Volphis Starfalcon, K’iorn Time Shredder sat across from Maverick Multimancer. Arrayed in front of them was a chess board. Volphis saw the sweat slide down the brow of the Multimancer as he moved a pawn.
“Oh Maverick, no wonder Warmonger, the Four Horsemen, and my adopted father have been able to play you like a fool,” he said as he slid his bishop into position, “Check my new friend, check.”
Maverick looked up with a steely gaze, “A bishop eh? Where did you get this board again?”
“I stole it from the Warmonger himself, long before his final death here on Refuge,” said Volphis with a smirk, “Stole that along with a bit of the uncorrupted essence of the Mar’un’ga, a map of the area, and a copy of the Daemonsbane sword fashioned from Warmonger’s own scales.”
“What did you do with the essence?” asked Maverick moving his knight into position.
“Father wanted to use it to free Mar’un’ga from Warmonger’s grasp. All it took was a new host willing to give his life, Morgoth Dannor’s son Marcus was the very willing sacrifice,” said Volphis.
“You and Tharr gave Warmonger the body that let him walk out of the Prison Dimension of Les’tas’tral. You set this whole thing in motion,” said Maverick.
Volphis looked at the board, and moved his bishop again, “Check.”
“And no we didn’t, anymore than you did when you stole the baby Armenius from my father before my father could teach him how to become the true master of time he was meant to be.
At least the K’ias Emperor sits once more among the Ascended Beings and is no longer trapped in the coils of the Warmonger.” sneered Voiphis though it was obvious the topic pained him.
Maverick moved another pawn and smiled, saying, “Which allowed the Ancient Evils to ensnare Ceroj the Red, and draw in the resurrected Lord Falos and force him to trade himself to become the host of Xephon. I know my Refugian history, even if I spend most of my time on Earth. Remember I’m friends with the Nngao, he told me all about it.”
“No you are friends with a robotic replica,” said Volphis, moving his Queen into position, “Check.”
Maverick looked cross as he moved his knight one more time and said, “If the heroes of Refuge hadn’t killed the host body…”
“What? Would Xephon who served the balance have the right amount of power to stop Warmonger and lock him back up? Maybe the balance would never have been disrupted so badly by the Death of Warmonger. Maybe the Da’uhnb Queen would still be around? Maybe we wouldn’t be dealing with a mad Chronomancer on our own?”
From the side of the room walked Hannibal the Phantom Automaton. Appearing as a normal earther as always, “Playing a game fellows? A wise idea to pass the time. No news yet, but it seems the Kasanthians are allowing the armies of Boriel I’tash to pass below them, using some tunnels that Wintermute had made. The Slavers will reach the domain of Wintermute or Korpu soon enough.”
“I’m surprised the Kasanthians allowed them free passage,” said Maverick.
“Grand Magi Orloc is involved in a Civil War with PeaceLord Lurlock. So he was happy for the offer of neutrality. Orloc declared Kasanth neutral in the coming War between the I’tashi Alliance and Boriel. He will offer medical aide to both sides but no weapons or forces.” said Hannibal, “It means the Slavers will be at full force when they reach the border of I’tash proper.”
“A new Border Wars?” asked Volphis with a raised eyebrow.
“No, there is no worth in such a thing,” said Hannibal, “During the last Border Wars our folks installed the new King of Borvis. We have their loyalty and therefore the Borvian Dragons will stand with Elijah Morte.”
“What if they don’t want to?” asked Maverick playing devils advocate.
Hannibal said, “Then situations will force them to do so anyway.”
Maverick replied, “You guys are pretty militant.”
“We are the guardians of the balance!” swore Hannibal.
Maverick finally stood up and flicked a pin into hannibal’s chest. The body fell limp on the ground.
“What was that?” asked Volphis.
“Zela pin, simple enough to tag someone with it if you don’t want them using the Leyas,” said Maverick.
Volphis smiled, “I didn’t expect that type of skill with a throwing weapon, old man. Nicely done. But why did you do it?”
“These Automatons serving Lord Roan, they time travel and declare themselves protectors of the balance right? But what if its just what they have been built to say, like parroting speech.”
Volphis revealed, “They were designed off one of my father’s designs. Tharr designed the automatons to be the perfect learning slave soldiers. No remorse, no thought of self preservation, no family to worry about. Lord Roan defeated one and brought it home and suddenly began mass producing them.
But Roan’s were different. They were emotional beings who looked at Lord Roan as their father.”
“Do you know why your father designed the Leyas Automatons the way he did?” Maverick asked.
Volphis said, “No but I’m sure you are going to tell me. Or that is the worst question ever.”
Maverick took a double take then said, “Touche, young man, touche. The Automatons have no spirits to be stolen by ancient evils right? But they are also immune to mind control. Which means they are one of the few groups that can hunt and track the Neliff.”
Volphis said, “That makes NO SENSE. I tracked back the Neliff outbreak on Refuge to a crashed ship in the Goblin Lands. Lord Roan and Windwraith were working alongside the EEF Special Forces and VLAD agents who found and tried to wipe out the Neliff nest.
It was Lord Roan who annihilated the site. At the time the EEF didn’t know Neliff fed off of annihilation and were therefore immune to it. But it prevented any scope, system or even the Leyas sight of the mancers on the team from seeing the Neliff. Which allowed them to erect illusions of their own demise and escape to conquer all of Refuge.”
“What do you mean conquer all of Refuge?” asked Maverick.
Volphis was still wearing his crown of the high king’s favor, so he could see the Neliff floating in the corner of the Tavern. He had seen them everywhere he went on Refuge. They didn’t seem to know their mind control didn’t work on him like it had worked on the rest.
“Er…ah…nothing, just a theory I’m working on,” said Volphis, “But specifically about the Automatons. Where were you going with that?”
“If you were to make illusions everywhere to control the lives of your citizens, you would need a police force that could see through the illusions,” said Maverick, “Look at the past few years since the Neliff arrived. Its as if a powerful presence has been guiding their rise right? And the rise of the Phantoms? What if all of that is the hand of Holys in the past. A Chronomancer simply fucking with time?”
“But even Hannibal here had free will right?” asked Volphis.
“So do many people who follow bad plans that cause harm to others,” said Maverick, “From the notes the four of us shared since the battle of Boriel’s Retreat, I suspect the Phantoms had McMurphy put in jail, and ruined the VLAD agency’s reputation to open the way for Colony General Malthus to be killed at the battle of Jemison Post. But Why?”
“A united colonies would have immediately taken the battle of Boriel’s Retreat as an opportunity to consolidate the Northern Kingdoms, end slavery once and for all, and force a lasting peace. And considering the state of that battle, the EEF could have used it to make a decisive blow and overthrown Boriel’s reign of terror once and for all,” said Volphis starting to see where Maverick was going.
“And the phantoms prevented an alliance with the Nightmare Lords of SteamGate who might have been able to bind Warmonger without so many costs…” said Maverick, “When I was a child I dreamed of slaying the Warmonger. I would have done anything to do it. But now I see how dangerous trying to eliminate a primal part of reality can be.
I fear the Phantoms are another servant of our enemy Holys, but with a kindly face. Have you ever met Lord Roan? Have you ever seen his true form? How do we know that Holys the Chronomancer and the enigmatic Lord Roan are not the same entity?”
“That is nuts and pretty paranoid,” said Volphis, “They are definitely seperate people.”