Something was up. Stievo had never just checked out for this long before. Aricame knew that Stievo was in the Pacific Northwest, but other than that, the Champion of Light was in the dark. Aricame had outmaneuvered his Other throughout the last decade, yet he was accustomed to reprisals, retaliation, revenge, and retribution. Something about their shared vision – a vision of water and smoke…the life and death of the universe – had changed Stievo.

Aricame had been frightened as well. The reading of the vision was clear – their contest was coming to an end. Aricame’s greater global footprint meant that he had more reserves to draw upon and he was certainly the favorite to win should they go to war, but nothing was certain. Though he held superior strength, it was nearly impossible to initiate a direct attack without a counter blow coming in that split second. Any victory would come with significant loss.

And so the game dragged on a bit longer while Stievo did who-knows-what in the region that launched their family’s story. Aricame thought about meeting him in Seattle, their shared birthplace, to bring everything full-circle. But he decided against it. He liked the poeticism of the location, but not at the risk of his life. Whatever Stievo was up to, that corner of the country had become home turf for him. They needed to meet somewhere else – somewhere significant to them both, yet neutral. The answer came quickly as it was almost too obvious: the little town of Manlius, IL. It was where the two Champions had worked together, however briefly, to destroy Geryman; where Victor Strife gave them each their piece of the Board; where Aricame unleashed the greatest weapon in history up to that point. Yes, it would be where they should reach their end.

Aricame began his journey to Manlius, but before doing so, he sent a telepathic invitation that he knew would be accepted: an image of the two Board pieces, unified.

Newness, genesis, optimism
Blooming, building…a grieving mother
The scales will always find a balance
One cannot be without the other