“It is said that merely facing a god is enough for mortals to perish.”
“I really didn't want to use this.”
“We- we have to do something!” Kiara stutters. “We can't repel that many invaders. If more ships manage to breach the barriers...” Seeing the rest of the imperial fleet closing in, her voice fades away in silent desperation.
“Don't worry.” Nova steps forward and raises her hands. “Illum is more than a piece of rock. It's form and function. My masterpiece, Illum is perfection. It won't fall to anyone as long as I am alive. Anyone who saw me shape the island should know that. Within Illum, force and space bend to my will.”
I can feel the ever present spacial enchantments around us. Normally, they are nothing more than background noise to my senses, but now they twist and bend like the muscles of a living being. Smiling, I realize that Nova's connection to her creation is even deeper than I thought.
The world around us bends out of shape like a deformed mirror. I feel like I am falling, then I am suddenly standing on my head and an invisible force pulls me forward. As suddenly as it begun, everything returns to normal. Though, our location is different. The entire observation platform is now hovering above Illum's centre.
Fae falls to her knees and barfs onto the floor, but nobody takes notice of it. Everyone who understood what just happened is too shocked. Nova didn't merely teleport the observation platform. She used Illum's spacial enchantments to rearrange Illum's layout.
As if teaching a bunch of students, she explains everything. “Space is a function which can be described by constants like energy and mass.” Nova steps off the platform, floating forward as if she is weightless. “If you describe space as a cube, for example, it takes only a small operation to turn the cube inside out.”
She reaches out and the space around Nova twists, revealing gaping emptiness, white nothingness, and returns to normal, spilling out several man-sized crystals of various colours. Blue, green, red, black, white and violet. They pulse like a beating heart and sparks of white energy are connecting them.
And then I realize that they are power cores. In a way, they are a heart. Illum's heart.
Nova spreads her hands as if she is receiving a blessing and six bolts of pure energy latch onto her body, curling around her and connecting her directly to the power cores. I raise a hand to shield myself from the blinding light. That's why Nova devised the new control interface. Not to play a stupid game, but to control Illum's power directly with her mind.
The energies wrap around her body like coiling snakes. When she opens her mouth, it's as if her voice is all around me. I don't know the language. The words are strangely melodic, yet purposeful and clean. They have a musical beauty and are yet mathematically precise.
Slowly, the song increases in speed. I have no other words for what she is doing. Her words are a song of... I don't know what. It's as if the words burrow into my mind, so I erect several shields. Their protection gains me at least some relief.
The power flows off Nova in cascades of light and into Illum's barriers, strengthening them. Runes of golden energy appear on Illum's force fields. They spread and grow like the roots of a plant.
The dreadnought which is attached to Illum's ring didn't swivel when it rammed us. Its hull is still within the barrier. When the growing runes reach it, the huge ship twists and is broken like a child's toy. The remains plummet to the ground, taking most of the crew with them.
Nova's song is doing this. She is programming the power cores and shaping their magic with her voice at the same time. Where did she learn a language that can shape magic?
I wince and cover my ears. There must be a telepathical aspect to her hymn. I can't even hear the sound of the fireballs which are exploding against the barrier. Somehow, she separated Illum from the outside world. Studying the golden runes, I recognize them as the inscriptions which are necessary to create a spacial chest. Is that how Nova enhanced our defences?
And then I realize that none of the ships around us are shooting. The Empire's fleet already reached Illum. They are surrounding us like a swarm of vultures. Though, none of them is doing anything. They are simply floating there, waiting.
Then I notice that one of the ships is close enough to the barrier to make out the crew. The ship is hovering right outside Illum's barriers. The men on its deck are lying on the floor and holding their heads. Some aren't moving at all, others are rolling around as if they are in great pain. I raise my telescope to find out what's going on.
It's a scene right out of a horror movie. The Empire's soldiers are bleeding from their eyes, noses, and ears. It seems like something ruptured all of the soft tissue in their bodies... And some of them are indeed coughing up their guts.
As I watch, the glass in one of the ship's portholes cracks and shatters, telling me exactly what's going on. Nova turned Illum's barrier into an oversized speaker system, a sound-based weapon.
Remembering the others, I check Nova's subordinates. Luckily, it seems like her song has only a stunning effect on the people inside Illum's barrier. They are also covering their ears, but they don't bleed out of every opening in their bodies.
The song comes to a final crescendo and fades away, leaving me with a pang of regret. It's like something beautiful ended forever. Illum's barrier fades away and the light breeze of the sea picks up again, carrying the smell of salt water.
In the wake of Nova's song, only silence remains.
Opening my senses, I feel the power rushing into me. The necromantic energies of thousands of deaths are fuelling my powers all at once. The sweet energy of death is intoxicating, causing green lightning to crackle between my fingertips.
Nova twists her wrists and dismisses the power cores with a gesture. Space bends and twists, sucking up the artefacts of power. In the same moment, the world around us flows back to its proper state, returning the observation platform to the palace.
For whatever reason, Nova had to perform her piece in the centre of Illum's barriers.
She turns around and croaks with a husky voice. “Do you want... to join me... in the mop-up operation? There... are still some... invaders left.”
Zane expression turn worried. “Are you alright? That was an awful amount power to channel directly through your mind.”
Nova makes a dismissive gesture. “I didn't... channel it. Manipulated it... from the outside... with my voice.” She shakes her head. “But that language... isn't meant... for human vocal cords.”
I can only guess that, at one point or the other, she had a rather strange reincarnation in a very different dimension.
The sound of battle draws our attention to the remaining dreadnought which is still anchored at Illum's main body. I grin and draw my sword. “Well, you just overcharged me with the power of thousands of deaths. It would be a shame not to use it.” Casting levitation magic, I jump into the air and fly towards the dreadnought.
The ship crashed into Illum's side, slightly towards the frontal section. Unfortunately for us, there are a lot of the public buildings there. Unfortunately for them, that's also very close to Illum's military facilities, so the local forces should have reacted quickly enough to contain the attackers.
I reach the affected area first. It's a battlefield. There must be over a hundred casualties on both sides. The Empire's soldiers are holding a few buildings right next to the dreadnought, but that's as far as they got. Illum's guard barricaded themselves inside the buildings across the street. Their energy weapons give them vastly more firepower. Every attempt to break through the defenders is met with a barrage of white energy bolts.
I summon an energy shield and land right between a group of corpses. Murmuring the incantations, I fill the air with my power allowing it to escape my grasp. The spell attaches to one corpse, then another.
Twitching and moaning, the bodies of Illum's former defenders rise for their last battle, joined by the corpses of the invaders. Someone shoots a lance of ice at me, but it glances off my shield without effect.
The inflow of necromantic power turned into a slow irregular rivulet, but I am sure that my new servants will sacrifice a few more Imperials for me. Pointing my finger at the building from where the ice bolt came, I grin and whisper, “Food.”
Howling, the wild mob of zombies rushes forward. Some are still holding their weapons, but without the memories of their souls, they don't have the wits to use them. Screams from inside the building inform me that my minions found the offender.
From high up in the sky, I see Nova levitating above the battlefield. It doesn't seem like she is doing anything, but her pointing hand is accompanied by the loud screams of several people. I shudder at the thought of being crushed like a bug. It would be hard to revive my body, even using necromancy.
Strolling forward, I assemble my army and imprint them with the idea that the dreadnought is their home. Nova wouldn't be happy if I start a zombie apocalypse on her island. My undead soldiers are stupid but relentless, so it doesn't take long to travel the two hundred metres of buildings which are occupied by the Empire's troops. I lose a few zombies for every building I clear out, but there are more than enough bodies to replace the losses.
The entire business quickly turns into a slaughter.
At last, I come face to face with the last remnants of the invaders. They are holding the ramp which leads into a huge hangar in the dreadnought's side. Having gathered over sixty zombies, I point my sword at the ramp.
Among the enemies, I recognize the Empire's prince, Wisen. Reaching for my magic, I imagine invisible strings connecting me to the zombies. Pulling at their leashes, I redirect them like puppets.
The prince wears a golden set of full plate armour. He raises a big war-hammer and swings it towards the zombies. With a flash of light, he fells several of my minions, turning them to ashes. “By the Empire! Don't waver!”
Somehow, his subordinates gather their courage and form a line against the attacking horde.
Wisen raises his hammer again and the ramp is covered in a dome of light. My zombies break through the shield but are visibly weakened. The Empire's soldiers have an easy time killing them.
Nova lands next to me, followed by Zane. Her consort spits on the ground in disgust. “It's sickening to see someone like him use holy magic.”
“Not for long.” Nova reaches out, closing her hand as if she is crushing something.
The prince falters and shrieks as an invisible force picks him up. His armour flares up with energy and I coo in anticipation at seeing the end of yet another member of that wretched family.
In a last act of desperation, Wisen reaches for the amulet around his neck and rips it off, crushing the green crystal. The distinct energy-ring of a portal rips a hole into reality and engulfs the prince. One moment later, he is gone.
Nova screams like a child who was denied her toy. She forms a fist and brings it down on an invisible object. The Empire's soldiers who are on the ramp, as well as a sizeable amount of my minions are crushed into a red paste. With them, the ramp breaks and a dent forms in the ground. That doesn't hinder the rest of my zombies to jump over the gap between Illum and the dreadnought to attack the remaining soldiers.
Zane pales and turns around. He retches and covers his mouth, shaken by the gruesome sight of the gory scene.
Concerned, I turn to face Nova who glares at the mess she created. My granddaughter looks extremely unhappy. “We will get him sooner or later.”
After a long moment, she nods. Her eyes wander from the dreadnought to the fleet of ships which is floating around Illum. The surviving airships are just waiting for new crews. “Well,” she rasps. “At least... I got... a few new toys.”