Yugo was right into his element. Forgotten, the doubts and insecurities about his future. Forgotten, the nagging vision of the Sadida Kingdom burnt to the ground. When he could only hear the furious roar of the wind and feel the adrenaline pumping in his blood, nothing else mattered.
Except not messing up his next portal, of course.
Yugo was falling towards the forest at the greatest speed he could achieve, head first with his arms firmly at his sides for minimal drag. Then just a few feet above the trees, he opened a portal to redirect his momentum both upwards and forward. He was doing giant's leaps of half a mile, and with the little number of portals it required, he could go on doing it for hours.
Of course he could have gone much faster. He just needed to want it to make it happen. That would also have cost him a lot of Wakfu, and the reason why he kept as much Wakfu as he could in reserve had nothing to do with endurance. He was racing with Adamaï, and with the little Dragon's tendency to cheat, Yugo expected the flying exercise to turn into a fight at any moment.
Adamaï was flying below the leaves, hidden from his view, but Yugo could feel his presence. He didn't even need his Wakfu vision for that. Their link was strong enough that he always had a sense of where his brother was.
And then just when Yugo felt he was getting closer, an impressive barrage of Stasis blasts erupted through the canopy. He couldn't prevent himself for grinning as he went through a quick succession of portals to evade the shots.
They were getting to the interesting part.
Yugo returned fire halfway through his next catapulting, overlapping portals to send Wakfu beams roughly where he felt his brother was. At this distance and speed there was no way they could hit each other, and Yugo wasn't worried about their safety.
He suddenly became a ribbon of blue light, made of portals so close to each other they were undistinguishable, shooting forward at an insane speed, much faster than anything Adamaï could muster. Yugo couldn't keep such a pace for long, but it didn't matter. He was only seconds away from winning.
Stasis blasts flew past him, much more concentrated and accurate this time. It forced Yugo to change course and dive below the canopy to use the trees for cover. It didn't work as well as he expected. He quickly realised the trees weren't as sturdy as he hoped. Splinters of wood flew everywhere.
Yugo quickly moved out of harm's way, realising that Amalia wouldn't be too thrilled about the little damage they were doing to her forest. She had asked them to go further from the city so the sounds of their spar wouldn't scare anyone, but she didn't mention anything about broken trees, and the twins hadn't asked about it either.
Oh well, it was done. The most important was to catch up with Adamaï before he reached the shoreline, the finish line they had decided. Nothing else mattered.
Yugo was surprised when they both emerged from the forest over a meadow of short grass, a few hundred feet away from the end. The sudden absence of cover made him especially vulnerable, as unlike Adamaï he couldn't fly his fastest and return fire at the same time. But he had to make a choice. If he used his portals to protect himself instead of rushing forward, he had no chance of winning, and Adamaï was obviously counting on that.
The Stasis barrage coming his way did very little to deter him when victory was at stake. Out of options and out of time, Yugo decided to make a run for it and hope for the best.
It didn't work.
Adamaï would never use anything possibly lethal against his brother, and the impact didn't hurt that much. But Yugo felt how the Stasis shockwave rippled through his whole body and affected his Wakfu reserves, evaporating the most of them.
His momentum was intact though, he was still flying at high speed barely meters above the ground. When he extended his hand forward to open a portal just before crashing, only a blue puff of smoke came out, and he understood it was going to hurt.
When Yugo came back to his senses, his head was spinning both from the impact and Wakfu deprivation, and Adamaï was yelling somewhere nearby. It felt like all his limbs were still into place somehow, so it couldn't be that bad.
"Yugo!" Adamaï shouted again as he skid to a halt, knelt down and grabbed his brother's shoulder to turn him on his back. He let out a loud sigh of relief. "Thanks the Goddess, you're not dead. Why didn't you try to evade my shots? Are you suicidal or something?"
Yugo chuckled weakly. "I would've lost otherwise," he said hoarsely. "And I didn't expect your Stasis attacks to affect my Wakfu that way."
"They did? Oh, then we did learn something new today. Because that's no news you're stupid enough to risk your life for a game," Adamaï said angrily. Yugo could tell, or rather he could feel, that Adamaï was being furious to hide the fear he had felt when Yugo had hit the ground. There wasn't much his brother could hide from him anyway.
The lack of Wakfu made the boy feel dizzy, his head light. He sat up but it didn't feel like he would be able to stand on his feet. "I'm running low," he said weakly. "Anything you can do about it?"
"Hmm. I guess we could try to connect our Wakfu, like we did when we used the Eliacube. It should even out our reserves. We needed the Eliacube for that last time, but we're brothers right? Maybe our Wakfu is similar enough and it'll work anyway."
Yugo winced at the memory. "That hurts though. I'm not so sure about it."
"Well, it's up to you," Adamaï said with an impatient sigh. "Either it hurts for ten seconds, or you stay sick and powerless for ten hours."
"Of course if you put it that way..." Yugo grumbled reluctantly.
Adamaï moved to stand behind the boy, putting his hands below each the fox ears of his Eliatrope hat without actually touching it. There was a blue glow, then Yugo gritted his teeth as his brother's Wakfu painfully streamed into his whole body. It felt like molten metal was flowing through his veins. But Adamaï was right, it only lasted for a few seconds and Yugo immediately felt much better. He extended his palm forward and opened a portal without issue.
"Hey, that works. Good to know we can do that, just in case."
"Yeah, well, unless we come across those guys from Sufokia again, I'm the only one around who can fire Stasis blasts," Adamaï said with a sly smile. "So as long as you don't fly into my line of fire on purpose..."
"Because of course you'd never shoot me in the back just for the fun of it," Yugo said with a laugh. He could see how Adamaï's smile was forced though. "I didn't mean to scare you bro. I'm sorry."
Adamaï shook his head. "Nah, that's all right. Forget about it. Enough emotions for one day, let's go home."
They walked on the road back to the Sadida palace under the pleasant late afternoon sun, and Yugo realised it was the last time he was seeing the Sadida Kingdom for a long while. A few weeks had passed since his discussion with Amalia ―an embarrassing memory, now he thought about it― and Alibert couldn't stay away from the inn any longer. They would be moving back to Emelka on the next day. Yugo had barely allowed himself to feel nostalgic when Adamaï looked up at him with a compassionate smile.
"I feel for you bro, I like this place too. But don't forget it's your last chance to talk to the King. Don't you think you've waited long enough? Are you going to do it finally?"
Yugo shook his head firmly. "No, I'm not ready yet."
His brother had been pressing him more and more over the previous weeks, pushing Yugo to spend more and more of his time into training so he could keep his mind busy with something else.
Adamaï sighed with frustration. "Trust me Yugo, you'll never be ready for that kind of responsibility. But it's not like you have a choice. You can't hide forever, you know that?"
"I know, I'm not deaf and you've told me a dozen times already," the boy retorted flatly between gritted teeth. He didn't mean to be angry towards Adamaï but his brother's constant insistence was getting on his nerves.
"Well obviously that wasn't enough to get through that thick skull of yours," Adamaï said with an exasperated sigh.
They both fell silent and walked a bit further apart for a moment. Yugo was annoyed they were going through the same discussion all over again. He had that tingling feeling under his skin as he wanted to throw something back at his brother's face, but what good would it do? They both had enough reasons to be upset with the other already, there was no need to make it worse.
"I understand what you're telling me bro," Yugo said as gently as he could muster. "Really. But maybe it's your turn to understand that you don't really know what you're talking about. You've never had a responsibility like that. You don't know what it feels like to have the fate of a whole people suddenly thrown on your shoulders."
Yugo kept walking in silence, but after a few steps he realised Adamaï wasn't moving any more. The boy turned to look at his brother who stood rooted on the spot, his mouth open and his expression blank.
"What's up bro?" Yugo asked curiously.
Then he felt it. Burning anger like he never felt before, or at least never directed at him.
"Say that to my face again?" Adamaï spat, his brow furrowed in a scowl, black smoke coming out of his nostrils. "Tell me again how I know nothing about responsibility?!"
"Oh wow, hold on, I never meant to―"
"Yes, yes you meant it. So let me tell you what I know about responsibility. Last year when my own adoptive father got killed without warning, suddenly I was responsible of you, and through you, of the fate of the wholeworld!"
"Of course Ad', I―"
"Shut up! You were so busy being amazed by your new family and your new powers and all that great stuff that you didn't even realise the situation we were into. That was all on me. I had no time for grief or doubts, and on top of that, I had to make sure your recklessness didn't get us killed along the way. Just think for a second what would've happened if I took it like you do today. Okay Yugo, let's go on holidays! Let's have some fun! That'll be great! And nevermind that when we come back the whole world will be gone and all the people we know will be dead!"
Yugo had no idea how he could stop the onslaught, take back his words or anything. So he just stood there, waiting for Adamaï to run out of breath eventually, every one of his words hurting like standing still in a hailstorm. It didn't hurt because Adamaï was lashing out at him. It hurt because he was right.
"And now it's the same thing all over again. We're on a mission Yugo. If we don't do our duty, our people will never come back. You know that. And what do you do? You put your head in the sand, and you hope we'll just forget who you are! What a great King of the Eliatropes you make, turning your back to your duty and hiding like a coward!"
Adamaï suddenly stopped, his voicing ringing around the forest for a few seconds. After his yelling, the sudden calmness was eerie. Even the birds didn't dare to sing any more. The little Dragon sighed and shook his head, his expression bitter.
"I understand what you feel bro", he went on a lot more calmly. "Much better than you think. And it's frustrating when I try everything to get you on the right track while you just keep finding excuses. Believe me when I say I'd do anything to help you, anything. But now I don't want to play your part any more. I'll take my leave, until you decide to do what you need to do. What are you going to do at Emelka anyway?"
When Yugo talked, his voice wasn't as steady as he would have wished. "I'll help Dad with the inn like before, I guess," he mumbled pitifully. "And I'll train some more, and..."
And Adamaï was right. He was finding excuses, anything he could, to avoid his responsibilities. He was turning his back on his own people, on those kids who had looked up to him as if he was their saviour. Those kids who were likely watching him right now, wondering why he wasn't doing anything to get them out of their little prison.
"No Yugo," Adamaï insisted. "You need to talk to the King. You need to tell him who you are. Then we can move on from there. And when you do that, I'll be there to help you. But I can't stand it any more, watching you waste your time because you can't accept the truth. We're not asking you to rule your people yet, everyone understands you're too young for that. But we have a lot to do to prepare our people's return and we're wasting a lot of time right now."
The worst thing about the whole argument was how Yugo felt Adamaï's emotions on top of his own. Bitterness, anger, fear and sadness mixed up together to leave an acid taste in his mouth. He didn't know what to do or say, while Adamaï kept looking at him in silence.
"I'm sorry Adamaï," he said hoarsely.
"I know. But now is not the time for words. You need to get a grip. And when you're ready to act, you'll know where to find me."
Adamaï gave his brother a forced smile and an encouraging pat on the shoulder, then he started walking away. Yugo kept staring at his back, lost in his thoughts.
How he could have missed that out of all people, Adamaï was indeed the one who could understand his situation the best? His brother was entirely, painfully right. When Grougaloragran had died and set them on their way to stop Nox, Yugo hadn't given much thought to the broader picture. He had left Adamaï to handle the fear of their failure all by himself, and Yugo's excessive optimism had been entirely because he didn't realise what kind of a mess they were in.
But there was no way he could change the past. Or rather there had been one way, and they had destroyed it. All he could do now to fix his mistakes was to listen to his brother for once, and―
Yugo's attention suddenly snapped back to reality when a golden arrow landed at his feet, startling him. He stood dumbfounded for a second, then his brain clicked as he understood what the arrow meant.
"Adamaï, wait!" he called after his brother.
"I've waited long enough already," the little Dragon retorted without turning around.
"No, you don't understand!"
"I understand perfectly well, thank you."
Yugo groaned in anger. Who had a thick skull again? There was only one way to make his brother turn back. He formed two portals with his hands, one of top of the other. The Wakfu beam whizzed past Adamaï's ear and the Dragon immediately faced him, his expression furious and his hands glowing purple, ready to fight. Then Adamaï noticed the golden arrow between them and he stared at it curiously.
"What's that thing?"
"A recall arrow," Yugo explained. "Eva needs our help." The boy was already extending his arm forward to grab it when Adamaï rushed at him in panic.
Yugo raised an eyebrow as he stood on the spot, his hand a few inches away from the arrow. "What's the matter? We have no time to lose!"
"Last time Eva used this was at Rubilaxia, right?"
"Yes. Why are you―"
"And if Rubilax didn't switch sides you'd be chained somewhere in the Shukrute right now, and the whole world would be swarming with Shushus. That's just how well it went last time, didn't it?"
Yugo frowned at his brother. "Eva needs our help Ad'! There's no discussion!"
"There is! You have to think about our people first Yugo! What tells you you won't land in the middle of a fight and get killed, or worse?"
"And what if our friends die because we don't come to help them?" Yugo asked furiously.
"I have my own priorities in order," Adamaï retorted coldly. "You should do the same."
Yugo stared at his brother with his mouth agape, lost for words once again. But they were already losing a lot of time in another useless argument.
"Fine! Whatever you say, I'm going," Yugo said angrily as he grabbed the arrow.
He expected Adamaï to follow him as he didn't leave him any choice. But to his great surprise, Adamaï didn't move. The little Dragon just stared at him sternly, his arms crossed, and that was the last thing Yugo saw before the world dissolved around him and the recall spell carried him away.
At first Yugo thought he'd been hit by some spell right upon arrival. Something acrid burnt his eyes and his lungs. He coughed, unable to see anything. Then someone grabbed his shoulder and pulled him back into fresh air, and he realised he was in the Sadida palace. As far as he could tell, everything was out of place. The Sadida palace was usually peaceful and quiet, and now it was filled was dark billowing smoke and people screaming and running everywhere.
"Good to see you," Evangelyne said sternly. "Where's Adamaï?"
"He's..." Yugo bit his lip. "He wasn't with me."
"Oh. That's bad. There's a fire here and we can't put it off. A whole area is cut off by the flames and we don't know if there's people trapped inside. I thought having a Dragon around would help."
"Yeah, well, he's not here," Yugo retorted curtly. I'll have to be enough, he thought bitterly for himself. "The whole palace is on fire?" he asked urgently, immediately worrying for his father and Chibi.
Evangelyne shook her head. "No, only this wing of the servant's quarters, but that'd be great if we managed to contain it..."
A violent anguish suddenly grabbed Yugo's guts as the situation reminded him of his nightmarish vision. Last time he had discussed it with Adamaï to try and understand how they could have seen the same thing, his brother had brushed it away. He said Yugo just had a nightmare and since their minds were connected, Adamaï ended up having the same and it didn't mean anything in the end. But now the palace was burning, it seemed a lot more relevant.
Tristepin and Ruel ran past them, holding several buckets of water each. They disappeared in the smoke. Seconds later they were back, out of breath.
"Doesn't... work," Pinpin panted.
"Not surprising," Evangelyne mumbled. "This can't be an accident."
"What do you mean?" Yugo asked, raising an eyebrow.
Before the Archer could answer, a Sadida woman ran towards them in obvious distress. Evangelyne tried to calm her down so they would understand what she was trying to say, but in the middle of her hurried gibberish, Yugo caught one word that made his blood freeze. 'Children'.
"I'm going in", he said firmly.
"No way," Evangelyne retorted. "You're not taking stupid risks to get through those flames."
"That's the whole point," Yugo said with a smirk. "I'm not going anywhere."
Amalia appeared at that moment. Yugo suddenly remembered the last time they met, and he purposely avoided her gaze as he tried to concentrate, blushing a bit.
"I've checked with the guards," she said. "They've got nothing to report, but to be fair this area was rather unprotected. Yugo, you should―"
"Amalia, I need to focus," he cut in sternly. "Sorry but I'll help those kids first and listen to you later."
He caught Amalia's furious glance just before he closed his eyes and tried to concentrate despite all the people yelling around them. The emergency at hand made it much easier, filling him with a sense of purpose. Flames weren't alive, but the burning wood was, and it was difficult to see through that swirling blue mess. Yugo projected his mind forward, and immediately he noticed two little forms snuggled together in a corner of the room. They weren't moving, which wasn't a good sign, but he could only see the Wakfu of living beings so they had to be still alive.
Yugo opened a portal right to the two children. Thick black smoke immediately came out on his end. Worried about what it was like on the other side, he reached through hastily. It felt like he had put his hand directly into the flames. Then he realised it was just the air being scalding hot, and he put his hand through again to grab one of the kids.
He found something that felt like a little arm. Luckily the child was rather small and Yugo had no issue dragging him through the portal. The kid was unconscious, maybe four or five years old, the face covered in the typical green hair of the Sadida. Eniripsas rushed in to take care of him and Yugo didn't lose a single second. He repeated the same method, silently thanking Adamaï for teaching him the technique. But this time when he found the other kid's arm and tugged on it, nothing moved.
"He's stuck," Yugo said worriedly. "I can't get him through."
"I'll go," Tristepin offered, approaching the portal.
"No way. You won't help if you go to the other side only to puke everywhere. I'll do it."
"Take care Yugo," Amalia said anxiously, and this time Yugo turned around to see just how worried she looked. He tried to flash her a reassuring smile.
"I'm always careful," he said as lightly as he could. "I'll be right back."
He took the biggest breath he could and jumped through. Immediately he felt the hot air burning his skin, black and acrid smoke everywhere blinding him. But it didn't matter. He didn't need his eyes to see.
Barely a feet away he found the little form of the kid slumped against the wall, immobile but still alive, its blue glow still strong. A broken beam had fallen from the roof and trapped his leg. Yugo's guts churned a bit when he realised how the child's leg was bent the wrong way. He had to find a solution, and quick.
Yugo first tried to lift the wooden beam, to no avail. Then he remembered he was an Eliatrope. He quickly superposed two portals, shattering the wooden beam into splinters and freeing the little child. Yugo tucked him safely under his arm, then he concentrated to open his exit portal, when the floor collapsed under his feet.
He crashed onto the floor below amidst all kinds of burning and smoking debris, clinging tightly to the little one he had come to rescue. There wasn't much room for doubts and fear, and Yugo was never afraid of danger anyway. But not panicking didn't help much. He had more practical issues at hand.
The fall had winded him out and he had no choice but to breathe the opaque and acrid smoke. He tried to open his portal again, but his head already felt light and dizzy from the lack of air. No matter how hard he tried he could not focus enough.
At that moment Yugo started doubting his odds of getting out of that mess alive. His knees went weak and he collapsed on the ground, panting hard as he tried to catch whatever oxygen could be left. And there was none.
If anything, he felt sorry for the little kid he was still holding tightly.
At first he thought he was having hallucinations when the smoke and flames all around him seemed to recede. Then the air felt fresher, and after he coughed a bit he found he could breathe freely again. All the smoke and flames seemed to be flowing towards the same direction. When most of it had vanished, Yugo saw that a small figure was swallowing it. A small figure with a white scaled skin and a blue rim around his eyes.
"Adamaï," Yugo croaked. He had rarely found himself so happy to see his brother. The little Dragon rushed forward and knelt next to him.
"Are you okay?" Adamaï asked worriedly. Yugo sat up and coughed out whatever smoke was left in his lungs, the little child still in his arms. He cast a look around at the ruined room littered with charred and smoking debris. Several people were already rushing in, and two Eniripsas went straight to take the kid from his arms and check his vital signs. Adamaï was staring at him, worry etched on his face.
"I'm fine," Yugo said after a last bout of coughing. He nodded at the little Sadida kid as they took him away. "What about him?"
"He'll be all right," a nearby Eniripsa said with a reassuring smile. Yugo simply nodded, feeling somewhat drained by the whole ordeal. He noticed Adamaï still staring at him intently.
"What's up? There's something on my nose?" Yugo asked lightly.
Adamaï looked downward in shame. Not only it looked like shame, but Yugo could feel it. "I guess I owe you an apology," the Dragon said quietly.
"What for?" Yugo asked with surprise. "Oh right, you want to apologize because you just saved my life. Makes perfect sense." He grinned at his brother. "When you said you'd go through fire and flames for me, I didn't think you really meant it that much."
Adamaï had a little snicker, easing up somewhat. "Yes, I... look, that's my fault you put yourself in danger in the first place. I yelled at you, and then I let you go alone, and―"
Yugo put his hand on his brother's mouth to silence him. "Shut up. If you go on I'll have to apologize for being a stubborn idiot."
The boy grabbed Adamaï with both arms and hugged him. "You were entirely right Ad'," he mumbled into his brother's neck. "I should have listened to you, and I will from now on."
Amalia and her high pitched shriek arrived at the same time. She knelt next to the two brothers and took them both in her arms, hugging them tightly.
"I'm fine Amalia..." Yugo managed to articulate despite the pressure "...but you're crushing us right now."
"Yes, I―I... of course, sorry."
"That's fine," Yugo said with a grin as he himself let go of Adamaï. "You wanted to tell me something earlier?"
It always amazed Yugo to see how Amalia could switch from worried to angry in a matter of seconds. "Oh that's right! I wanted to tell you to be careful, you idiot. But you never listen to me do you?"
Yugo knew what to use in that situation. His disarming smile and puppy eyes always did the trick. "Well someone had to save those kids..."
"Someone had to play the hero, of course," Amalia mumbled angrily. "Anyway, that's not the point. There's something fishy. The palace can't catch fire like that."
Evangelyne had mentioned the same thing earlier. Yugo raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean? It's made of wood."
Amalia was visibly unnerved as she waved her hand at him, like she wanted to chase an annoying mosquito. "It's not regular wood, you really think we'd be that stupid? If it could catch fire so easily we'd never light a torch, or even worse, let Dragons get inside."
Adamaï cast her a dark, offended look.
"I'm talking about Grougal obviously," Amalia added hastily. "Anyway, my point is, that fire can't be an accident. Someone is responsible. Someone did this, on purpose."
"Who could do something like that?" Yugo asked, bewildered. "And what for?"
"No idea. This is why you needed to be careful before going in."
Yugo nodded and got up to his feet, leaning on Adamaï until he was sure he could stand. He was still worried over his loved ones and Amalia's words only made that feeling worse. "I'm going to check on Dad and Chibi, just in case," he said.
Adamaï nodded. "Good idea. I'll stay here and make sure the fire won't start again. These people are really clueless when it comes to flames, blazes and all that cool stuff."
Yugo caught Amalia's dark glance and giggled. Maybe that was the reason why they never got along that well. Nature and fire were direct opposites after all.
"I'll catch you later," Yugo said as he started walking away through the debris and the mess of various people buzzing around the place. He spotted Evangelyne amidst the crowd, near the Eniripsa he'd seen earlier. When he came nearby the Cra smiled brightly at him.
"The kids are going to be all right," Evangelyne told him kindly. "You did great."
"Hmm," Yugo mumbled. He wasn't in the mood to grin at free praise. "Amalia says someone started the fire, that it's criminal. What do you think?"
Evangelyne was silent for a moment, thinking it over. "I think she's right, I've always been told the palace couldn't burn. But I don't see why anyone would do something like that. If it's a way to gain leverage and settle a grudge with the Kingdom it's pretty stupid. The King won't negotiate with people who put children's lives in the balance."
Yugo nodded. He didn't have any other idea anyway. He looked around him, a bit confused. "Huh... Where are we now? I never came around here."
"It's the main servant's quarters, wing C, on the east side of the palace." She pointed at a passageway behind her. "You'll find the main corridors this way."
Yugo sighed when he realised their apartments were on the west side. "Great, now I have to go through the whole palace on foot."
"Can't you just fly out of the window and be anywhere in just seconds?" Evangelyne asked curiously.
Yugo shook his head. "No, I could if I wasn't running that low on Wakfu. I might drop out of the sky like a stone so it's not a good idea. Anyway, see you later."
As Yugo started walking again he had a feeling something wasn't right. An intuition, an anguish, somewhere in his guts. He forced the pace to get to his father quickly and make sure everything was all right, more to reassure himself than anything else.
The whole area was buzzing with people, guards and civilians alike. Yugo had to leave them room and stick to the sides of the cramped corridors, even using his portals a few times to avoid being trampled by the soldiers carrying massive wooden beams, likely meant to secure the damaged area. There was lots and lots of guards around, now Yugo paid attention to it. Of course they'd all come to help where it was needed, but...
He froze on the spot and a chill crept up his spine. If all the guards in the palace were here... and if the fire wasn't an accident... and if Alibert and Chibi were exactly on the other side of the palace, the farthest possible from him...
"A diversion," he whispered for himself. Pure dread washed over him, but there was no time for fear or doubts if his father needed him. The next second he was a flash of blue light going through the window and into the sky at an insane speed, faster than thoughts, fuelled by the sudden fear that he might be too late.
This chapter was a lot of fun to write, now we're into the action part. I hope you like it. I may stick to a shorter chapter size from now on, because there's no need to keep the balanced POV switches now the introductions are done. In fact, I hope you all appreciate Lucien enough now that you won't hate me for a full chapter with only him later on. The second reason is that I've started working again and since I have less time available, shorter chapters will still allow for more regular updates.
You've likely seen it already, but just in case Worthy of the Crown from Slavok has got a nice new chapter, and A Bridge Once Broken is still advancing at a very good pace (it's only at ArchiveOfOurOwn). The fandom may be small, but it's alive and well!