Game of Eternity

The Game of Eternity makes pawns of man and fey alike, and with the era of Aten coming to a close, a new war is soon to begin.
It is Mictlan Festival, the highlight of the Atenist calendar; a time when the spirits of the dead return to their loved ones, and a time of thanksgiving and merriment. But when the High Sage is assassinated in Terrahgonia’s capital city, a traitor, a godless emperor, a jaded former assassin, and a sheltered princess must rediscover their past lives.
The Champions were chosen to bring honour and glory to their patron god, and shape the future of their realms. Cycle after cycle, these champions fight and die and rise again. Caught between duty and honour, love and desire, and familial resentments, hard choices must be made, and their power just might bring about the demise of one of the greatest empires in the known world.

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1. Brotherhood - Jamie

Jamie was sweating profusely and it had little to do with the humidity. This was it. The day of reckoning that would start the chain of events leading to the beginning of the end. 
  He stood amongst the commoners beside Mila the Undying as the procession passed. 
Mila spared him a brief glance and Jamie flexed his hands in anticipation. The window of opportunity came and Mila nodded at him.
Behind them stood a large clocktower where four guards were posted. They had the perfect vantage point for Jamie’s needs.
  Jamie reached out with his magick. It hooked into the guard’s heart and extended to his blood and very being. His vision was foggy for a moment and his chest felt heavy. Good. That meant Jamie was firmly anchored to the archer. 
As Jamie’s vision cleared he could make out the Mictlan Festival below. The city of Cythera was alight with flickering candlelight and a multitude of colour from the various  ka-orbs —  the energy within those wielding magick made manifest into orbs of light. 
 Guards were posted by the barriers that prevented the viewers from disrupting the procession. Armed with swords and magickal weapons akin to Tasers, the guards were a strange mash-up between London policemen and medieval knights. Only instead of bobby helmets and neon vests, the guards were dressed in leather armour emblazoned with the royal crest in gold and funny hats to wrap it all up.
Jamie saw himself and Mila amongst the commoners as the high sage’s float passed by the clocktower.  
The passing float was in red and gold, with the golden sun emblem of Atenism with rays of light extending out into hands. The High Sage, an elderly woman with kind, mirth-filled eyes, waved regally. High Sage Narcisa was the symbol of hope to many Atenists across the continent. Jamie didn’t know if he had it within him to extinguish that hope. 
“I’m still not sure we should be doing this,” Jamie said. “Not to her.” Controlling both bodies was necessary in order to give the illusion that he was just another harmless spectator.  It was not as difficult as it used to be but being aware of the senses in both bodies was still peculiar . 
“Once again you are forgetting the bigger picture,” Mila said. With much of Jamie’s concentration on the archer, Mila’s voice was distant, but he heard her all the same.  “Do it.” 
Of course Jamie had not forgotten. How could he forget the importance of the Game of Eternity? There was a price to pay for the unique power Jamie wielded and there was reasoning behind the madness Mila wished to incite.
It just was not a price Jamie wished to pay.
Jamie flexed his hands and guided the guard’s crossbow towards his target. It was easy to get an angle as Jamie could see from the man’s eyes. 
Jamie took a large breath and prepared himself for the fight of his life. He forced the archer to release the arrow and Mila collapsed.  The arrow had pierced her between the eyes. 
Jamie severed the link with the archer. She would not stay down for long, that he could be certain of.
Gasps fluttered across the crowd. Some recovered quicker than others, and soon after, people were running around in a stampede. 
Guards were dispatched closer to the high sage’s float and the archer in the clock tower was apprehended shortly after. The people surrounding Jamie started pushing and shoving, and Jamie saw a man  remove the arrow from Mila’s head. As extraordinary as she was, Mila bled like anyone else. That was enough to make Jamie smile.
 As the man beside Mila raised his head, a promise of pain flashed across narrowed eyes. Jamie did not wait for Phoebus to carry out that promise. 
Jamie pushed through the panicked crowd. As he raised his head toward the high sage, one of the guards plunged a dagger through the high sage’s heart. A stillness came over him. Of course there was a backup plan. How could he be so foolish to believe one renegade could make a difference? 
All around, members of the Brotherhood had disrobed their civilian overalls to reveal the light armour beneath emblazoned with the swirling symbol of the Za’an Umpyr. The Brotherhood wanted everyone to know who had dared assassinate the high sage. Amongst them were even former soldiers of the Zabyru army. 
Pain seered through Jamie’s leg as a blade cut through his calf. He stumbled and fell to his knees. Jamie rolled away to avoid another strike.
“Have you any idea how foolish you are being?” Mila asked. The wound on her forehead had already healed. It seemed that only her ego had been damaged.
Jamie latched his magick onto the surrounding guards. His stomach and chest churned painfully. Controlling an individual for a short time was easier now, but doing so with several people at once was still a difficulty. Jamie clenched his hands into fists and their arrows flew towards Mila. 
Mila dodged two of the arrows but one impaled itself into her shoulder. She made a barely audible grunt, keeping her venomous gaze on her prey. Rule one: never lose focus on your target. 
“What you and the Brotherhood are doing is wrong,” Jamie said. 
“Right or wrong, the game of the gods will occur,” Mila said. “You can choose to be a pawn or you can take the power that I thought you deserved. It seems I was mistaken.”
Mila unleashed a throwing dagger from her left hand. Jamie extended out his magick, crossing his arms in the shape of an X. This caused the two guards to come together and shield him as he laid on the ground.
One of the guards crumpled to the floor, blood pouring from his neck. 
“Haruki would weep to see what had become of his legacy,” Mila said. “You aren’t half the man he was.”
Jamie rose to his feet. “I am not Haruki,” he said. “I forge my own path.”
Mila clenched her free hand, releasing her magick and her second soulsword. Forged with deadly runes of the darkest arts, they were deadly to man and fey alike. 
Jamie rotated his arms around, concentrating on Mila and the blood that flowed through her. His magick fastened itself onto her heart and his lungs burned. He had expended too much magick and he could not breathe. He needed more time.
As his vision blurred he forced Mila to stab herself with her sword and released his control on her. Jamie flicked his wrists and the guard helped him walk away from the fray. 
As he headed to the nearest temple for sanctuary, a pain sizzled in Jamie’s gut and the guard collapsed, bringing Jamie down with him. 
“Traitors don’t just up and walk away from the Brotherhood.”
Jamie rolled over but he didn’t need to see Phoebus to recognise that baleful voice. 
“You could have been one of us, boy,” Phoebus said. 
“I wanted no part in your cult,” Jamie said. “The man I called father had no right to take me from the mortal realm.”
Phoebus shook his had. “I knew the high priestess was mad to entrust you with this assassination. I’d kill you now but we do have our procedures.”
Jamie wouldn’t get a simple execution. It would be a long and drawn out death for betraying the Brotherhood. 
Jamie rolled aside as Phoebus jabbed his sword toward Jamie’s stomach. 
“You’re unarmed and out of magick,” Phoebus said. “Just lay still.”
Rule two: Only the foolish die young. Jamie would not give up so easily. 
Jamie pressed his hand on the wound on his calf and drew the blood out with his magick. He separated the blood into long needles and threw them at Phoebus’ neck.
Phoebus convulsed, blood spewing from his mouth as he clutched to his neck. He collapsed to his knees, and Jamie forced himself to watch, to memorise the suffering his power could bring.
 Mila was right to keep this part of Jamie’s powers secret. It was a shame he couldn’t draw the blood out of other people’s bodies. Once it escaped that shell, the blood was useless to him. Killing a leader of the Brotherhood was no small thing and Jamie limped away as fast as he could when he was certain Phoebus was dead. 
Carnage enveloped the city. Bodies lay strewn across the city. Civilians, imperial guards and assassins of the Brotherhood alike were among them. 
As he turned the corner toward the temple, Jamie came face to face with Bikendi, who was second in command to Phoebus.
“And just where are you headed?” Bikendi asked. He was a broad man with a merry smile. For him killing was the sweetest thing in the world. 
“The temple,” Jamie said. “Mila said we’re to slaughter those seeking sanctuary.”
“As usual, Mila is getting ahead of herself. We don’t have enough manpower to undergo such a dangerous task. The priests of the Morrigu are highly armed.”
Jamie shrugged. “That’s what I told her, but she wouldn’t listen.” 
Bikendi put a hand on Jamie’s shoulder. “You don’t look like you could take much more of this fight. I’ll help you to the escape passage. We’re just about done here anyway.” 
“I can take care of myself,” Jamie said. “I am Mila’s apprentice.”
Bikendi sighed. “Mila might be undying, but you my boy can still be cut down.”
It was just like Bikendi to look out for him. He had been a loyal friend of Jamie’s father, and despite his blackened heart, something bright still shone through. 
Jamie squared his shoulders. “I can’t disgrace her with weakness. Can you not get backup?”
“I fear by the time I return, you will be dead already.” Bikendi shrugged and placed a hand on Jamie’s shoulder. “I’ll come with you. Gods knows those bitches can put up quite the fight.”
Jamie tried to draw out the blood from within but his wound had already began to clot. He clenched his teeth and prepared for the sharp pain. As Jamie focused harder on the wound, an agonising pain coursed through him. 
Too much. He had drawn too much blood. 
A haziness came over him but he managed to shape the blood into long needles and aimed at Bikendi’s sword arm. The man roared and dropped his sword. 
Jamie picked up the fallen sword and slashed at Bikendi’s hamstring. Fear permeated the man’s gaze as Jamie stood over him. 
“Please, spare me,” he said. “What has become of you?”
Nausea overwhelmed Jamie. His stomach became constricted and his head spun. Bikendi was the man who had taught him how to survive in the Brotherhood, the man who had taught him to believe in himself. 
“I’m so sorry,” Jamie said. Then he turned on his heel and ran for sanctuary.
Assassin or not, the rules of sanctuary meant they had to take him in. He would heal and then he would escape to the mortal realm beyond the veil. Not many escaped the Brotherhood and lived to tell the tale, but he certainly wouldn’t be the first.

 

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