Photios sat in his throne, a golden seat studded in red rubies and furnished with a lush red cushion. The rest of this room was just as extravagant, but elsewhere, everything was plain, dark stone, carved from ancient, volcanic rock. This was his temple, his sanctum, his quiet place.
What the Raptor was doing here, he did not know.
“You look nice,” Phovos smiled as she stood next to Photios. “Is that your ceremonial garb?”
Photios glanced down. He was wearing nothing but a fire red sash and his standard belt, adorned with a three-pronged flame buckle, an emblem he used to represent himself.
“No. Normal wear.”
The Fire Lord’s reply was blunt. It had been a long, arduous walk back from the Sixteen Temple, and word had spread quickly about what he had done. He’d expected to arrive home and see an army threatening to tear everything apart, but the place was mostly empty. Those who may have had grievances with his decisions had already moved on.
“Huh. Suits you. Despite your not being well, you’re still as beautiful as ever.”
Compared to Photios, Phovos’s attire was rather terrifying. A complete leather armour set with steel shoulder plates, padding on her thighs and that distinctive chest plate she always wore, the one that was shaped like a rounded Y. She had been wearing a full helmet as well, carved with vertical lines and metal horns, but she’d taken it off once Photios entered. She’d actually managed to get here faster than Photios had and he had no idea how she’d managed it.
“Thank you… You look beautiful yourself…” Photios muttered. Many Thanatians considered Phovos to be incredibly ugly. Short, stumpy, chunky, lacking that thin, toned look that the female members of the Sixteen were known for. But the Raptor was always someone who did whatever she wanted. After all, she was considered one of the most powerful Thanatians alive. “Why… Why are you here?”
Phovos leaned against the throne, sighing. “Kindyna called me as soon as she could and told me. So did Dilitir. So did Skios. So did Trisma. Is everything okay?”
Photios sighed. He pulled out a small, ceremonial dagger that he normally kept hidden underneath the cushion on his throne and started fiddling with it. “No. They have lost their way.”
“No, really?” Phovos’s reply was overly sarcastic.
“They make bad decisions behind my back. We are falling as a species, Phovos. Falling apart.”
“Because we have lost our unity.”
The Fire Lord looked up at Phovos. “Should I not have left? I do not know how to fix this.”
“I’ll be honest, neither do I,” the Raptor admitted. “Perhaps this time, we just let them fail.”
“You don’t support us any more, do you?”
Phovos got up and stood in front of Photios.
“I thought not. Is this because of-”
“No. It is not because if your overthrowing Mavri and Thymos. I let you do that. Because I saw that they were failing their duties and that it was too late for them to correct their path. I thought that maybe, after all these years, you’d move in the direction that was best for the Thanatoforic races.”
“You were wrong.”
“I was. Because I didn’t realise that insane Temthan mindset would get in. Those Temthans wanted us to join them and we said no. But we’ve been unwittingly adopting their ways anyway. Well… Zoi has…”
Photios rolled his eyes, then sunk in his seat. He was tired. He wasn’t feeling well. He wished he had the strength he used to have.
“So we let them fail. What then?”
“We do to the rest of the Thanatian territories what I have been doing to Vriskera,” Phovos smiled. “Starting with your Ember Canyons. Just have to hope that the Fifteen don’t declare war on us…”