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A note from InadvisablyCompelled

2/2

It was far and away the longest distance Shayma had traveled with [Wake of the Phantasmal], dozens of times further than the trip to Ir from the Caldera. In the Phantasmal Realm, she could see the brilliance of features beneath the ocean she was crossing, indicating places where Leviathans congregated or maybe mana springs down in the abyssal depths. Someday she’d go down and see what they were, after she’d mastered a Leviathan form.

For the journey she used her Chiuxatli form, since the dragon form still was a little draining and it was going to be a long trip. Her four wings pushed against something that wasn’t exactly air, though the intrinsic magic of Chiuxatli flight was almost more important in the strange in-between of the Phantasmal Realm. After seeing the unending sameness of the ocean’s surface when Blue had moved his Fortress over to Einteril, she was glad she could take such a shortcut. It was pretty for a while, but eventually it was just bland.

She felt more than a little odd to be headed back there, though. Her visit to Port Anell hadn’t been very long ago from her perspective, yet at the same time it almost didn’t seem real. The world had changed, and it had been long enough to start accepting that, but not so long that she didn’t vividly remember her time there.

Her first target was Port Liskel, but she would find the time to stop by Port Anell anyway. Or rather, the former site of Port Anell. Blue’s [Starlance] was so potent that she knew nothing was left, but it was difficult for her to properly imagine it. The only times she’d seen it used, it had disintegrated flying islands. What would happen if it was aimed at the ground beggared the imagination.

In fact, she was fairly sure the weightiest and most obvious place in Einteril, and therefore the easiest to get to, was where Port Anell used to be. Even from far away she was certain about the glow of stellar Affinity mana, and there was only one place outside of Blue’s territory where stellar mana could be. The glow grew brighter as she neared it, diving down through the layers of the Phantasmal Realm and back to reality.

Stars glittered below her.

It took her a while to understand what she was seeing. There was a three or four mile wide circle of still, black water, a small segment of it open to the sea, and small lights glittered in the water’s depths. The surrounding land had been scoured bare, sheer rock transformed into something black and translucent, fractures radiating out from the crater. Small aurorae spilled from the cracks in the stone, flickering sheets of color in slow and constant movement. There was no sign that Port Anell itself had ever been there.

“Yeah, full power [Starlance] is terrifying,” Blue said quietly. “I don’t want to use it like this again. I probably wouldn’t have in the first place, but after you died, well. It’s a permanent landmark now. The Bay of Stars.”

Shayma nodded silently. There was nothing to say, the silence and eerie beauty of the devastation speaking for itself. It left her numb, the difference between the thriving port and the magical desolation too great to really comprehend. She flexed her wings and drifted down toward the shore, where rivers emptied into the new bay, then returned to her normal form and dropped the rest of the way.

The stone felt fine underfoot, despite looking so odd, and while there was an intense amount of stellar Affinity mana, it had all soaked into the water and stone, making it almost safe for normal Classers to walk around the area. She walked along the shore, the still waters perfectly clear but the actual source of the stars in their depths impossible to determine, save that they were a very long way down.

Her feet took her toward one of the rents in the ground, green and orange curtains rising from them like smoke from a fire. In her Domain she could see the cracks ran deep, beyond her ability to see, the aurorae bubbling up from the depths. She put her hand out, watching the light play over her fingers, tickling against her skin.

“It’s beautiful,” she said.

 

Through her Domain she noticed a small animal trotting along the lakeshore, carrying a glowing fish in its mouth. It turned in her direction and perked up its ears, muted colors swirling over black fur, and headed in her direction. She put together an identification sigil with [Abstract Mana Geometries], because she couldn’t believe what she was seeing, but it returned exactly what she was thinking. [Nebula Fox].

The fox jumped fearlessly over the bottomless chasm and trotted up to her, making an inquisitive noise as it stared up at her. It tilted his head as she stared at it, first one way, then the other, chewing on the fish. Then it swallowed and nuzzled at her legs, making little fox chirps. She couldn’t help it, she reached down and scooped it up.

“You are far too cute,” Shayma told it, as it snuggled in against her. She had no idea why some wild magical beast, clearly altered by the local mana, would be so friendly. It seemed odd that it would be a fox, too, though of course in the homeland of fox-kin, their distant relatives were not uncommon.

“I swear I didn’t set that up,” Blue told her.

“No, I think it’s just this place,” Shayma said, stroking the [Nebula Fox] behind the ears. “There’s something going on here.”

“Maybe Taelah would like to see it?” Blue suggested. “She can look around here while you go deal with the mage-kings.”

“Sure!” Shayma agreed, and felt Blue push out into the stone long enough to open a portal. Taelah came through a moment later, looking around with wide eyes.

“Why, this is amazing!”

“It’s also where Port Anell used to be,” Shayma said soberly. Taelah looked at her and nodded slowly.

“I’ll be respectful,” Taelah promised.

“I can’t stay,” Shayma said, handing the [Nebula Fox] to Taelah, who looked surprised but took it without protest. It seemed just as happy to be with Taelah, making soft yipping noises as it peered up at the druid. Shayma wasn’t sure she wanted to just leave, but even aside from the time pressure of the mage-kings, she wasn’t sure she was comfortable there either. Someday she would come back.

She gave Taelah a wave before shifting into Chiuxatli form and ascended, shifting into the Phantasmal realm as she worked her way north.

“Are you okay?” Blue asked her, still quiet and subdued.

»I think so,« she flashed after a moment. »It’s just more real now that I’ve seen it.«

“Yeah, I understand what you mean.” People had been trying to convince her that it was ultimately a good thing, and she saw their point, but at the same time she was glad to see Blue was just as affected by it as she was. It actually made her feel a little bit better.

She powered northward, skipping in and out of the Phantasmal Realm to orient herself as she followed the shore. Even though she knew that the mage-kings weren’t using war cores, a part of her kept looking for one of the floating islands that had loomed over Tarnil. When Port Liskell came into sight, she was relieved to only see ships crowded into the harborage.

Then she saw some of the boats weren’t floating on water.

“Those are mage-king airships,” Blue confirmed as she dove down toward the city. The longer she looked, the more the image of a peaceful port city fell away. Plumes of smoke rose from buildings, not chimneys, and the sounds of metal in the air were from weapons, not anvils. “How do you want to do this?” Blue asked.

»I have an idea,« she replied, and shifted to dragon form. Her wings snapped against the air as her dive accelerated, and she projected Blue’s Presence as much as she could. Not sure that was enough, she extended [Greater Light], making herself a blazing beacon descending upon the port. She wasn’t surprised that attracted spells and projectiles, though she had no idea who was firing them. Arrows and spikes bounced off her armor, and Blue’s Presence stifled other magic. Anything that made it through, she crushed by simply batting it with a paw. She landed on the tallest building in the docks, the fighting going silent around her as buildings creaked and groaned under the pressure of a Power’s displeasure.

Monsters and mage-kings, cease your fighting!” Shayma bellowed, using her Domain to amplify the already heroic volume of her dragon form. “Your predations will not be tolerated. Leave, or be destroyed.” Her words echoed through the city, bringing silence and stillness behind them.

There were no more spells or projectiles. The monsters, red statues with oversized stone weapons, began to disengage and fall back, and those near her lay insensate on the ground. The people nearby could barely move, so she eased the power of Blue’s Presence for them, extending [Greater Regeneration] to those nearby. It would have been so easy to kill all the monsters she could see, but she stayed her hand. She had given them the option to leave, and if they were, she couldn’t punish them for it.

Shayma shifted back to fox-kin form, leaping off the warehouse to alight on the streets. With Bane mana, Blue’s Presence completely overwhelmed the lower-level monsters, so she excluded the nearest one and hauled it up. Planting her feet, she held it at arm’s length, shaking it lightly until it revived, the white stone eyes starting at her.

“Tell your master I will speak with him,” she told it, and let it go. The statue scrambled away with the oddly inhuman movements of something made from stone, heading full tilt toward the enormous ships floating in or above the harbor.

“I really want to flood this place with lava,” Blue muttered in her ear. “So many monsters.”

“Now, now,” she said, laughing at his plaintive tone. “I don’t think they’ll be too happy if you burn down their docks.”

“Bah, I could rebuild them!”

It was only partly a joke. She didn’t really suffer from ANATHEMA, but Blue got quiet and twitchy, and the fact that he was spending so much of his time purging blightbeasts didn’t help. She thought he had it under better control by sheer exposure, but it clearly still bothered him.

She leapt back up into the air, assuming her dragon form and making a few passes around the city to make sure the monsters were retreating. Some were trapped by the inhabitants of Port Liskell, but she didn’t shed any tears for them. She wasn’t even sure pseudo-elemental monsters like the red stone statues were really alive in the first place. Though considering the Stoneborn, that was probably a poor assumption.

Only two people had the temerity to attack her, both on the defender’s side. One was just a normal crossbow bolt, which wouldn’t hurt her even without her armor, and for that she simply ripped the crossbow from the kid’s grasp and disintegrated it with a quick shot of [Starlance]. The other was more serious, a charged stone spear generated by some Skill or another. She caught it with her hands and put [Mana Iron] around it with her Domain to absorb the detonation, at the same time hammering the woman with Blue’s presence.

“Do not attack me. Blue is not forgiving,” she told the unfortunate Classer bluntly, who nodded frantically. Shayma suspected that she’d thrown the Skill out of fear more than anything, since a dragon with a Power’s aura seemed to cow everyone else.

Shayma continued to prowl as the statue monsters retreated, pouring back into the ships along the waterfront. There was surprisingly little depletion, so it seemed she’d caught the invasion fairly early. In a sense it was surprising that it was taking so long, since she knew that mage-kings could throw siege-level spells, but they wanted the people and city intact, so perhaps the particular mage-king didn’t have many options that didn’t result in total annihilation. Besides, there wasn’t much point in them fighting in person when they had thousands of expendable monsters to do it.

There were no fourth-tier individuals that she could see, though perhaps the mage-king had already killed them. Or they were still on their way; there hadn’t been much time for them to respond yet. While the monsters collapsed back to the harbor she healed fighters and purged any bits of lingering depletion, finally landing again as the tail end of the invasion force shuffled into the boats. The last monsters were being harassed somewhat ineffectually by low-level Classers, but as soon as Shayma entered the scene the city folk skulked off.

She shifted back to fox-kin form and approached the boats. Surprisingly, it was the mage-king himself that met her there, a bony man with twice as much nose and half as much chin as might have been expected for his face. He floated out of one of the airships, some sort of wind-based skill keeping him aloft, and he actually looked anxious. It seemed he actually knew what trouble he was in.

“It’ll be great if he can pass the word,” Blue murmured as she strode up to him. “Tik Fuy, by the way.”

“Can you call off the invasion?” Shayma asked bluntly, dispensing with any pleasantries. She actually didn’t care to introduce herself to him.

“No, I cannot,” Tik Fuy replied. “We were sent by the Council.” He paused, eyeing her warily. “We thought after what happened with Port Anell, and Blue’s focus on Nicehapoca⁠—”

“We don’t intend to let the mage-kings victimize any cities, no matter where they are,” Shayma told him.

“But, the containment, the rift⁠—” Tik Fuy protested.

“Blue will take care of it, in time,” Shayma replied. “Until then, you’ll have to cope.” Tik Fuy’s jaw worked, but he didn’t object, clearly laboring at least a little bit against Blue’s Presence. Not that Shayma was even using it to its full potential at the moment. “Tell the other mage-kings on Einteril that I’m offering them the same. Leave, or be destroyed.”

“Some of them won’t leave,” Tik Fuy warned. “I read Tor Kot’s reports, but some of them haven’t. Or don’t believe it.”

“Then they will be destroyed.”


 

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