On a night much like any other, in the twilight of his years, Chejop Kejak couldn't sleep. This wasn't unheard of. Discounting the times he'd gone without sleep for weeks at a time, there were still numerous evenings where sleep simply never came. But, with few exceptions, they were limited to his early years. The first couple centuries of an Exalts life almost always being much more hectic than the latter ones. Now, however, he was almost 5 thousand years old, and in that time he'd learned that there was a pattern to these 'exceptions'. Like an old wound that would throb at the approach of a Storm Mother, he found himself unable to sleep with certain, well, Great events. The Beginning of the Contagion, near as he could tell, the disappearance of the Empress, the first whispering of what would lead to the Great Prophecy. Most recently, the return of the Solar Exalted. For that one, he even had as close a ringside seat as anyone else; taking a walk through the Loom, having long since discerned the pattern, such as it was. For an instant, standing in the sudden shower of golden light, even he felt the string of doubt. Maybe, just maybe, their return could set things right.
Making his way to the Bureau, it didn't take long to notice something wrong. There are few enough Sidereals as it is, and so many tasks that needed attention yesterday, if possible. Yet, entering the Bureau, it looked as if every Sidereal was here. At the very least, the great majority. And now something even odder. The normal Celestial Lion detail was standing by, but there was something else. Every the Head of every division, with their lead Vizier, was present. At least, with his arrival, that was true. The fact that Nara-O looked surprised as he approached was simply one of life's little pleasures. The mysterious god quickly seemed to recover, and spoke in his accustomed whisper.
"Kejak, I just sent a messenger for you, but I'm guessing that he missed you. The Maidens have requested your presence."
A gesture to the assembled Elders, "All of you. They're inside."
A quick glance, only lingering a moment on Ayesha Ura, and Kejak advances at a brisk pace. Never one to waste time, either his or others, the pace set was just a tad fast. But the Maidens themselves requesting their presences? It was rare enough for one Maiden to tear herself from the Games, much less all of them.
Entering the Loom, Kejak was, as always, struck for a second in awe. Ten million, million streams of silver, each one an artifact among artifacts, and each one weaving together to form something so much more. In their interplay, the fall of Kings and the simple joys of a child playing in the spring air had equal rank. Being this close to the center of things something sang to his soul. Reminding him that, even in the darkest moments of Creation, that it was worth it.
And among the silver streams stood the maidens plus Luna in the aspect of the navigator. There was silence, for a moment.
They Came. We should hurry.
Yes, we know. But what of...
He won't come.
So they turned, the Six Incarna, facing the eldest exalts in Heaven. And then the stepped aside, showing what was behind them. And there was a gasp. Not from Kejak, though even he only barely held it in. On the floor of the Loom, lay the Sun. But, obviously, no longer could he carry the title Unconquered. Dark Ichor flowed through unhealing wounds, and of his 4 great limbs, only 2 remained whole. The limb carrying the godspear was shattered, and that great weapon along with it. But, more troubling, was the limb that held his aegis. Or, rather, the lack of it, along with a sizable portion of his chest. Also lacking was his normal laurel's, instead clutching a chiped, protean blade. The same one, that whole, currently hung from Luna's hip. The fact that this figure's glow was barely even noticeable almost slipped past, with so many other shocks self-evident.
This is not the Sun. Not really.
Or, it is. Simply one from what May Be, or Must Be.
Listen now. We aren't sure how he was sent here, but he came in this condition.
And he is fading. His end comes, and there is nothing any of us can do about it. But-
I have a message.
The figure on the ground spoke, opening his eye as he did so. His normal, strong, vibrant voice a raspy shell of its normal self. But, for all that, it still held that quality of command.
They are coming. From the deep, they come to smother all in an eternal darkness. We fought too late, and too slow. Our fire burned brighter than ever in My memory, but in the end that darkness smothered it as though it were only a lone spark in the night.
We failed. Failed, in the one task that was ever our own choice. And now I can only whisper fragments of what might be. We've sent back all we can, the fiercest sparks that remain. All that remains is to rage, rage against the dying of the light.
With that final exclamation, the wounded god collapses backwards, and fades away, leaving the tattered remains of his panoply as he does so.
Kneeling, Saturn traces an outline of her sign, and gathers the remains.
Thus passes Ignis Divine, the Sun Unconquered, Most High, and Once-Guiding Star.