Patience
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We'd been talking for hours. Discussing the flavor of international tensions. Everything seemed like it was calm, but I knew that underneath, it very much was not.

"Is it time yet?"

The question was an ardent one, one I felt like I'd asked a thousand, thousand times. Yet, this time it felt right to ask, though it was hardly the first time I'd felt this way.

It is shameful to me, how often I've pulled against the yoke of patience placed upon me by my Master. I think I asked the first time in the court of the Xia Emperor. I asked if I'd been placed there to help rebuild Kalmaktama in the lands of Kiina. But no, that too was crushed by the pogroms of the cursed metal men. As they had at Kythera, as they had at blessed Adí-üm, the monsters of flesh and metal stamped out the flower of Nälkä. Perhaps, I thought, it wasn't about bringing back what was lost.

So, I returned to my work on my children, getting them ready for something, I knew not what.

The question arose again if the Grand Karcist's plan would commence back when the Hellenic world was shattered by the Persians. Aided by members of the Diaspora allied with the hated Daeva remnants, I thought for sure that this was part of the Plan that I was simply unaware of. The destruction of the metal abomination and their world seemed so much a part of the Klavigar's revenge.

But, of course, the answer was no. The invasion was doomed, blunted by the tenacity of mere mortals. It hadn't been the Plan, just a few lost Karcists hoping to regain a shattered remnant of the Kalmaktama that was. It was then that I realized that the plan couldn't be about revenge.

So, I returned to Kiina, but with a new task instead. I began to lay the foundation for an underworld. For, wherever there is a system that governs those that live by the law, there must be one that governs those that do not.

I asked again when the Great Khan began rampaging over half the world. But his empire wasn't even an echo of Kalmaktama. No divinity flowed in the veins of that Mongolian warlord, just the drive and ambition to conquer the world. It wasn't the time then, either.

Again, to my shame, I asked when the bloodied moon and star was raised above the once-impregnable walls of Kōnstantinoupolis. This was expansion that had to be part of the grand design. The entire world trembled beneath the hooves of the Turks, surely it was time for us to raise forgotten banners and unleash the halkostänä upon the world.

But, again, no. The holy zeal which fueled the Ottomans wasn't that of the Grand Karcist, and the designs and machinations of its leadership were not put into place by the Klavigar. This, once again, was a small conquest, doomed to fall short of the glory that was. Both of these events taught me that the Plan wasn't about conquest, nor was it about conversion.

By this time, I had long since moved to Korea, and I had grown used to pulling the strings behind the criminal underworld. I rarely intervened, choosing instead to control the flow of information, money, and weapons. I knew much, and that knowledge was useful. When direct intervention was required, Saarn would happily assume whatever form necessary and step in. That was her role in this, as I later understood.

The last time I was summoned to the Cloister was when the cities of the Nihonjin drowned in nuclear fire. The world itself seemed to be poised upon the precipice of total collapse, that even the brush of a feather could bring the Powers of the world collapsing into dust.

I thought for sure that when the Master gave pause, considering, that the answer would be yes. That the tides of Flesh would be unleashed upon a world that seemed so ready.

But, to my chagrin, the answer was still no.

I admit, I raged inside then, no matter how calm my outward appearance. If it wasn't about revenge or conquest or conversion or redemption, what could the goal of the Plan be? I had been patient for so long, waited for so long, toiled in silence, faithfully serving a cause I could not know.

I think the Klavigar knew, then. He chided me, gently enough, but in his way I knew he was disappointed in me. It is a shame that burns in me still, undampened by the few short years between then and now. It was tempered, however, by the faith the Klavigar showed in me. He knew then that the time was close, and he shared with me more of what was needed.

He told me of the rise of the Foundation, and how they hadn't quite succeeded yet in neutralizing all the forces that could stop us. He told me about the traitors in the Church, and hinted at the plan to eliminate that threat. He told me that, and more, and bid me to keep it to myself.

I'd always thought the Plan was about redemption. I knew some of the Old Ones believed that the End would eventually come, but I had no idea. Again, I must admit to shame in that moment. Shame that I hadn't put it all together for myself. I had done so much work for my part of the Plan. I had set things in motion centuries ago that were only now beginning to bear fruit. I knew where all the skeletons were buried, I knew which cartels actually owned what, and which ones only played at the game. All in service to ever more shadowy groups that were ultimately in service to me, in service to the Great Plan.

It dawned on me in those moments how close to the truth I'd been, and yet how so far I still was. In all of my questioning, I'd abandoned my faith, I'd abandoned my lord. By questioning Nadox, I had shamed myself and forced him to carry the weight of terrible knowledge alone for all these centuries.

I think, finally, he had grown weary of keeping it all to himself. With Orok and Lovataar long gone, and Saarn out doing her part, I think he grew lonely in that place, surrounded by his homunculi and his books. The loneliness must have been terrible, even burdened with the purpose given to him by the Ozi̮rmok.

He had long since abandoned the ability to walk freely on the surface, and-

"Yes."

The Klavigar's quiet rumble filled the cloister around me, and it wasn't just the thrill of hearing him speak that brought me instantly from my reverie. He couldn't have.

But he had.

"Return to Seoul and begin the process. We will free your children soon enough. For now, make ready the Kkangpae under your command, the Lodge will need to be re-equipped. I shall send word when to step forth from the shadows.

It was with a tremendous sense of elation that I left that place, and I caught the first flight from Prague to Seoul that I could get on. I hadn't even finished disembarking from the plane before I began making the first of many calls. I had assets that needed to be shifted from one part of the world to another. Training programs and equipment shipments that needed to be transferred from Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai.

The list of tasks to be accomplished seemed endless, but I stepped to it with a gusto that I think surprised even myself. It certainly started a furor within the organization. Everyone knew that this was eventually going to happen, but it had been pending for so long that no one expected it to happen.

Currency began to flow like blood from an arterial wound, lubricating the gears of a well-oiled machine. Arms dealers around the world suddenly saw their supply caches go empty as I pulled hidden strings and re-allocated resources to where they were needed.

The Bratva knew something was up before even the governments, and Moscow experienced the first true peace it had known for decades as the strong men held their collective breath for whatever they could sense was happening next.

And, just like that, all the underworld knew that their strings had been cut. The flow of weapons, cash, influence, information, all gone in a breath. I had done in less than a week what the US Government, Interpol, and other global law enforcement agencies had been trying to do for decades.

Control the flow of guns, and you control the criminal cartels that relied upon them to fuel their violence. Control the illegal flow of cash, and you owned the golden goose that everyone fought for. Control the flow of information, and suddenly no one knew anything.

Of course, none of them had the centuries of preparation that went into this. None of them had a ghostly Klavigar that could be anywhere or anyone she wanted to be, working tirelessly to lay the foundation.

And none of them had Nadox, my Master. That brilliant mind, focused on a task since the dawn of civilization itself, guiding their movements throughout history.

They never had a chance.

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