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Arrows and bombs
The terrain was unstable. Aïdōneús chose his steps carefully. He twisted an ankle one time as a child. He could still hear the pop that cut short a runner’s exercise. He took up swimming later that season at the behest of the country club’s trainer. Turned out he had a knack for the sport despite a natural detest for the water. But once submerged, flying weightless, it was rather exhilarating. Besides, the exercise kept him fit.

The air was thin here also. It reminded him of Siberia, cutting wind included. He put a hand to his eyes, gauging the remaining distance. A sunless sky blinked from above, blinding him momentarily as his heart sank low.

Aïdōneús gathered the wool close, warm, but annoyingly scratchy. He preferred fur, a nice skein dyed black as night. Why was he here, he thought as slate scattered loose beneath his boots. Grumbling, he carried forward despite the unease growing in his belly - not from the menacing caverns stretching far below. 

His swimmer’s lungs - so accustomed to stretches between breaths - burned in the thin air. The darkness of a cave opened temptingly nearby, but with a sigh, he turned his back to the cold air. The hand went to his brow again, eyes piercing the sky with the same biting blue that snapped back at him. Then he saw it. A black speck at first. A frown deepened the lines on his face. It soared straight as a missile - a what? he thought. He stretched outward, trying to capture the demon with his very eyes.

The arc of its trajectory turned downward. It was then that he knew that something terrible was going to happen. When it touched the horizon, the mountain trembled and the resulting fires touched the heavens. Horror wrapped him tight as the shroud knotted his neck. Dozens of the demons darkened the skies sharper than arrows and mightier than bombs.

Power swelled his bones, but he spit out the taste of doom that silvered his throat. With his furious steps, the earth trembled. He’d not see everything he built cast down like this! The mountain bowed with his departure. Aïdōneús roared defiantly, and their aim was drawn toward himself.

He knew what had to be done.

The earth opened beneath his feet. When the maw closed, the fires were swallowed to its depths, and the darkness trapped them all.

Nikolai’s own cry of alarm woke him up, and the darkness sure to have been real, was banished to the four corners of his room by a swift flick of the power’s light.

He was drenched in sweat. Bad dreams plagued him like the ijiraq made good on her promise with nightly dedication. That had to be the origin of these nightly screenplays - or so his therapist suggested. A frown, and he got up. 3:15 AM was early, even for the Ascendancy.

He called Evelyn.

She was radiant, answering almost instantly. Her expression changed after the initial moment of gleeful surprise.

“Nik, it’s the middle of the night there. Whats wrong?”

He couldn’t help but look at the scene behind her shoulder. Daylight streamed into her office. No bombs blanketed the horizon. No hellish pits swallowed them all.

“You had another one,” she deduced.

“I just wanted to see that you were safe. You’re important to me.”

She chuckled at his austere gesture of affection. “Oh Nik, I love it when you talk like that.” She winked and some sort of spell was discharged. His shoulders relaxed, and his own face dropped the tension.

“What’s on your agenda today?” He asked, but Evelyn knew exactly what he really wanted. She filled the following minutes with the sing-song sound of her voice. He didn’t really listen to the details, but soon, he was laying his head back down, and had no idea when the call ended.
Nikolai sipped from his morning drink as he listened to a pair of advisors providing an update on geopolitical developments in Africa.

Nikolai did not read reports. He listened to updates from people. People who could think and answer questions in the moment. People had opinions and expertise he did not. It was by surrounding himself with quality people that he acquired as much power as he had. One man couldn’t know everything about everything, but he could lead others who did.

Of all the regions, the majority of their conversation centered on Egypt as the base of Al Janyar’s power. The man who led the group was killed by one of his own, it seemed. “That’s good news,” Nikolai said, expecting agreement. However, the two advisors – one military and the other intelligence – glanced at each other.

The General thoughtfully replied. “It is now apparent that a channeler has taken his place. We are still working to accurately identify him.”
The man from intelligence followed up, “Ibrahim Bubak is not confirmed to be dead,” the officer began, “but we strongly believe that to be the case.”

Nikolai considered this channeler. He would need to be powerful enough to control the native channelers. “What about the Legion? How are they faring?”

They’ve allied with the local forces against Al Janyar.”

“The Legion-embedded rod of dominion should be able to withstand their channeler forces one on one,” Nikolai said confidently.

The general shook his head, “Perhaps, but the Rod isn’t with the Legion.”

Nikolai blinked in surprise. The Patron’s granddaughter failed to uphold her promise. He’d deal with that later. For now, he gestured that the report continue.

“In particular, there has been a significant local support by people inhabiting the northeast coast. As a result, Al Janyar has pulled back into Sudan. Eritrea and Dijoubti largely drove them out on their own, with our – the Legion’s – assistance of course.” A heat map showed the fluidity of the region over the last few weeks. This was an important development. Al Janyar was creeping closer and closer to gaining power in Dominance V. They had to be contained. Nikolai wouldn’t allow another uprising in an already unstable region.

“Alright. Instruct Danjou to continue the efforts. I want Al Janyar out of Egypt and pushed west,” Nikolai said.

The two departed shortly after.

Nikolai then made arrangements to speak with Edward Northbrook later that day.

@Natalie Grey
@Giovanni Cavelli
@Jay Carpenter
Several days later, 
5 AM, Kremlin

The shower was a refreshing return to his typical morning routine. His back was already sore simply reaching up to rinse his hair. It had been months since a good workout given his private space was destroyed by the infiltration of the Regus and attack by his Ijiraq horde. Construction in the heart of the fortress’ basement wasn’t an easy undertaking when every single element was so heavily scrutinized for security. Naturally, Nikolai demanded some upgrades since the opportunity was upon them.

Next to nobody had access to his personal retreat. The few allowed to pierce the veil of his privacy rarely justified the intrusion. Such, as he cinched a bathrobe around his waist, the notification of a message caught his attention flickering along the wall tiles. The power swept aside the humidity hovering the room as he skimmed it.

The mirror caught a momentary flicker of his smile. He played the feed as he finished getting dressed. By the time he emerged, his deputy chief of staff was awake, nursing a coffee and waiting for orders. Nikolai had plenty as they made the journey to the Executive offices. The Kremlin was mostly empty at this time of the morning. Many offices wouldn’t open for another hour. Staff, military, and security presence remained ever vigilant.

“I want a reaction in hand within the hour. The Ascendancy will publicly respond to this news at 8 AM live.”  

Texas announced their departure from the United States at almost the exact same time Evelyn’s legislation to join the Custody hit the floor.

Bombs weren't dropping on Washington, but the capitol must be in uproar.

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