Visana’s fingers trembled on the grip of the sword, because she could do nothing. Nothing. Herself, armed with star-fire, the stranger vibrating with power after drinking a thousand years of potential in a heartbeat - Malphas was still smiling because it all meant nothing. The distance between the knife and Aegis’ throat was too short - shorter than the reach of her blade, shorter even than the distance between her fingertips and the spells that might have saved him. Move to protect, and she would destroy.
"Well, Sovereign of Rulers," Malphas taunted, lowering the blade closer to Aegis’ exposed neck, her grip on his brown hair rough and unforgiving, "Do you have any parting words for your fellow comrades?"
Malphas, the Duchess of Pain, the Wrackmaven, gifted them all a razor-cold smile. If Minos’ voice was a spike hammered through the skull, hers was a silken glove closing around Visana’s throat. She stood behind Aegis, dagger poised. The Eternal’s own words - his last words - were bittersweet, not only passing his mantle to the Timekeeper who had saved Visana twice already, but putting a name to the stranger who had fought to free them.
Moriteva - the Lifeweaver. She knew him by reputation if not by sight, but Malphas’ dagger smile told them that they had run out of time and life both.
But then, Aegis smiled.
And then everything seemed to happen at once. The Eternal spoke, his command irresistible as a storm front. The illusion of Malphas scattered like a cloud of fireflies. An army of Consumed roared their mistress’ thwarted rage, and the eyeless creatures surged across the stands towards them. In the smoking caldera of the arena floor, Silvanus raised up a vortex of spinning runestones, slitting his palm to imbue them with the power of a god’s blood.
"You treacherous insect!" Minos's voice reverberated through the arena, a cacophony of wrath. The Lord of Judgment seethed with anger, his many insectoid arms raised high into the air.
Atrophos reacted, dust boiling up with a gesture and zagging across the ground towards the sin-reaper.
"For your blasphemous transgression against the Duchess," Minos’ voice was a fell harmony, shrieking and growling. As the sound hammered pain behind her eyes, Visana remembered the Lifeweaver’s whispered words. Minos only seems to be able to pass judgement when he speaks.
Her sword swept down, its point cutting the lines of a glyph through the air.
"I," Minos sputtered, already choking on the dust, "Pass judgement upon y—"
The end of the curse was sliced short as a rippling, ice-blue globe sprang up around the sin-reaper, twin to the one that Visana had raised around herself to hold the crushing tree at bay. Protection turned prison.
Minos shimmered as if through water, clawing soundlessly at the bubble while the light bending through it twisted him into grotesque shapes. The dust trapped inside with him surged gleefully, and Visana glanced at Atrophos as the strangest thought occurred to her: normally she and the god of decay were polar opposites, scattering the iron filings of life as they fought to repulse each others’ influence. And now for the first time in her long memory, the preserver and the perisher had knowingly collaborated. It was too strange, and she couldn’t hold his gaze for more than a moment.
She turned to Minos instead. She and her companions were free now, and they would not be stopped. Earth was bleeding, and for all she knew Elysium with it. How long had she been imprisoned in the twilight down here - a week, a month? Too long. Too many humans’ pleas unanswered, too many prayers lost in the smothering gulf between Terra and Hades. The Fall had been traumatic, but this was intolerable.
“I told you,” she hissed, throwing all her pent-up frustration at the sin-reaper, “To run.”
An extended palm, a thrum of power. Minos’ scream of rage was lost within the bubble as both he and it were propelled away from the coliseum stands, over the broken-tooth battlements, and down out of sight.