Episode 4 - Ragnarok is Like a Game of Chess

By Cynus

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Thor stood stoically in the middle of the village green as the helicopter came in for a landing. The wind generated by the blades battered him and the honor guard of soldiers standing nearby, but they remained standing at attention, their eyes focused on the helicopter, knowing the important passenger it bore.

The helicopter touched down, and immediately a trio of soldiers stepped out and took up a defensive position next to the door. A tall man with long gray hair and an even longer gray beard to match stepped onto the green. He wore the same body armor as the soldiers standing around him, but his seemed appropriately weathered by years of use. Thor had asked Odin once why he never shined his armor, and Odin had explained he would rather his soldiers think of him as experienced than pristine.

Odin surveyed the scene. Unlike the Odin of Norse legend, the leader of Nightshade still had both of his eyes, and he often saw far more than most did. Thor brimmed with pride as his commander nodded at the placement of the guards, a slight smile on his face. Odin was pleased with the state of affairs in the village, and that meant he was pleased with Thor. Nothing could be better.

With one final nod to the helicopter pilot, Odin turned away and started across the green toward Thor. Thor saluted, ready to receive his commander. "Thor," Odin said when he was several feet away, "what do you have for me?"

"Odin," Thor said, dropping the salute. "Finn Turner has offered up some interesting information regarding Ivan and Oberon. I'll give you a full briefing on the matter once we get inside."

"Excellent," Odin said, gesturing for Thor to lead the way. "I trust you are already establishing a tighter perimeter?"

"Indeed," Thor replied as he started toward the town hall which he had converted to his headquarters. "I've sent an extra squad to the sou-" He was cut off by the sound of an explosion behind them, and spun on his heel before taking a step to put him between the explosion and Odin. The helicopter was engulfed in a pillar of flame, and the soldiers who had been standing next to it were now some distance away, their bodies burnt and battered by the explosion. None of them were moving.

Nevala walked around the other side of the helicopter, his hand reaching into the flames as he stared defiantly at Thor and Odin. His eyes were filled with the promise of wrath and death, and Thor found new respect for the phoenix.

Movement to his right alerted him to the presence of a large black wolf, amber eyes catching the glow of the roaring flames. Thor knew those eyes well, having faced them in combat on numerous occasions.

"Fenrir and Nevala at once," Odin mused from behind Thor. "Excellent, we can destroy you both."

"Your reign ends here, Odin," Nevala said as he engulfed his right hand in flame before flinging that flame through the air toward Odin. Thor felt Odin begin to channel a spell and knew he could defend himself, he dodged to the side and then started toward Nevala as the fire continued its path toward Odin.

Odin stood in the path of the fire, seemingly ready to embrace the flame, but it passed through his image. Fenrir was running toward Odin when he pulled up short, watching the flames have no effect. He sniffed the air and turned around just in time to catch the real Odin appearing behind him. He jumped to the side as Odin drew a handgun and pointed it at Fenrir, shooting the dirt where Fenrir had been standing.

Thor wondered why none of his soldiers were rushing to join the fight and took a fraction of a second to look to the side. He growled in frustration as he saw his soldiers engaged in combat with both werewolves and humans, as well as a fighter he recognized as a prominent member of Noh-Kitsune. Their allies had forsaken them and allied with their enemies. It was going to be a bad day.

His attention had been drawn off for too long, and as he returned his gaze to Nevala he noticed the phoenix had taken refuge inside the raging inferno of the helicopter. His position made him practically unreachable by physical means, but he was still able to reach Thor, and he proved it as he extended his hand out the open door of the helicopter and sent a spout of flame Thor's way.

Thor evaded the attack, rolling to the ground and drawing his pistol in the process. He cursed the decision to leave his rifle in the barracks while receiving Odin, but regret would do him little good now. He pointed the pistol at Nevala and fired, but Nevala merely had to duck inside the helicopter in order to avoid the shots.

Odin was faring much better against his opponent, and Thor was glad at least one of them had a chance of defeating the enemy. Every time Fenrir caught up to Odin, the old witch merely had to teleport to a new location and take the opportunity to fire. Fenrir's reflexes were good enough to evade the shots so far, but each shot Odin took was closer to piercing the werewolf's flesh.

All Thor had to do was buy Odin time to kill Fenrir, and then they would deal with Nevala together. Thor resolved not to let Odin down and do even better. He'd figure out a way to kill Nevala without his commander. All he needed was a way to defeat the inferno, and the phoenix would be his.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Micah didn't waste his time in the ooze-like state. He kept Timothy's words about the primordial state in mind and didn't immediately shift back to his human state. He tried to analyze what he was feeling, the way every cell in his body seemed capable of so much.

He had always been a prodigy, but even he had realized there were limits. Although he'd been able to take the form of a venomous snake, he'd never been able to make venom before. Now, he could see the possibility if he so desired. Although he'd been able to take the form of a fish, gills had been difficult to master, but the way he felt now he doubted anything of similar complexity would ever give him trouble again. Everything from the concept of shifting into a plant to an invertebrate seemed possible to him now, if he but had the time to explore the infinite possibilities of life.

But he knew he didn't have the time, at least not yet. He sensed something in the distance, a vibration which traveled through the ground and the walls of the structure and into the glass prison in which he currently resided. It felt like an explosion, though he couldn't be certain without the ability to hear. An explosion made it likely Nevala had arrived, and that meant it was time for Micah to attempt to escape on his own to make Nevala's job easier.

Reluctantly he began to shift out of his primordial form, assuming his human form and standing in his cell. Timothy was standing over Ethan again, adjusting the restraints. Ethan seemed to be stirring, and Timothy held a syringe of what Micah assumed to be the same yellow liquid he had used to knock Ethan unconscious before.

Micah pounded on the glass to get Timothy's attention. Timothy didn't look up at first, and Micah decided to get more creative. He shifted his vocal chords to emit a higher pitch and screeched. The sound reverberated through the room, and was high enough to shatter several of the beakers. Even the glass in front of Micah vibrated slightly, and he kept that in mind for later.

Timothy covered his ears and turned toward Micah, glaring. "Are you still insistent on resisting me, Micah?" he asked with annoyance.

"Of course," Micah replied, returning the glare. "Why would I do anything else?"

"You have so much potential," Timothy said, shaking his head and taking a step toward Micah's prison. "You could be anything you want to be, and yet you choose to be a pawn of whatever group appeals to your emotions."

The primordial state was still fresh in his mind, and Micah could feel the potential in his cells which Timothy was referring to. He had an idea. He stared directly at Timothy as he slowly began to shift his right arm. "You have gravely miscalculated."

"How so?" Timothy asked, raising an eyebrow.

Micah screeched again, causing Timothy to clutch at his ears, and Micah quickly shifted his arm into a long spike of bone and keratin and slammed it with all of his might into the shuddering glass. He was rewarded by a wide crack forming in the surface of the glass, though it did not break apart on the first hit.

Timothy saw the glass start to break and dropped the syringe in alarm, dashing across the room to where he had left his crossbow. Micah slammed his spike-arm into the glass again, causing it to buckle out, but the strong glass continued to hold. Timothy retrieved the crossbow just as Micah slammed the glass a third time and it finally broke out in a shower of shards.

Micah walked over the broken glass and into the laboratory, closing the small cuts as they formed. He didn't bleed like others would, and with his new understanding of his form he could close his wounds even faster than he ever had before. He was unstoppable.

Timothy aimed the crossbow at him, a bolas ready to fire and Micah ignored him, dashing toward Ethan. Timothy launched a bolas his way and Micah ducked behind one of the tables, letting it sail over his head. He rose up again and shifted his arm into blade of bone instead of a spike, slashing into Ethan's restraints.

He only managed to cut through one set before Timothy loaded and fired another bolas at him, this one colliding with and wrapping around his upper body. Micah fell to the floor and heard Timothy start moving toward him.

Micah stopped struggling and focused within, remembering the primordial state and how it had felt to be in it. He pressed his hands up against his thighs and morphed his entire body into the primordial, becoming almost a liquid as the cord lost its tension and fell through him to the floor.

It only took him a second to reform as a human and stare up at Timothy who had just rounded the last table between them. Timothy stared at him in horror as Micah rose to his feet, his eyes flashing angrily. "You really didn't think I'd learn how to enter the primordial state on my own?" Micah asked as he shifted both of his arms into scythe-like blades of bone. "Try holding me back now, you bastard."

Timothy took a step back and then dashed around the table, picking up a beaker filled with an orange-tinted liquid in the process. Micah chased him until Timothy pulled up short on the other side of Ethan, the beaker held over his face and poised to be poured.

"This is strong acid, Micah," Timothy warned. "You take another step and I'll kill your friend."

Micah kept his distance, glancing between Timothy and Ethan. He was sure he heard sounds of combat outside in the street now, but even if his allies arrived now it would do little to help him in this hostage situation.

But then Ethan woke up, his eyes fluttering open to see the beaker in his face, and the hand holding it. He reached up without hesitation for Timothy's extended arm and touched flesh to flesh before releasing an electric jolt from his body into Timothy's.

Timothy jolted from the electricity and the beaker sloshed in his hand, causing several drops to fall on Ethan's cheek. Ethan cried out in pain and released his grip on Timothy, who fell backward and away from Ethan. The beaker fell from his hand and rolled away on the floor, spilling its contents.

Micah approached in the same instant, cutting Ethan's other restraints and helping Ethan to a sitting position. "Ethan, you need to get out of here!" he said, glancing down at Timothy who was already starting to stir.

"M-micah..." Ethan said, shaking his head groggily as Micah helped him off the examination table. "what's going on?"

"No time," Micah replied, and then stepped between Ethan and Timothy as the latter rose to his feet, glaring at both of them. "Shit," Micah said, "why won't you stay down?"

"No! I'll have my revenge," Timothy growled, backing away slowly. "You'll pay for betraying your kind, Micah, even if I have to hunt you for the rest of my life." Timothy turned on his heel and sprinted toward the door.

"Ethan, get the arrow!" Micah called as he scrambled over one of the tables, shifting his arms and legs as he climbed into the form of a powerful hunting cat. "I won't let him get away again."

Ethan searched the nearby tables until he found one of the arrows. As he reached for it, Timothy spun around and shifted his arm into a tentacle-like appendage ending in a sharp point, flicking it out toward Ethan as he shouted, "Don't touch that!" the tentacle struck Ethan in the shoulder as he picked up the arrow. Ethan gritted his teeth in pain and tried to catch the tentacle, but Timothy withdrew it quickly and spun back toward the door.

Micah pounced on the tentacle as Timothy withdrew it, forcing it to the floor and snapping Timothy back toward him. "You're not going to get away this time," Micah growled as he sprinted toward Timothy, getting toward him and the door. "You're finally going to pay for killing my parents. With all your talk of betraying your own kind, one would think you'd forgotten all about that little detail."

"Micah, you can't-" Timothy began, but his words stopped as Ethan shoved the arrow through his back. He looked up at Micah in surprise before he collapsed to the floor, his body beginning to destabilize and deform into a puddle of goo.

"Whatever you were going to say, I don't care," Micah said as he shifted back into his human form, looking down at the ooze named Timothy. "Ethan, do you have any more juice?"

"I'm dry, but isn't he dead?" Ethan asked, nudging the puddle with his foot.

"No, but he will be soon," Micah said with a resolute nod. "Come on, let's find some more of that acid. Then we'll find our clothes and get out of here."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Growling brought Zach out of his slumber, and he struggled to get up as the door to their cell shuddered under the force of a powerful blow. He scrambled to his feet and shared a look of surprise and fear with Tristan before the door shuddered and bent on its hinges as it was struck again. The third time was the charm and the door broke away from its hinges and fell into the middle of the floor, covering the runic circle inscribed in the cement.

The tigress stepped into the room with Peter right behind her, scratching her behind the ears. "Good girl," Peter cooed. "You keep that up and I'll keep you around." He then met Tristan and Zach's eyes and said, "Tristan, Zach, let's go."

"Peter!" Tristan said as he jumped off of his cot and embraced Peter. "Boy am I glad to see you. It's been awful in here. I haven't been able to get any sleep and whatever those runes mean they prevented me from using my powers. We've been completely stuck in here."

"Come on, you can tell me all about how awful it was after we get to safety," Peter said as he stepped back and let Tristan through the open doorway. "Nevala's facing off against Thor and Odin as we speak, and we haven't won yet."

"Loki, let's g-" Zach began, turning toward the third cot in the room and finding it completely empty. "Where the hell did he go?"

"Who?" Tristan asked, sharing a look of confusion with Peter. "Come on, there's no time to waste. You've been sleeping all day, so I'm sure you've got the energy. We gotta get out of here."

Zach shook his head in bewilderment, wondering if he had somehow dreamed the entire encounter with Loki. It that were true, it had been the most realistic dream he'd ever had. The conversations had felt completely normal, but then why would Tristan lie about Loki's presence?

He pushed that question aside and focused on following Peter and Tristan out of the Church and into the street. Combat was still raging all around them, werewolves fighting hand to hand with other werewolves, or soldiers wielding guns or clubs. Occasionally a soldier would teleport from one point to another, or perform some other feat of illusion which would temporarily gain them the upper hand against whichever wolf they were fighting, but then the wolf would turn its finely tuned senses on finding the soldier and they'd be back to their stalemate.

Zach was about to question what was going on when he saw a pair of familiar faces struggling down the street toward them. Micah was supporting Ethan who was shuffling forward weakly while clutching at his shoulder. "Micah! Ethan!" Zach called, drawing their attention.

Peter and Tristan turned toward them too, and they made it to Ethan first. Ethan looked up at them and smiled meekly, showing the fresh acid burn on his face. Peter glanced at his eyes and then at the blood around Ethan's hand. "Are you all right, Ethan?"

"Yeah, just got stabbed by a shape shifter," Ethan replied, then nodded to one of the nearby pairs of sparring combatants. "You can treat me after we get out of here."

Peter followed his gaze and nodded. "Very well, we should try to find Nevala and see if he's had any luck getting to Finn and Max."

They nodded and started moving as a group. Peter took to helping Ethan while Micah and Tristan fell into step beside each other. "You look exhausted, Micah," Tristan said as soon as they moved back into the shadows of a nearby building.

"And you look more well-rested than I'd expect," Micah said with a grin. "They must have treated you better than me."

"They locked us in a room but kept us fed," Tristan said with a shrug. "It was boring, but nothing we couldn't handle." Zach met Tristan's eyes as he glanced over his shoulder at him, and raised a questioning eyebrow. "I'm a bit worried about Zach though," Tristan said quietly. "He seemed to be talking to himself the entire time while he was sleeping."

"What are you talking about?" Zach asked, stopping in his tracks. "You don't remember Loki?"

"Loki?" Ethan asked, turning around to face Zach. "The Norse God of mischief?"

"No, I have no idea who you're talking about," Tristan replied, shrugging helplessly. "You fell asleep shortly after we arrived in the room and then you were muttering the whole time. I assumed you'd spiked a fever, but since I really can't sense heat..." He shrugged again and said, "I had to hope you were all right."

Zach scratched his head and stared at Tristan in wonder. "I dreamed the whole thing? You really don't remember Loki?"

"I'm afraid so," Tristan said, frowning in concern. "Don't worry, we'll figure it out once we win the day."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Fenrir was starting to lose steam, and Odin didn't appear to show any sign of fatigue at all. Nevala knew magic was taxing to use, but it seemed as if Odin had built up a reservoir of energy over his years of experience, and it was clear who would lose that fight.

He watched from inside the burning helicopter as Thor continued to take shots at him. The shots came often enough that Nevala was forced to remain behind cover. His clothing had burned away long ago, but his flesh remained completely unscathed and he intended to keep it that way.

But he doubted Fenrir would live long enough to keep Odin off his back if he didn't find some way to help him. Nevala needed a distraction to keep Thor's attention, and he had just the thing. He focused on the flames around him, enticing them to grow larger and hungrier. They danced around him, filling the entire cabin of the helicopter and creating a screen of flames Thor wouldn't be able to see through. He then dove out of the other side of the helicopter and rushed toward Fenrir's position.

Odin teleported away again, and shot at Fenrir while Nevala observed, waiting to see where Odin appeared next. When Odin reemerged and took aim at Fenrir, Nevala sent a ball of concentrated flame toward him. The fire hit Odin in the chest and caught him off guard, giving Fenrir time to close some of the distance between them.

Odin turned and took a shot at Nevala, without immediately noticing the wolf was gaining on him, and by the time he did it was too late. He only had enough time to raise an arm in defense as Fenrir pounced, hungry jaws biting down on Odin's arm, sharp teeth piercing through the armor.

Nevala noticed the gun in Odin's other hand raising to shoot Fenrir off of him and he quickly sent another bolt of fire to knock the weapon from his hand, hitting it just in time to prevent Fenrir from being shot.

Satisfied that Odin would no longer be much of an issue, Nevala turned his attention back to the helicopter and considered dashing back into the protection of the inferno. A shot rang out and drew him back to Fenrir who yelped in pain. Fenrir's fangs were clamped down on Odin's throat and the witch was no longer struggling, his arms extended out to the side. Another shot rang out, and then a third, both hitting Fenrir and driving him off Odin's body.

Nevala followed the angle of the shot and turned back to the helicopter in surprise to see Thor standing in the middle of the inferno, though the flames seemed to be pushed away from his body by some unseen force. Thor was sweating buckets, and Nevala realized whatever spell Thor was using to protect himself as he changed the clip on his handgun was taking its toll on him. Nevala reached out to the flames surrounding Thor and concentrated them, pushing against Thor's invisible shield. He intensified the flames drawing on every bit of fuel in range of the flames. Thor dropped to one knee as the strain of maintaining the shield sapped the last of his strength, and as his final move he looked up at Nevala and met his eyes, nodding in respect and a battle well fought.

And then the shield collapsed, the flames rushing in to claim Thor's flesh and consume him utterly. After the initial rush of the flames Nevala let it go, knowing Thor was dead. He then hurried to Fenrir, sparing a quick glance at Odin's dead body before stopping at the side of the werewolf.

Fenrir had shifted back to his human form and was coughing up blood as he remained propped on his hands and knees. He had a bullet wound in his side, another in his leg, and two in his shoulder. Only three shots had come from Thor, and so Nevala knew he had been hit by Odin previously.

"Nevala!"

Nevala looked up at the sound of Peter's voice as the doctor and their other friends rushed toward him. Nevala glanced back down at Fenrir and said, "Don't struggle, I have a doctor coming."

Fenrir nodded and Nevala's friends approached. Nevala met eyes with Peter and pointed at Fenrir, and Peter got the hint and immediately began an inspection of Fenrir's wounds, ripping off strips of cloth from his clothing before he was even kneeling at Fenrir's side.

"Glad to see you're all okay," Nevala said to the rest of the group as they stopped in front of him. His eyes settled on Ethan's shoulder and said, "At least mostly. Haven't had a chance to go looking for Finn and Max yet, but we should go there next."

"Tristan and I can go looking for them now, if you'd like," Micah suggested.

"No need. I dispatched some of my men to find them," Fenrir said, coughing.

"Who's the wolf?" Micah asked, glancing down at Fenrir and then back up at Nevala.

"We ran into some allies out in the woods," Nevala said with a shrug.

"Fenrir's Fangs?" Zach asked, earning him bewildered stares from everyone else.

"Yes," Nevala said with a surprised nod. "As well as several representatives from Noh-Kitsune. How'd you know?"

"Something I heard somewhere," Zach muttered, earning him a sidelong glance from Tristan.

"Fenrir killed Odin personally," Nevala explained, nodding down at Odin's corpse. "He told us when we were preparing for the assault that Odin murdered the original father of the resistance. Loki." This comment elicited a strange reaction from Zach, who shook his head in wonder. Nevala filed the reaction away for later and continued with his original thought. "It's fortunate that we were captured when we were."

"Why?" Tristan asked.

"I was debating whether to kill Thor to even the score," Fenrir said, gritting his teeth against the pain as Peter wrapped up another of his bullet wounds. "Once I reasoned Odin was on his way to meet with you, I was guaranteed to make the assault."

"That is fortunate," Micah said, smiling as he saw the approaching delegation from the Noh-Kitsune. Lady Amaya was in front with Sai and Daisuke walking side by side behind her. Daisuke still had his bloody katana held unsheathed at his side while Sai continued to scan the nearby area looking for any sign of danger. "And I see Amaya is with you as well," Micah said, nodding to her. "It's good to see you again."

"Indeed, Micah," Amaya replied with a bow as she continued forward to greet Micah while Daisuke and Sai stopped a few feet away. "Noh-Kitsune stands with ivan," Amaya continued, "We-"

She stopped talking as Ethan pushed past her, a look of alarm on his face. "Nevala, watch out!" he cried as he rushed toward Nevala.

"For Oberon!" Daisuke shouted as he stepped forward and cut down with his katana toward an unsuspecting Nevala's head. Ethan pushed Nevala out of the way at the last moment, putting himself in the way of the descending cut. The keen blade sliced into Ethan's back, dropping him to the dirt as his blood began to pool around him.

"Ethan!" Tristan shouted, one of the few who was able to react at all. Nevala stared numbly at Daisuke, unable to move. Daisuke had once been his best friend, the one with whom Nevala had shared his deepest of secrets. His being an agent of Oberon was the greatest betrayal Nevala felt he had ever suffered.

Daisuke lifted his sword and turned quickly on Nevala, a scowl on his face as his eyes smoldered. Before he could pursue his original quarry he was tackled by Micah who shifted his teeth into sharp feline fangs and bit into Daisuke's arm, twisting it and forcing Daisuke to lose his grip on the sword. Micah adjusted his position, forcing Daisuke's shoulders down with powerful clawed hands and kneeling on Daisuke's legs. For good measure, Micah shifted large spikes out of his knees, puncturing the flesh of Daisuke's thighs. To Daisuke's credit he did not react to the pain, but instead met Micah's growling visage with a face of utter contempt.

"Ethan!" Peter shouted as he regained control of his senses and abandoned Fenrir for Ethan. He checked for a pulse with one hand while inspecting the deep gash across Ethan's spine with the other.

"Peter..." Nevala whispered, his lip trembling. "Is he okay? Is he going to be okay?"

"No..." Peter gasped, pulling away and covering his mouth to conceal a sob. "He... he's gone. Just like that, he's..." Peter shook his head and collapsed to the ground, his eyes brimming with tears.

Nevala was filled with an unspeakable rage, and he took a step toward Daisuke. Micah sensed the movement and looked over his shoulder, a questioning look in his eye. "Nevala?"

"Micah, move," Nevala ordered. Micah glanced at the sword only inches away from Daisuke's hand and then back at Nevala. "Move, now!" Nevala ordered again as he engulfed his hand in flames. Micah nodded and rolled away at last, rolling over the sword to prevent Daisuke from immediately getting ahold of it.

As soon as Micah was clear, Nevala unleashed his flames on Daisuke, engulfing his body even as he reached for the sword and spun around, aiming to stab it into Nevala's stomach with his final breath. Nevala anticipated the maneuver and spun on his heel, delivering a swift roundhouse to Daisuke's face and knocking him to the ground, his body already badly burned. He was already done, but the rage consumed Nevala, and he summoned the flames again, immolating Daisuke's body.

"Nevala!"

He wasn't sure who had shouted his name, but when the flames cleared, Daisuke's body was nothing but a corpse-shaped block of char and ash, but Nevala wasn't satisfied. He called upon the flames again, a giant pillar of fire dancing to Ethan's death rhythm on the spot where his killer had lain.

"Stop!"

Nevala felt hands grip his shoulder, and he spun around to face Tristan, his face tear-stained and frantic. "Nevala," Tristan said through his sobs. "Stop, please. He's dead... it won't bring him back. Please, I can't watch you lose yourself."

Nevala tried to turn back to Daisuke's body to make sure it was completely destroyed, but he caught a glance of Peter staring up at him, his eyes pleading with him to stop as he knelt next to Ethan. Ethan's dead eyes stared up at the sky which was quickly filling with ash and smoke.

And then he saw the smile on Ethan's lips. Ethan had known he was dead the moment the sword had struck him, and somehow he had found the strength the smile through the pain which must have seared through his body. Nevala knew why. Ethan had died sacrificing himself for his friends. It had always been Ethan's lot in life to sacrifice for others.

"Of all people," Nevala whispered, his rage dissipating as he stared at Ethan's youthful face; a face which he recognized from dreams of times long past when he had known Ethan in a previous lifetime, and dreams of times more recent when he had almost considered confessing his love for Ethan. So much wasted time. "Ethan endured too much for too long," Nevala said as he collapsed to the ground next to Peter, reaching out to gently stroke Ethan's cheek. "He didn't deserve this," he muttered, staring into those dead eyes one last time as tears formed in his own for the first time in what seemed like centuries. "Why, Daisuke? Why did you have to kill the one I love?"

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

"The bishop was sacrificed in place of the Queen," Oberon said, looking out the window of the study with a bemused expression. "Interesting."

"What?" Jacob asked, looking up from the seat he had taken across from Oberon as the King of Avalon continued playing chess against himself. He sensed somehow this was not about chess, but about his friends. "How..." Jacob trailed off, not sure what question to ask.

"I suppose you're the last leader of your pitiful resistance cell," Oberon said with a wicked grin. "Congratulations, Jacob. You outlived them all."

"Ethan..." Jacob whispered. "How do you know?"

"Daisuke Tanaka has been my agent for decades, and I can see through his eyes," Oberon said with a laugh. "He used to tell me everything Nevala was doing when they were in Asia together, though I know they were truly friends at some point. It's amazing what one will do for the curse of immortality. It's ironic he died in his attempt at assassinating Nevala."

"You killed Ethan!" Jacob shouted, moving toward Oberon with his ghostly fists clenched and his malevolence surging.

"What, you're shocked?" Oberon asked with mock surprise. "Jacob, sometimes that's just the way the game works."

"I promise you I'll make you pay," Jacob spat.

"Just try it, spirit," Oberon warned, lifting a thin stiletto from his side. It was the knife Sparrow had used to kill Nurim, and which Jacob had then used to kill Sparrow. After being exorcised from his own knife, Jacob's spirit had been tied to the manor house, but when he used his malevolence to kill Sparrow it tied him to the blade. Now that it was in Oberon's hands he had complete power over Jacob. "I can end you in an instant." Oberon promised, spinning the stiletto in his hand.

"Where did you get that?" Jacob asked, defeat beginning to settle in.

"My elves found it on Sparrow's corpse, embedded in his heart by his own hand," Oberon said with a shrug. "I won't bother asking how you became tied to it."

"Kill me if you want," Jacob said, holding his head high. "I don't care anymore."

"Done fighting are we?" Oberon asked. "Too bad, spirit. You don't get to join your lover yet."


Author's Note:

Thank you to my Patreon supporters, Scott, Bill, Paul R, Joe, and Jos for helping keep the dream alive.

Thank you also to Peter, John, and Jesse for their continuous support.

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