The Empire Twin Suns

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Gerra

The Emperor
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"Two stars keep not their motion in one sphere."

The palace doors of Leogaire flew open and an enormous figure strode through. His eyes simmered like hot coals, his hair burned like tongues of fire, and the set of his jaw was as the face of a volcano - black ash in which death did but slumber. Black robes embroidered in gold thread hung from his mountainous frame and when he strode forward in lamellar boots, chain mail rattled. He carried a mace in one hand and in its steel heart smoldered an ethereal fire.

"Andronicus," he rumbled, and when he spake so low and mighty was his voice that it rumbled in the chests of all who listened. "I am Hasuras na-Gerra, Son of Fire, Prince of the Harvest, Emperor of Amol-Kalit, and fae by birth."

He took another step forward, the weight of him audible with a clink of metal on marble.

"Come forward, king of the morning, and give up your crown to one more fit to wield it."

Gerra entered the open marble-floored atrium of the palace and swept the air with a piercing gaze. He knew of Andronicus' illusions, just as he knew of the customs of the Dawn Court and their right of challenge. Any who stood against him in this would breach sacred custom. The king of the Dawn Court would stand or fall on his own. And the parlor would watch. Gerra had made sure of this.

The ruby earrings he wore bore the blood sorcery of Thakath, enabling him to see through the illusions of the fae. As for his mind, well, let Andronicus try to see what purchase he might gain there.

The Slayer of Drakormir feared but few things.

Fae were not one of them.



 
Leaned against a nearby pillar, rolling a silver coin over his fingers was a guest of the court. As Gerra barged in, Tulio stopped his flourishing and held the coin in his hand.

The elf's lips thinned from a broad smile as the Emperor issued his challenge.
 
Favashi had taken her time knocking on doors or sending the lesser fae to collect others she thought should be present for the show that was about to unfold. Even through the more haphazard way she had taken she still seemed to enter only a beat or two behind Gerra. Leogaire willed as it wanted. She had lived for over a millennia and she didn't believe any fae or being she had met had such a wilful, childish nature as the city did. The palace shifted and contorted as the crowds begun to drip in and instead of a fancy, grand throne room it changed into an arena. Velvet cushioned benches rose up in ranks to the shadowy depths of the ceiling and fae obediently begun taking their seats. Favashi, with her arm entwined still with Isiell, got them both prominent seats on the front row.

If you were too far back you wouldn't get the spray of blood hitting you.

Andronicus glanced up from where he sat slumped in the golden, gleaming throne. It looked the sort out of fairytales with roses twining their way around the column but if one looked closely they would see more thorns than buds. He gave the giant a look of boredom which melted into something... other. Was that glee in his eyes? An eagerness? For what it was hard to tell. Perhaps the King of Dawn was merely bored, or perhaps he had been waiting for another to take the dead weight from his head. A king with little power was not what he had sacrificed it all for after all.

"One must prove themselves if they wish to wear the Crown of Dawn," he intoned as though reciting from a speech. Fae were all about rules and his reply was one of them; several fae nodded about the room. Rising to his full height he stood over 7ft off the ground with dark raven hair shaved short on one side and left long on the other. Various trinkets decorated his ears and nose but all they did was serve to darken eyes the shade of the earth beneath their feet.

He toyed with the hilt of a blade he had picked up from his propped up place against the throne but he didn't seem inclined to get draw it. Instead he studied the half-man in front of him.

"By which way do you wish to try and lay a claim?"
 
“The oldest way.”

Reaching up, Gerra unclasped his robe and let it slip from his shoulders with a shrug, leaving only eight feet of sinew encased in rings of Kherkhanite steel.

The smoldering eyes of the Emperor did not leave Andronicus as he strode forward to loom over the faeborn, seemingly oblivious to the crowd.

His fingers curled tightly around the hilt of his mace, Annuk’s Scepter.

“By strength of arms.”
 
Leon had been taken completely by surprise when the Palace started shifting. That did not keep him from quickly making his way to the front row of the newly crafted arena. He wore a long dark green jacket over dark brown pants with his long redish blond hair tied in a low ponytail.

He smiled as he saw two of his fellow Furies. The most beautiful of them all, really. He bowed and kissed Favashi's hand first and then did the same for Isiell. "Ladies, what a pleasant day for a fight, don't you think?"

He took his seat next to Favashi and looked down into the arena as the King of Dawn strode forward to meet his challenger. The challenger was a huge man with flaming hair and Leon felt a tad sorry for the poor soul going against him.
 
Maphesa received the news; a challenger for the throne had arrived and caused quite a commotion in the palace. The unexpected excitement in an otherwise dull day was enthusiastically welcomed. She had only been a member of the Dawn court for a decade or so, all but a brief period of time as far as fae were concerned. Far be it from her to miss such a spectacle; she immediately and promptly made her way to the throne room, walking briskly through the halls to reach it.

She had arrived so quickly that the palace had still been shifting, the once familiar throne room in the final stages of transformation into an arena worthy of battle. Maphesa had never witnessed such a layout, having not known of any who issued a challenge for the throne since her recent arrival to the court. This would be an exciting first.

Fae were still pouring in after her. Thanks to her early arrival Maphesa enjoyed her choice of seating, with so many yet to be occupied. Determined to find herself a prime view of the conflict to unfold, she took up a seat near the front, not too far behind Favashi and Isiell. With that priority settled, another objective took hold of her – Maphesa wanted to know who exactly had dared to issue the challenge? She’d imagined it must be a Duanann, but she had heard the challenger had arrived from afar, and all those she saw in the arena looked too familiar.

It was only when Gerra strode forth and demanded the crown did she identify him as the challenger. Lips pursed and eyebrows raised slightly at the revelation – while taller than any Duanann, he was clearly not one. He was lesser fae. Half of one, at that.

Her curiosity sated, she eased back into her seat with one leg tossed over the other beneath her dark gown. This challenger was eager to get started, and Maphesa was excited to watch. On rousing, she’d no idea that her day would include bloodshed. What a truly unexpected blessing that it did.
 
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Seated as an honored guest of the King directly to his throne's left, High Omnia Eske watched with quiet regard as the half-giant made his entrance. Hers was a gaze of distant wisdoms and lingering visions. Not just but an hour ago had she her private audience with Andronicus for the annual delivery of the Dawn Courts Futures. It had been on the very first page of that book that a challenger was foretold. If anyone else had known beyond himself and Eske, they might've guessed after the mixed emotions in his gaze when Gerra came to call.

Deeply curious as to the Futures presently in motion, Eske reclined on her seat, bare feet gently crossed at the ankles off to one side, her left arm draped and carefully bearing her weight against the armrest of the Dawn King's throne.
 
Favashi clapped her hands and suddenly genii popped up amongst the other fae baring trays laden with drinks and treats. She stole herself a long flute of liquid the colour of golden amber and raised it to her lips with a satisfied sigh. Of course a one on one dual was not really the same as a war but it would do. Especially when it involved fae: they could wreak the same havoc and chaos in a minute as humans could a year of sitting in their trenches. Her eyes flickered to the tall gentleman who took the seat on her other side and gave him a smile that bordered on the edge of feral.

Perfect.

"Simmy Simmy Sim Sim," she practically sung and her grin grew wider. "What a wonderful surprise."

* * *
Andronicus' eyes flittered to Eske for the barest of seconds.

"So it shall be," he pronounced and a thrum of magic rippled out from the centre of the arena where the fae and the half breed stood. The doors slammed shut and the torches that stood around the arena suddenly flared to light. Until one of the two were dead nobody would leave that hall. As he drew his blade whispers echoed from the steel itself and an odd mist appeared to cling to it making the sword hard to fixate on through the haze.

Without a seconds hesitation, the King of Dawn stepped forward.
 
Isiell was irked as Favashi dragged her into the hall. She was annoyed at Gerra more, though. There was no way he was even a quarter her age, and he thought he could take over the Dawn Court? Hmph.

She'd meant it earlier. If Gerra wanted the throne of the Dawn Court, then he'd find himself little more than a puppet in the end, just like Andronicus.

He bowed and kissed Favashi's hand first and then did the same for Isiell. "Ladies, what a pleasant day for a fight, don't you think?"

"It was pleasant without a fight," Isiell answered with a huff as she took an identical flute of drink as Favashi after the genii were summoned, though she also helped herself to some fruit pastries. "I was sketching the lake for Ariel. He interrupted." She nodded toward Gerra with a sneer.

Most of the Furies knew of Isiell's fondness for her friend back in the Winter Court. She'd had to explain the circumstances of her departure when she asked for asylum and a position in the Dawn Court, after all.

She couldn't help a quiet laugh, though, when Favashi poked fun at Leon's name. "Simlas?" she oh so helpfully suggested with a mischievous grin. "Simultaneous?"

However, even Isiell couldn't hold back a shiver as Andronicus stepped forward and the magic sealed the doors to the arena.

Leon Ilayda
 
None of them mattered. Not in this moment.

Little more than laughing hyenas surrounding his kill. This was not the time of the hyenas, but of lions and pride.

He felt the quickening beat of his heart and the strength in his glove-bound fingers as they gripped the mace.

Their moment would come, but now all that mattered was him and Andronicus.

The doors slammed. The torches flared. And Gerra struck, the might of thunder in his thews, the weight of a mountain in his blow.

The flanged mace, glowing a soft orange within, whipped forward toward Andronicus' face. A strike that would shatter bone and turn brain and cartilage to pulp should it land.
 
Leon leveled a glare at Isiell when she made fun of his name. "I hate you both," he said in a sarcastic tone as he grabbed an identical flute to the ladies. He took a sip and leaned forward slightly to prepare for the show. "Really, this whole little show is saving me from having to go shopping with Alynthi. She enjoys spending my money more than I do." And Leon loved spending money.

Alynthi had been a pleasant surprise that kept him on his toes every single day. Her attitude was softening towards him everyday and he appreciated it. She had already painted her room some shade of purple and his sitting room was a dark shade of purple. His life was purple and his eye twitched a little thinking about it.

The doors slammed and Leon snapped his attention to his King and the challenger.
 
She was looking forward to seeing the fight, but Isiell wasn’t nearly as excited. It was clear why. She’d been busy tending to her own matters when the challenger had arrived, and the yoke of formality required her presence in audience of the contest. Maphesa could empathize with the sentiment; what was required of her had often got in the way of what she actually wanted to do. Getting away from that issue had been her main motivation in leaving the Summer Court behind in the first place. Obligation was nothing more than a burden, and stature a signing away of freedom under the guise of heightened status. Andronicus surely knew too, and had likely grown long weary of the wisdom by now.

No wonder the interruption was found irritating; Isiell had been busy searching. Maphesa knew none in her former she could share such fondness for. There were quite a few she gotten along with, and a handful she was close to – but everything she said and had done was a front anyhow, mostly. Little doubt there was likewise attitude in her peers. In the end, the once life's quest was considered wasteful and rueful anyhow, and all that effort had gone to nothing valued.

Genii moved around with drinks, and Maphesa bid the attention of one to request a flute of the amber drink for herself. Upon graciously accepting the proffered beverage, she rose it to her lips for a sip before posing a question to Isiell:

“So you’ve met him already then? Do tell – describe him?” Maphesa asked, seeking to know more about the man challenging Adronicus for the crown. Yet, Gerra’s swing of his mace stole her attention shortly thereafter and her gaze fixated on him and the battle before her. Half-fae he might be, he was formidable. There was no denying he carried a commanding presence; even if it ran counter to what her notions of the lesser-fae were. He even looked like he could win.

With another sip of her drink, Maphesha watched the fight unfold with curiosity as to what the outcome would be.
 
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Isiell just grinned as Leon expressed his... hatred.

He took a sip and leaned forward slightly to prepare for the show. "Really, this whole little show is saving me from having to go shopping with Alynthi. She enjoys spending my money more than I do."

"It's always more fun to spend someone else's money," she smirked, and took a sip of her drink. She was only half-watching Gerra's first attempt at a strike, giving a bored sigh.

Upon graciously accepting the proffered beverage, she rose it to her lips for a sip before posing a question to Isiell:

“So you’ve met him already then? Do tell – describe him?” Maphesa asked, seeking to know more about the man challenging Adronicus for the crown.

Isiell turned to speak more directly with Maphesa. "Only briefly, a few minutes ago, when he came to speak with Favashi first. He calls himself the god-emperor of Amol-Kalit. He dared to ask Favashi to support his claim to the Dawn Court throne, as if that had anything to do with acquiring it.

"He is young and foolish," she finished with a shrug, "if he thinks being King of the Dawn Court will win him any power."

Leon Ilayda Maphesa
 
From one pillar's shadow to the next, Tulio would appear and reappear as he attempted to find a satisfactory spot to watch the duel. Some regarded the challenge with halfhearted interest, most with none at all, and their chattering drowned out the sounds of combat. Then, at last, the elf spotted the empty throne and woman next to it.

"Pardon me, love," from the throne's shadow, Tulio emerged wearing his most charming face. He circled the throne's right side and leaned against the vacant seat. "This is premium viewing; too good to pass up. I could hardly resist."

The wanderer took his eyes off the duel and canted his head to spare a glance and saccharine smile at Eske.

"I'm Tulio."
 
Eske had found herself lost in the complicated array of happenings around her. Voices echoing, bodies arriving, the entire foundation of their surroundings shifting and molding. Magic ran rampant and much like the hall had a mind and soul of its own, did it evolve to suit the needs of its occupants. The slamming of the arena gates wasn't even enough to jar the High Omnia from her musings - but the greeting from a curious stranger was.

She blinked glassy green eyes back into focus and slowly turned her gaze up to the owner of the voice: a rather wispy looking ... not a fae. How curious.

"Hello Tulio," she intoned with a soft but growing smile, "I am Lady Mirlorne." Straightening from her reclined pose, Eske gently inclined her head toward the man, "Are you a friend of the Dawn King's challenger?"
 
"Mirlorne, like the forest?"

Tulio rolled his silver coin over his lithe, delicate fingers. If there was anything besides information he had plenty of, it was spare time, so he got good at little tricks like that.

"I'm afraid I don't keep many friends. No, this one is an associate of an associate - but that's a complicated subject, Lady Mirlorne, and I wouldn't want to bore you with it. I hate boring things, myself. That's why I'm following this large fellow around." Not that Gerra was aware of this. "So far, he doesn't disappoint."

Pointing between the empty throne and her seat, he asked, "Are you the Queen?"
 
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The lands of Thelios were far. But they were not outside the sphere of influence of the world events. The prosperity of their nation, depended on the stability of their neighbors, in truth. While they could do well on their own, and certainly survive-

It was much more favorable to be comfortable and at peace.

No, the Fae were not high up on the enemies of Thelios, or more accurately, threats. A bunch of fairies and Elves did not scare the city with no walls. But a rampaging King challenging the Fae courts-

Now that would prove interesting, to say the least.

Ever the politician as much as he was a warrior, Aratus sat, armored and in his blue cloak. He watched, eyes narrowed at the scene unfolding before him. Only time would tell how the play ended, and how it would be received. He was here as an observer, nothing more. But an attentive one.

Strong, calloused hands wrapped around strong biceps, foot only tapping slightly to give the perception of a nervous, or somewhat impatient man.
 
Favashi sat on the edge of her seat practically quivering with the type of magic these two were building as they faced off against one another. Duels were not exactly War but they were close, and once - many moons ago - her child had had an affinity for such a thing. Perhaps it still echoed in her heart. When the first punch was thrown, the Fury of War giggled with unbridled glee.

The mace connected square on Andronicus' nose and with enough force that if lifted the slighter, more willowy creature off his feet entirely and propelled him across the room. There were the usual cheers and heckling that came from shows like this and a few fae even threw into the arena bits of food and other random trinkets like pinecones and dried leaves to show their pleasure or disfavour. The King of Dawn looked a bloody mess on the floor and he seemed to lay perfectly still...
 
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"Mirlorne. Like the forest?"

Eske's smile grew faintly at the recognition of the elf to her home, "Yes," she intoned fondly, "the very same."

Though she would have gladly listened to whatever tale the stranger had to tell, it would have been telling of her own nature. The quiet and solitude of her home was a strong foil to the chaos of Dawn. Even now, with the challenge between King and God-Emperor unfolding, she felt out of tune with the world around her. Dawn was, as ever, hard to read despite their Futures Tome always being one of the thickest every year. It was their chaotic nature that beget the breadth of their many visions.

"Are you the Queen?"

But her thoughts had wandered again. The High Omnia looked to where Tulio indicated and took note that to an outsider it may appear that she was. Mischief curled her expression in reply, "Not of this Court, but another." Though she had yet to officially step into the role of Triumvir, it was the one she had fulfilled and kept for the last ten years during her sister's absence. She was Triumvir in everything but title, and soon even that would be granted her as well.

"Where else have you followed your not-friend to? Does he make a habit of these challenges?"
 
FAR AWAY, LAZULAR
A PRIVATE CHAMBER

The Serpent Gods drank their fill in a way beyond the tangible: all the blood was right here. On the floor, on Mirielle's knife, and in the giant scrying bowl. A murderer lay dead with his gaping neck on the bowl's edge. Mirielle cleaned her knife and watched the scene unfolding.

Scrying Leogaire was unusually tough. The fae city had a tricky prickliness. It shifted and shrugged away from Mirielle's farsight. But she knew Gerra reasonably well as a former member of his inner court, and in due course she got a clear image.

Just as that flaming mace smashed into the fae king's head.

Despite being a longtime servant of bloodthirsty gods and a habitual practitioner of human sacrifice, Mirielle winced.
 
The feeling of cartilage and bone giving way reverberated through the arm of the God-Emperor. He would not deny the feeling of pleasure it brought him to break another being. So often he sought to build, but there was little like the catharsis of destruction.

Yet he did not revel in it as the watching fae might. He only did what was necessary. Civilization would not prosper with men like Andronicus at the helm.

Towering over the fallen foe, Gerra glowered.

“Is this all?” He rumbled, looking from his mace to the presumed corpse.
 
God-Emperor? To merely be emperor was found so unsatisfactory, that he laid claim to godhood as well?” Maphesa replied to Isiell, her lips curled into an amused smirk.

“I wonder if his subjects believe it.” She further mused. Humans, elves and orcs; whichever he reigned over, they were all considered so pathetically easy to deceive. The notion of an entire land of mortals giving worship to a lesser fae was rather entertaining, if that was the case. Though she wasn't lost on the notion that this could just as well be an imposed formality upon them; worship merely made mandatory by one with the power to decree it.

"He is young and foolish," she finished with a shrug, "if he thinks being King of the Dawn Court will win him any power."
“Truly. I’ve no other idea why he’d even want the crown.” In issuing forth his challenge, the contender displayed basic knowledge of their customs. His demeanour however, hinted at the truth in Isiell’s statement. Gerra carried himself as if this crown was some great honour to be earned. If he won and placed it upon his head he’d become nothing more than a puppet, whether willing or not.

His attack had found puchase against the face of Andronicus, causing the immediate return of Maphesa's attention to the fight. She did so just in time to watch the king fall; neither stir nor motion followed. With a lean forward in her seat, she continued to watch Andronicus pensively for any sign of consciousness, or life.

“Is this all?” quoth Gerra. If the fight was already over, Maphesa could hardly believe it. Still, she watched on, gaze shifting from Gerra to Andronicus with invested curiosity.
 
"Not of this Court, but another."

"A powerful Court?" Tulio, who was very skilled at smiling, inquired.

And then there was a gruesome squelch and subsequent thud as Andronius' body slumped in front of the throne.

"Ah, but, nowhere interesting until now."

"Is this all?" said the challenger.

Tulio frowned.

"He thinks highly of himself and as such tramples the world in any direction he wishes. If he could collect every crown on the earth, I reckon he would."
 
Andronicus' body lay stunned on the floor as the self proclaimed God towered over him. He wouldn't be the first nor the last fae to be dubbed as such, the Dawn King thought blearily as he watched. Did he even want to fight? The Futures had foretold this happening though he hadn't counted on it being quite so soon. Now death presented itself was he ready? Would he meet it like a friend or try to run?

"No."

The word came from the lips of the fae in front of him, prone and broken on the floor, but also from behind the half-breed. The illusion vanished a second later as the King of Dawn swung his blade of the Morning towards the giants thick neck.
 
The eyes of the half-giant flared wide in surprise and he spun around, or at least he tried.

The Fae King, at least a full head shorter than Gerra, must needs thrust up to pierce his throat. This reason and this reason only spared the son of Menalus. For when Gerra reared back, the point of the blade found the meat of his upper chest, just below where the clavicle met the shoulder. Bands of chain mail burst as the steel punched through.

Gerra let out a gasp of pain that swiftly turned into a grimace and groan of rage. He reached out with his left hand and with his gauntleted fingers grasped the sharpened steel before it could be withdrawn. With hideous might, he sought to hold the sword there, trapped by his strength, whilst his mace wielded in the other hand hurtled toward Andronicus' own shoulder.

"Then die."
 
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