In the land that knows no pardon.

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Achilles and Hector

Clínica Avila Hospital, Caracas

The air was cool. The hospital was still, the quiet only broken by the beeping of a heart monitor. On the bed lay a blue furred mutant, swathed in bandages, and beside him set the absolute ruler of the worlds only mutant nation.

She tossed her boots up onto the the rail of his hospital bed. Tattooed fingers opened a worn copy of Moby-Dick and read to him.

“ 'There is a wisdom that is woe; but there is a woe that is madness. And there is a Catskill eagle in some souls that can alike dive down into the blackest gorges, and soar out of them again and become invisible in the sunny spaces. And even if he for ever flies within the gorge, that gorge is in the mountains; so that even in his lowest swoop the mountain eagle is still higher than other birds upon the plain, even though they soar.' ”

Ivana paused to turn the page and a blue eyelid cracked open.

"Ah, the eloquent prose of Herman Melville."

She looked up at him, a grin crossing her face and bleeding into her eyes like the glow of sunrise warming the clouds. "More like the pretentious babble."

He pushed himself up on his elbows. "You must learn to appreciate the flower of English literature."

She brandished the novel. "This thing is nine hundred pages. Hell of a long book for a fishing trip. Do they even catch the whale?"

"I do not entirely recall, at the present."

"Yeah you didn't finish it did you. You got bored after six hundred pages of nothing and just pretended you'd read it."

"Pfft. I will have you know, I have a most demanding schedule."

"Uh huh." She grinned at him. "I missed you, by the way."

He grinned back. "No great quantity of time has elapsed, I hope?"

"Twenty eight days." Six hours and about twenty two minutes.

"Oh dear. Have I missed a great deal?"

"Little bit. Shawn is out of reach for now. Gothic is Gothicing. Abigail is the new Raysh Al Shaytan of the League of Shadows."

"Abigail? My, that is most intriguing. Most intriguing indeed."

"Yeah." Ivana stared out the window, gaze distant.

"There is some nuance to the situation, I assume?"

"Oh yeah. She really pisses me off."

Arrachtach chuffed with quiet laughter. "Achilles and Hector were never the best of friends."

"I'm not Achilles. Abigail isn't Hector." She frowned and tossed his book to him. "This isn't a story. Its life and I can't stand the self-righteous bitch."

"But you are Achilles. You won an empire with a knife throw. You are Achilles, and Alexander and King Author. Abigail is Prometheus. She is Odysseus. She's a no one from London who traveled around the world with a bow and arrow, and fought with Ivana and Charlemagne. She has stolen fire from the gods. Blinded Cyclops. And it is a story. Its the greatest story ever told. We call it life."

Ivana fell silent, staring out the window at the stars amid the darkness. "I miss Amaranth. He was better at this."

"My dear, Aramanth was a man aware of his own myth. He wore his legend like a cloak. You do not wear anything; you are simply you. A naked blade of rage and pain and will."

A snort. "Yeah, I remember. Amaranth. The man. The myth. The legend. How can I live up to that shit?"

"Be who you are. Live your own legend. You did seize a throne with a knife throw, did you not?"

"That's the problem. I'm the Shogun because I threw a knife. What the hell does that have to do with leading the mutant people?"

"But you were the one with the will to throw it."

"..yeah. Maybe. Still, anyone could have thrown that knife."

"When Amaranth laid siege to the Knightfall's Kamelot his allies did the fighting while Amaranth shot Quintus in the back. That is what legends are -really- made of. A shot in the back. A thrown knife. It is only later they become something more. The deed itself is only the seed."

A comfortable silence fell. Ivana watched the stars, blue eyes far away. Arrachtach read.

"Well. Ready to get out of here?" The Shogun broke the silence after half an hour.

"Indeed. Most ready and eager."

She rose and helped him out of the bed. "You know, sometimes you are a smart guy."

"Sometimes? Gee. How will I live with this honor."

"Shadup." She elbowed him in the ribs as they walked out the door, both smiling.