It fell like snowflakes over his hand...his empty hand.
He could only recall one time his blade had fell from his grasp.
The growl was in his throat, he leaned on his remaining sword, dark blood dripping from the cracks and slits of his armor to hiss like burning acid on the ash covered ground.
His breathing was harsh, wet and ragged. Booming out of his helmet as he stared down at these three insects...these...heroes...
He felt the rage boil inside him. This towering, ash filled furnace was a pale imitation of it, cinders by comparison.
Flames danced along his blade, then swallowed it whole. The massive weapon was wreathed in dark flame the waves of heat rippled his cloak beneath him, his armor sizzled and burned over his flesh.
They would not win!
He wouldn't lose! He would never lose again!
He roared out his hate as he charged at the nearest one.
He strikes with fire! Dark flame burns a path across the expanse, the fur cloak, sodden with ash, lights up like dry tinder and the old mortal curses as he struggles to remove it.
He attacks, and the mortal stops in his fumbling attempts in order to raise his sword, the cloak still half clinging from a single pin, to his back, scalding him, cooking him beneath the armor.
The blow connects, and the feeble blade in the mortal's grip shudders in his grasp as he's knocked off his feet shouting in pain.
It is another voice this time, a woman he turns with a flare of his cloak, lashing out with a foot, the harsh clang of steel meeting steel rings through the chamber as it smashes into her laughably thin shield buckling the metal and sending her sailing like the old fool.
He feels pain then. A lancing agony through his side, his knees shake, threatening to buckle beneath him. More blood pours from a fresh wound.
Again he's struck, this time on the side of his chest, his eyes catch the glimpse of lightning, electricity dances along his armor and burns through armor to spear through sinew. He turns his gaze.
And finds him.
The one who came here for them. For her. For Nadalia. For the crown that rests in her grasp. The one that has destroyed her idols and razed her tower.
The one that wants to take her away from him.
The one that wants to defeat him.
He wouldn't allow it! He wouldn't allow any of it.
They would not defeat him! They could not defeat him. They would not take Nadalia from him!
Power gathered at his core, like a damn full to bursting, he heard her whispers caress his ear, her fingers at his spine. Her strength flowed into him, mending his weakening body as fire consumed the furnace around him.
The human knelt, hiding behind his shield, as flame washed over him, exposed cloth was caught by tongues of flame, the slab of steel began to char and blacken beneath the heat.
The old one. He senses him charging, the crunch of ash beneath armored feet, a word of warning at his ear.
He turns, faster than anything these Mortals have ever faced, weapon coming down to strike.
The old mortal's blade is in the way. His charge ground to a halt, teeth gritted face twisted in pain as the flames burn, unbearably hot just a scant few inches away from his hands. His arms strain to hold him back, feet sliding on loose ash as the Knight pushes against him.
Then the resistance is gone, the old man stumbles, the back of his head falling into his grip and brought down with brutal force onto the top of his armored knee. There is a crunch of bone, a gush of warm blood and He is throwing the old fool onto the woman that had sought to strike him in the back armor and flesh met in a tangle of limbs, the woman cries out in pain, falling onto her back, unable to lift the sheer dead weight now resting over her.
Her mask has fallen away, and he sees the coruption there. The taint.
This weakling wishes to steal his strength!?
He lunges, black flames will leave nothing but bones in seconds.
Then he's standing there, a clash of steel ringing in his ear. It has been an age since there was an enemy that could meet him blade upon blade. Since one could match his strength, weather his flames.
It has been an age. And he does not like that it has ended!
He is the strongest! He was always the strongest!
"Get away from them!" He hears the mortal snarl beneath his helm, pushing him back! All but ignoring the heat of fire, the tongues of burning darkness that snap at his flesh. His feet dig into the ash, looking to resist, to push against him but it feels like he's trying to resist the implacable advance of an ocean...
Like he did the day he fought Velstald...
The howls of the ancient Knight echo through the desiccated corpse of the Brume Tower.
His mistress watches.
She sees them both. Sees her Knight, her faithful, prideful Raime. Sees this mortal, his allies. Sees the tower. The trail of dead. Sees the lands beyond. She sees the crumbling ruins of Dranleic. Sees the remains of the corpse that was the land of the king she'd so sought to conquer. To have for herself. He was meant to be hers before his lands sunk into fire. Leaving her with naught but ash and the tower he used to forge his greatest engines of war.
She sees these things. But they are almost irrelevant.
Because she can see him the mortal. The one fighting her beloved Raime.
And it is the flicker of a memory that is not hers. A fragment of something lost to the annals of history, where memory is ash and dust.
It is a man. A mortal man like this one...he stands in the dark. Facing...it is not her but it is. It is not her sight, her body, her power but...it is.
There is power there. A soul. Insignificant at first glance...
So incomprehensibly powerful!
And suddenly...she knows.
Her beloved, Powerful Raime cannot prevail.
Not against him.
Not against the Sovereign.
Many try, age after age.
None ever will.
Raime will fight. Her Raime will Fight and he will die.
He is the strongest. He is the strongest because she made it so.
But this one has defeated her before...when she was stronger still...
He will be as implacable as the rising sun. She does not know how. She does not understand why.
But he will win today.
Already she can feel him tiring again, feel the blade cut open flesh beneath obsidian armor, feel Raime's strength ebbing as his own grew. Lightning danced upon the blade, the edge of magic was dulled as it approached his armor, his speed growing as Raime's tactics became known to him as though he could memorize where her knight would strike how he would react. As though he could see it before it happened.
Raime was weakening. And the sovereign was only growing stronger, his magnificent, deceitful soul now burning in her minds eye as greatly as the flames that Raime now forced to burn through the ash covered furnace.
The souls of his allies were strong...but not like his...nothing like his. His strength will now forever overshadow theirs. It will now forever be beyond their reach. She could hear their whispers across their minds. Could faintly see the glimpses of history of battles fought together. Inside the belly of a ship, in the darkest recesses of a prison, in a chamber surrounded by flame, a coven of madmen. All of these places they have been together always it was they that helped carry the day. They'd been stronger, faster, more experienced.
But as ever they were only mortal.
He was something...more.
A panic grips her.
He will win...and her beloveds' soul will be lost to her forever.
Her soul...will be lost forever!
They have to leave! Flee! To one of her sisters! Away from this place! To warn them! To...
No...No...it couldn't be...
They could not win.
He was the Sovereign.
The next link...in the endless chain.
They might delay him, evade him, but never halt him.
There is a cry; pain.
The phantomine sensation lances through her chest and she finds herself peering through the roaring flames, the upturned ash-
Fire spews out of Raimes armor, he is desperate, at his most powerful, the other humans need to pull away, to escape the impossible heat.
The sovereign, inch by agonizing inch, drives the blade deeper into the flesh beneath pierced armor.
They have to flee
She dregs up the last of her power, the last, untarnished shards of her soul, and calls on the ash. It roils and shakes, splits the earth and pushes mortar from brick, foundation from stone. The great furnace tower, the engine that fueled the era of the ancient Iron King splits with a thunderous crack, the ash that permeates every wall and crevice literally pushing it apart.
The ash is a part of the earth, has become mixed with the soil after millenia of constant fall.
With the last of her strength...she pushes and the earth itself begins to split and crack.
"Come on!" The human. The cursed woman, braves the flames, pushes past them to grasp her ruler by the shoulder, pulling him away as the tower crumbles above them and the earth shatters beneath them.
"Lucatiel I can-" He resists
"No!" She pulls harder, more insistent. A chunk of masonry falls beside her and she cries out in surprise.
He pulls his blade free and flees beside her.
Raime...her dear devoted Raime falls to his knees as the blade is pulled free, clutching at a wound that will not close. Feeling now the true dark encroaching on his sight.
The humans, the Sovereign, they flee.
She falls and pulls her protector with her into the dark of the underworld...
Into the ancient chasm where her father died.
She hides there...She's not sure how long, cradling her dear Raime as he rasps weakened breaths, struggling to heal.
There is nothing here. No ash, no flame. She cannot help him, only rest and hope.
She hides here. She's not sure how long...
He finds her eventually though.
Not the sovereign. Another. Another shard. But not like her, not like her sisters. He is different this one. Older...Or perhaps...younger. She is unsure anymore. But he has always been different. She does not know what to feel. Elana despises him, Nashandra dismisses him, Alsana fears him.
The watcher. The one who rests closest to their father. Who guards what little sanctum remains of his grave. Either out of respect or loathing, he will let none pass into the depths of the great chasm.
He's never said a word. He merely watches...and listens.
His blade is drawn, a weapon that emits light, that banishes the darkness around him. Beginning at his fingertips, the faceless shadow beneath his hood is facing her, demanding an explanation.
"I need to stay...just for a while...just enough for him to recover...for us to flee. Just a little while.
He steps closer. She does not have the strength to fight him. She never did, even at the height of her strength. Perhaps Elana or Nashandra could defeat him.
As she is now, it would take him no effort.
Did she flee the sovereign only to die here?
The hand moves slowly, past her, towards-
"No!" She demands...pleads. Her hand coming between the tip of the blade and Raime, feeling herself burn as though she held it over an open flame."No! Please...just for a while! I swear it...then we will leave!"
The faceless specter stares. It does not move.
Then after a window of eternity, its power recedes, the blade vanishes he follows shortly, disappearing from all her senses as though he were never there.
She is the oracle of solace. Of solitude.
She can feel it in other people, sense it. Its sombre call sings to her, calls her close. It is what brought her to the iron kingdom, the call. Its king held such a sweet song since his separation from Mytha, the poisonous queen of a lesser place.
Love turned to hate so easily so readily.
It was his solace that killed him, that called to her. It was Raime's solace that let her call him, like a siren sings to a sailor. Her wrathful Knight had been drawn ever closer until he was hers and hers alone.
As she waited here, in the silence, in the dark, watching her knight heal, listening to him breathe in slumber, she listened to the songs of the calls.
Like fireflies in the night twinkling so brightly you can see them all no matter how far they are.
But one song...one song was so beautiful to her ears, its own sirens call and she was the sailor.
But it was so far...so very far she could barely hear its whisper, feel its hypnotic cry.
I listened...listened for a time...
But soon listening was not enough...it could not be.
The curse of life, is the curse of want
I wanted to catch this far, brightly glimmering firefly.
"We must leave now beloved." I whispered in a voice only he could hear my hand trailing over the panes of his armor.
I looked up, and the lurker was there, featureless face turned towards me, hovering on wings that did not move; watching.
If he was here to see us off or warn us we'd outworn our welcome. I did not know. One could never know with him.
Into the dark we left, towards my sirens call.
He rarely watched television. Quite frankly, he had little need of it, and little time for such inane, wasteful entertainment. Whenever he did turn it on, it was to watch the news which was useful for both aspects of his life.
Today was no different.
The reporters voice droned own, the camera panning to show a wide shot of nearly the entirety of Winslow High School swallowed by flames.
"Firefighters are attempting to contain the blaze now Donahue but as of now have found little success-"
He changed the channel.
"It is believed that most of the school faculty and students have managed to be evacuated in time but still no hard confirmation on that-"
"Winslow high is one of the most important and expansive public institutions in the Brocton Bay area, no word on if the Mayor has any plans to transfer these displaced students onto Arcadia or Immaculata High schools given the extensive damage that will no doubt force the school to close its doo-
Sitting in his base, Coil calculated just how best Thomas Calvert could use this event to further his political image.