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for through reason he subjugated all elements to himself

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Defiling would be too strong a term for what Emet-Selch is doing to the throne of the once-great Emperor of Ronka, but the Exarch is tempted to use it nonetheless.

The Warrior of Light has descended into the Ravel, where magicks unknown prevent the Ocular’s gaze, and it would be rudeness to watch Fanow, where of his charges only Y’shtola remains. When last he looked in, only for a moment, she appeared to be convalescing well; though he knows not by what sorcery Emet-Selch has restored her to life, it is to his own dismay he admits even to himself some amount of gratitude. Thus the Exarch was left with little else but to follow Emet-Selch in his wanderings, released from captivity following this show of supposed goodwill. He had dithered about, tracking some trail of aether in the forest; at midday he had laid under a shade tree and napped—a blissful interlude from the incessant talk, narrating his doings to no-one in particular in an apparent habit of his.

If he suspected he was being watched, he gave no indication. The Viis had discontinued their surveillance, against the Exarch’s own better judgment, and indeed by what ought to be dusk Emet-Selch had found his way to the central temple, the very seat of the Emperor’s power—and he had helped himself to that seat entirely too literally. He now sprawls in it, skirts pulled between knees spread wide, slouching even beyond the roll of his shoulders the Exarch suspects, but cannot confirm, is not an affect.

When after but a moment he slips out of his shrug and drapes it over one thick stone arm, even the satisfaction of having been correct does not spare the Exarch the impulse to roll his eyes. He next unclasps his collar, and the belt of his frock coat. The cache-cœur beneath falls open across his chest to expose bare flesh, untouched by the sun in the harsh Garlean clime. “That’s better,” he muses aloud. “I felt I was overdressed for the part.”

He knows, then, that he is being watched. Perhaps some minor disruption in the æther betrays the focus of the Ocular’s gaze: undetectable to the Exarch whose own resonance now cannot be distinguished from that of the Tower, but plain as the endless day to a being which manipulates æther as naturally as the Exarch might breathe.

Emet-Selch has continued his display, tilting his head with one gloved hand near his face; he grasps the seam at the tip of his middle finger, and pulls. He lets the glove fall to his lap without ceremony, and repeats the procedure with the next. When he’s finished, he laces his fingers; pops the knuckles to a terrible echo, and stretches his arms straight above his head.

The Exarch’s grip tightens on his staff, resolutely still.

“You’ve taken to spying, have you? But your Tower is hardly the subtlest of instruments.” At this he lifts his head, and faces the Exarch himself, and he would meet his eyes should the Exarch take but one sidestep. It is close enough to send an unnerving chill through the Exarch’s remaining flesh, though imprecise enough he may tell himself there are limits to even Emet-Selch’s ætheric sense. “I will take no offense if you wish to avert your gaze, but you’ll understand it has been some time since I’ve reveled in these hallowed halls.” His voice carries amidst the stone walls, where once no doubt court musicians played for their Emperor—to take him at his word, for Emet-Selch himself, returned to deface a monument built to be his own tomb.

The Exarch follows the fine movements of Emet-Selch’s hands. He has never before seen them uncovered, deft fingers making swift work of the ties fastening his skirts about his waist until his last layers lay open at his sides, his body half-bare where he sits.

“You do surprise me,” Emet-Selch says at last, too mild to be candid, his lip curled in what can only be amusement. “And here I thought it was your dear friend who held your interest.” He drags his palms across the expanse of his own torso, lingering in no place but arching his back into his own touch. “Would that I had my finery at hand.”

Sparing too few hours for study in a century’s time, the Exarch is nonetheless familiar with Ronka, having found himself entranced by yet another lost civilization capable of wonders. Should Emet-Selch be dressed for court he would be wearing it and little else: strung beads dripping from his neck and wrists, heavy draped upon Solus zos Galvus’ gaunt frame; on each finger a ring of hammered gold or carved from jade; dispensing the coats for a skirt which covered his thighs, if that. He sees it in his mind’s eye clear as the tales of Allag, of Xande on his throne, the countenance befitting all great rulers of men made manifest.

The Exarch wills the thought no further. He can yet suppress the ardor coursing through his veins. Such can be no more than a natural response to so base a display, the likes of which he has not yet seen in this life.

Now as ever, Emet-Selch lacks any and all compunctions. His nails rake scores down his belly, raised pink on skin near translucent. The Exarch’s eyes track the movement, trailing lower and lower still through the line of sparse dark hair, until Emet-Selch curls his fingers around the base of his cock.

Reason impels the Exarch to look away; he does not.

He has never before seen a cock not his own—not hard, at any rate, and Emet-Selch’s unmistakably is. It fills his hand, long fingers just able to close around its width where on himself the Exarch’s thumb overlaps to the knuckle around all but the base at its thickest. But Emet-Selch’s is smooth in the way of the other races, thick throughout, longer—with his fingers near the root he must lift his hand to pull back the skin and rub the pad of his thumb across the slit at the head. To witness another in this act is obscene, even absurd, and yet the image Emet-Selch renders is one of elegance. He conjures a king in a romance, a hero of eld how he dares all to behold him. The Exarch parts his lips.

“Remember, my dear Exarch,” Emet-Selch begins, lifting his hand that he might lick the fluid from his thumb, “that this is not the Source. You needn’t ask your mother’s permission, nor earn the right to take your pleasure.”

Unseen in the Tower he alone commands, the Exarch closes his eyes, and reaches into his robes.