Jennifer took in a sharp breath as she found herself back in the mage’s chamber. Irwys grabbed her shoulder as the sudden shift sent her stumbling.
“What... was that?” Jennifer blurted out, trying to get a hold of herself as her mind still tried to catch up to everything she'd seen. Yet she never got the chance. The room shuddered as the spell cut off, the lights in the chamber flickering as the mana cores burst into shards.
A storm of mana brewed inside the guild, moving throughout the structure as it flooded everywhere. Jennifer sucked another shallow breath as she steadied herself with Irwys' grip.
"What in Anvyrin’s grace?" Irwys asked as the building shook.
“The demons are attacking. That’s what the prince told me,” Jennifer muttered, surprised expressions greeting her statement. A second wave of mana blasted through the area, turning the air heavy with it’s oppressive presence.
“Rock! Combat Form. Guard the guests,” Darius shouted as his body became encased in blue light. The mage lifted off the ground, shooting past everyone with a blast of air.
<Xar are you there?> Jenn sent in a hurried panic to the little spider.
<Jennifer is Safe! Mind not Blank. Xar could not break the Darkness-Eat-Void> the spider sent, a feeling of guilt traversing through the link.
<It’s fine. I’m just glad you’re alright. But we need to hide. The guild is under attack… If the prince is right> she sent back, trying to calm her own rushing thoughts.
“What do we do? I don’t know how the demons even got here. But something’s clearly wrong,” Jennifer said, her skills detecting a monstrous spell formation being created around the perimeter of the guild.
“We need to get you to safety. Even if the demons are attacking, they'll need to breach the walls first. The adventurers will be ready by then,” Irwys said quietly but she didn’t miss his tight grip on the hilt of his sword, or the frown on his face.
Irwys walked on ahead and Jennifer followed behind. She swallowed once, as panic began to build up. Why now? Why so early this time? There should still be more than a week before the invasion. Then how- Is it because of me?
Jennifer tried to push the images of the burning city from her mind. The screams played themselves in her ears as she once again smelled the scent of blood filling the air. She clenched her hands, turning to look at the door where Rock stood. The cute attendant was gone. In its place stood a six-foot-tall mass of bouldery rocks strewn together. It remained still, light blue lines of mana pulsing through its body as the Golem stood alert at the door.
<Presence! Danger!> Xar screamed at her and she felt her [Minor Detect Danger] activate at the same time.
Jennifer swiveled around and froze as a blood curdling scream made its way through the corridor. The shadows around her shifted, turning into scythes aimed for her throat. Jennifer charged a glass shard, forming it around her neck in an instant, as she reinforced it a moment later. The scythe impacted the reinforced glass, cracking it. The impact threw her off as she clutched her neck, shards of broken glass falling into her hand.
“[Piercing Edge]” Irwys called out as he drew his sword, cutting through the shadowy blades. The attacker was barely revealed. The black form of a demon slithered through the area, dodging the barrage of stone that Rock threw at it, leaving a dark smoking trail of blood as it vanished.
Jennifer’s heart raced but her mind had no time to catch up. She quickly pulled up her spells, taking stock of her environment as the training from the past few weeks started to kick in. It'd already allowed her to block a strike before she'd known what was happening.
They ran ahead, Rock following behind as its steps created deep thumps. But they were lost in the general clamour. The guild was in chaos and she sensed various wards and spells activating.
“Demons present! Stealth types and some corrupters. Take out the shadow ones first!” A mage shouted, throwing a spike of ice at a clump of darkness where it exploded.
“Stop the bloody spell first. That’s at least a tier seven,” hissed another, raising a wand to direct a spell construct at the spell form dominating Jenn's [Enhanced Mana Sense].
“Reach the upper floors! Form a barricade!” A harpy shouted, firing a fireball towards Jennifer as she popped into his field of view. She launched a glass mana bolt, diverting the spell as the harpy cursed, his eyes widening upon seeing Rock before the golem shot off in the opposite direction leaving the struggling mages behind.
“Where are we going,” Jenn asked as she ran behind Irwys, her eyes scanning the corridors for hidden demons. They could be lurking around any corner, and Jenn wasn't prepared to die again. Not if she could help it.
<Not here. Magic. Shadow-Void things are with the magic> Xar sent to her as he continued to scan the surroundings.
“Library. I can close it off from the outside and lock it completely. It’s the safest place right now,” Irwys said and she nodded following his lead.
Another blast of mana crumbled the wards on the wall and Jennifer covered her eyes as the mana recoil made her hand twitch.
<Brace. Magic. Very, very strong magic.>
A dull void in the air pulled open as space began to distort. The tear spread out sucking the air in the lobby they were running through. Jennifer stumbled as she felt the magic run wild around her. Her body thrummed, drinking in the passive mana from the spell as it formed. She felt the ley lines under her feet, buzzing with strength as the tower shook. With a mana output unlike anything she’d felt before, the building went abuzz as a spell circle formed around them.
With a bright flash of light, a horde of demons appeared inside the guild. Irwys slashed through one demon that rushed towards them, its eyes red and pulsating with madness. Its body twisted as a mocking smile decorated its face even as the creature died.
Mass Teleport- that should be impossible... the teleportation network should stop that? Unless it's been taken over somehow.
“[Sword Art: Mistblade]” Irwys shouted as wisps of mist covered his sword, extending the blade several feet. A single slash turned into three as he swept through the demons.
Glass Agile Wind.
Jennifer let her spell run wild, shards of glass rotating around as she followed behind Irwys, who was making his way through the crowd of demons with little apparent effort. A larger group of twisted creatures swooped down, aiming for her back.
“Rock! Stay and attack!” she shouted to the golem behind her as she ran ahead. She could hear the impact as Rock's attacks drew the demon's attention.
A trail of mist covered their path as Irwys guided her to the library. He placed an insignia on the door, the gates thrumming lightly before they opened. Irwys entered with his sword in front of him as he checked his surroundings.
“Head in, Jennifer. And stay inside. I’m sealing these gates, so they shouldn’t open from the outside. The library has wards, they'll turn on the moment I break the seal. We’ll contact you through message scrolls when things calm down. But… if things do go wrong. The third bookshelf in the 17th row from the left. Look for an escape mechanism there. It’s built into the structure of the shelf. You should be able to find it, if you know where to look. It'll lead you out of the guild,” Irwys said in a rush, as he breathed hard.
Jennifer nodded, as she took a step back and Irwys took one last look at her, giving her a light nod before he pushed the door closed.
She scanned her surroundings, her glass shards still circling around her in a frenzy. Jennifer could sense the moving bodies outside, the golem’s mana flaring as it kept the demons at bay. She took a step back, summoning a blood shard in her hand, shaping it like a dagger.
<Can you sense anything in here?> Jennifer sent to Xar as she moved further away from the Library gates. The rows and rows of bookshelves stood silently, yet the musty spell of pages was no comfort to her. Her gut still churned with anxiety and panic, and a part of her wished to rush back home to ensure the safety of her family.
<Vision-Blocked-Magic. Soul-Bound-Mark is not responding. Xar cannot see. Xar is annoyed. Too much magic today>
I need to find the escape mechanism first.
The rows of bookshelves were arranged neatly by number starting from the left. Jennifer walked through the rows, searching for the one Irwys had mentioned. Jennifer stopped the Agile wind spell, floating a few sharpened shards around her instead.
The entire library shook as the shockwave of a blast traveled through the tiled floor. A shiver travelled up her spine and Jennifer snapped around, hand out in front of her holding her blood-glass dagger.
A silent bookshelf was all that was waiting for her. No shadow arms tried to go for her. No demon to steal her away. Yet she couldn't shake the feeling that something had been watching her. She did try to suppress it as she walked further in, exploring the bookshelves.
<Xar, are you sure you can't sense anything?> she asked the spider as she kept an eye for demons or any other twisted magic trying to enter the library.
<Xar is Tired-Annoyed. Soul-Bound-Mark is Heavy-Dark-Empty>
Jennifer frowned at his words. Something is interfering with the Mark?
Asking Xar to keep an eye out, Jenn replayed Irwys' instructions in her mind. But the bookshelf wasn’t distinguishable in any way from the others beside it. All of them similarly filled to the brim with text books of various topics. Jennifer looked around trying to find any obvious levers or mechanism, but even after a few minutes of inspection she'd found nothing new.
“[Enhanced Mana Sense]” Jennifer said, as she sharpened her mana sensitivity to its limits. She placed her hand on the shelf trying to get a better feel but if the library or shelf had any magical mechanism in it then it was in pieces, broken by the mana wave caused by the tremendous spell that was still building outside.
<Broken?> Xar asked, giving voice to her fears.
“I sure hope not,” Jennifer muttered as she turned back around. Nervously walking through the area. She rechecked the numbers, finding herself back at the same worn and weathered bookshelf. Another thorough inspection revealed yet more nothing. Whatever escape mechanism was here, it was either broken, or she couldn’t find it.
What will I do if the guild falls? The Alliance should be marching but... will they make it in time?
A knock on the library door interrupted her thoughts. Jennifer’s heart almost lept out of her throat as she spun toward it. But the door remained closed, and no great demon burst through. Calming down, she raised her dagger in front of her.
She pulled up her Mana bolts, charging the spell as she created three more. She prepared the spell matrix of her Glass Wind Blades, pushing her mana capacity to its limits. A throb of pain in her gut told her there’d be consequences for the repeated over-extension of her mana limit, but Jennifer didn't care. If she didn't survive, then all her effort would mean nothing.
A knock sounded on the door once more, and she heard a muffled shout come from the other side. Jennifer kept her guard up, slinking toward the door. Her heart thundered and she walked until she was only a few feet away. Then she waited.
Another series of knocks sounded out, growing more and more hurried.
“Open the door!” The shout came, and Jennifer felt her heart stop upon hearing Rumina's voice. She almost stepped ahead to open the door but froze midway.
How did Rumina get here?
“Anyone? Please please open the door! They’re t-the demons are going to be here-” a scream cut off and Jennifer's gut churned.
<Xar please, distract the demons if you can. Please. Hurry> Jennifer sent in a rush. Xar groaned but sent an affirmative message.
In a rush she manifested a glass-shard and then bending down, she quickly scratched the enchantment for [Force Ward] onto the floor.
The screams continued and she heard thumps on the door. Panic caused her hands to shake as Jennifer finished the inscription, flooding her mana into the spell matrix as it lit up. Cracks spread through the floor as a much higher amount of mana than she'd intended poured into the spell due to the mana wave. But Jennifer continued the spell, gritting her teeth through the backlash and forcing her hands to still.
The circle cracked, the mana wave dissipating. The spell was set. Jennifer disabled the lock, swinging the door open. She saw her friend shouting outside, holding a dagger as she screamed at several demons. Rock stood nearby, holding back the majority of demons, its body cracked and the mana core inside leaking out.
Jennifer grabbed Rumina’s hand, pulling her in, away from the attacking demons as Jenn unleashed her mana bolts. Before they could recover, she slammed the door shut as the demons tried to rush in, the force ward keeping them at bay. Screeches and screams sounded out as the demons slammed against the door, but the lock had set, not budging an inch. Jennifer turned to stare at her friend, blood covering Rumina's face as her hands shook.
“J-Jenn. I-” Rumina broke into a sob as she hugged her friend. The scent of blood pervaded Jenn's senses and she felt tears dampen her shoulder. Jennifer’s heart raced, her body shaking from nervousness as she pulled her friend in a tight hug.
“It’s fine. It’ll be fine. You’re alright Rumina,” Jennifer soothed, her own voice cracking as the tense knot of emotions melted in her stomach. She felt the blood pouring down Rumina’s back, staining her hands, the torn blood soaked cloth that broke apart from a touch.
Jennifer raised her hand, about to soothe Ruimna when her [Minor Detect Danger] flared up. A sense of dread pulsed through her chest as a searing hot feeling embedded into her gut. Fire erupted in her nerves as Jennifer twitched, her eyes wide in shock. Jennifer looked down, pushing Rumina away with bloody hands, as she watched the knife embedded in her gut. Blood poured out of the wound as pain pulsed through each breath.
Jenn stared into her friend's eyes, and all she knew was pain.