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Last Flight of the Admiral Stalkforth 19

“Has your memory returned yet my liege?” asked Jole.

The Admiral was silent for a time. This place was familiar, and he had certainly crossed paths with whatever or whoever was inside.

“Faintly. Somehow I feel it is the end of my journey.”

“Perhaps. This is the Patriarch’s Palace.”

Jole placed his hand in the center of the two doors, and whispered, “Ultos Huros Exedi Nom.”

The doors swung open and revealed a hallway of metallic green stone. The ceiling was covered by a mural so complex and colorful it was nearly impossible to glean any meaning from the images. The Admiral stared at it as they entered; it seemed to tell the story of half-bird half-man creatures warring against wraiths of blue and white.

They walked down the hallway and then entered into a large, circular chamber. Here, the walls were entirely covered in moving images from other planets. They were crystalline info feeds of landscapes throughout the galaxy: oceans, mountains, swirling storms, glaciers of blazing blue, rolling green hills, and more. In sharp contrast, the floor and ceiling were solid unreflecting black, much like the outside sky. An oval platform with many small circles etched into its surface hovered in the middle of the room. Standing behind it was a giant broad shouldered man with large intelligent eyes and thin colorless lips. His head was completely bald, lacking even eyebrows or eyelashes, and his face was immaculately smooth and clear. Facing away with hands behind his back, he watched a flock of glass-winged creatures dive by the thousand into a sea of bubbling purple-black on one of the feeds.

The Admiral’s chest tightened as the memory of this man forced itself on him. He knew exactly what the man wanted, and he resolved not to give it.

“Have a seat my friend,” the man said, still absorbed in the feed. His voice had a cheerful twang.

A high backed chair emerged from the floor and the Admiral sat down. Jole silently took his leave.

The man turned and looked at the Admiral.

“How good it is to see you again, my friend.”

“I’ve never seen you before in my life.”

The man’s eyes widened and he barked in laughter. “Noel Stalkforth, you always were a poor liar! You were the presiding regent at all four of my daughter’s weddings, and you personally arbitrated my elevation to the office of Grand Patriarch.” He smiled broadly and revealed a set of large white teeth, the tips dyed bright red.

“It is quite an office isn’t it?” he added.

“I have no recollection of you or this place.”

The standing man sighed visibly. “Very well. Let me introduce myself, I am Lüs Goldenpath, lord of all Andredony. And your amnesia is nothing but slag Noel. The neural-net I put over the Jade Javelin recorded your thoughts of Lumina and the Ulstrum War.”

“I remember a few things from my time in exile.”

“And also Lord Grefa?”

The Admiral stiffened. “Where is he?”

Lüs chuckled. “You’ll see him soon enough. Until then, shall we discuss the matter at hand?” He leaned forward on the oval platform and fixed the Admiral with clear gray eyes.

“Very well.”

“Excellent! Noel, you know as I do that victory is like the welt of a lash. At first strong and bright, but soon scabbed over and dull. Because of this, new conquests must arise to overlap the marks of the old. The ecstasy of triumph must be kept as fresh and hot as blood. The blaze of valor must always be stoked with the white-hot brand. After twenty long years of peace, our scabs are innumerable.”

He extended his arms to the thousands of animated portraits. “But not for much longer! We finally have the opportunity to wage war again and return glory to Andredony.”