Queen Merwenna hurried towards the cliff-side overlook, the rear end of the castle over the dam that was commonly referred to as the cliff-watch. "How was it detected?" she demanded.
"The mage on duty, Your Highness," Captain Deryk called as he hustled behind her along with a pair of his lieutenants. "She used a long-vision spell to monitor the lake after the first wave just in case it was—"
"And why did she not use magic to alert the rest of the castle?" the Queen interrupted, her tone furious.
"Too much interference she said, Your Highness!" the captain said, his voice a touch defensive as he spoke of the mage under his command. "The castle has never been under attack, so it was never considered that—"
"Make it a consideration after this," the Queen shouted as she threw the door open to the overlook. She had seldom been as annoyed as she had been over the past hour.
First, her youngest daughter—the one with ideas—had come whinging again about her mistreatment at the hands of the Goddess's most favored Hero. The arrogant, ungrateful brat. She should be happy to have a man who shows such passion towards her, let alone the strongest outworlder we've ever been sent! Instead, she threatens to ruin his reputation? The thought caused her anger to flare. Her own bottom had been sore for minutes after her last encounter, but she hadn't seen fit to raise a fuss over it. Of course not. She'd gone to the most senior of the mages, known well to her for his discretion, and solicited a minor spell of healing to stop the slight flow of blood. Then she'd moved on with her business for the day as usual. She appreciated the value of a powerful man's desire.
Second, the news. She'd never loved her husband—the very idea being a source of humor between them—but she'd considered him to be, at worst, someone who shared her goals and visions. At best, he also shared some of her proclivities, though his skill had always been a bit lacking in that regard. The news that he'd been captured and was being tortured in such a gruesome manner caused her to feel ill.
Third, the wave. She'd been growing excited at the prospect of finally having time with the only fucking man who was both willing and able to fully satisfy her needs once more—with even some unexpected bonuses thrown in—when suddenly a wave from the lake had struck the castle hard enough to shake it and dump a saucer full of her annoying daughter's vomit on her.
Few things cooled her fires faster than excrement.
She'd cleaned herself up as best she could, even sullying the tablecloth in her haste to get the disgusting fluid off of her, but the smell had lingered. She was uncertain whether it was her imagination, but it seemed she could still smell it on herself even after a hasty wash and change into her spare clothes that she'd left in the Hero's chambers for an entirely different contingency.
Fourth, her daughter again with her childish ideas. Fine, she'd played a clever game, jockeyed for her position in the brief clash, even come out on top. She was proud—or would be if she could be certain that her child's wit wasn't the product of some devilspawn charm. Either way, Queen Merwenna had mused to herself, she'd never exactly been fond of the old family heirloom. It could be fun on a rare occasion, but the profits they could obtain by selling it—perhaps a once in a lifetime opportunity with the childish Hero distracted and both her husband and son away—were objectively more valuable.
And it—she—would sell. Of course she would. Everyone who was anyone would literally kill to obtain such a one-of-a-kind delicacy. Fifty million was pocket money compared to her true worth, but there was only so much that anyone could pay.
"Your Highness?" enquired a mage—Balan, the oldest and most powerful of the castle's cadre—who was looking over from where he'd been conversing with Archbishop Leofrick. His blue robe fluttered in the wind. "Should you be—"
"Spare me," she interrupted, closing on the pair. Obviously I'll remain wherever's safest, such as behind the shields of a Hero and a cadre of our best mages. "What's going on? Is it the seadevils?"
"We were just discussing that, Your Highness," said the Archbishop with his delectable, smooth voice. "We've detected no signs of—"
"Your Holiness, please stop him!" called another mage from a little ways farther out, gesturing to a black-armored youngster standing at the edge of the cliff—well past the line the rest of the mages had formed. "It's not safe beyond—"
"You don't believe in Lucia's blessings?" Normannus shouted, whirling around. He raised his greatshield high in the sky with one arm as though it weighed nothing, his titanic greatsword buried in the ground at his side. "This shield was blessed personally by Her! She even used the blood of that Demon Queen slut to strengthen its power! It'll stop some fucking wave no prob." He pointed with his other hand at the Queen. "You just better be ready to pay—"
"It comes!" shouted one of the mages, her eyes glowing with the telltale signs of a long-vision spell. "Ready yourselves!"
Normannus turned back towards the lake and casually raised his shield up. A massive, glowing, barrier of white light erupted just past the edge of the cliff, flowing in both directions vertically as it continued to extend. He looked back with a smirk. "See?" he called in a mocking tone. "Easy."
A second, blue barrier sprang up just in front of the mages at an angle that slanted with the intent to redirect the wave back along the river's course rather than stop its passage entirely. It disappeared into the ground and rose high overhead, though not as high as the Hero's.
The wave became visible in the distance, a greenish-blue blob that grew larger at a steady rate. Queen Merwenna pressed her hands to her temples. That idiot. He might be skilled in the bedroom, but he has the intellect of a deranged ferret outside of it. Why not join with the mages and create a single barrier?
Archbishop Leofrick had clasped his hands together in front of himself, and a halo of soft, white light surrounded him. The blue barrier was reinforced with white sigils throughout its entire span.
"Steady!" called Balan with his arms raised, likely to assist as he controlled the mages' joined spell.
The wave grew even larger.
Balan realized it first.
"Y-your Holiness, we must form a dome!" he stammered. "Mages, larger!" he shouted. "Up and over the entire castle! And down! We must protect the founda—no, the entire cliff!"
The blue-and-white barrier wobbled.
"Careful, Balan!" the Archbishop cautioned, his eyes closed as he prayed. "With me. Slower."
The joint barrier grew stable again, creeping upwards and backwards at a reliable rate that quickened over time.
The wave continued to grow, and it was then that the Queen realized how far away it still was. "By the Goddess," she whispered, her hands moving to cover her mouth as her eyes widened.
"I keep telling you guys: don't worry about it!" called Normannus, not even watching the wave as he looked back and chuckled at the attempts of the two dozen mages to wrap their shield up and over the castle.
"Hero Normannus," the Queen called with rising panic, "you must come—"
"Hey, you're supposed to be on my side," he called, his expression unreadable at the distance but his tone petulant.
The wave was nearly upon them. It towered at an impossible height, seeming to contain the entire plane of water as it closed on the castle. It dwarfed the giant structure with its unfathomable, immeasurable size.
"It's too late," Balan said, his voice strained. "We could not possibly re-form the shield in time if—"
The wave encountered the barrier of light first.
It hit straight on, the barrier having been created to stop the wave with brute force.
The wave was larger than the barrier.
"Oh fuck!" shouted Normannus as he finally looked back.
Water poured over the top of his barrier.
The wave didn't crash against it, however.
That would imply the barrier was of a size that the wave could crash against.
The wave continued over the barrier of light as though it wasn't even there, and the barrier winked out of existence at the slightest touch, seeming to be nothing more than a flashy display of light.
Normannus was flattened against the blue mage barrier for an instant before he vanished along with the wall of water.
The wave continued on.
Queen Merwenna's eyes nearly popped out of her head. She turned to look for the Hero, but there was no sign of him and no way to see past the edge of the world of water beyond the magical barrier.
The roar of the water was all-encompassing, and her vision had turned completely greenish-blue, as though the castle was built at the bottom of an ocean.
Balan's and Archbishop Leofrick's faces contorted while they struggled under the tremendous strain of maintaining the barrier. "Hold!" screamed the Archbishop.
The wave seemed to have stopped on top of them.
It was impossible to know whether it had, save for the constant roar and rumble as it passed.
The Queen held her breath, suddenly regretting her judgment that this would be the safest place in…
The Archbishop's halo sputtered, then faded along with his sigils.