There was a flash of blue light and Volphis Starfalcon stood on the peak of Mt. Vir.
He was a K’iorn, dressed in the traditional garb of the elite Dra’koon, bodyguards to the exalted Zaodonai. The Moniker Starfalcon showed he was a member of one of the two tribes of the high kings. The Twin Falcon Tribes, Starfalcon and Greyfalcon, the claws of Lord Falos himself, long missing on the prison dimension of Les’tas’tral. On his brow he wore a crown showing that he bore the favor of one of the High Kings.
To a K’iorn of Refuge, seeing Volphis in his Starfalcon regalia would be viewed much as an Earther colonist of old Earth aristocracy. A quaint time period of the past. But to the K’iou of Mt. Vir his Dra’koon armor, shaped of still living Khaz’gha wood, marked Volphis as an honored guest. His crown marked him a messenger of the highest authority. And the fact that he arrived by flash of light, made him seem even more mysterious to the normally down to earth K’iou.
He made a meeting chamber out of a Tavern known as the Drunken Maul. Soon enough four other Time Shredders arrived. Each representing a different faction affected by the Temporal Catastrophy occuring on Refuge.
Volphis was sitting by a stone table, enjoying a flagon of Ice Binber wine from distant Jemison Post. The door to the Tavern swung open and the first of his rivals arrived. Anyone who knew him would recognize Maverick Multimancer, representing the Resistance and Old Earth. Volphis knew much of Maverick, and knew only a danger of this magnitude would cause him to leave Earth, unprotected.
The foppish swashbuckler was dressed in a ceremonial chest plate that looked freshly shined. But it was old and worn, much like the dandyish wide brimmed hat with a massive feather in it. His blond goatee and tight mustache made him look like a poor man’s Errol Flynn. His long blond hair was up under his hat with only a bit of it trailing down his shoulders, making him look more unkempt than heroic.
Volphis was surprised to see that Maverick had not brought his apprentices with him. Instead he was alone, and his eyes had a thousand yard stare. He welcomed him and offered the Earther a flagon identical to his own.
Maverick purified the beverage with the Leyas before downing half the flagon, then he burped loudly.
“Armenius is dead…final death…” said Maverick, “Killed exactly one Earth year before the assasination of the Da’uhnb Queen. And now this temporal catastrophe?”
Volphis drank a healthy draught and said, “Makes you wonder right?
I know you hated my father…”
Maverick interrupted and said, “K’ain son of K’ain was historically a K’iorn who brought his nations together in peace with the Uthvelor of Zaodonai Celyse and the Earthers of the EEF. I hold no ill will towards him. I don’t even know him really.”
“I was speaking of my adopted father…the Krato General Tharr. He once told me, don’t mess with time travel, use it to get from Point A to Point B with enough time to get done what you need to get done. Anything more than that will cause terrible consequences,” Volphis said with an uncomfortable laugh and then a stoic set to his jaw as he recited Tharr’s words.
Maverick said, “If not for your father Tharr…I might have lived a happy life on Les’Tas’Tral, raised my young Armenius into an artificer instead of a Time Shredder. Enjoyed fishing with Sir Rogarth and the Druid Cykus. Maybe found love one day. Instead I was imprisoned, and my own adopted son was kidnapped by your father. Luckily I rescued him. Had I only been as successful when I tried to save you…”
Volphis said, “No lies between us old man. You know if not for Tharr you would never have unlocked the secrets of Time Shredding. You would have never learned the truth about your own tainted family tree, nor seen how you could redeem it by freeing Earth.
I can tell you this Maverick, in the parts beyond the fracture point, I have seen your Earth freed and lead proudly by men and women calling themselves Lions of Earth.”
“Did they serve Mortis Leonin? Or did they serve Angelus Vulfrym?” asked Maverick with concern.
“They came from Refuge, in that future, working as a joint EEF and IR force to reclaim Earth and rebuild it, under Vulfrym,” said Volphis, “My biological grandfather Nngao taught me how to evade I.R. sensors and fool Brethren equipment during those heady days.”
Maverick said, “I served alongside an A.I. combat mekanoid based on the memories of the Nngao of Refuge. He was a brave and noble soul.”
“My grandfather would likely trip you with some artfully grown vines upon hearing such a comment. He did hate technology and mekanoids especially so,” said Volphis with a laugh.
Maverick smiled with genuine mirth for the first time since Armenius had been killed. He saw a bit of Armenius spirit in Volphis now that the imposing Tharr wasn’t between them. How ironic, a father who lost a son, staring across at a son who had lost his father.
Maverick was about to say something heartfelt to Volphis when the door opened and in walked a bland looking man in a Dumbari Business Suit. The man sat down at the table, and bowed his head to both Maverick and Armenius.
Maverick thought the bland man’s aura was concerningly calm. Volphis meanwhile was already standing. His wrists flexed and his nnghai wrist blades extended. The khaz’gha wood was sharper than steel, and Volphis had already leapt into a nearby shadow, coming up with his blades pointed at two points on the bland man’s body, before Maverick could react.
The blade entering the bland man’s midsection would have been a wound grevious to a normal human’s lungs, but the bland man seemed only inconvenienced by it.
“You are lucky you missed my heart,” said the bland man, “Had you cut it open you would have found my insides less than friendly to the intrusion. My name is Hannibal, and I work for an organization you both have fallen afoul of. My master is the Time Shredder Windwraith. And Windwraith’s Phantoms and Spectres are everywhere.”
Maverick leaned in rudely and asked, “If you are everywhere, how the heck did all this mess go down?”
“Our maker believed that the death of Warmonger was a worthy experiment. None would suspect such a direct attack on the strongest Ancient Evil, and the banishment of the rest would cost us all the Da’uhnb Queen,” said Hannibal as he cupped a napkin over the wound in his suit. Suprisingly the napkin did not stain with blood. There was no color change at all.
Volphis smiled a deep smile at that , “I’d say despite all our perspectives that we are the hero, the Da’uhnb’s Temporal Enforcement Agency does have a dossier on all of us and our respective organizations? And we each probably already have a cell at the Gu’ah Temporal Max waiting for us with three hots and a cot and an eternity to contemplate our crimes against the timeline. But all three of us, and our organizations are all smart enough never to try a stunt on this scale right after the Da’uhnb Queen died.”
“If stunt you mean trying to control time directly, to bend it and warp it to our will?” asked Hannibal, “No, even we would not test such a dangerous concept. Especially after the death of Warmonger and the assassination of the Da’uhnb Queen. It is like someone has cleared the most powerful pieces from the chestboard. My master believes the same force that guided the killing of the Da’uhnb Queen is also responsible for this point of fracture.”
“Let me guess,” said Maverick with a slight sour look, “Would it be the man known as Jim Cricket, full time superhero, part time celebrity clown? The same clown you phantoms led back in time to become the Host to the Creeping Darkness? Instilling a fear of clowns into countless beings across time and space? Thanks for that, make sure to tell Windwraith if you see him.”
Hannibal looked back blandly, as if Maverick’s hostile tone was nothing more than an abberation on a fine day, “Windwraith asked me to give you his regards, Maverick Multimancer. He wondered how you and your backwater rebels were faring after the horror show that was temporal cold war being run by Mortis Leonin?”
“Let’s see, my dear son is dead. My apprentices scattered to all corners of the distant shores and distant timelines. My Resistance is strong,” said Maverick, “Every day, more and more heroes are joining up.”
The door to the tavern opened up and immediately Maverick was happy he hadn’t said anything more about Resistance operations.
Standing at the door was Death, leader of the clones known as the Four Horsemen. They acted as judge jury and executioner of anyone trying to change Earth’s history, so it was rare to see them acting on matters this far afield.
Death was known for dressing appropriate to the locale, and on Refuge he dressed like a dark knight. His helm a screaming skull mask. His armor made a low grumbling noise as he moved. And the thick arming sword at his side was inscribed with runes in High Falos that said, “Trust in the Future.”
Despite this change in attire Maverick would recognize his lifelong adversary anywhere.
“What no Scythe?” asked Maverick snidely, while he reached for his rapier.
“You and I are simply slaves to time,” Death replied, “And Time has called all four of here to protect the innocents of this planet during this time of temporal catastrophe.”
And then when no one replied with anything intelligent, Death touched his hand to his chest and a large scythe extended out. It was black and thin, a weapon of elegant simplicity.
“Is that better?” asked Death.