This chapter was written in collaboration with Scylla.
“You little cowardly… skink!” Scylla reached outward and upwards, either to rip his ears off , or choke his head off his shoulders… she wasn’t sure yet. “You could have done something, Amon!”
She almost had her fingers around his ears when the voice startled her out of his anger.
“AMON! SCYLLA!” The voice radiated out. “Look, this node is configured to detect stress patterns between the two of you… Trust me, I have enough data for two lifetimes on the bickering I’ve seen.”
“Listen. We’ve made a breakthough up here at the Aetherochemical Research Facility. My staffers have worked out the interdimensional balancing… and we have… summoning!” The voice sounded hopeful. “I am hoping that the emperor finds this pleasing enough to calm his wrath.”
“But in any case, I have seen this man kill his own kind… loyal, hard-working Allagans.” The node voice choked. “And I cannot be a part of this anymore.”
“I have ignored it too long… ” The voice seemed to grow old and tired. “And this started long before the emperor… at least… this emperor… Xande is just a symptom of what the agents of destruction wanted to happen.”
Amon had backed a step away, lifting his arms in a defensive position – Scylla was far more aggressive now than he remembered her being in the Tower. Perhaps it had something to do with the effects of the hounds…
No matter, he was grateful that her onslaught was stopped short by the node’s chiding once more. At least something seemed to remind her to keep her place. He really didn’t want to have to be the one to do it – but he would, if he was pushed.
The Elezen tried to shove away his irritation and concentrate on the node’s words. He did remember this – the discover of Summoning – what an amazing breakthrough it had been! But try as he might, Amon didn’t remember Lord Diokeles’ attendance at the grand ceremony when they announced the unveiling of this new type of magic to the Tower.
Had he… already passed by then? It was hard to remember. So many things were fuzzy in his mind.
The node’s final words stood out, however. And Amon found himself echoing.
“Agents of destruction? What are you on about?” The Elezen frowned. “Xande was… an incomplete resurrection. A grave miscalculation. The error wasn’t discovered until it was well too late. I did what I could to research a fix for his condition, but things spiraled out of control too quickly for me to respond. If I’d been given time, though…”
“Oh, this is where you are in error, my young prodigy. Xande was a brilliant success, for those who are manipulating the very direction of the Empire. Everything was in the right place. Xande’s aether preserved body, an empire with the greatest technological advancement. They just needed us to start the destruction in motion.”
“We all played our part, even myself.” The node spun around, rotating in irritation.
“They gave me your folder, Amon… They knew you had a way of connecting to the aether that was rare. They gave me the aether-enhancing-drugs to administer to you… and the chemical augmentation schedule as you grew. Somehow, they knew everything that would happen… the power, and the side-effects…”
Amon gritted his teeth uncomfortably at the talk of the aetherochemical enhancements.
It was true that Lord Diokeles had taken part in the initial injections that he agreed to take as a child. Originally, the treatment was supposed to be but temporary, and he was told it’d improve his performance in class… But he had been the one to choose to continue to use them, expand on their properties and improve their potential as he came into his own knowledge.
Unlike most, he hadn’t seen them as a drug. There was an addictive quality to them, to be certain, but he’d always embraced the paths they opened for his mind. He doubted he would have become as powerful as he had without them.
Even now, just to think about them, Amon felt a distant longing…
The Elezen shook his head, trying to focus on the node’s words. Once more, drip-feeding them with information.
How could all of this have been set up? Amon had walked his own wild paths – no one could have known what he’d choose to do. What he’d choose to become. That he’d delve into the darkest secrets of immortal life and undeath.
It was preposterous to think anyone could have… orchestrated all of that!
“You must be mistaken,” Amon shook his head. “Who would have the knowledge and ability to manipulate that many things at once? Not even the best swindlers in the Tower, and there were quite a few, could have foreseen what came about. And certainly, who would have wanted to watch everything we built crumble into dust?”