Book 6, Chapter 95 - The Khan's Resolve

The Khan’s head was mostly original. However, the rest of his body had undergone countless mechanical alterations. His arm, for instance, was a biochemical construction. Because much of his body was not natural, it required a specialized life-support system which disseminated a special gas. It prevented what remained of his body from rejecting the foreign parts.

But his mask was shattered. The tubes which forced the gas into his lungs dangled free and seethed with a faint red mist. That was the life-blood of the Khan. Without it he wouldn’t last more than half a day. His body would start to reject its additions and total organ failure would result.

Such a life was marked by constant pain. Every minute of every day was agony. A lesser man wouldn’t last more than a few days before surrendering to it. The Khan had fought on for seven long years. It was a mystery how he’d persevered through these several thousands of days.

“You’re… Baldur!”

Selene and the Avatar shared one body. There was no separation between them, no warring personalities. The spirit of Selene lost all power when her mind imprinted. All emotion died, leaving only absolute loyalty to Sumeru.

The God King’s mark was a sort of shackle one couldn’t break. Even lesser gods were inexorably bound, so a mortal was even more the slave.

Strong though Selene’s will was, it did not help her. All behavior was altered when the imprinting was complete. Yet – miraculously – in this instant a powerful wave of mental energy filled the Avatar with sadness.

For just a moment, the Avatar was distracted. It was the perfect chance.

Janus splayed her fingers and countless shadows slithered forth. They traveled along the ground then tied up Selene’s feet. Like living rope they crawled up her body until the Avatar was tightly bound. Janus harnessed all her power to keep Selene tied down and cried out to the Khan. “Quickly, act now! Go for the eyes!”

His fingers tightened around his weapon. Purple light crackled in anticipation. In the same instant the silver glow faded from Selene’s eyes. Without the spectral glimmer she looked like her old self.

But her voice was still cold and arrogant. Fixing the Khan with her soulless gaze she taunted him. “Can you do it?”

He hesitated.

“Did you believe your tricks would be enough to defeat me?” Her words marked a change in the nearby Seraphs. She bled energy out into the air, infecting the puppets and making them stronger. An intense aura hung over them as they closed in. “Your efforts are useless. You can’t stop what’s coming.”

Seraphs dashed at the invaders, a silent and terrifying horde. Janus could feel their power crushing her. Her and Baldur weren’t enough to fend them off.

The flows of time unfolded before the Avatar. She was confident that the Khan would not be able to raise his hand against his daughter, until the scenes were revealed. Surprise took hold. At the right opportunity the Khan would, indeed, stab at her with the sword in his left hand. He wouldn’t hold back. It would dig into her, and split her body in half.

The Avatar didn’t understand. Wasn’t this Selene’s father? Would he really kill his own child?

She saw it all but did not fret. Her empty, indifferent eyes regarded the possibilities like discarded pages from a book. Selene knew how to deal with it.

Sure enough a steely Resolve took the Khan and he attacked. He held nothing back, the murderous intent was almost palpable. If he succeeded, Selene would perish.

Stop!”

Janus felt it and called out in disbelief. Would he really kill her? Kill his own daughter?!

Her cries fell on deaf ears. The doggedness in his eyes did not falter, the look of a man who would not turn back. Mercy was not offered, no quarter was given. He fully intended to kill Selene.

Yet Selene just… watched. Calm as a Spring afternoon.

In a surprise turn for everyone else, a figure appeared between them. It raised a hand and the Khan’s attack was deflected with enough force to knock him back.

Warding off the Khan with one’s bare hands? Incredible!

He was clad in black from head to toe. In his right hand was a blade of crackling lightning and the right radiated with a pale glow. Purple light scarred the barrier but had not pierced it. Selene was safe.

“Cloudhawk!”

Janus breathed a sigh of relief. If he was here it meant his part of the mission was complete. Now their desperate battle was on more equal footing. No wonder Selene had been so calm – she’d seen this eventuality.

The Khan did not give up. He brandished his sword of light and attacked again. Purple and electric blue collided with a storm of sparks but it was the Khan who was flung away. The power discrepancy was too great.

Cloudhawk’s face was dark with anger. “What are you doing!”

The Khan answered, his voice ragged and plagued with suffering. “No one knows her better than me! Killing her now would be a mercy!”

Was death always such a terrible thing? No, sometimes it meant release. 

Selene was more important to Baldur than his own life. But he did know Selene and knew that the consequences of everything she’d done would haunt her forever. Taking her eyes might return his daughter, but she would be without dreams, without dignity. Confronted with the truth of what she’d done, every day she lived would be misery.

Better he spared her that, even if it meant striking her down with his own hand.

The Boundary Portal was already beginning to open. If they didn’t act soon, tens of thousands of lives would be forfeit. Skycloud represented hope to those people. The Khan had no choice!

“Whatever it is, we’ll carry it together. I won’t let you do this. You don’t have the right to decide!”

Cloudhawk didn’t know if the Khan was making the right choice, but he had to believe Selene was stronger than that. She wouldn’t just run away from her mission and responsibilities! No matter what the future held, he would be right next to her to help shoulder the load. There wasn’t anything they couldn’t weather together.

The Avatar’s callous voice interrupted. “It’s too late.”

Janus’ body shimmered and instantly there were several dozen more of her. Each one bore nasty daggers which gleamed with dark promise as they leaped through the air.

Selene broke free of the shadowy constraints. The silver light bloomed again in her eyes. In an instant she saw where the phantasms would strike and Janus’ gambit was rendered useless. With a swing of her crystal sword, two of the shades were cleaved in half.

Another swell of energy burst from her weapon. Dozens of whipping, half-moon shaped gashes flooded the dais. More of the shadows were caught up the tumult, pushed from the dais and cut to pieces.

She was too fast! Too accurate! Every move her enemy made she was able to see in advance. Furthermore, there was an army of Seraphs all around keeping the soldiers engaged. How were they supposed to handle this situation?

Janus had only a few rare opportunities to affect change here. She was unwilling to give up on Selene which curtailed her options even further. The only way to win total victory was to attack her eyes. It was a desperate hope, but if the Eyes of Time were destroyed maybe Selene would go back to normal. Maybe it would free her from the God King’s grasp.

Selene attacked three more times. With every swipe, explosions of power tore across the chamber.

One of Janus’ copies caught in front of the Avatar was ripped to shreds by an attack which caught the assassin as well. She was knocked from hiding and stumbled back. Meanwhile Cloudhawk watched Selene unleash her fury. His face darkened and his pale hand gripped the hilt of his relic.

He had to deal with this himself.

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