Le Mort Du Alchemist
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…In the end, it was Rex, not I who was his secret keeper. I compiled these volumes based on secondhand accounts and conversations that I could remember. Hundreds of years of anecdotes, records, rumors. But Rex, he knew everything…

-Ruslav Diaghilev: A Remarkable Life; Vol 1, Arturo Genumo

Ruslav Diaghilev sat in the relative silence of his office, stewing in the ghosts of his past. The amber liquid within his glass swirled for a moment before he brought it up to his lips. The liquid inside was old, even for him. Something like this was reserved for times such as this. For the kinds of losses, you don't overcome. His voice rumbled out across the empty space, “You were a better man than I. A better soul, though you do not know how true that is.” The words came out roughly and cracked between thoughts.

Ruslav had maintained relative silence since returning from the Ledenoff facility. Captain Donnarson had tried to coax a debriefing from the Director, but he’d invoked his authority to keep it sealed for now. He wasn’t ready. He couldn’t face what had happened and his own failure to protect the people around him from the people behind him.

A gentle knock at the door disturbed his dazed descent into his own depression. He made an absent gesture, using the Ferrous aether to turn the knob. Ruslav lifted the glass to his lips again, letting the burning liquid slide down his throat.

Captain Donnarson raised an eyebrow as the door opened inwards, stepping through into the gloom. The office was darker than he remembered, only the lights over Director Diaghilev’s desk were on. Papers and debris had built up on his desk, the usually neat inbox he kept near the door overflowing with letters and reports. Both Adebeyo and Arturo’s desks were empty and covered with a thin film of dust.

Rex took a step inside, and chose his words carefully, “Director, I’m sorry to disturb you but-”

Ruslav looked up with a glare, “I told you, I am not seeing anyone until further notice.” His voice sounded tired now, resigned to this place now.

“I’m sorry sir. Your clearance can keep most people away, but this one comes from above. Level six,” Rex said. His posture remained stiff, readying himself to argue with the Director until invoking the clearance command he’d been given.

To Rex's surprise, Ruslav stood up without question and placed the glass on the oak desk. He reached out, and drew his crozier into his left fist, meeting Rex’s eyes. “I see. He wants to see me then?”

Rex nodded and handed Ruslav a plain white envelope. On the front was simply “Ruslav” in an ornate handwritten script. Ruslav turned the letter over, and broke the seal with one finger, slipping out the contents. I think it’s time we talk, old friend. It was signed with a similarly simple “M”.

Ruslav placed the letter on the small metal platter on his desk, invoking the igneous aether momentarily to consume the letter in a brief flash of fire. "Let's be on with it then, Captain."

…The Administrator is probably not even real. He's just a boogeyman used to scare the recruits into thinking there's some shadowy figure who controls it all, even above the O5's. While that's a nice fantasy, the fact is, we're run by a democratic council, by democratic vote. Besides, The Administrator would be like…absurdly old by now…

-Internal Foundation Humor Paper 'The Containment Breach' Issue number 731
Author unknown

Ruslav and Captain Donnarson exited the helicopter that made up the last leg of their journey. The oil rig was disguised fairly well, but with all the registration in place, there’d never been many questions as to why a small company bought an old oil rig in the middle of a shallow low-yield sea. The clouds in the distance promised a storm, and the fulminous aether practically swirled around the structure.

Several agents escorted them to an elevator which descended into the depths of the steel and concrete structure. They maintained a respectful distance from the two Foundation personnel, while never quite taking their eyes off of them.

Floors passed by as they descended below the water, deep into the heart of the facility. Ruslav had always liked this place. The sheer scale of it was always amusing. Seventeen levels beneath the sea bed deep within bedrock, the Foundation hid its best-kept secrets, it’s most secure facilities. Originally it had housed actual SCP objects, but with the globalization initiatives, it was mostly administrative levels now. Very few people had ever seen this place, and Ruslav himself had not been here for several decades.

The elevator dinged as the light for Level B14 lit up. Captain Donnarson and Ruslav were escorted down plain concrete hallways similar to those found in every foundation facility. Sterile lighting, smooth but unpainted concrete except for the departmental colors on the walls and floor outlining directions to various areas. The four agents escorted them to a small room off of one of the side tunnels, which contained several tables, and a selection of plastic bins.

The agent that Ruslav assumed was in charge waved vaguely towards the bins, “Director, if you could remove anything metallic, hazardous, or dangerous before entering the secure wing. Captain, I’m afraid you’ll have to remain here with us, you don’t have the clearance to enter.”

Rex looked at Ruslav for a moment who didn’t make any sign or gesture, “I’m Director Diaghilev’s personal bodyguard. Anywhere he goes, I go. I’ll happily disarm, but I’m not leaving his side.”

The agent, to his credit, spoke quietly into a microphone, before turning back. “Director, I've been instructed that it's your call if he can be allowed to sit in on this meeting," the agent said.

Ruslav looked over at Rex for a moment, a complex series of emotions running through the Elder Alchemist. He came to an internal decision and nodded to the Agent.

A few more whispered exchanges into the same microphone and the Agent said, "You’ve been temporarily cleared to accompany the Director. I hope I don’t have to give you the usual talk about security and need-to-know?”

Donnarson shook his head, walking to one of the bins, and placing both his sidearm and his backup weapon in the bin. Alongside went his weapon belt and spare magazines along with various odds and ends from his pockets. He did a final pat down before nodding to the Agent.

Ruslav walked over to the bins as well and laid his crozier and small objects from his pockets into the bin. “You did not have to offer that. You’re under no obligation to-”

“Director, you’ve saved my life, and the lives of my men more times than I can count. I’m not leaving you.” Rex said, with absolute confidence. Something within Ruslav twinged for a moment, partially out of guilt and partially out of pride.

Several minutes of walking brought the two men to a conference room set for six, around a small round table. The agents closed the door behind the two, leaving them in relative silence. The conference room was carpeted and contained one other door which was also closed. In the corner was a small coffee service, and some bottles of water.

Rex walked over to the station, and grabbed one of the bottles of water, turning back to Ruslav. “Director, can I get you something?”

Ruslav nodded, “Coffee. Just some milk if they have it.” A few moments passed, as Rex and Ruslav took a seat at the table, sipping at their respective beverages.

Rex looked down at his hands clutching the bottle gently, “So what do you think this is about? The Ledenoff facility?” Several seconds passed in silence, “Are we going to be terminated?”

Ruslav shook his head, “I highly doubt that. I know who we’re here to see. I think he just wants to talk.”

As if on cue, the other door opened to a darkened hallway. The gloom gave way to an older man with silver-grey hair. His features were angular and some kind of European, but Rex couldn’t quite place where the man hailed from. He was dressed in a plain charcoal suit and was on the shorter side. Something about him spoke of power, but again, he couldn't quite place his finger on it.

Ruslav let out a quiet rumbling sound of amusement besides the captain, and stood slowly, “I see you have finally decided to adapt to modern dress, old friend.” A tired, ingenuine smile crept on to Ruslav's face.

The man’s voice was higher pitched than Rex expected and had a slight accent to it. Not quite British, but something along those lines, “And I see you still choose to wear the robes of your profession openly, Ruslav.”

Captain Donnarson shifted uneasily and cleared his throat, “Apologies, sir. My name is Captain Rex Donnarson, commander of-”

The older man lifted his hand, and cut him off with a look of absolute authority. “I know who you are captain. I was the one who let you in here. My name is unimportant, but you may refer to me as The Administrator.”

Captain Donnarson closed his mouth with a snap, and swallowed hard, “I-I see. Sorry, sir, I had no idea.”

The Administrator nodded, “How would you? No harm was done.” He turned to face the Director of the Alchemy Department, “Ruslav, we have a problem.”

Ruslav nodded, closing his eyes, “I agree. This has gotten out of hand. I thought that Adebeyo and I would be able to handle this. I had no intention of involving you in this again.” His body was tense, and the flows of aether around him grew chaotic once more, slipping back into the memory of Adebeyo strung up to one of Karl’s machines, sucking his very essence from him.

The Administrator walked around the table, and put a hand on Ruslav’s shoulder, shaking him slightly, “I understand why, but this has always been our responsibility, you know that.” The Administrator’s amber-grey eyes bored into Ruslav’s dark brown irises. “You could have called me as soon as you knew he was back. This is a burden that he placed on both of our shoulders.”

Captain Donnarson raised a hand experimentally. Both older personnel regarded him for a moment before chuckling quietly together. The Administrator nodded, “You don’t need to raise your hand, you’re not in a classroom.”

Rex smiled sheepishly, saying, “Right, of course. I’m slightly confused. I’m the outsider in this conversation. I understand if I’m not cleared to know what you two are talking about, but if so, I could leave.”

The Administrator sat down in the chair next to Ruslav, and shrugged his shoulders, “With Adebeyo gone, you’re going to need someone who knows the truth. You brought him here, knowing what would be discussed, Ruslav. Or perhaps we should dispense with the pleasantries, and get down to business? No codenames, no assumed names.
Just the truth.”

Ruslav hesitated for a pregnant moment looking at The Administrator, before turning to Captain Donnarson. “Rex, what I’m about to tell you may change your perception of The Foundation forever. Before I do, I’m giving you a chance to walk away. Stay level 3, keep being the captain of The Oathkeepers, nothing changes. If you don’t, you’ll be promoted to Level 4, effective immediately and sworn to secrecy on anything involving the Alchemy Department, or the history of the Foundation.”

Rex rocked back in his chair slightly, blinking, “This sounds like something Arturo is more suited to learn then, he’s going to be your next second-in-command isn’t he?” He swallowed hard again, mouth going dry.

Ruslav shook his head, “No. He's not ready, and may never be. You're my next second-in-command if you'd like to be. Do you accept this burden?”

Rex looked down at his hands for the better part of a minute, before looking back up and nodding, “Yes sir. Tell me everything.”

Ruslav took a deep breath and steadied himself. “My name, at least the name of the person in front of you is Ruslav Diaghilev. The name of the entity inhabiting this body, however, is not. Neither is the entity within the body of the person called The Administrator.”

Ruslav slid Rex’s bottle of water over to him. Rex drank from the bottle mechanically, his heart rate picking up. Ruslav continued, “My ‘proper’ name, I suppose, is Nimue-Lar.” He gestured at The Administrator, “He is Merlin-Aer. I know this is going to sound confusing…but I suppose I should start at the beginning. A long time ago, long after a war that humanity played no part in, there lived a man whose name wasn't important, until he was inhabited by an entity known as Arthur-Sar. I suppose, in the end, this is all his story.”

…I wish it had been Arturo. He would have been…better prepared to deal with this knowledge if he'd been raised in the College. But I knew that the only person I could trust at the time on my team was Rex. No one can replace Adebeyo, but I needed someone. It wasn't right, and it wasn't fair, but I needed him. …

-Excerpt: The Personal Journal of Ruslav Diaghilev

507 CE, Britania, 1 Year after the Great Cull of Luna

…I always found it kind of funny. All the technology, the alchemy, everything. It was all real. But for some reason, I couldn't stop laughing that there was some super-alchemy-alien named 'Arthur'. …

-Excerpt: The personal journal of Cpt. Rex Donnarson

Arthur looked down at his booted foot. He breathed in the heavier atmosphere of the Earth, looking out over the rolling plains of the land they'd found themselves on after evacuating Luna. "Do you think he's dead, Merlin?" he said, his voice a soft baritone.

Hunched within robes that covered the much wider Lunarian frame he possessed, Merlin-aer growled his displeasure, continually working the aether flows to thin the air streaming into his lungs. "Of course he's not dead. If he were, the Aether currents would have calmed by now."

Arthur looked back down at the dirt beneath him, the soft green grasses growing in it swaying in the breeze, "One can hope, Merlin. I suppose we're going to have to hope Nimue-Lar's plan works then, aren't we?"

Merlin hunched down and sniffed at the turf, his nose curling at the smell of all the life growing inside of it. "I do not understand why we do not simply return to one of the other cities," he growled under his breath. Merlin was obviously uncomfortable in the higher gravity of the planet. Arthur had encouraged him to take one of the humans as a host for his internal self, but he had resisted thus far.

"We have a duty to protect this place from Mordred. We failed to protect Luna. We're not going to fail this time," Arthur said, starting off towards the body of water that Nimue had set up her Alchemy lab beneath.

Merlin let out a huff of breath and set off after the smaller ensouled human. Whether he liked it or not, Arthur was still his Sar. Nimue had set up this laboratory shortly after landing, and Merlin was still uncomfortable with visiting the younger alchemist’s lab.

“Do you really trust her, Arthur-Sar? She only joined us when Mordred threatened her work,” Merlin said. The trees around them swished and swayed in the breeze as the two friends walked. A pair of lookouts was barely visible in the distance, but otherwise they were alone at the lake.

Arthur gave Merlin an enigmatic smile, working a minor flow of the Aeronous aether around the two of them to hide their conversation from any prying ears or workings. He stopped and turned to the heavier companion. “Yes. I do trust her. She’s one of three of us left, Merlin. We don’t have a lot of choice about who we can trust. Besides, we both know that you and she are the only hope we have of opposing him. I’m a soldier, not a scientist.”

Merlin stared hard at the smaller human, before nodding gruffly. “I know. I still don’t like it.”

Arthur waved a hand, dismissing the working around them, and continuing down the path to the lake near Camelot. He looked around for any other humans, looking at Merlin expectantly.

Merlin rolled his eyes, and worked the Aequeous aethers, parting the water into a short tunnel leading to a shining bubble of air beneath the water. A few moments and the tunnel was perfectly smooth on all sides. Merlin stumped off into the lake, with Arthur close in tow. As the pair approached the bubble of air, soft music streamed out, reminding both of them of home.

Within the bubble, small sigils and workings provided ample illumination, a single figure flitted between various tables and benches, occasionally waving a hand to change some other working slightly. As the two approached, Nimue turned towards the entrance to her laboratory.

She was taller than Arthur’s host, a human woman with straw-colored hair. On a nearby bench lay a cold iron crozier, well worn with time and workings. She turned her head to one side and gave them both a puzzled look. “I didn’t expect to see you, Merlin.”

Merlin turned towards one of the tables, sensing the Aether flows around it. “Not my idea,” he said, idly running his senses over the nearby samples of aethersteel.

Nimue gave another one of her enigmatic smiles, and turned towards Arthur, “So then it was you, Arthur? Or should I say ‘your majesty’?”

Arthur shook his head slightly, “That wasn’t my idea, but it’s become my responsibility. I came here to make a request.” Arthur walked over and fixed the deep blue eyes of his host on hers. “Before we left Luna, you said you were working on something which could fight him, kill him for good. Are you still working on that?”

Nimue nodded, and turned towards the bench, gesturing to a set of diagrams, “Yes. But I don’t think that any of our designs would work. It’s going to have to be something more…solid, to handle the aether flows inside of it.”

Merlin huffed, and turned towards the two human hosts, “Do you think our technology isn’t solid, Nimue-Lar?”

Nimue shrugged her shoulders, “Come look at the diagrams, then, Merlin-Aer. From what I’ve gathered, and deduced, we’d need something which can handle at least a full ten kilo-sae of flow throughout the structure. Additionally, I think we need something…else. Another connection of some kind. I’ve been studying humans, and I think there’s something unique about their physiology. A weapon, yes, but a human one.”

Merlin walked over, and quickly scanned the documents and drawings on the workbench, grasping idly at his chin, pulling and worrying at a familiar rough patch of skin. He grunted a few times, “I see. You think that a human weapon, in the hands of an ensouled human would do it? Are you sure of this connection? That a human is the ‘key’ to this entire…gamble?”

Nimue shook her head, and walked over to a quietly humming machine, a fusion of technology and alchemy. “I’m not sure. But I am…I suppose, working on some instinct. The humans are special but I can’t figure out why, yet.” She flipped a few latches, and the machine opened, revealing a gently bubbling crucible of shining iridescent metal. “Aethersteel. The last we’re probably ever going to create.”

Arthur walked over and looked deeply into the bubbling pool of metal. “A sword then. One to finally destroy Mordred, and free us of his corruption,” he said. He reached down, and unbuckled the belt around his waist, along with the sword which had led to his crowning.

Nimue accepted the sword, and placed it beside the workbench, a transparent display analyzing the dimensions of the weapon. “And what are we calling this weapon? This is going to be one special sword.”

Merlin let out another gruff sound, “Naming weapons is a soldier’s affectation. I am a Lunarian of science.”

Arthur never looked away from the pool of Aethersteel, “We name it after the start of this whole mess.”

Nimue smiled faintly, “I don’t think that her name will translate particularly well to the human tongue.” She laid the sword down carefully next to the crucible.

Arthur tightened his fists inside his gloves, “I don’t care. Mordred shall fall by the instrument of Caliburn-Sar’s revenge.”

Merlin walked over to the other two, and nodded, “Very well. A soldier, an aethersmith, and an aethershaper with a sharp bit of metal against the most powerful alchemist to ever exist, and his second in command who wiped out our entire army between the two of them.”

A moment of silence hung only punctuated by the flows of lake water above them and the whirring of instrumentation.

Merlin finally turned towards the exit, and started stomping back towards the surface, “I'd just like you both to acknowledge the fact that we’re all going to die horribly.”

…Everything changed when I ensouled him. I thought it was just a matter of convenience, a transfer like dozens I'd done through the centuries. I didn't expect to feel such…devotion. Such love for this place. I knew we were home. We would make it home, and protect it from whatever threats may come. Now, and future…

-A quote apocryphally attribute to 'Arthur-Sar' relayed by Ruslav Diaghilev

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