Serlai stormed up the steps of the Imperial Palace, barely aware of the storm that had been lashing down on him for the last half an hour. Barely aware of the blood that covered him, that had mixed with the driving rain and left a watery red trail down the ivory-white steps behind him. All he knew was that it was the wrong blood. They'd gone too far. The guards stayed out of his way. Unless they knew, they had little reason to stop the Knight-Captain from entering the palace. If they knew, they most likely didn't dare. Not tonight.

He shoved the great palace doors open. They were heavy and groaned as they swung open. Servants inside froze still as Serlai strode through the hallways, looking nothing like they were used to. The occupants of the palace were more familiar with the well groomed, well mannered Serlai, not the bloodstained, storm-soaked apparition with matted hair that stalked past them now, dark faced and fists clenched.

Still no-one barred his path. It was the dead of night, and the palace was quiet, save for the occasional servant or guard. Those that saw him raised no alarm. A few cast their eyes guiltily away from him, knowing what had been done. Some gazed sadly at him, knowing how this night had begun, and how it would end.

Serlai ignored them all. He knew where he was going. He knew who had done this to him. Serlai knew that he would be waiting for him, even at this hour. He stormed through familiar corridors that now seemed hostile and alien. Everything inside him felt cold, except for a burning rage in the pit of his stomach.

He came finally to the right door, as heavily guarded as Serlai had expected. They were the personal bodyguards of his superior, and these men showed no sign of hesitation. They drew weapons and approached him. Serlai pulled his own sword free. White hot anger all but blinded him. He wasn't sure how long it took, but when he stopped, the corridor was covered in blood and littered with bodies.

Without hesitating, he swung the door open. The man beyond clearly wasn't surprised to see him, and was already standing with sword in hand. Serlai growled. "Valkia…"

The Lord smiled. He was dressed head to toe in finest black silk. Wicked eyes stared out from behind thick dark hair. With his thin mouth twisted in a cruel grin he looked like something from a nightmare. This was an esteemed lord. This was the new Emperor's favourite creature.

"Valkia…you bastard…" Serlai managed, choking on his anger.

Valkia merely chuckled. "Now Serlai, you only have yourself to blame. I warned you there would be consequences, if you didn't obey."

Serlai trembled. He just wanted to kill the man. He was going to kill the man, but he needed answers. He couldn't leave without knowing why. "They were unarmed. You could have just killed me. Why did it have to be them?" Serlai cursed inwardly at the tremble in his voice.

Valkia sighed theatrically. "Serlai, you have to understand. There are those that would hold you as a martyr. There are those who, like you, still hold to the Old Order. They would use you as a hero to rally behind, especially if you had died for your cause. Oh but now. Now you're a madman. You're an unbalanced killer. You killed your wife and your daughters. My goodness, you actually stabbed the youngest as her mother held her, trying to protect her. Then you came here to attack me! Me who was right about you all along… What a monster you are." Valkia's mouth snapped into a humourless smile.

Serlai paled. "People will never believe…"

Valkia laughed. "Oh yes they will. Rumour spreads quickly and people have very little room for their own opinions. They will know the facts. They will have the accounts of the people that saw you walk through town, with murder in your eyes and blood on your clothes. They will find my story all too easy to swallow. And in one night, you no longer become my problem."

Serlai lunged forward with a roar, cutting out at Valkia's neck. The Lord moved like a snake, deflecting the blow and returning one of his own in the same moment. His sword cut into Serlai's chest, slicing a wound across his unprotected body. The Knight staggered back, gasping with shock and pain. Valkia stepped forward, flowing almost like liquid as his sword struck Serlai twice more, cutting shallow wounds that crossed his stomach. Serlai tried to strike back at him, only to miss as Valkia side-stepped him and cut another two wounds in his side, causing him to cry out and lose his footing. Valkia was behind him now, and blows rained down on his back, none deep enough to be fatal, but each and every one an agonising blow that forced Serlai to his knees. There was a flurry of movement and Valkia's knee caught him in the face, hurling him onto his back.

Serlai half-rolled and spat blood onto the floor. Gripping his sword tightly, he struggled back onto his knees. Valkia's next blow came up viciously, striking at his face with a ferocity that was meant to kill this time. Serlai barely snapped his head back in time, but the blade still struck him hard, cutting across the left side of his face in a spray of blood. Valkia moved forward to deliver the final blow.

Serlai surged to his feet, using every last reserve of strength and will he had left. He rose quickly, swinging his sword upward. The blade hit Valkia hard, cutting a long, deep wound across the Lord's body with enough force to drop him to the floor, his sword clattering against the wall. Serlai made a move forward to finish him, only for his legs to buckle and force him back to his knees.

Serlai tried again to rise, but his legs wouldn't obey him. His body was racked with pain, and struggling back to his feet was an ordeal that robbed him of all his strength. He could barely hold his sword. He could barely see. Valkia had pulled himself to his feet and retrieved his own sword, but his face was grey with pain. He managed a withered smile.

"I think that's enough Serlai. Get out of my sight. I could kill you where you stand, but now there would be no satisfaction is such an act. Get out of here. You shall live with the pain I have given you. You shall live with the despair that you were not strong enough to defeat me. I will not give you the satisfaction of ending you."

Serlai struggled to stay upright. "You…You're afraid of me…You're hurt Valkia. You're afraid I might just finish you. Come…Come finish this…"

Valkia smirked. "Not today old friend." Serlai sunk to his knees as Valkia walked past him and out of the room. He couldn't find the strength to follow him, much less fight him. Serlai wept. He had failed.