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Mercury Visits Penumbra and Has a Vision

It was the night of the one-hundredth anniversary of Cymneo's death, when his daughter slowly mounted the stair to the ghost city of Penumbra. The stars shone down brightly on this moonless night, and gave a spectral sheen to Mercury's jet-black hair. Although Ebony's only princess rarely walked about armed, she was wearing a long, silver rapier at her hip this evening. One could never be too careful in such situations she thought to herself as she reached the top of the staircase and entered the deserted streets of Penumbra.

The soft tread of the princess's boots as she walked down the empty streets was the only sound. She did not have a specific destination in mind, instead allowing her feelings to guide her. After a time, she felt a presence behind her and turned to see a small boy holding out a flower to her. It was the same kind as she placed on her father's grave every year. As she took the flower, she could feel a burning in her chest where she had re-carved her father's griffin several hours earlier.

The boy motioned to Mercury and then turned and ran off. Mercury followed the boy until at last he turned back to look at her with sad eyes and then slowly dissipated into smoke and drifted off on a light breeze.

Mercury found herself standing outside the door to Ebony's throne room. As she looked upon it, the door swung silently open. As she watched, she found herself unable to move or even utter a sound. Dreamlike, the scene unfolded . . .

In the throne sat the image of her mother, Queen Titania, but this queen wore a face Mercury had never seen on her mother, not even on the day of Cymneo's death. Her face was twisted in malicious rage, and in her hand she clutched a dagger. Behind her stood a figure clad in armor, all straight-edges and seeming somehow bright in the starlight. The face of the figure was an androgynous beauty, horrible in its perfection. Its hand rested on the throne, as if supporting it.

Before the throne was the slight but distinct form of Rozel. Titania was clearly railing at the archmage in outrage. As she yelled, she gestured off to another corner of the room, drawing Mercury's gaze to two more ghosts she had not noticed before.

One was Neptune, regal and poised as Mercury never knew him in life. The other was less clear, clouded in shadow. Taller even than Neptune but seeming frail and leaning on a thin staff. The two seemed oblivious to the discussion occurring at the throne, and Mercury looked back there to see what was happening.

Rozel gave a final shake of her head and turned her back on Titania. The Queen looked for a moment at the knife in her hand, then seemed to change her mind. She turned her face to the side and spoke to the armored perfection behind her. Without hesitation, the thing moved stepped forward towards Rozel, it's gauntleted hands outstretched, its expression fixed with a look of absolute serenity.

The door to the throne room glided slowly shut then. The spell was broken and Mercury found herself free to move. To the east she saw that the horizon was beginning to lighten, and that Penumbra was beginning to dissolve. She dashed then to be free from the City of Nightmares before it vanished with the dawn.

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