I thought about that. “The ren’al,” I said. “It changes the nature of time? Or of the universe?”
Suriel shrugged. Too close to call, he meant. Nothing you want in enemy hands regardless.
"I don’t get it,” I said. “You’re so powerful. A human has it. A human. It’s on Kalnar, out toward the galactic rim. Why don’t you all just go pick it up?”
“War /diminishes/ everyone. We were/are so many/then. Now/we will be less. They/are less. When he dies/ they will be/did take it.”
“And you can’t stop them? You said there were only nine of them. How many are there of you?”
Suriel’s eyes met mine, broad pools of limpid light. “/Three.”
I thought about that, too. “But there had to be thirty when...” I trailed off. My own eyes went wide. “Just to save my city, you sacrificed the last thirty of your entire species?”
“We/ owe. We/ fail. We/ did not see you. When Malakan will have/came/ we/ do not see him. We were/will not be ready.”
I could see it, then. I don’t know if it was something Suriel sent or not. A nameless, barren rock of a world without atmosphere, the last Niskivim defending their memorial post, golden forms shining against the darkness. Through the centuries, through the calm ages after the war that shook the stars. A few dying, a few being born, most just waiting, keeping watch. Then the sudden absence of the treasure that they kept, because the creature that took it was too simple and weak to be perceived. They expected the khrall. They never suspected a human being to come there.
“Wait again,” I said. “You guarded them after the war. But I’ve seen the star fields. They’re still changing. And it’s coming this way.”
Suriel started to fade. “The war that will/have always/never been shaping the universe will not end/has already ended until it/will/already have consumed all things. It waxes/and it wanes.”
Just like you, I thought. Already I could see clear through him.