The dead forest around Tegi was even more eerie than I had thought when looking at the video. Not only were the trees dead or twisted, there was no life in sight. Nothing at all. The strange feeling I had when Tegi was still in existence was gone, it was possible that the miasma had been fully absorbed by the Nethersprites, leaving nothing behind.
Looking at the snow-covered forest, I saw nothing but death.
“Let’s move in. Take care of Nethersprites.” I told the other two and watched Sigmir take point. Adra took the last spot in line, guarding our back which left me in the middle position, allowing me to support either of them with my magic.
In a move I had practised a little, I flared my cape and let four out of the six shuttles of the Weaver’s Fury float up. Since I crossed the Divide, I was able to do simple tasks, like walking forward, while using two processes for my Ice Magic. My ability to use all six shuttles was slowly improving but I was not yet able to use them in actual combat. But I would be, soon.
As we walked without incident, I realised that I was stupid, I could always let my blades fly after we found enemies, what I was doing now was just a waste of Astral Power and focus. With a self-deprecating smile, I let all four blades return to their sheaths, slightly embarrassed that I had made such a basic mistake. Even if it looked cool.
Our movement was cautious but we didn’t focus on stealth so it was only a question of time until we were spotted. A shriek tore through the air, and the first Nethersprite charged toward us, intent of ripping us apart and devouring our life-energy. Sigmir met its charge and dispatched it with prejudice. Now the jig was up, they were coming, But it did not really matter much to any of us, we knew that we would face them all anyway if we wanted to destroy the Devourer.
We moved into a nearby clearing and stood ready to fight. I let my shuttles soar once more, scanning the forest around us. The Nethersprites did not disappoint and with loud shrieks we were engaged. My attacks failed to do lasting damage to the sprites but I managed to poke them back, letting Sigmir and Adra deal with them in a controlled fashion. At first, I just used two blades, retaining as much Astral Power as I could but soon I was forced to use four, later even six for short moments and those moments took a lot out of me, both mentally and magically.
They kept coming, trying to take us down and we kept fighting, back to back. Just as I wondered if there was any end to them, their attacks lessened and I retrieved the shuttles and tried to get as much power back as possible, just in case it was just the calm before the storm.
But it wasn’t. Sigmir and Adra finished off the last few attackers and we were able to move on, up onto the hill overlooking the ruins of Tegi. As we walked, I saw once more that the Nethersprites truly gave pitiful experience, it had to have something to do with their existential makeup.
And ruins they were. Again, the video I had seen had not prepared me for the visual impact of the Devourer. Its misshapen shape, like an excised tumor, brought to life by an insane scientist, was truly the stuff of nightmares. In addition, there was a low mental pressure, not like the piercing pressure I had felt from the Grandmother and Kallista but almost as if the movement of the planet below us was giving us motion sickness. Calling it pressure might be misleading, it was a mental radiation, spreading nausea and discomfort.
I looked around and found a good spot for my ritual. I had easy sight to the Devourer, enough space and limited ways up, giving Adra and Sigmir better odds at defending me during the ritual.
After a kiss for luck from Sigmir, I started laying down the ritual. The outer heptagram was made up out of runes of Ice, Hail and Blizzard, the next formation was an offset pentagram, some lines merging with each other, others supporting the runes, enhancing their effect.
The innermost formation were a rune triangle, merging the five Blizzard runes in the outer layer and the three in the middle layer into a single spell-formation. On the lines of the inner spell formation I had written the directing runes out of the grimoire. I had needed to hold it in my hand. comparing the written runes to the runes in the book, to make sure they were correct but I managed to inscribe them. When I was done, I felt a little light-headed as I had used my own blood to create the formation, linking myself to it so I could channel my powers with less loss.
When the moon stood high in the sky, I started feeding my magic into the formation feeling out the blood around me and it was responding to me. Recalling the movement I had learned from nature itself, I started moving, twisting, jumping, dancing. My emotions merged into the formation as a wild joy bubbled up within me.
My will, my emotions and my magic merged with the help of the formation, giving birth to something different. As I danced, the blood-written runes around me started to shine in silver light and in the air around me, small ice-crystals started to form, joining my dance and slowly rising into the air.
High up in the sky, my magic started to take effect. The small ice-crystals started to disperse, spreading over a ever growing part of the sky and slowly the surrounding air started to react to my magic. First, small ice crystals started falling back down, harmless to anything but the weakest creatures.
But as the night progressed and I persisted in my dance, the icicles grew ever larger, ever stronger. And not only did the icicles grow larger, the directing runes also got stronger, guiding them more and more against the Devourer.
For the first time, it must have felt something. Deep, growling noises ripped through the night, not the high-pitched shrieks but a deep, piercing grown, as if a fingernail was dragged over a giant chalkboard. The trance I had placed myself in was almost broken, my dance interrupted but my mind managed to resist the effect and carry on.
Arm-long icicles struck into the hide of the beast, some drawing blood, others still glancing off but there was progress. If it could feel my attack, I had a chance. Sadly, the wounds it sustained healed quickly, leaving unmarred flesh behind. But my magic was still growing and it would grow further as long as I managed to keep up my trance. There was a hard limit how much power the formation could sustain but it was not reached yet, not by far. I just had to hang in there.
As the darkest hour of the night approached, I felt comfortable. The power I had summoned was raging around me but it was my power. It cocooned me, tuning out the radiation of the Devourer, allowing me to fully focus on my magic. Without the influence, it was as if a weight was lifted from me and my spirit surged. I fully joined with my magic and I merged with the storm above. I felt the icicles form and rain down and I joined my will to every single one of them, giving them a loving push as they struck into the monster below. It was corruption incarnate and nature wanted it cleansed. I would be nature’s tool, freezing it into eternal ice before shattering it.
Down, down, the ice poured. Now the icicles were truly ice-spears; sharp shards of ice, bent on piercing the Devourer and sending it back into the realm it had crawled from. The larger icicles started to pierce deep into its immobile form, preventing the swift healing of its wounds causing pain with every moment. And more and more kept coming.
I felt my limit approaching, a limit of magic, a limit of my spirit, a limit of my body. Not even blood magic could help me cheat that limit so I had to end it now. Reaching through the formation, I coalesced every bit of power I had scattered, gathering it all high above the Devourer into a gleaming pillar of frozen desolation.
As my dear sister in the sky retreated below the horizon, I used all my remaining will and smashed the pillar down, sending the culminating attack of my ritual into the Devourer.
I felt the earth shake below me, as I sank to my knees, exhausted and drained. I had given everything but my life. Just before I hit the ground, I felt myself cradled in strong arms and when I saw Sigmir’s worried face, I managed a smile as sleep took me.