{ A/N: hello once again, dear readers! it's been a while! concerning this chapter, i am going to put up a little warning right now for some violence. it isn't agonizingly detailed or anything, but i wanted to have a warning for it just in case! }

chapter six

. . .

"Love is whatever you can still betray. Betrayal can only happen if you love."
–John LeCarre

. . .

"You're too late!" Geldoblame shouted, turning away from the group that has emerged at the mouth of the cavern and projecting his voice as if he is simply giving another speech to simple peasants. "The final End Magnus has been released."

The girl's face fell. From beside Geldoblame, Azdar tensed. "Savyna? What are you doing here?"

Geldoblame continued, turning to face Lady Death and her new little cutpurse friend with a bemused, benign expression on his face. "I'm afraid you're too late." He drew a deep, serene breath and lay his arm across his chest, fist over his heart, as if he were about to bow to her. Then he raised his arms slowly, palms facing the ceiling, feeling and yet not feeling his wounds stinging and tearing open, and raised his voice. "The time has come."

"The gate to He will be opened..." A voice rumbled, shaking the cavern. "Behold: the Curse of Malpercio..."

"Open, great door of darkness," Geldoblame howled; "awaken, ancient god of destruction —"


"— shower your eternal power upon me!"

"No! Please! Stop!" She was crying out before she could stop herself, before something in the back of her mind could tell her that it was useless. "Stop!" she screamed over the sinister bubbling of the lava and his gritty, horrible laughter, and leaped forward, her hands outstretched as if she meant to push him back.

And then the light starts flashing, brilliant and bright white and blinding, and she couldn't look away. She was still screaming as her shaking hands readied her magnus and she did push him back — blasted him off his feet, in fact, away from the gods' putrid breath — but she was too late. He howled like a wounded, raging animal, and between bursts of light she saw him stumble and hurl himself gracelessly onto the ground, unable to brace himself. He convulsed, mouth foaming, screaming wordlessly, mindlessly, as his limbs jerked like rubber and his eyes bugged nearly out of their sockets. Smoke erupted from the corpse of the Guardian and enveloped him, as if it meant to strangle him, and she blasted that back, too. She could not let this happen. She would not let this happen. She had to —

— but Corellia felt it in every fiber of her being when the gods' castle shattered its way into reality, and she ached with the knowledge that the broken man she so stupidly thought had been fixed had finally shattered, and taken all of them with him. All she could hear was screaming, and she could not tell from where it was coming.

She rushed for a carriage, flying down the hundred stairs from her throne room with inhuman grace. Her kimono fluttered around her ankles, blue and white and silver, like seafoam, like water, like the ocean that would never be able to return —

— and all of a sudden the winds were changing; King Ladekhan felt the gusts like never before as they swirled around his throne, and he rushed to the Mindeer where it howled and bucked in its reins. Something was wrong; he peered out into the sky, but before he could focus his eyes on — What in the world is that? — another fierce gust blew a wall of thick, whirling clouds in front of him and he stumbled backward.

But then the clouds cleared at last, and Ladekhan finally saw it.

From the rent wounds of the sky emerged Cor Hydrae, along with a gale of shrieking demons and a whirling, potent, poisinous aura.

The world went dark, and the clouds enveloped Ladekhan again as he bit back a scream.


The echo of footsteps hammered through the cavern as six people entered. Geldoblame writhed, barely able to retain control of his body.

"Why, Your Magnificence!" a sweet, saccharine voice crooned, "The five End Magnus... did you really think that they would add up to a dead god?"

Xelha stumbled backward. "Melodia?"

Melodia paid her no mind, happily focused on taunting Geldoblame. "Oh, my dear Emperor!" she continued, shaking her head slowly from side to side, "Oh, you poor, naïve fool. The five End Magnus are the remains of five separate gods, each part taken from the body of a different god... Upon resurrection, Malpercio will be but a gruesome patchwork of divine limbs and body parts, fused together in torment." Melodia's eyes were alight. "Exquisite," she crooned reverently. "It will be so beautiful..."

Geldoblame coughed, a gravelly whooping sound, and struggled to sit up. "Melodia..." he gasped. "What are you...?"

Melodia's expression grew fierce. "Would you have thought, Your Magnificence," she spat, "that a mere mortal such as yourself could withstand the touch of such a being? That the gods' delirium and rage would leave you alone unscathed?"

Geldoblame collapsed again and twisted violently to look up at her. "You..." he shrieked, his deep voice suddenly high and tense, "You, of all people, Melodia! You have deceived me!" his voice seemed to waver.

Melodia smiled. "That's not a very nice thing to say!" she feigned a pained expression as took a few small steps forward and halted in front of him. Slowly, she dropped to her knees before him, and took his face in her hands. "You only have yourself to blame," she explained gently, gripping his skull in a vise.

"Melodia," he choked again, eyes locked to hers. "Why have you done this?"

Melodia smiled darkly. "Spare me, Geldoblame," she hissed, and his mouth twisted into a silent scream.

"Your help was invaluable in releasing the five End Magnus..." Melodia went on, "But I am afraid you have outlived your usefulness — and now, I would like to bid you goodbye, Emperor Geldoblame," she cooed, fingernails scraping down his face, subtly tearing his skin. He felt the wounds as they opened, felt the tiny scratches and scrapes that stung in the blistering heat.

"There's no need to worry, now!" she cackled as she rose. "I will take good care of the End Magnus."

Geldoblame's arm shot out in a violent spasm and he gripped her by the ankle; she wavered, looking for in instant feral, then kicked him hard in the face. Geldoblame felt his nose break; blood gushed over and into his mouth, and he spat it onto her white clothes as she stepped away, painting her false pureness with a spray of red.

"Fadroh," Melodia hissed, "would you like to try again?"

Geldoblame gurgled and choked, straining to look for his general. "Fadroh?"

Fadroh advanced quietly, head bowed. He looked at Geldoblame for a moment, and then said softly, "... Yes, Lady Melodia. I would."

He signaled to his men, who raised their guns and cocked them with simultaneous harsh clicks. Fadroh took a step closer. Geldoblame spat out another mouthful of blood at his feet. Fadroh signaled again, a different gesture this time — one Geldoblame recognized well — and took one last step forward: a heavy stomp onto Geldoblame's chest. Geldoblame bit his lip hard, teeth sinking into flesh, and groaned through yet another mouthful of blood. Bullets pierced the ground around him, and he dared not to move. Fadroh raised his head and stared straight ahead as bullets flew around him.

"Are you trying to scare me?" Geldoblame hissed weakly, chest heaving beneath Fadroh's weight. Fadroh leaned forward, letting his boots bite deeper into Geldoblame's chest, letting his weight rest more heavily on his lungs. Geldoblame wheezed, trying to thrash. His ribs were going to —

Melodia giggled from somewhere behind them, her delight apparent as Fadroh bounced slightly on Geldoblame's torso — Geldoblame drew in a gasp as he felt one of his ribs crack — before descending back to the ground and turning to bow to her.

Geldoblame turned his eyes beyond Melodia and Fadroh and their entourage, but he could not focus them. His vision was blurry, clouded. "Melodia..." he moaned again, barely audible through a mouthful of blood. She turned away from him, facing the group that had arrived too late to stop the release of the final End Magnus.

"Enough deception!" she cried briskly. "You have done well. Everything has progressed smoothly. "Her voice carried the hint of a sugary smile as she announced: "You may step forward and claim your reward, as we agreed."

The group reacted ardently, shouting of traitors and lies, ordering the traitor to give himself up. Geldoblame recognized Savyna's voice among the tumult and forced his eyes open, pinpointing her only by the vague smudges of color that were her bright plumage and boots.

"No! Wait, everyone —" It was the other girl again, the little golden-haired theif. Geldoblame recognized her voice well, the nasal lilt of it that he could not place as being from any of the five islands.

And then there was a small blur of blue and gray, and another voice, more mature than he had heard in in years, but suddenly unmistakable —

"It's me. I worked together with Melodia."

It was his little flightless bird.

The girl, a small pink spot on his vision, seemed to shrink into herself, golden head dropping and hands rising up to cover her face. "No..."

Shouts from the group exploded like firecrackers over the bubbling of the lava as Melodia watched on in passive glee.



"This can't be..."

"Kalas lied to the Great Mizuti?"

"So, it was you..."

Kalas strides forward to face his group. Geldoblame closes his eyes again, trying to steady his breathing and take the pain from his ribs.

"Kalas, you're not serious, are you?"

Kalas's voice is harsh as he barks, "I'm dead serious."

Geldoblame listened to the stories of treachery Kalas had to expound upon with no other choice until he began to flirt with unconsciousness and his hearing began to fail. Through the foggy droning in the caverns, he heard Melodia again:

"I would advise you all to behave yourselves... unless you want me to unleash the full might of Malpercio — right here, right now."

The sounds become a blur again.

"Kalas... crazy ... right?"

"Besnik ... this ... ?"

" ... Didn't know ... at all ... refused to cooperate ... memory loss ... "I will completely forget..."'

Geldoblame blinked slowly, catching glimpses of the soldiers of Melodia's entourage closing in on the group.

"The spell ... Sadal Suud ... you remember ... ?"

Their guns are at the ready. Geldoblame wonders if she will kill them. He wonders if she will kill him.

"It's too late..." Kalas says resolutely. "I can't go back anymore. I would have done anything to avenge Gramps and Fee. Anything..."

The End Magnus rose and began to circle around him, looking somehow more predatory than the soldiers fingering their triggers ever could.

"I needed the power... I wanted to be stronger... I needed the power of a spirit. I needed you."

Geldoblame's head was pounding. He turned it gingerly to the side, letting blood drip from his mouth to the ground.

"... But it's all over now."

He had the strange sensation that he was drowning. Words and voices became fuzzy again.

"Accept reality... go back to where you belong ...!"

"Step forward, Kalas," Melodia ordered, her voice once again bringing Geldoblame hurtling back from the very edge of unconsciousness. "And become what you have always dreamed to be. Free your mind, and let the power of the End Magnus take control. Allow yourself to be touched by the breath of god... and you will finally be reborn!"

"No! Kalas! Don't touch it!" The blonde girl screamed.

"What is it you fear?" Melodia demanded.

"Kalas! No!"

"Your Guardian Spirit will protect you... You, Kalas, need not fear the madness and anger of Malpercio."


"You must believe, Kalas! Believe in the power of Malpercio!"

"Please, stop!"

The girl was still screaming, but she was too late yet again.

Geldoblame's eyes widened, focusing briefly on Kalas as he calls the End Magnus to him and the same flashing, white-hot light that had touched Geldoblame for only the briefest of seconds enveloped Kalas fully, creating a ball of shrieking, burning power around him. It blinded him, but Geldoblame could not look away; he blinked away the blindness frantically and through the imprints that the bolts of lightning had left, he watched as fully formed, pure white wings unfolded from Kalas's back in a burst of feathers and light.

"I'm complete!" Kalas screamed.

"Yes..." Melodia gasped, "My dear Kalas...!"

The girl collapsed to her knees. Geldoblame thought he heard her sob.

"This is the beginning of a new era!" Melodia shrieked. "A holy war shall be upon us! Malpercio is awakening!"

Kalas began to laugh, insane and deranged and ringing painfully in Geldoblame's ears alongside the shriek and hum of the End Magnus, and —

Geldoblame could take it no longer.

He let unconsciousness spirit him away.

. . .

The remaining medic was half-buried beneath the other dead soldiers, and she lay there for a while, forgetting that she could barely feel her legs. She listened for what felt like an hour, but was really only fifteen minutes, for the sounds of murmuring and footsteps to dissipate, and then for another fifteen-minute hour just to be certain. They had taken Nadir; playing dead, she had watched him reluctantly bolt from the cavern at gunpoint, carrying the blonde girl over his shoulder.

When all she could hear was the sound of Geldoblame's labored breathing and the bubbling of lava, Ba'nee slowly, slowly began to worm her way out from beneath the corpses.

Ba'nee stood, teetering precariously on pins and needles, and commended her cowardice. After quickly asserting her ability to stand as satisfactory, she scanned the stinking mound of dead men and found Geldoblame. Is he going to make it?

Gingerly, she pinched the eyelashes of his left eye between thumb and forefinger and peered into it. His eyes had not glazed over and he was still breathing; she could tell by just looking at him, however, that his stitches had long ago ripped, and guessed that Fadroh had broken or cracked one or more of his ribs. But he was alive, and it was her job to keep him that way. It had been ever since she first stumbled out of the elevator to find him laying there in a lake of his own blood. It was her job to keep him alive then, because who else would lead Alfard? And it was her job to keep him alive now, because who else could take Alfard back from whatever hell had been unleashed upon it?

She shuffled through her magnus before finding the card she needed and unsealing it: a crutch. It would have to do for now, to brace him, for she couldn't very well wheel him out on a gurney - not yet, not in the middle of Azha. If they made it out, she would put him on the gurney, she decided. If. But at that moment, she needed to disguise him. They would simply be a pair of injured soldiers, huddled and hobbling together for the trek back to Mintaka, drawing little attention if all went smoothly.

She began to do everything as if in a trance. With sweaty, shaking hands, Ba'nee took a dead man's head in her hands and removed his helmet, pointedly not looking into his ruptured eyesockets. Pulling her sleeve up over her fist, she wiped the half-dried viscera from the helmet's visor to the best of her ability. Gently tipping his head forward, she fitted it onto the emperor. She wiped her sweaty palms on her pants and, as deftly as she could, began to tear off the insignia on Geldoblame's clothes and peel away the golden adornments. She placed the gold in the inner pockets of her jacket, and without knowing exactly why, hid away a small imperial crest there as well.

Still moving as though in slow motion, she set about trying to lift Geldoblame up, pulling one of his arms over her shoulders and bolstering his other side with the crutch beneath his other arm. In one desperate movement, she flung herself forward, pulling the heavy man to his feet and praying he would stay there.

"Move," she pleaded, inching toward the exit of the cavern. "Walk with me." She pulled on his arm, nudged at his feet. "Move."

He lurched forward, gripping the crutch with whitened and splitting knuckles.

"It's not far." Ba'nee lied. Sweat dripped into her eyes, and she told herself that it was that stinging sensation that was making the tears stream down her cheeks, coming unbidden so much like the endless lies tumbling from her lips. "We'll be out in no time."

Geldoblame did not reply.

"No time at all," Ba'nee sobbed.