This chapter was written in collaboration with Scylla.
Though his vision was failing, his ears were still as sensitive as ever. He could hear Scylla talking to him. Calling him that silly pet-name that she’d given him back when they were children.
He reached up with one hand, finding hers. Though his grip was weak, his fingers closed around her hand, as if holding on for dear life.
Ben murmured, his voice much more distant. Something about hold on. That the transfer was stabilizing. That it would be just a little more.
Fear crept through him at these words. That meant that he was reaching that line where so little aether would be left… that his death was closing upon him should anything go wrong.
His glazed eyes stared into the darkness, watching as it sparked apart from a point in the distance, flowing once more into the aether stream. No longer fearing the energies, it was glorious and wondrous to behold. The place where all went to rest at the end of their time…
But ‘tisn’t the end of my time. I want to live.
Amon’s eyes narrowed as these thoughts poked through the peace he was feeling.
Surely enough aether has been drained already. ‘Tis so little left… I should be able to control it from here.
His lips pressed together weakly.
This power belongs to me… a lifetime of creation and growth… should I let it pass now, I shall never be what I was before.
And with those thoughts, Amon found his focus on the aether around him. His intent was now to capture and control that which was left.
“What?” Scylla squinted at an anomalous reading in the corner of her eyes, before turning to look into the technologist’s strained face. The flow seemed to have stopped, and was reversing ever so slightly. At the same time, his vitals continued to sink down as the struggle tore into his flesh.
But one thing was clear. She had seen that look before. That same look of crazed determination that she saw as he had once pumped his body full of aetherdrugs.
“Amon… Amon! What are you doing?”
He could do this. He knew what he was dealing with now. He could make this work.
As Amon began to draw the energies back, holding them fast from the crystal’s command, the shapes in the darkness began to take full form.
-You can make it work…-
Words from within the cloud. The vortex was all around him now, leaving Amon within the center of shadows. A place of perfect peace and control.
– You can make it work. You are Amon, the Empire’s most grand technologist.-
The voice had changed now. It was deep and familiar. A voice that he’d longed to please in a previous life.
Amon’s eyes lifted to see the exalted form of Xande, now standing opposite to him. Perhaps from somewhere deeper within the shadows, he heard the distant howl of the hounds.
“Y-Your Majesty?” The Allagan stammered in disbelief.
The Emperor stood, just as Amon remembered him. The body he’d created – etched with aether lines – looking as if it were crafted from stone itself. That death-hardened face and those white vacant eyes.
His once-creation. The creation he’d failed to protect. Failed to save.
Amon was overwhelmed with guilt and grief, his voice cracking as he spoke, “I am… not what I once was. And even at the height of my power, I was unable to serve you, My Lord.”
The apparition did not answer. Instead, his response came from a thousand directions. Everywhere, there was a cacophony of voices raging from the darkness. Shadows that struggled to take shape. Faces of his long-dead victims. The howling of the hounds grew louder.
He couldn’t make out the words they were saying – So many all at once! – but their tone was one of furious blame.
The air grew thicker and threatening. Any control Amon may have thought he had was now melting away. He floundered backwards, all too aware that he was surrounded by shadows on all sides.
Xande then reached out a hand, speaking once again. His strong voice somehow rose above all others.
-Come to me, Amon. Regain your power and awaken the Empire once more!-