After hearing of Zach Silva Cooke’s mysterious suicide, Carenf and Glendan knew it was only a matter of time before Geryman would come for them, yet they didn’t know what to do. They wanted so badly to avoid another conflict that they were paralyzed, impotent. With the burning of Portland the time had come – the second war had begun. And with Geryman stronger than ever, it threatened to be far worse than its predecessor.

Carenf sat in the middle of her living room, legs crossed, palms up, eyes closed, breath steady, mind focused. Mother channeled son and invited him to a meeting space deep within themselves. This was a place they shared, not just with each other, but with their Others, open to all living Champions. Then came the vision:

Mother and son seated side by side
Father and son across the table
Two generations, four Champions
Each with wine, bloody meat, a serrated knife
Eyes that betray nothing, still hands, intensity
Then, the first move
Geryman’s hand tightens around the glass
Shatters, bleeds
A smile, blackened eyes

After exiting the shared mind space, Carenf knew what was necessary and she delegated the next steps. Glendan would rally their powerful friends around the region to take on Tayli and Janifer. She then called Aricame to inform him that he needed to stay put because he would soon be visited by perhaps the greatest teacher in the world. Victor Strife was a man with more knowledge than any living being; a man of ambiguous morality and ethics, whose motives were uncertain, but whose ability was unquestioned. His insights could help find a weakness in Geryman. And if no weakness was to be found, Carenf knew he would be needed to train her successor. He was the desperate measure for these desperate times.

As for Carenf herself, the previous war had escalated so rapidly, so reflexively, and the carnage had been so unfathomable that she was determined to avoid as much bloodshed as possible this time around. She would face Geryman in six weeks’ time. Face-to-face, Champion versus Champion. Only one would survive.

Bullied on the schoolyard
Without will, to fight is too hard
Appeasement over provocation
Agreement and silent humiliation