the last lantern king trial

LANTERN KING: You should be more mindful of your guardian.
LANTERN KING: Please, keep that ... handled.

As the party continues their final Lantern King Tournament trial, the rest of the Gilded Talents have come to watch and support them. Partway through, they are suddenly overcome with concern at Orev’s apparent collapse. Nisus rests him against a bench to look him over.


The trial has reached its final moments!

Salem attempts to move past Jason Micrastur, but he cuts them down before they can take a step. They fall unconscious on the ground in front of him. Jason picks Salem up, moves to the gate, and passes through its force field. Everyone is instantly teleported back to the courtyard.

We’ve lost the trial. OOPSIE!!!!!!!!!!

Everyone’s positions shift when the teleportation happens – each is team now on their respective sides of the courtyard. Salem is still unconscious and Anjay is still invisible.

Anjay sees his brother, Nisus, lying on the ground. It looks like he had just been attacked. Olena and Leona are holding Orev back. A glowing, flickering circle hovers just over the back of his head. His eyes are vacant. His head had previously been focused on Nisus – but the moment the party arrives, his focus snaps to Salem. Orev suddenly stops struggling to get to Nisus, instead attempting to reach Salem.

A bell rings, marking that the match has ended. The Lantern King stands, grabbing her lantern. She places a hand on its back pane and the entire area is filled with light. Instantly, Salem is conscious again. Everyone is healed, but also frozen in place.

LANTERN KING: This is possibly ... one of the wildest tournament finishers I have ever seen.
LANTERN KING: I do not know what the fuck is happening, but I would kindly request that you all stop. Well, it’s more than a request – I have literally put you in stasis until you all resume acting like civilized mortal beings.

She points at Orev who is fighting against the stasis – something no one else in the crowd seems to be capable of even attempting to do.

LANTERN KING: I don’t ... know what you are, I don’t know why you’re here - but if you would just ... go back to sleep. As you were.

She waves her hand and a floating, golden light hits Orev dead in the eyes. He immediately slumps, the glow circling the back of his head flickering out. She then turns to Salem.

LANTERN KING: You should be more mindful of your guardian.
LANTERN KING: Please, keep that ... handled.

The Lantern King calls Jason forward to gift his team their prize. Then, she calls Salem forward. Anjay follows, invisible, and places himself between Salem and Jason. She distributes the prizes, and honestly is a little rude about the whole thing.

After she vanishes, the city is all at once quieter and a little dimmer. Everyone unfreezes.

Orev is unconscious. Nisus is starting to pick himself back up, but is still bleeding from a few small stab wounds. Dawn Micrastur clears her throat.

DAWN: Alright, well, y’know – Salem, sweetheart? You did an excellent job, I really was rootin’ for you in this, but technically it was established that this was a challenge.
DAWN: So, congratulations on the second place, but my Jason, has bested you, it seems.
DAWN: He has taken the prize, so you shall forfeit your contract with the Farlight Forge - and I must submit the punishment.
DAWN: Now, you did ask that I not put anyone to death, so there’s that!

She gives a thumbs up.

DAWN: Y’know, it was real smart of you to ask that, cuz it coulda been a lot worse. But, for the next six months, The Crooked Talons are disbanded and forbidden from workin' with each other.
CECIARE: ... I'm sorry, what?
DAWN: You cannot in any official capacity - and honestly, it would be quite an insult to my name in an unofficial capacity - work together. Insofar as any sort of job, especially the criminal sort. Of course, I cannot revoke your membership to the Gilded Talents entirely, but you will have to join separate groups if you do wish to continue criminal pursuits for the next six months.

Salem, mentally, is not there for this conversation. They are having a very hard time processing what Dawn is saying. All they can think about is Orev, unconscious in the distance. Salem turns to walk away, but Anjay reaches out and grabs their arm, stopping them. Everyone can see Anjay fade back into visibility.

SALEM: ... What are you doing.
ANJAY: I’m helping you.

Anjay looks at Dawn while holding onto Salem.

ANJAY: Thank you. You’re right, the punishment could have been worse. We respect your decision.
DAWN: Oh, I appreciate all the fancy, highfalutin words, it is really nice, but
ANJAY: I mean, I can be more honest if you really want me to.
DAWN: ... I don’t like that tone.
DAWN: I appreciated the nicety; but there’s no decision but to respect what was decided here.
DAWN: You’re free to go. You can leave. But remember: officially and unofficially, for the next six months, this is not a crew. This is not a team. Whatever you are without that? Maybe it’s time to start learnin’.

Salem and Anjay are silent. Having been dismissed, Salem leaves to be at Orev’s side.

Olena and Leona have laid Orev onto the ground. Olena is trying to rouse him, though she knows it probably won’t work judging by the other times this has happened. She is also hesitant in her actions, wary of the Orev from before coming out again. Bromseth picks up the knife and slowly moves it away from them.

OLENA: I do not know what the fuck's goin' on, we saw this happen before and he didn't have a knife that time

Salem can put together a few things about the situation: something happened with Orev, Nisus tried to stop him, Orev had a knife, Nisus got stabbed a couple times, went unconscious, and it took the power of the twins to barely hold Orev back.

Salem approaches Orev, not announcing their presence. They notice that the hair on Orev’s head is unusually darker in some places. Salem crouches over his body, cups Orev’s face in their hands, and tries looking into his eyes.

There are simultaneously two intakes of breath. The first is Orev, and the second is Salem themself. As soon as they clamp their hands on the sides of Orev’s face, they feel … stronger. They feel confusion? They feel a vague amount of … shame? Below them, Orev’s eyes flicker. He starts to come to.

Previously, Salem had felt awful – they went unconscious twice that day. They’re severely wounded. But as they touch Orev, they begin to feel better. They can feel their strength returning. The spots of black peeking through Orev’s usual dark gray hair begin to fade back to its familiar color.

Orev opens his eyes, locking eyes with Salem, and Salem feels … relief? Then immediately disgust.

OREV: Okay--
OREV: Ow. Fuck. Ow. Get--
OREV: Please, fuckin' stop--
OREV: Why are you so close to my face, you gotta back up--

Salem puts up their hands defensively and back away. Orev groans, trying to push himself up, and Olena pushes him back down.