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At last the sandstorm appeared to be subsiding, capitulating to a gold-tinged, hazy twilight, which glistened across the metallic array above her. She turned to look at Photeus. So this, she thought, was what remained; this ramshackle ghost of what was once The Great Unifier, so universally venerated. She remembered those days well – better than anyone – after all, she had been at his side for the most part, throughout that whole period that had, at first, seemed so imbued with hope; the start of a new dawn. But things had gradually worsened as Seth and Marco had entered that nefarious pact and set out against them.

At first Seth had skillfully played both sides, conspiring with both Photeus and Marco as it suited him, maneuvering them into a game of one-upmanship – a crude poker match where Seth convinced each they held the better hand, as he himself surreptitiously grew more powerful than both of them; a game of competing systems, never odd or even. How then is the trinity simple? It eventually became clear that Marco was holding the flush draw. Seth reading this, and hoisted on the prevailing wind, affiliated with Marco against Photeus. Plenty of bad press followed too; Photeus the traitor, the heretic, he could never have prevailed, and the price of his losing was high indeed. He was forced into permanent exile, and she along with him. This was the end of history, and Marco and Seth would, thereafter be the only horses running.

All that seemed so long ago. To look at those two now one could scarcely believe that Seth and Marco, the two great enemies in play, had once worked together so closely. There were no moral positions any more - they had disappeared in the great collapse that followed Photeus’ exile, and it wasn’t that either of them were categorically good or evil – what did those terms even mean nowadays? They were just acting out of age-old self interest, and each knew that they had reached a point where neither could survive without the exploitation, and ultimately the consumption, of the other. It was this realisation which had precipitated this current state of permanent conflict.

Back at the end of their brief reign, as she and Photeus confronted their enforced exile, she had no desire to stay with him. She went her own way, vanishing into the marches. All she really wanted to do was to get as far away from those aggressive narcissists as possible; leave them to their empty, benighted hegemony. She even gave up writing her diaries, leaving events unrecorded - well if they didn’t care why should she? And in the end she bet no one learned a lesson.

Despite this, one certainty remained. Photeus was the only one who had ever made any attempt to understand her, and, eventually, as she heard reports of the tensions between Marco and Seth evolving into outright hatred, then open conflict, she decided it was time to locate him again. It took her many months, perhaps years, she had stopped keeping track, but at length, having asked around, and followed many false trails and misleading clues, she collared him at the Hidden Sands resort. It was a desolate monument to past glories and the repercussions of amaranthine warfare; a cracked and desiccated memorial of former glamour. The Hidden Sands was the erstwhile playground of Marco’s wealthy cabal, now reduced to a deserted outpost in a howling dustbowl. Nobody came here any more, and it was therefore the perfect hideaway. She was determined to rouse him from this defeatist apathy. Together they could again find the strength they once had, to force that decrepit engine to shuddering life one more time. All she had to do was convince him.

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