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Volume 3, Part 1f

Once he could hear that she'd started back up the stairs, Lucien stood up, walked a little ways into the city, then stopped. He wasn't sure how far he wanted to go. And then, suddenly, he found himself inside a flashback. Learning to read minds, or communicate telepathically, or astral project, or possess bodies... it was all connected. Part of the process of learning these things was learning to fully access his own mind. A side effect of these studies was that memories could sometimes be... quite vivid.

People were dying all around him, friends and foes alike. He had no idea how they'd found the place, but after a mere hundred years, Followers of the One True God had shown up in Lucien's little slice of Heaven, and all Hell was breaking loose. He was in a daze. He just walked through all the carnage. He had the vague impression of possibly occasionally stopping to swing a sword at an enemy, though he had no recollection of having picked up a sword. Mostly he just walked, without even consciously thinking about where he was going.

Suddenly, he found himself in his throne room. God was sitting in his throne. When Lucien entered, he stood, and said, "Shifter, old friend, how the hell are you?! Been a long time. In the shorter scheme of things, of course. Sorry about the mess outside. When my scouts finally found this place, well, the boys were anxious to have a little fun. I didn't have the heart to say no."

Lucien just started at him for half a minute, still in a daze. Then he looked down at the bloody sword in his own hand. He shook his head, and looked up again at God. "Don't call me Shifter, you son of a bitch."

"Now Lucien, is that any way to talk to me, after all I've done for you? I know we're having a little disagreement right now, but c'mon, we've had some good times, too, haven't we? Remember how we used to drink together? How I used to teach you things? When I called you Shifter, why, I wasn't even thinking of the time I started playing that character, or even of convincing people you'd been him. I was just wondering how your shifting has been going. Possess anyone lately? Or are you still sticking to animals?"

Lucien just stared at God in disbelief, as if he couldn't quite understand what he was saying. "We've never been friends. Don't talk like we are, or were, or ever will be. If you have any actual friends, it's the people out there who are killing my friends. I've taught you a few things, you've taught me a few things. It's all part of that damn game. You've never done anything of a truly friendly nature for me."

"I let you name the process of telepathic communication after something from some silly old book you read when you were a child, didn't I? I let you make up that ludicrous rule about losing 1000 points, didn't I? Do you know how rarely I've agreed to a rule a rival makes up? You should know, once I agree to a rule, whether I made it up or someone else did, that's it. It's part of the game for the rest of time, every universe to come. Even if you lose in the end, you'll be remembered. Don't think you don't benefit from some things previous rivals have done. And try to take some comfort in the knowledge that future rivals may benefit from things you've done. ...No response? Hmmm. Still in a bit of shock, I suppose. Which is to be expected. You're in the midst of your first truly major defeat, after all. *sigh* I suppose I'll have to hold up more than my end of the conversation, then. Hmmm...

"So. Heh, yeah, been looking for this place for awhile. Heard plenty of rumors. It's funny, you naming it after the capital city of the UC. Nice sense of humor, and of history. Or were you just feeling a bit nostalgic, old boy? I must say, this crystal castle of yours, way more impressive than your old Presidential office. As befits a god, I suppose. Even a false one."

"I was drunk. We both were, as I recall. When I made up that stupid 1000 point rule. If the sort of situation in which it would be enacted were ever to occur, 1000 points wouldn't begin to make up for it. The offender shouldn't just lose points, but... I don't know, commit seppuku or something. Forfeit the game for all universes to come, maybe."

"Really, Lucien, you can be so dramatic. I hardly think it would be worth all that. Though... I can't imagine ever breaking such a rule in the first place." He grinned wickedly. "I just don't think of you that way, you know?"

"Glad to hear it." Lucien bowed his head a moment, in weariness. Then he turned to look over his shoulder, at nothing in particular. He sighed, and turned back. Then, without warning, he sprang at God and cut off his head in one clean stroke.

The body fell back onto the throne, and the head rolled a short ways on the floor. The eyes looked up at Lucien, and, not having much of a voice to work with at the moment, the head kythed to him, "You've been working out, haven't you?" Lucien stepped forward, and was about to pick up the head, when suddenly several Followers rushed in, swords drawn.

"We heard your kythe, my lord!" said the one in the lead. "Would you have us slay the blasphemer?" A moment later, the same man said, "That won't be necessary. We've accomplished what we came to do. Let's leave him alone with his friends, now."

The warriors turned and exited the throne room, following their god in his new body. Lucien grabbed a torch from a sconce, and set fire to the head and its body. As it burned, he slumped to the floor, leaned against the wall, and wept.

Once again, he was standing near the entrance to the small cave. He half expected to have found himself sitting against the wall in the throne room, right where he'd been... a moment ago, or all those centuries ago. But of course it was just a memory. He looked around at his courtyard. It was beautiful. It had taken a matter of a few weeks to burn the bodies, to scrub away the stains, to repair physical damage. To look at it 1600 years later, remarkably enough, one would never be able to tell this had once been the site of such carnage. It was just so... beautiful. He couldn't stand to look at it, so he closed his eyes and bowed his head.

After another minute, he sighed, and said, "But Charlotte is waiting." So he turned and left the ancient past behind him. "This is no time for chariots. I must think of our modern carriages, and soon we'll have steam engines, yes we will! Bloody wars have to be good for something, don't they?" he muttered to himself as he climbed the stairs...

part 1g
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