…

The Queen and I lock eyes…I never meant to…consciously.

This creation is the cosmos of my mind.

I cannot let this happen.

She’s preparing to mount her own dragon and chase off after him. Both I and the Imp implore her not to. He speaks of how she is too important to just fly off on her own into doom itself, and I completely agree but if we’re going to get her to listen I have to come at this from another angle. I ask her to trust in me to get the task done as I telekinetically pull my staff from her hands and call it back to me.

I want her to issue me a stern command to return “him to her”.

Instead she whispers gently into my ear, “Come back to me”.

My emotions have betrayed me.

I can’t help myself. With a cocksure smile and wink I blast off into the winter sky and speed north in pursuit of the Bastard. As I soar high above the ground I ponder whether I am truly doing so because there is no time to waste to save him or if my actions are compelled by my subconscious desire. How fortuitous it is that these unfortunate circumstances serve to best endear me to the woman I adore.

Is it so that my grand purpose is but hollow pretense for my petty desire? Doth I protest my wish to be liberator too much? Am I the tyrant? Or yet am I the slave to my own wishes?

I must know that I am free. I must believe that I am liberator and enlightener. I must save the Bastard from the fate my own subconscious has crafted for him. I must.

After a measure of time I know not, he is found. He is found in the heart of a blizzard immediately next to the presence of the King Other. I soar in next to the dragon. As I do so, I notice the large shadow that is circling us in the storm. Once I’m close enough I glide myself down through the unrelenting snow and wind onto the dragon’s back.

The Bastard is none too pleased to see me. Though he is screaming at me with his full force I cannot hear clearly a single word in the maelstrom.  What I can hear is the flapping of a second set of wings. All the rest of the world goes quiet…

Long seconds pass between the “whoosh” of each wing flap, then perfect silence… From the fringes of our line of sight erupts the horrible visage of the undead, frozen dragon as it bears down on us breathing its foul blue flame. Our dragon quite impressively rolls to meet its flame with his. I and the Bastard desperately clasp on to one of his back spikes before he can reorient himself. The King Other rides his glorious undead mount. As he passes by preparing a second attack, the Bastard leaps off the back of his dragon toward his enemy. Because of his training he can make that leap he has no right making, with a dragon steel blade in hand no less. It sets him up for a fight that he cannot win.

This is a battle brought on by the poison I injected the Bastard’s veins. I watch him lose and as I do it all becomes clear to me. For one I dishonored this world. Its creator would have nothing but disdain for my interference in the affairs he so carefully, brilliantly, painstakingly crafted. My being has no place or purpose here outside of my ego and as such has distorted the world in subtler fashion, infinitely more grave than I ever anticipated.

The Queen and he as the Messiah are the one grand exception that this world will allow for. That power in which I reserved for myself made me the second, and when I passed that power to them created a third and fourth. Of all the worlds in my conception few are less forgiving than this one and failures shall suffer consequence, here. The world itself is bringing itself back into balance by writing out the excess, and as a foreign entity it has no sovereignty over me.

For two, I cannot in good conscience tell you that this is out of line with my will. My self-deception has betrayed me through corrupting him. I told myself that I wanted to liberate and enlighten this world and I would need her to do it. Alas, my desire was all together more acutely juvenile and petty: I wanted her and the rest was my excuse. For me and her to rule as god and goddess I needed him gone.

With a flash of blue light the Bastard is sent tumbling off of the King Other’s monstrous steed, hurtling towards the ground several hundred feet below us.

What shall I do?

The King Other locks eyes with me as we stride the massive mythical monsters. He points at me with his icy spear and his undead mount comes at us. I raise my hands to my face, palms out, fingers pointed inward and spread wide and call for the sun. Luminously blinding sunlight engulfs us and breaks the storm.

I’m speeding downwards as fast as I can. The Queen’s dragon is flying back the Bastard’s castle. The King Other and his undead beast have been knocked out of the sky and are falling. Now’s my chance; I could ignite my saber and drive it through his heart ending all of this!

Too bad I’m a good two-hundred feet below him catching up to the falling Bastard. I catch him just before he hits the tundra but I can’t quite break my momentum enough for a comfortable landing. Hard impact hurts, a lot. Good thing I gave myself the strength of an ascended dragon warrior, otherwise I’d be paste. He’s out cold but the Bastard is unscathed.

Several seconds later the King Other and his dragon crash with a thunderous boom. Its body lies broken in several pieces only held together by the skin but he stands unfazed, completely unharmed. I ignite my amethyst blade and run towards him. As I do he raises his right hand and then slashes it down into a point at my saber. A wind so cold that it feels like a hundred burning blades slashes past me, stopping me in my tracks and short circuiting my blade.

Through the weave I call for my staff and it comes hurtling towards my open hand. As I do so, he manifests another icy spear from his beast’s broken spikes. We face one another; I channel the weave through the staff preparing for combat.

After a moment I spring forward at him with speed far beyond a human’s limit. He strikes his guard and I rotate to my right to wrap around, sliding both my hands down the shaft to strike his head as if I were wielding a great sword…and WHACK!

I hit him with every ounce of enhanced strength that I possess, and it does little more than chip the side of his face.

The King Other turns his head and lips unmoving, speaks in a voice that is not his alone, that echoes like the void, “Dreams”, I am struck by horror and awe, “Each man longs to pursue his dreams. Each man is tortured by this dream but the dream gives meaning to his life. Even if the dream ruins his life he cannot allow himself to leave it behind. In this world is a man ever able to possess anything more solid than a dream?”

It can’t be.

“In this world is the destiny of mankind controlled by some kind of transcendental entity or law? At least it is true that man has no control, even over his own will.”

This foe is far beyond any dark emperor. Now I see; see that I am but a child playing at being divine, that he is not bound by my will, rather I am to his, my foe is Fate, and all in this world is in accordance with his will. Orchestrated by whispers in flames, the Messiah is but a lamb to lead the flock to slaughter.

No. No. No! NO!

“I reject your dominion!”

He may hold power over this entire world, but I am not of this world. I am master of my own will and I am no slave to his whim! This may be his world but this is my cosmos.

Where I chipped his face begins to glow…it explodes, taking his left jaw and cheek.

He wails in pain with a guttural hiss.

From above I hear another hiss, but this one is roaring and is accompanied by the sound of large wings. The Queen has come. As she descends on the back of her largest dragon the King Other animates the broken corpse of his. Before I can strike a second blow he has thrown his spear at the Queen.

Through the weave I’m able to grab it out of the air but she also averts her course to dodge it. Breaking off from her approach give him time to climb on the dragon corpse rapidly reassembling itself and fly away under the cover of snowy mist. The King Other has escaped from what appears to be his first genuine defeat, but as he leaves he speaks,

“Now the story begins”,

And I am left uncertain of my victory.

The Queen lands and her loyal knight dismounts to retrieve the Bastard. As I approach she extends a hand to help me up but I notice that she is giving me the same look she gave him in the same circumstance.

Do I have any control over my own will?