The Restoration was finalized at Tanager. Groups from across the Eventide League, from mercenaries offered contracts to vengeful Olesians to the scattered remnants of the Red Council and Carriganite exiles, many had a vested interest in the fall of Director Jayne Illor – but none more than Kye.
Kye fought for their throne, for their homeworld, and for their fathers, struck down by a tyrant’s ambition and a despot’s desires.
So it was, drifting in the cerulean clouds of the Iris Nebula, that Ulyn sat down with the Prince.
“Our forces are ready to depart as soon as you give the order,” Ulyn said off-handedly, gazing out into the dark.
“I hope I have not doomed us all.” Kye said quietly.
“It is the Director who has attempted to.” Ulyn said, frowning. “On Olesia, I received… disturbing data from an old colleague. Jayne Illor has in his possession a weapon predating the Collaborate, and has likely already tested it multiple times. The Ibrea referred to it as Sunshard, but that’s… likely not what it is called. A stellar deprivation weapon.”
“The crystal suns.” Kye muttered.
“We must assume he will attempt to use it at Carrigan.” Ulyn said sharply, standing. “Which is why we must strike before he has prepared.”
Kye nodded, staring out the vessels drifting in the void beyond the window.
“Give the order, Ulyn. May the future smile upon today.”
Ulyn nodded, and left the room – leaving Kye to their thoughts as the drive began to spin up.
No plan, as it is said, survived contact with the enemy.
Throughout the long thread of history, well-laid plans have met knots – and, as Kye’s armored bulk touched the shattered flagstones of the Autumn House courtyard, this plan seemed to have met an unexpected knot all its own.
Clearly, their actions across the Eventide League had drawn the Director’s attention – mercenaries littered the grounds as the Reforged Guard opened fire, their own weapon kicking against their grip as they shouldered it.
“Lord Celan, please stay down!” One of the guards shouted, planting a solid maglocked palm against their shoulder plate and extending their own shield across it.
“I shall not allow my guard to take my home back for me!” The Prince shouted back, a grin in their voice.
Already, two other landing craft had touched down – spilling forth Carriganite rebels and four members of the Easy Blues, power-armored bulk and warform synthframe bodies singing against the sound of battle. As the unprepared mercenaries shifted their aim, trying to keep the push away from the palisade, the Prince saw their chance.
Kye, throwing their rifle aside, drew their blade – and shouted something lost to the cacophony, raising it high over their head. The archaeotech shortsword hummed and pulsed, ancient circuitry glowing a brilliant gold, before igniting a soft yellow.
With a cry of “Retake the House! Leave none standing!”, they charged forward, their guard in their wake.
The push shattered their lines, sending the mercenaries who survived the onslaught reeling as they began to be pushed back into the Autumn House proper – leaving the ancient hallways of baroque opulence marred by battle for the first time in millennia, at the very least.
Kye did not care – this was their birthright, their legacy – they would take it back for their father’s memory, if nothing else. To rule a palace of ash was still to rule, if a tyrant’s head adorned it.
Beyond the palace walls the city itself was embroiled in the conflict – the Carriganite Rebellion was fully awoken, spurred into action by the declaration of the Red Council that the heir had returned, and that the Count Illor was to be removed. Jayne Illor’s guards had attempted to silence the Council, but were met by Ulyn Variss and the House Guard who’d survived. Clearly he was ahead of schedule.
“Lord Celan,” crackled a voice in their helmet as a slash from their blade bisected a House Illor guard, sending his two halves to the floor in a spray of augmetic synthblood.
“Speak,” Kye grunted, slashing the steaming blade through the air to clear it.
“Commander Variss has touched down on the palatial grounds,” The voice said calmly, finally appearing in the top right of their vision. A number of infomorph posthumans had joined the cause, wreaking havoc among the planetary networks to prevent quick responses to the assault.
“Link him in.”
“A moment,” came the reply, muted by gunfire. Ahead, one of the Reforged Guard unleashed their magic – the air itself rippled from the heat, a hapless guard igniting like so much kindling.
“I take it the courtyard fell?” Ulyn asked a moment later.
“Easily enough. It seems the Director has pulled his heaviest forces back.”
“Indeed. We’re encountering heavy resistance trying to push to the White Gallery, as well.”
Kye frowned, jogging forward as the fighting moved on – the throne room wasn’t particularly far, but the palace had designed to be defensible. Hopefully the two fronts would make this easier.
“Have some of your men watch the pads. I don’t want that snake slipping by us.”
“Aye,” Ulyn agreed, and cut the channel.
Kye charged ahead, meeting one of the rival guards mid-stride in an attempt to knock it off its feet, only to be met by a charging synthframe-clad guard from the side, both enormous arms raised in an attempt to crush them here and there. Kye managed to bring their blade up in time, but only just.
The blade hissed in protest against the bare metal of the synthframe, even as Kye pulled from the Darksea in spades to will the blade hotter, brighter, but the warform was simply too strong for conventional methods.
With a cry, the holding action failed, sending the Prince sprawling as the warform bellowed a digital war cry, knocking a pair of guards who stepped in to shield them out of the way with contemptuous ease. It began to increase in speed, clearly hoping to simply flatten the reclaimer – but was caught from the side by a flash of gold, sending it off-course and smashing through the wall into an adjoining gallery.
One of the heavy-framed Easy Blues vaulted the low remains of the wall, exomatter gauntlet reconfiguring around their forearm, before sending another shower of golden annihilation raining onto the frame as it bellowed another atonal cry.
The particles left pitted scars across the synthframe’s body as their negative mass annihilated against normal matter, even as it charged again – meeting the mercenary hand to hand in a shower of sparks and visual distortions.
“Ahead!” The mercenary shouted with a laugh, gauntlet glowing blue-white against their armor as they met blow after blow with a counter. “Onwards!”
Nodding, Kye rushed up the stairs as another titanic blow shook the crumbling wall loose, sealing the fight away.
Glass shattered as Kye entered the royal gallery, a pitched running firefight engulfing the length of the room – some of their own forces had come through the ceiling from another landing craft, catching reinforcing guards by surprise. Unfortunately, they’d been able to recover, and as Kye crossed the outer circuit they were forced to take a few potshots simply to be able to pass. Their comms were alive with shouts and cries, even as the Reforged Guard began to regroup and push into the throne room proper, fighting their way through the ancient halls and past the great Carrigan steelwood doors.
Callister Rhose, steward to the Count Illor and Spymaster of the Carrigan Directorate, attempted to bar the doors – his own weapons singing as he cut through a pair of guards before falling.
Kye slammed into the vast chamber, eyes darting across the vast chamber for any signs of Jayne Illor, and found none.
The room had been more or less stripped bare, their house crest long destroyed and removed – but, as they watched, the throne flickered.
Holite sparks twinkled and flickered in the shimmering air, resolving into the figure of a reclining man – sharp, hawkish features somewhat older than the last time they’d laid eyes on him – and, worryingly, smug.
“Ah! The Lost Prince, I had so wondered when your presence would grace these halls once more.” Jayne Illor crowed, smiling.
“It’s over.” Kye said flatly, blade at the ready.
“A bold declaration, but is it?”
“The transmission is being bounced,” one of the infomorphs whispered in their ear. “Tracing it. Keep him talking for a few moments more.”
“Where have you fled, traitor?” Kye shouted, pointing the blade accusingly. “Show yourself and surrender and I may show leniency!”
“I’m afraid I’m quite beyond your grasp,” Jayne Illor sneered, steepling his fingers. “You may have your petty kingdom, Prince Celan. I shall have the day.”
“What are you saying, you bastard?”
“Ah! The Ibrea have granted me a device that shall shape the League in my image, of course. I believe you’ve seen its handiwork?”
Kye’s blood ran cold. Banne.
“A remarkable piece of pre-Collaborate technology, wondrous. They called it the Rime Nova, a weapon to turn stars to ice.”
The Prince took a step closer, starting to reply – but the voice returned, whispering in their ear. “Carrigan low orbit and rising. Two of our vessels have been tasked to intercept, but something… something dropped in beneath the orbital plane.”
“Something?” Kye asked aloud, drawing a grin from the holite figure.
“I believe this is where our stories part,” Jayne Illor smiled, leaning back. “Goodbye, Little Prince. I shall pluck Cursa from the sky as a frigid pearl and leave your world to die.”
With that, the hologram dissolved.
Static washed across the comm, until, with urgency the Prince was unfamiliar hearing, Ulyn broke through.
“…unshard! It’s the weapon!”
Kye turned to their guards, and nodded. Both split away to finish the retaking of the Autumn House, leaving Kye alone before the empty throne.
How hollow it felt, now.
They tapped their ear, gazing through the glass ceiling at the darkening sky. Unnatural lightning flickered through the clouds as the vessel rose away. Debris rained down from on high, flaring as it burned up over the horizon.
“Already touching down at the northern pad. Hurry.”
Sprinting as fast as their armor would allow, they rushed through the devastated halls of the Autumn House into the cold night air of Carrigan, intimately familiar with each passing second. The Farsight was ready to leave as soon as their feet had passed the threshold, rising into the night.
“Catch that ship!” They shouted into their comm as the deck shuddered beneath the thrust of realspace engines spinning up, slicing upwards through the sky as a silver ribbon.
Ahead, the Rime Nova loomed – a black stain on the orange backdrop of space, crawling inexorably towards Carrigan’s star.
The battle around Carrigan was intense – the Ibrea had clearly fallen back to harass pursuit, blossoms of fire and shattered ships settling into a rough ring around the planet as the Farsight slipped through. The vessel itself was much too large to successfully get close to the defended weapon – but a plan had already formed in their mind, one they’d shared to much uproar.
“You surely can’t be expecting us to let you go alone?!” Ulyn was shouting over the comm, tied up planetside.
“I have no choice!” Kye shouted back, already locking spare magazines and their blade to the magnetic locks on their armor and checking the seals. “The ship can be boarded from other points, but I will not lose my Guard this way. Find your own ways in.”
There was silence on the comm.
The Farsight hurtled closer, realspace drives screaming as they redlined – and, as Kye watched the black expanse of the weapon fly beneath, they took a deep breath.
The red lights of the deployment airlock turned green, and with a fist, they hit the button.
The pressurized environment of the airlock exploded forwards, sucking the Prince into the vacuum of space. For a single terrifying moment they tumbled head over heels, the stars and the shrinking starship spinning away, before they managed to find their thruster controls and right themself. Fighting off nausea and adrenaline tremors, the posthuman rocketed forward, their combat armor rated for merely fifteen minutes in hard vacuum.
Finding an airlock was easy – but they were all welded shut. Even their blade couldn’t make a dent, cooling too quickly in the void of space – until, out of sheer frustration and rage, Kye poured every ounce of energy they could into the plate – liquifying the hull like candle wax, and yanking the cooling material aside in a shower of sparks and steel.
Steeling themself, the Prince slipped inside – and sealed the airlock behind them, the rush of escaping air slowing to a trickle as the alarms sounded.
“I’m sure they noticed my entrance,” Kye muttered, reading their blade – picking a direction, and rushing onwards. Over the comm, they were notified that a few others had made it aboard the Rime Nova as it passed beyond the range of the Restoration. Already, pockets of fighting had broken out – some of which were members of Illor’s own retinue from Carrigan who’d learned of the Director’s goals.
The vessel was enormous, utilizing a tram system for movement between the decks. Kye had managed to board one of the trams, moving forward despite heavy resistance; until, with a lurching stop, the power was cut.
Bullets began to smash against the sides of the tram, exotic conduits casting the station it had stopped within in harsh violet – and, with an explosion of glass, Kye leapt outwards.
Their armor protested as bullets slammed into the kinetic shields, even as the Prince dealt with the first two guards in rapid succession. The third, however, managed to loose a round through their calf plate before the white-gold blade bisected him.
Kye collapsed to the deck, blood spurting from the wound – and tugged their helmet free, screaming in anguish.
Already, the armor had begun to inject heavy painkillers and coagulants, nanorepair systems attempting to repair the artery – but their vision swam, darkening at the edges.
To be so close, their thoughts swam – before, struggling to stay awake despite their heavy eyelids, Kye gave in.
Elsewhere, the four-person infiltration team that had followed the Prince in had broken free of their holding action – intending to shatter the bridge defenses before they arrived. They’d been notified when their vitals had yellow-lined, but their mission came first. None of them were Carriganites, and held a higher loyalty to the Eventide League itself – the weapon had to be stopped first and foremost.
The narrow halls of the hull had opened into vast tunnels, clearly meant for vehicular transit within the vessel – lines with power conduits the size of trees, carrying the vast amounts of energy from the Infraspace Drain Arrays to the weapon systems at the bow. The leader of the infiltration team held up a palm, before gesturing with two fingers, and smashing a fist into their open palm.
The second member of the team nodded, their spider-like frame leaping upwards into the dark to set demolition charges.
The other three continued on. All four were synths – forged for asymmetric warfare, and designed for ship-to-ship sabotage.
A quartet of guards fell to nanoflechettes and exotic matter annihilation, clearing up their pathway to the forward transit nexus – and, as the tram pulled away, the station it had just left was destroyed.
Kye, groggy, sat up.
A gun was tucked neatly under their chin, the cold metal sending a shock through their system.
“Good morning, Little Prince.” The holder said coldly, staring. They were enormous, obsidian-black and berobed. The only visible part of their body beneath were the glowing red oculi, clicking and whirring as their focus changed.
The room behind came into focus – a vast, open space, a wrap-around bridge window showing the growing expanse of Carrigan’s sun. The bridge.
“I take it our guest has awoken, Karteh?”
Kye tensed. Bastard.
“It takes a certain amount of bravery to board a vessel, Lord Celan. For this, I applaud you. Truly! And to have nearly made it to me, through three dozen guards? Most impressive.”
Hazily, Kye noticed their armor had been stripped away – and their blade was missing.
“I’m afraid your mission is over.”
The Director frowned as his earpiece hummed. His frown deepened as something was said.
The lights overhead flickered.
“Persistent. No matter. Once the weapon has fired, their wills shall shatter.”
“Sir,” One of the bridge staff said cautiously. “Cursa is within firing distance.”
Jayne Illor began to speak, but Karteh spoke first.
“Charge the subspace manifold system. Begin draining.”
The officer nodded, beginning to work on his console – and the ominous hum, omnipresent since Kye had come aboard, began to grow louder.
Space around the Rime Nova began to distort and crack, a roiling, ebon black effervescence boiling from the ship. The Farsight, engaged with an Ibrean cruiser, was in no position to assist – and the fleet around Carrigan was simply too far away.
“Ancillary systems are waking. The weapon has begun to charge.”
The Director scowled. “Boost their yield. I want it charged as quickly as possible.”
His earpiece chimed again.
There was a commotion in the hallway, guards shouting orders.
Jayne Illor turned to Karteh, and tilted his head towards the door. The light outside began to darken.
The man’s robes began to shift, four spindly metallic blade arms extending from within it – and he took a heavy step towards the door, intent on meeting whomever had decided to so rudely interrupt.
The ceiling blew open, shrapnel and sparks showering anything not armored or shielded. Kye shouted in pain as their cheek was cut, managing to fall out of the way of a larger chunk.
The heavily armored bulk of a multiframe fell through the hole, landing on an ensign with a sickening crunch of shattered bone and pulverized flesh – and it stood a moment later, dripping in the silence.
Karteh was moving in the instant the sound had reached him, blades a whir of silver – but the frame was too heavy, magnetic repulsors lifting it from the deck as it hovered backwards out of reach.
Using the distraction to their advantage, Kye reached for a guard’s scabbard – drawing the force rapier from it in one smooth movement, and attempting to stand. Electric fire shot through their right leg from the wound, but they forced the pain down, hot blood flowing through their fur.
They sprang forward on their good leg, catching a guard with the blade – and the third infiltrator frame dropped through the hole, spindly arms a blur.
The multiframe was soundly losing to Karteh, his blades simply faster than the combined body could keep up with – and as he landed a heavy blow, it split. The two units that made it up, now fighting on equal footing, began to pick at his defenses – clearly not intending to kill him, but certainly keeping him occupied.
The third frame crouched near Kye, faceless steel plate regarding them.
“Designate CELAN. You are injured.”
With lightning fast speed and unerring accuracy, a medical hypo was jammed directly into their leg – causing them to scream in pain, which quickly subsided. Already, it began to ache less – something which only worsened their tunnel vision on the man panicking on the command dais as his exit was blocked.
Space beyond the bridge was darker yet, the golden expanse of the star now a pale yellow.
“We have to stop the charge sequence!” Kye told the infiltrator, who nodded.
“Conduit 6B.” It said simply – and the deck rocked.
The lights on the bridge flickered again, before cutting to harsh red – and the polarity on the forward windows cut completely, harsh direct sunlight spilling in.
The vessel began to list, gravity worsening – and the two frames struck a vital blow as Karteh lost his footing, red vitality spinning away in low gravity. He certainly wasn’t down, though, retaining his bearings and renewing his assault.
The frame regarded Kye. “Tertiary operational status has been reclassified as expended. Vessel is adrift.”
The Prince wasn’t quite sure what that meant. “Thank you.”
Immediate concern closed, their attention turned to the man stalking their way – a familiar golden blade clutched in their shaking hands, fury coloring their face in the harsh red light.
“I’ll handle this.” They said simply, waving the synthframe away.
“I was this close.” Jayne Illor said quietly, rage seeping through. “This. CLOSE. YOUR WORLD IN MY PALM. Bleeding. A stepping stone for this whole-damned League!”
The slash came so suddenly Kye barely had time to react – their blade meeting the Carriganite blade with a resounding clash of steel, and then shattering – the force behind the Director’s blow utterly rending the rapier.
Kye threw themself backwards just in time for it to sail through their underclothes, turning the pale white shirt into so many ribbons.
Blood dripped to the floor.
“I’ll have your life for this, you vermin.” Director Illor hissed.
One of the frames fell to Karteh, who shattered it utterly – scattering its remains across the bridge. The remaining frame of the duo paused for only an instant, before doubling it’s efforts.
Kye, despair beginning to creep in as even their protector was pulled away by an attempted attack on the Prince by a pair of guards, began to pull on the Darksea once more – but whatever the ship had done to charge had weakened the veil.
The usual cool, honey-thick creep of magic felt… wrong. Slimy.
It coiled around their soul like tar, dripping and flowing towards their fingers like a landslide – even as their hands began to shake, their eyes rolling back, they couldn’t stop what was coming. It was as if they were trying to dam the ocean, even small cracks were too huge to handle.
The Director drew the blade back, intent on severing the head of the Lost Prince – and was suddenly cast in white, searing light.
Pure energy leapt from the Prince to the Director’s body, setting Kye’s fur alight – and drowning out the screams of agony from both, flowing through the posthuman like a living capacitor. Whatever limiting factors prevented mages from pulling on the Darksea had been removed by the draining effect of the Rime Nova, and both paid a terrible, terrible price.
As suddenly as it had started, it was over.
Kye, arms burned black and charred, collapsed to the deck, their eyes a brilliant white and smoking.
Jayne Illor, Count of Olesia and Director of Carrigan, Kingmaker and traitor, was ash scattered to the stars.
The Carriganite blade, resonant to the Tides, glowed a brilliant orange as it hissed and sputtered against the red-hot deck.
The Rime Nova shuddered as another explosion rocked the vast vessel, superstructure groaning under increased gravitic pressure. The bridge crew had fled when the fight started. None would survive this. Karteh lay bleeding, prone beneath the remaining drone.
It had begun to fall into the star.
“Primary.” The remaining multiframe infiltrator said, urgency creeping into its voice. “Recovery limit is approximately four minutes thirty six seconds distant. Recommend breach.”
The tall, spindly unit regarded the smoking body on the floor. An expense of energy like that likely killed it.
The decision took a microsecond.
Clasping a rebreather over the posthuman’s face and making sure the helmet enclosed the ears, its mind was made up.
Striding to the vast exoglass window, the synth curled its fingers into a fist. The first punch sent cracks a few inches.
The second sent cracks six feet.
The third began to whistle, atmosphere rushing through the gaps.
“Brace.” It said, glancing at the second frame and down at the still form of the Prince.
The last punch shattered the window, sucking the corpses and the screaming form of Karteh of Lusa into the open void – and, with almost passive disinterest, the two synthframes disengaged their magnetic soles.
“Package recovered.” Primary announced over an open comm, receiving a handshake in return.
It looked to Secondary, intending to tight-beam directional thrust orders, but the second synthframe had been shattered by stray debris.
Checking the Prince for signs of decompression and finding none, the synth marked its mission as complete as the star grew brighter, their path a wide orbit.
Kye awoke to birdsong and wind.
Slowly, carefully, they cracked an eye open – searing sunlight making them blink. They were laying on soft grass – they could feel it against their fur, green with the sweet smell of summer heavy on the breeze. Tree leaves overhead dappled the light in a way they’d never seen, before.
Slowly, they sat up. They were in a forest by a small stream – and, as they looked around, beat up as they were, they saw a familiar face, dipping a hand into the water.
The figure looked up, and smiled.
Right there, that very moment, they began to cry – blood seeping from their damaged tear ducts and running red rivulets down their cheeks, staining the fur.
“I- I thi… I think I’ve avenged you,” Kye finally managed to sputter, the weight of the last few years feeling like a lifetime.
“You have.” Hallek said quietly, crouching next to the crying prince.
“Was it worth it?” He asked after a moment.
“No.” Kye said, very small.
“That was the lesson I was never able to teach.” Hallek said, giving the smaller rabbit a slight squeeze. “Sometimes no matter what we do, we lose. There’s no happy ending. There’s no curtain call and we’re not played off. It just… ends. There’s finality to it. That, is how life’s greatest adventures usually close.”
Kye, realizing what was being said, stayed silent.
“It is, as Rhys would call it, “filler.”, The elder posthuman chuckled, staring up at the blue sky.
“Am… am I dead?” Kye managed after a few moments of silence.
“No. At least, not yet, I suppose.” Hallek shrugged. “You certainly came close. But not today.”
Kye, having so many questions to ask – so much advice they needed – started, but Hallek raised a hand. “All will come to you in time, Kye. Trust me. It did to me, and my father, and his father before him. You will do fine, and when the time comes the path you choose is yours, and yours alone. Remember that.”
He took the prince’s hand in his, and placed his other over it.
“Remember me. I have one last thing to ask you.”
“I just need you to promise me you’ll wake up.”
Kye’s world shattered. They squeezed their eyes shut, wanting for all the stars in the sky to stay right there forever, but…
“-aking up! Get the surgeon!”
Kye opened their eyes, to little more than hazy gray shapes. The smell of medical supplies and ionized air stung at their nose, mixed with the stench of burned fur and seared skin.
A figure leaned over them, darkening the scene – before, after a warning of brightness, the bandages were carefully removed.
It was a large and open hospital room – packed with equipment and with an open window, a bright winter’s day shining in from outside.
“Welcome back to the land of the living, my Lord,” The doctor said after a moment, taking the smallest of bows.
“Please,” Kye croaked, their throat parched.
“Call me Kye.”