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Ataraxy

Breaking An Egg To Make An Omelette

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The city of Everrun was in ruins, completely destroyed by a tyrannical fire which had swept across the lands. The flames had not burnt the people, causing not a single scorch mark upon their mortal flesh. But they had nonetheless perished, though perhaps not all. It mattered not to Lilith as the Djinn Ilbis had been true to his word and summoned her requests.

In the far off distance Lilith could sense an approaching presence and she frowned, recognizing the foreign auras as those of Taen. There were still hours left before their arrival, however, so the necromancer sniffed and turned her eyes away. If those fools were coming to help, they were much too late. If they were running to capture her they would ultimately die, even if they managed to catch up to her upon her departure. A notion which she doubted vehemently. 

Having arrived an hour or so after Everrun finished burning, Samael stood before her. Silent. Waiting. With every step she took toward him, her red eyes bore down fiercer into the child's own ember ones. 

There was not a single living presence in their immediate vicinity, the other cult members having momentarily departed. Just her. And him. And the half living body laying at her feet.

Samael was weak. Too weak. Initially leaving him in the care of Middy seemed to work, but the development was too slow. To... comfortable. It wasn't training that the boy needed, it was a complete breakdown of will. The quiver in his voice whenever he spoke, irritating her with its nervous weakness. 

She would shatter his entire identity. His being. Break it apart piece by piece until all that stood before her was a blank canvas waiting to be filled. Then, and only then, would his true nature be revealed and his destiny shown. 

A wave of pressure exploded from Lilith and it settled chaotically around Samael's body as it shoved him to its knees. In a seemingly permanent expression of inherent superiority, Lilith looked down on the boy and growled. The timbre or her voice dark and deep, a primordial sound that pulled at the very constructs that were built around mortal fears. 

"Tell me your name," she asked, the promise of death drenching her voice in poison. 

@vielle

Edited by Ataraxy

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The ruins of Everrun are empty, a gaping void where life should be; Samael inhales, soot and ash and blood-scent, but he doesn’t, cannot breathe.

Lilith stands before him, and he struggles not to visibly cower under her hardened gaze. He had not been present, during the fight that had ensued within the city and the fire fields that had swarmed through every last corner of Everrun, opting instead to arrive just hours after, when the dirty work had been completed and no blood need be spilled by his own hands.

The body at his feet continues to breath, continues to live, even as it slowly inches towards death. It rather looks like a portrait of himself, bleeding inadequacy at the Commander’s feet.

He is about to speak—out of turn, but necessary—when it happens: there’s a sudden jolt, a genuine, piercing pain that spreads out from Samael’s sternum when he exhales, when the pressure that comes bearing down upon him brings him immediately to his knees; it’s devastating in the moments before it fades, but it isn’t new. He is acclimatised.

He is—incompetent. Incomplete. Broken. And his Lady sees through the veil he presents to the world, of all people.

"Tell me your name."

Samael swallows down the sob crawling up his throat and responds. “S-Samael, my Lady.” He hesitates, continues on in an almost-whisper. “That is the name you have given me.”

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Not a single muscle in Lilith's face twitched, nor did any in her body. She was like stone, cold and hard. Immovable. Her empty left hand reach down to wrap around the hilt of Heartbane which lay sheathed to her hip. 

Again, he stuttered. At that, she frowned. It's fear that was blocking him from succeeding. But not fear of her, no, it was something more intrinsic. Something... inside of himself. And it terrified him. Lilith knew it just by looking at how he cowered before her. He was a Paragon, a being above others, yet he groveled and plead. Stuttering on the name she'd given him when he should have willed himself to stand or at least kneel. Saying his name loud and proud. Full of confidence. Fear was good, but only the fear of her. Fearing one's one abilities... Lilith felt repulsed at the notion. 

Her Paragons would not be weak.

"And what are you, Samael? Are you a slave? A servant? A simply boy trembling in despair before the big bad necromancer?" she asks, sneering all the while. Though there was a moment between her words and her next actions for him to speak, it didn't matter. She wasn't listening. Lilith had unsheathed Deathbringer, small silver lights jumping around the blade. Circling it like a life line. And then she plunged the soul sword into Samael's chest. 

The infliction, however, would have limited physical damage. Instead Samael would be flooded with the death of every soul Lilith had ever stolen and trapped within the sword. Again and again he would relive the death of insignificant mortals. Worthless beings. Trash to be dumped aside at the earliest convenience. 

"What are you Samael? Is that a death you wish to die?"

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The Commander’s hand moves towards the hilt of her sword, and Samael begins to visibly shake with fear, his hands clenched where they’re clasped against his knees, his gaze trained on the ground with a faint air of desperation.

"And what are you, Samael? Are you a slave? A servant? A simply boy trembling in despair before the big bad necromancer?"

He opens his mouth, a reply formulating and ready to fly on his lips, when his Lady unsheathes Deathbringer in one smooth motion and—

—the world shakes at the seams, a bit, twitching and flinching, the Mirror Realm superimposed over the real world in flashes before Samael’s eyes. His blood drips down the length of the blade where it’s made contact with his skin, with his gut deep inside.

His eyes, to his horror, swiftly water, tears spilling out uncontrollably, and here’s the thing: Samael knows what nearly dying feels like. He does not know how he knows that, like muscle memory or hazy memories, but he knows what the feeling is like. And this—those words from his Lady, that contemptuous voice, this impossible burning that courses through him as the deaths of hundreds, of thousands of nameless, faceless people who have met their end at the mercy of this blade—this.

All the near-deaths in the world cannot hold a candle to this; not this.

Not nearly.

"What are you Samael? Is that a death you wish to die?"

He chokes on the blood in his mouth trying to reply, opts instead to shake his head. He does not wish to die like that, like something meaningless.

The pendant around his neck pulses with green light, and his fingers twitch on their own accord, almost as if to reach for a Shatterpoint: whether it is his own or Lilith’s, there is no telling.

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The pendant hanging around Samael's neck caught her eye, its green light beating like a second heart against the boy's chest. With a yank Lilith tugged Deathbringer out of his chest and the movement was followed with a sickening squelch of blood. Without a thought to his emotions or opinion she swooped down and snatched the pendant, her slim fingers grasping the bejeweled item firmly. Almost as if she were thinking of breaking it. 

"Do you want to Shatter me, Samael?" she snarled, loosening her grip so the pendant dangled in front of him. Suddenly she stood, moving out of his reach and walking toward the dying man at her side. And then she plunged her hand, still holding the pendant, deep in the man's stomach. A scream a pain gurgled against the blood that filled his mouth but Lilith paid it no heed. Then she turned back to Samael, ignoring his wounds and grabbing his collar to force the boy back to his feet. With a ferocity that would make a dragon tremble she pointed at the man struggling to breath. The pendant still beating a faint green. "The core of your power," she said quietly, "does not come from that pendant. It does not come from me." Her empty hand closed to a tight fist and it pushed roughly against Samael's chest. "It comes from you. From who you are. That pendant won't save you and neither will it save him." A wave of her hand and the muscles of the dying man begun to stitch back together, soul energy from Deathbringer silently slipping into his being. "Kill him with your own power and take what belong to you. The answer is power and will always be power. Without it you are nothing. You are an ant to be squashed, trash to be ignored and forgotten. Shatter yourself if you wish to die unknown and pathetic. Shatter him if you wish to be...more."

The man was large, nearly seven feet tall and all his muscles bulged with the anticipation of release. What was perhaps a handsome face had been distorted into one of anguish, his brown eyes foggy. Glazed by the passage and quick pull from death's door, Lilith's powers putting him into a rampaging daze. By her command the zombie-like man took hold of Deathbringer and faced Samael, roaring in anger and confusion as the young Paragon's pendant continued to thump steadily in the man's stomach. 

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Deathbringer slips out of his body and only a choked gasp rings out of Samael’s throat, but when the pendant snaps off from his neck, the panicked haze that descends is almost visceral, innate—like war drums, like a distant, shrieking alarm piercing through his mind even as it tries to recall where this defensive instinct is coming from: do not look there, do not look there, you will only get hurt more

The Commander’s next words go unheard as Samael groans, convulsing, a puppet on torn strings at the sight of the pendant disappearing out of sight into the man’s stomach. Froth bubbles at the edges of his mouth even as Lilith wrenches him up to stand on his feet, unheading of the blood trickling down from the boy’s pierced skin to pool at his feet. In the midst of the words speaking power, speaking death, something tugs in his chest, and as he blinks—

 

—the reflective-mirror grayscape washes over his vision, and everything else fades away, leaving behind only the words his Lady is speaking to him, and that flickering green light growing dim as the man’s body stitches itself back together. The roar that follows, half-torn from the giant’s throat, does not sway the boy a single inch.

"Shatter yourself if you wish to die unknown and pathetic. Shatter him if you wish to be...more."

He does not need to be told twice, not with that radiant glow in his greywashed vision, pulsing bright in the vicinity of the man’s stomach. Irises gleaming sickly green in the lowlight, Samael moves forward, dodges the clumsy swing of the sword in his direction with a twirl on his heel, shifts his weight to plunge his hand through the Shatterpoint: through, and down, down, down.

His fingers bleed in earnest now, having unknowingly dragged a gaping hole from the man’s chest to his stomach, the skewering act splattering blood all over Samael’s face, his outstretched arm, his collarbones. As he moves a foot forward, shards of glass crunch under the weight of his heel. He pays no notice, focus intent on the pendant within. His fingers close around it, and as they do so, awareness slams into him like an avalanche.

Oh gods oh gods oh gods—


—Samael recoils, free hand flying to his mouth as the bloodied hand pulls out of the body, the green glint of the pendant a contrast against the crimson on his skin.

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Interesting.

Lilith couldn't help the eyebrow that rose in surprise as the timid boy all but ripped the man in half. With his bare hands nonetheless. Seemingly without a single shred of hesitation or his usual guilt ridden expressions. At least, not until he regained the pendant. A look of utter horror took hold of him, hand shooting to his mouth in shock. But, even despite the fear, his hands didn't pull away or loosen its grip on the emerald pendant. 

The rare stone was fascinating, to say the least, and vaguely reminiscent of the red life-gem in Deathbringer's hilt. Though she highly doubted their functions were the same. A doubt furthered by Samael's beast like urge to stay in contact with it. While the boy himself was not a mystery, rather predictable truth be told, his past was an enigma. One that pulled at the strings of curiosity but no such that she could be bothered to focus on it. 

Not yet, anyway.

Instead she nodded, pointing to Deathbringer laying on the ground. Grasped by a now fully dead man's hand. "Pick it up," the Commander ordered and moved to a small patch of relatively undisturbed dirt. With the sheathed Heartbane, she drew a circle large enough for six men. "Get in."

Once Samael entered the circle the outline would glow red and purple, a foggy yellow haze quickly submerging to the area from prying eyes. Only Lilith could see from outside, her eyes powerful enough to piece the veil. In the seconds between the fog and the area being completely hidden by it, a figure would appear from what would look like no where to Samael. A blink later it would be like a mirror, the young boy staring at a reflection of himself. 

But it wasn't a reflection. 

It was his weakness. 

A young boy, frightened by what was happening. Lost. Scared. Full of hesitation and guilt. In a scream of panic the reflected Samael shrieked and charged wildly, his eyes wide as arms flailed toward Samael's Shatterpoints. 

"Kill it," Lilith said, her voice far and distant, echoing, but clear all the same. "Don't let yourself by limited by the weakest parts of yourself."

@vielle

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"Pick it up. Get in."

In a slight daze, swimming in the faint vestiges of disgust and guilt, Samael follows the instructions given by the Commander, taking up the hilt of the very sword that had pierced him and moving towards the circle she had drawn in the dirt. He does not know how much blood he has lost, but the world is beginning to bleed along the edges, swamped with a dark fog encroaching at the mental borders of his mind.

He does not know where this supplementary strength is coming from, but he knows it is running out fast.

As Samael steps forward into the shape etched on the ground, colors spark along the perimeter of the circle, an amber shroud filling his vision—but not before he sees himself.

“What,” he gets to say, before the agitated, distraught version of himself shrieks like a banshee and pounces towards him, wild and panicked.

"Kill it. Don't let yourself be limited by the weakest parts of yourself."

Samael does not answer, gritting his teeth as he blocks the violent flailing limbs unnervingly, exactly like his own, keeping his distance and rolling with the punches when he realizes the other him is trying to reach his own Shatterpoints. He takes a stunning hit to the solar plexus, the other boy’s fists wicked fast in their assault just as his own usually are, and he draws blood in return with a deep gash along his counterpart’s ribcage.

The Other Samael’s eyes glint with faded green, a mockery of his own power tied to the Mirror Realm, and surprisingly, this is what piques his fury. Samael growls, grips Deathbringer tighter between his fingers as he brings down the sword in a horizontal sweep, severing flesh and bone unerringly like his own.

(A premonition: is this how he is to die? Perhaps, but no, wait—)

He does not know if the blood showering across his face is real, but he knows that with the blood already on him, what more can this really do? He does, however, barely manage to keep the bile from leaving his throat.

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The cut into Samael's mirror self was deep. Strong. Enough such that it should have sliced the reflection in two; a quick and swift end to the match up. But instead of collapsing and splitting, the body stitched itself back together in a matter of seconds. The only damage Samael seemed to have done to his mirror self was frighten it even more. A fear, for what it was, was a powerful thing. Dangerous and unpredictable, but powerful nonetheless.

Calling out from beyond the fog Lilith's voice was oddly patient, if slightly disappointed at the failed attempt. "Did you really think all it would take to purge the weakness from yourself is to brandish Deathbringer like a scared child out of his depth?" 

Within the fog Samael's mirror self scowled, terror clear in his eyes. But even that was overshadowed by a desperate need to survive. To live. The rules of the mind were unlike those of reality. Samael would find that out soon if he hadn't already. A long, sharp sword suddenly materialized in Mirror Samael's hand. The aura permeating it resembling that of Deathbringer. Striking out in a righteous fright the reflection swung his corrupted sword at Samael: murderous intent deeply imbued in the swing. To fight a cornered rat was to fight it at its most dangerous.

"I saw to kill it," she reminded the young boy. "Not cut it or stab it. You need to kill it or it will consume you until there is nothing left but a whimpering lump of nothing." 

 

@vielle

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The slash connects, and he had expected it to sever his mirror self immediately, but then the body stitches itself back together, split flesh reaching out for their other halves to mend what had been broken. Samael gazes into his own terrified eyes reflected back at him from across this short distance, biting his lip in wordless consternation.

"Did you really think all it would take to purge the weakness from yourself is to brandish Deathbringer like a scared child out of his depth?"

Despite himself, a hot-white, violent flash of anger and exasperation sparks up his throat at the words, before the turmoil of emotions are swiftly buried under stiff determination: there is no time to deliberate on such things, not with the mirror version of himself still alive and frothing at the mouth. Samael gives him a critical glance, mentally considering how best to destroy this illusion, when a sword the spitting image of Deathbringer materializes in the other boy’s hand, dark and corrupted and wicked sharp.

Really—

He just barely manages to dodge out of the way of the Other Samael’s sword, feeling the air rush through with the force of the swing as he sidesteps away from the blade. Gritting his teeth as his own wounds pull and tear at the seams, Samael clutches Deathbringer with pale, shaking fingers and moves to parry with his own jab towards his mirror self.

"I said to kill it. Not cut it or stab it. You need to kill it or it will consume you until there is nothing left but a whimpering lump of nothing."

His eyes spark green for a brief second before it melds back under the sea of dark determination and crimson pain. Samael follows the jab with a series of aggressive strikes, swiping low and hard at the legs, the torso, wherever his blows may land.

If he needs to hack the other body into tiny bits in order for them to stop stitching back together, then he will.

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Samael's movements were measured and focused but his mirror self matched him equally. In skill and strength, even in ferocity. The stalemate was true, like a path without end. Beating yourself was a feat near impossible and relied almost exclusively on who slipped up first. But that was exactly where Samael was failing. It was not a fight with his identity. It was a purge of a part of him. 

"Remember," Lilith's voice instructed from the beyond. This was exactly why she wasn't particularly fond if the young. They always took things so literally. Or not literally enough. "You aren't fighting yourself. You're purging only a fraction of your identity. Removing a heavy chain that's drowning you. Look inward, not outward. What you see is an illusion- a reflection. It is not what must be purged itself. Kill the weakness within yourself and the reflection will mirror it. Mind of matter, Samael. Reality reacts to the brain's will."

Years ago when the Lunar Daughters had first broken the barrier and swarmed into Lilith's mind, her thoughts, those were some of the lessons she was taught as well. Though unlike Samael, Lilith had resisted. A lot. The... ideas they put in her mind had conflicted with whom she believed herself to be. It was only after she'd managed to kill the weaknesses within herself could she understand the true meaning of the Daughters' words. Sometimes the true self can only be forged in the pain of fire. 

The necromancer glanced at the dark gauntlet she wore, her eyes gleaming with a deep longing. One day she'd use the gauntlet to attain power beyond even what she had now. Beyond even the combined might of the Lunar Daughters. And then, at that point, she would kill them all. Silence their voices in her head. The battle she'd fought with the Peacekeeper Zeph had demonstrated how overwhelming the voice could be, how powerful the ancient spirits were. At time even strong enough to overshadow Lilith's own mind and will. 

With true power she would finally obtain true freedom. Silence. 

Peace of mind. 

 

@vielle @LastLight (just showing some effects of the battle and how it's changing her reason for power/ desires)

Edited by Ataraxy

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Perhaps there is something to be said about the training he has been granted, the new powers he now possesses, that his mirror self can go toe to toe with himself, despite the violence and brutality he now displays in full. Equal in strength, equal in mindset: a dangerous combination, one that bodes ill for his continued survival in this matchup.

He is still losing blood, losing energy, and losing them fast. He needs to—

"Remember, you aren't fighting yourself. You're purging only a fraction of your identity. Removing a heavy chain that's drowning you. Look inward, not outward. What you see is an illusion- a reflection. It is not what must be purged itself. Kill the weakness within yourself and the reflection will mirror it. Mind over matter, Samael. Reality reacts to the brain's will."

Samael gasps, a ragged breath wrenching from his abused lungs, tears flowing freely down his red-washed cheeks. There is not much brainpower left to spare over the rumination of what the Commander means, but: inward, not outward; an illusion, a reflection, a weakness growing deep within him like a treacherous cancer.

“Mind over matter,” he murmurs almost soundlessly, words lost to the howl of the wind.

And he understands.

His eyes flash dangerously green. He reaches out, hand outstretched for a Shatterpoint—

Samael slumps down to the ground, world unraveling in grey-green-grey shards, his fingers buried into his own shattered chest.


 

It is for the good of all. Your brothers and sisters—

—have chosen this path. Yes.

Do not weep.

Will I forget you?

Yes. But do not forget yourself. We shall meet again—

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The fog and Samael's reflection vanished the instant his fingers penetrated skin, thinning and evaporating into the surrounding environment. As if time had paused everything but Samael, the young boy collapsed surrounded by stillness. Not a single breath or movement, not a brush of wind nor an insect's laugh could be heard above the drowning silence. Even the dust under his little body was disturbed when he fell upon it, almost as if glued to the planet's very core. 

With an approving, albeit faint, smile, Lilith walked toward his crumpled body. Her steps were neither reverent nor casual, though they did appear to be almost... solemn. Like she was at a funeral, mourning for the death of someone she once knew. 

Though mourning wasn't exactly it either. It was more of an acceptance. A solemn acceptance that weakness must be dealt with lest it act like a parasite and kill its host. 

When she reached Samael, Lilith gently knelt by his side and pulled Deathbringer from his grasp. Little fingers clenched the hilt firmly but in their uncontrolled state were easily pried off the powerful weapon. Then, reaching over to her hip she unsheathed Heartbane and plunged it onto the dirt a small distance from his body. With her other hand she yanked the fingers from his chest and released them by his side where the hit the ground with a soft thud

Standing, the necromancer straightened herself and looked down at the boy. "It's time to awaken Samael. My Lunar Soldier."

 

@vielle

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When Samael awakens, his eyes are the color of green-tinted flames.

The boy picks himself up from the ground with precise, mechanical movements, expending only the least of effort to get his legs back under him, unheeding of the blood trickling down the length of his body from the damaged skin barely holding themselves together.

As if wounds are below him, not when his limbs till move with grace, with capability.

He gazes upon Lilith with a dispassionate glance, noting Deathbringer’s change of hands back to its owner; the spadroon stabbed into the earth’s flesh, its steel glittering with sickly jade light the same shade as his eyes. The tangible aura of corrosive spirits is almost oppressive, ghostly fingers seeking, always seeking for its next victim’s internal horror, but Samael remains detached, almost uncaring of Heartbane's existence before him, its power so easily within reach of his grasp.

As if nothing more is awe-inspiring, nothing more is essential but for the next command of the Lunar Daughter.

My Lunar Soldier, she had said.

“As the Commander wills it,” he replies: quiet, montone, matter-of-fact.

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Lilith nodded, finally approving of the boy's attitude and general way he was carrying himself. A second passed as she eyed him further, glancing from the dispassionate eyes to the uncaring, yet observant posture of his growing body. She nodded again. Keeping some pride in the boy may have been preferable, but she could work on that later. The most important thing at the moment had been the remove the weakness of empathy and compassion. Those would have gotten him killed, especially for the future events in Lilith's plans. A normal child couldn't even have made it thus far with those feelings, a fact which spoke volumes of Samael in and of itself. One of the main reasons she'd taken care of him herself as opposed to delegating it to a first generation Paragon. The boy had potential. A strong general made a strong leader. 

Motioning to Heartbane, Lilith grunted. "Heartbane is yours, Samael. You have proven your mettle. Take care of its corrosive empathy. If you allow yourself to wallow in the despair you will no doubt bring, it will swallow you whole." And she wasn't exaggerating. There was a reason the sword's original owner, a general in the army of Zengi, had killed himself. It took a strong will and an even more uncaring soul to properly wield such a dark weapon. 

Lilith being one of those. And, hopefully, Samael being another. 

After Samael grabbed the sword, Lilith nodded again. "Good." Her head turned, eyes flickering ever so slightly in the direction of approaching airships. Veluriyam Empire. A recent pain in her ass, starting from them nearly interrupting her during the falling of Tia. She snarled but didn't move to engage. While she'd love nothing less than to dwindle the Empire's numbers, she had more important things to deal with and they weren't even in Terrenus. "We head toward the Ghostship. Let's go." With that Lilith's entire body was immediately shrouded in a black fog, an ability that all Paragons could do as well, and she shot into the sky like a blur of motion.

A dark ghost; the embodiment of greed and ambition. 

She vanished, Samael behind her. 


Not half an hour after they vanished into the distance, nearly a hundred Veluriyam ships landed all around Everrun. Soldiers and medics rushed from the grounded aircrafts toward the still smoldering city with a rush. 

They wouldn't be able to save everyone, that much was obvious, but those they could save, they would. 

In one of the larger aircrafts, a large, graying man walked out. An imperious air was about him. Glorious golden rays shining from his angelic eyes, both pointing in the direction which Lilith and Samael had previously disappeared into. 

The man frowned. 

No.

The archangel frowned.

No.

The Emperor frowned. Deeply.  "Save as many as you," he said gruffly. "Contact Port Sun, Andelusia, and Lunaris. We're going to need as much material as we can get as soon as possible." Servants and assistants bowed all around him, taking off in various directions to carry out his orders in a multitude of ways. Still standings, as still as a statue and undisturbed by any gust of wind, as if the wind god himself were uncertain as to whether he should touch the Emperor, Titus shook his head. "So many lives, wasted. The tragedy of Everrun indeed." If only he'd arrived an hour earlier. Left an hour earlier. 

No- this was not his fault. Thinking about what he could have done if the situations were different was an exercise in futility. He would do what he could with what he had. Eventually, however, he would find who had done it. And they would be punished for the transgressions against life. Severely. 

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