She hadn’t held much hope that Blue’s takeover of the Great Dungeon would go smoothly. Even as he was, a Power with nigh-unlimited mana, once she’d seen the actual heart of a Great Dungeon she knew they were dealing directly with the workings of the gods. True, the working had failed, but even the faintest echoes of the gods could shake the world. Just because it had failed didn’t mean it was any less dangerous.
For at least a few seconds, though, it seemed to be going well enough. There was a raging rumble of competing energies, opposing forces annihilating each other at each of the target cores, but that was to be expected. The scale of the forces at play was such that even she didn’t want to get involved, especially since she still had work to do.
So far the Great Dungeon had been hostile but not especially dangerous. Calling continent-sized beasts trying to kill them not dangerous was amusing but accurate, because neither she nor her companions were stupid enough to actually get caught by an attack. If they’d had magic as potent as their physical forms it might have been a challenge, but really it was easy enough to just breeze past them.
Still, she’d been conserving her strength for a reason. Even if the Fields and monsters brought to bear hadn’t be immensely worrying yet, they were still in the middle of enemy territory, with an enemy that was larger than anything Ansae had ever fought before. It was only a matter of time until there was something serious she needed to take care of.
A crackle of energy flicked through Blue’s seed-ship and it was like a howl resounded through the dense energy surrounding them. A ripple went through all the condensed magics swirling about them, and things started to collapse. It wasn’t intent, exactly, as it seemed that Great Dungeons could no more directly act on mana than Blue could, but it was a response.
“Uh, Ansae?” Blue’s voice sounded a little blurry, stretched as they both exerted themselves in faster than normal time. “I don’t know if you can do anything about it but we’ve got the, uh. The whole dungeon’s mana collapsing down on us and I need more time.”
“Then I will give you the time,” she replied. For a moment she cast her senses out further, shoving aside the stifling atmosphere to look far into the dungeon. Out beyond the core room, in every direction and for thousands of miles, she could see the mana flows plummeting inward. It wasn’t like the manifestations that had caused insane weather before, but more like Blue’s mana, power without intent and not spending itself in vain.
Unlike Blue, it was entire planets’ worth of mana rather than a mere country or two, and there was more coming from beyond what she could sense. The Great Dungeon was a very big place, and it all seemed to be concentrating on them. Ansae didn’t know what would happen if that influx reached the core room, and Blue and Shayma, but it wouldn’t be good.
As intense at times as the journey down had been, she’d not particularly exerted herself in case something truly dangerous arose. This certainly counted. Ansae took a breath, drawing on her moon, her history, her Power, and her knowledge. She centered herself and stretched out her will, denying that enormous infalling attack.
The unstoppable avalanche froze in place, hammering at her indominable will and trying to break past her power, but she held it fast, spending her own strength like water to keep it in place and away from Blue and Shayma. It was the weight of an entire world and more, but she refused to let that matter. She was The Silver Woe.
The abrupt negation of that immense attack shuddered through the space inside it, the Great Dungeon responding to such a massive shift. The supporting stone around the cores all but vanished in a few fractions of an instant, leaving only a tall pillar rising from the bottom of the fifty-mile sphere of the core room, the bare walls now enclosing an empty bubble. The once-embedded mana crystals remained in the space where the stone had once been, thousands of them, floating in a seething, arcing sea of roiling air and earth Affinity. It wasn’t exactly a rune, because she had made runes and would know, but there were some pretensions in that direction as they began to shatter.
Supercharged mana rushed down toward them, spontaneously converting into supersonic shards of rock so hard it might well be [Firmament]. They were enormous swaths, miles wide, aiming straight for Shayma and Blue’s seed-ship. Not that she was going to let that happen. The two of them could certainly handle incidental bumps and bruises, but this stuff was so powerful it was tearing apart reality itself in front of it. Some of the spatially expanded space collapsed from the strain and was converted back to mana, accelerating the stone projectiles as fast as thought.
With one of Blue’s [Contained Stars], her [Crown of the Silver Woe] had become something far more than it had been before, a massive dynamo of stellar mana that meant she would never have to worry about ambient mana again. While she still didn’t have the raw mana generation of a full Origin Relic, it was a huge amount of energy she could tap into without even touching her own reserves. With her [Primal Magic], it didn’t need to remain Stellar, either.
Time Affinity was difficult to find and difficult to understand, but the fact that Ansae could actually wield it was one of her greatest weapons. Speed trivialized any number of attacks, so the moment the core room shifted, her personal defenses accelerated her to hundreds of times normal speed. She burned excess mana from her crown, converting it on the fly as she studied coalescing pseudo-spells and marked out their weaknesses.
Even if she was holding back the very will of the Great Dungeon itself, The Silver Woe could still fight. She pulled from her revitalized well of mana, exulting once again in having it whole and hale, and shaped together a spiked chain of a spell. There were thirty-two individual lances imploding from the wall of the core room, so she whipped her spell out to intersect each of them in turn, forming a miles-long burning beam bouncing between each ripping vortex. Ansae pulled on the spell, exerting her will as she shattered the dungeon’s attack and pulled the remnants toward herself.
The massive grey-blue lances driving in from the walls shattered where her spell touched them, dissolving in a flurry of silver that shot through them all the way back to the edge of the core room. Enormous streamers swirled around the fifty mile expanse of the core room, splintering some of the free-floating mana crystals as the remnant mana came down to surround her. She seized control of the lingering energies, pulling them into a whirling shield as she prepared for the next attack.
There would be a next attack.
The core room defined the innermost sanctum of the dungeon, but the ripples of reaction had gone both deep and wide. While Blue and Shayma fought with the cores, the rest of the Dungeon was hers to deal with, and it had a lot to throw at her. No single thing was a threat, but there were many, many single things.
A few moments later in her accelerated timeframe, another mana discharge jolted through Blue’s seed-ship, but neither he nor Shayma said anything, intent on their internal battle. She trusted that they would call her if they needed help, and until then, she had her own work to do. Even as she watched, the strange material that defined the core room began to dissolve and the bubble popped, leaving only strands connecting it to the rest of the dungeon.
Fortunately there wasn’t enough room for any of the continent-sized things to be brought down to attack them, but there were other creatures all but beating on the walls to have their turn attacking the invaders. Ansae hurled out the slivers of the shield orbiting her to slaughter the first wave of beasts, which consisted of things they’d skipped past in their route. Surprisingly, some of them survived, long snakelike winged things clutching intact mana crystals in their claws and pulling on the energies contained within.
Immediately, massive rending spells of twined storm and mind mana came plummeting down, the intent behind them pure, unalloyed hatred, almost enough to be considered a [Bane] in its own right. With a flick of her wings, she put herself between them and her companions, flinging out the remains of the shield to intercept the spells. She had long ago embedded defenses against mind magic in the bones of her skull, and the runes there fizzed and popped as they absorbed and dispersed the mental component of the attack. Even secondhand, infiltrating along the mana she was controlling, mind magic was insidious.
The spells shattered against the mana she’d borrowed from the failed attacks, and Ansae used her own to send two attacks of her own, near-invisible beams of ravenous earth Affinity, to bypass the creature’s native resistance to more air-oriented mana. She took a certain satisfaction in the sight of the dozen or so survivors turning to stone, falling and tumbling into the remains of everything else she’d destroyed, but that was just the first wave.
From off to the left and right came things that radiated age, perhaps beings even older than herself. They looked more like fish with wings than anything, big gawping mouths and oversized eyes, lacking any sort of dignity but with plenty of power. Not a match for her, of course, even if her link to her moon was dimmer this far under the earth, but a little bit closer than most.
They seemed to be more than moderately clever, too, since the spells they conjured were more complex than the animalistic emotions that powered the other attacks. Though, quite oddly, they did not have the same grace and coherence that she would have expected from proper Skills. There was a certain polish that came from the way Skills condensed the knowledge of thousand of people that their magic use lacked.
There were eight of them, five on one side and three on the other, swarming in between the remaining wires that anchored the cores to the rest of the dungeon. Normal scrying didn’t tell anything about them, of course, as everything that inhabited the dungeon was disconnected from the Akasha. She could only rely on her senses, though that was no trouble as hers were better than most.
Despite there being only three to one side, the trio seemed far more dangerous, bristling with air and, unusually for the dungeon, light Affinities. Even those didn’t feel quite right, more like echoes of the real thing. Identifiable enough, but still foreign.
Both sets worked together to collaboratively cast some kind of attack over the course of two to three seconds. Not that she intended to give them the time. The simplest spellbreaker was a knot of opposing Affinity, filled with disrupting intent and sufficient power. Ansae had more than sufficient power, and she sent off a series of contemptuous missiles to break up their collective efforts before they could come to fruition.
She followed after herself, covering the miles in an eyeblink. While it was generally good policy to engage from a distance, the very atmosphere made extreme distances an issue, and sometimes it was just satisfying to lay claws on a problem. The gormless fishlike things were about dragon-sized, and they screamed very nicely when her depletion-Bane claws cut into them. A flurry of claws, jaws, wings, and tail separated the trio into bleeding bits, and she had to admit they had a very unique taste that might have been worth pursuing under other circumstances.
By the time she finished with them, the other group had started casting again, only somewhat set back by having their efforts smashed apart by Ansae’s spells. A slow rolling wave of light bloomed outward from them, overlapping and rippling together. It was faint and hazy but bespoke incredible danger, something with a passing similarity to the Light of Eschaton.
Everything its path, the remnants of creatures, mana crystals, and ambient mana alike, was annihilated with a celerity that impressed her. Very few people or creatures could create something so wholly destructive. Of course, she was one of those people. Or possibly, depending on perspective, one of those creatures.
She reached out and stifled the destructive light, turning it into darkness. For most, that would involve projecting darkness Affinity mana, but she knew more about magic than anyone alive. She had visited the corners of the world where light and darkness mingled, where one became the other, where one substituted for the other, and she knew intimately how seemingly opposed things were really not so far different. Instead of trying to compete with the annihilating light spell, she suborned it, the spell breaking apart as it was turned against itself.
The annihilating wave fell apart before it got further than a mile, turned into angry black clouds laced with the dying remnants of that hideous light. Ansae snorted to herself and moved to take care of the others, flexing bloody claws as she closed the distance. She hadn’t had to fight so much for a very long time, and it was frankly entertaining, even laboring as she was to hold the dungeon’s mana collapse back. So long as Blue and Shayma got things done before she ran dry, she was actually enjoying herself.