“They cease to exist.”
- The Journey to the Afterlife
***Kingdom Newerth, Capital City***
After we gave the signal to attack, Charles opened the negotiations with a silvery orb of power. The spell flicked away from his open palm and impacted the house on the small hill. The resulting explosion utterly annihilated the building, flinging pieces of burning debris in all directions. Earth and stone is thrown through the air like projectiles, forcing us to shield ourselves.
No, the king of Newerth didn't intend to go easy on his son.
From the corner of my eyes, I notice a body tumbling through the air. One of Perseus's hired guns was caught off guard. Not that knowing about the attack would have helped him. Charles interwove an array of counterspells with his attack. There is no doubt that someone below divine level wouldn't be able to defend himself against such an attack.
That said, I think we can tick the five goons from our list. Good thing that I didn't even bother to memorize their names.
When the rain of debris stops the lifting smoke reveals a nice view on the utter devastation of Charles’s attack. The house is gone and in its stead is a huge crater, Perseus hovering in its centre. He summoned his aura, protecting himself from the attack with sheer power.
The rest of his minions are nowhere to be seen. He didn't protect them. So either the other four were flung away like their comrade and I simply didn't notice them, or they were torn to pieces.
“Didn't he overdo it? What if Perseus hadn't been in the building? We would have lost our opportunity to question his goons.” I muse to myself, watching Perseus. Ok! We wouldn't have lost them. My father is in the habit of snatching every soul that dies close to him. Every... single... one. So it's easy to understand why we avoid inducting outsiders to this little secret of ours. Knowing that they are close to a soul-snatching entity makes people uneasy. Even if there are worse things than being forcefully employed by my father.
The bastard is waiting for us, taunting us. He hovers in the centre of the crater as if there is no problem at all. It's as if he thinks that he can take on all of us at once. That's simply... overconfident? Insane? Did he snap during his imprisonment? I understand that biding your time in such a small cell is no fun. But he wasn't tortured, he had enough to eat and to drink. Hell, according to Marcus the prisoners are even allowed to read books. There is no reason to go off the deep end.
“You forget that my father has the sight. He most likely saw the future, knowing that he would reveal Perseus by doing this,” Marcus explains his father's actions.
“What a nice way to circumvent all those wards against scrying. Well, I suppose the wards aren't a problem any longer.” I mumble and stroll forward, shortening the distance to Perseus. The rest of the group is also closing in, approaching the crater.
The power of a huge barrier weaves around me, charging my body with energy. I raise both hands to join the group spell. Fine tendrils of power coil around Perseus as our group closes in on him from all sides. If we want to contain him, then we have to work together to suppress his power. A fight without limitations could level a huge part of Newerth. By creating this barrier, we are trying our best to avoid collateral damage.
Our best chance to subdue Perseus is to surround him with a barrier strong enough to stop him from breaking through. He can rage all he wants once we have him confined. With eleven divinities against one, we have a good chance at succeeding.
My power flows into the barrier, strengthening my area of the spell. Marcus joins me without hesitation. But something feels off about the spell. It's formed correctly, but somehow it doesn't want to lock into place. When you cast a spell you can tell that you succeeded in invoking the spell. Once you fed enough mana into the spell matrix, the spell gains a nature of its own to create the desired effect. In this case we've woven the matrix and are feeding the spell, which is to be expected for a channel-type-spell. We are also getting the desired effect, but for some reason the spell doesn't lock.
Charles reaches the edge of the crater. “Perseus, give up and come back with us. Don't you understand that you need help?”
Perseus’s self confident smile turns into a sneer as he looks at his father. “And your idea of help is to deprive me of my power. I'll never give up on my ability. Why do I have it when it isn't meant to be used? I'll show all of you that I am meant to have this power. It is mine, just like Newerth should be mine!”
A guttural laugh escapes his lips and he spreads his hands, drawing his fingers through the air. Fine threads of power become visible on his fingertips. They spread out and form an intriguing pattern which grows, snaking out from his position. It's a spell matrix, but one that was already in place when we arrived here!
“That's bad!” Marcus starts a counterspell of his own, but as the pattern reaches our barrier it simply shatters. The vines of power flow past us, spreading across the ground. It's an area of effect spell, so I highly doubt that taking off into the air would have helped us.
Even as I feel the spell doing something to me, a rain of icy shards hammers down onto Perseus. I try to cast a spell of my own, but I cannot move. Something is seriously wrong! Ishaan's shards of ice tear into Perseus, but he endures it. A few moments later the cloud above the house dissipates as if it was blown away and Ishaan falls towards the ground with his wife in his arms. The ice titan somehow manages to move his body despite the spell and shields his wife with his body. They disappear out my sight when they fall into the crater. The sound of the impact makes my belly cringe.
I just hope that they didn’t get hurt, but knowing Ishaan I bet that he will simply stand up and create some noise with his spine. Even without magic. Then I realize that everyone is caught in this spell. Even Dad. I see him on the other side of the crater, ripples of shadow wandering over his face as he tries to transform. He achieves nothing though!
“How can this be!? A binding spell of this magnitude. It must have taken months to set up such a trap. This is impossible,” Charles gasps. He tries to move, but he is caught like all the others. His conclusion is correct. Setting up a ritual that’s able to bind several divines at once… It must have been a hell of an undertaking.
Perseus floats forward. “Months! Ha! It took years! Sneaking away during weekends. Biding my time with preparations, hiding my actions from everyone. It took years, father.” He reaches the edge of the crater and punches Charles in the face. Then he turns his attention to Clarity and kicks her in the belly. Without the aid of magic, both of them crumble like children.
“I wanted to get rid of you since the day you replaced Mother.” Perseus takes his time to correct his outfit, simple, grey trousers and a black shirt with a loosely hanging coat. “I’ve planned for years to take over. In fact, I was about to launch my plan when that bitch started to cause trouble. I had to hold back and delay my plans. After all, I want a functioning kingdom. Taking over in a time of complete chaos isn’t that easy. And then you two simply had to go and arrest me.”
He kicks his father for good measure, then he turns his attention to me. “But at least she is right here. Maybe I should delay killing her. You all can watch while I take my pleasure with her. This binding circle uses your own power against each other. The more people are caught in it, the stronger it gets. At first I didn’t expect to hold you for more than a few minutes. It would be enough to kill you. Though with that many people caught in the spell I should have well over an hour.”
He walks towards me, ignoring the enraged cries of the people around us. I try to fight the force that holds me in place. Slight movements are possible, but it feels like being buried in sand. I can’t even summon a shred of mana.
Marcus starts wriggling at my side. “Don’t dare to come near her or I swear that I’ll kill you! It doesn’t matter that you are my brother!” Perseus chuckles and slams his palm into Marcus’s chest. I squeal as he is flung backwards with the crack of bones.
My scream is cut short when Perseus roams a hand over my torso, snaking tendrils of his power around me. I try to resist, but his energies are pure temptation and a boiling sensation starts gathering inside me. Why am I so weak towards his power? “Bastard!”
He smiles. “Oh, I think you simply know that we belong to each other. We are two sides of the same coin. What do you think? Should we let them watch?”
A jolt of electricity runs up my spine and I feel my mind become clouded. He is right. His power is so wonderful. I need it. The enraged screams of the others don’t matter as I move my hand to capture more of the sweet power that’s so full of pure temptation.
Forcing my trembling hand ever so slowly to move, I reach out to touch Perseus’s cheek. Purring, I trail a finger down his neck towards the cleft under his throat, pulling in as much power as I can while reaching out with my own.
Suddenly his self righteous, superior expression disappears and he chokes, startling me. He chokes another time, coughing up blood. The strange power of the moment is gone and I clench my teeth, realizing what I’ve done.
Perseus’s upper body comes apart in a shower of blood, gore and bone, painting me red. In reflex, I close my eyes and feel the warm blood spraying onto my face. When I open them again, the Adonis of a man in front of me is gone. Just a short stump of his spine is protruding from the rest of his lower body. His arms were flung to the side. It’s as if his chest simply exploded from the inside out!
I close my hand around the soul orb which was forcefully freed from Perseus’s mortal shell. As I do so, his head impacts the ground right next to Charles, rolling twice before it halts right in front of Clarity’s face. What remains of Perseus, topples over and I feel that the restraints which hold me vanish.
In an instant Marcus is at my side, wheezing heavily. The broken rib, which is protruding from his chest, doesn’t stop him from touching me everywhere. “By the gods! He didn’t hurt you? Tell me that you are fine! How is the baby!? If he was still alive, I would rip him apart myself!”
I blink, still holding the soul in my hand. “No. It’s fine. My ego took a little damage, but that’s all. I think I am unharmed.”
Ishaan’s head appears from below the edge of the crater, Tisha on his shoulders. His eyes roam the scene while everyone else rushes to my side. “What the fuck happened here!?”
I wince and try wipe the blood out of my face. The droplets are threatening to get into my eyes. “I… may have forgotten… that I cursed him.” I wince. My voice sounded so whimsy and shaken. It’s not the blood, or the gore. Hell, it isn’t even the fact that I just killed the guy who we wanted to catch alive. It’s the fact that I utterly failed in resisting his power. Again! Maybe I should simply accept that I am a little bitchy on the inside?
Marcus frowns. “You cursed him? When? And which fucking curse makes a man burst into hundreds of pieces.”
“Ew… It was months ago! You remember that time when I rammed my finger into his chest? I was totally freaked out at the moment and planted a triggered hex. The hex is supposed to fuse with the target’s inner magical circuit. It’s a slow curse, since it has to overcome the individual's natural resistance. But it grows over time if it isn’t removed. Once it encounters a certain energy wavelength, namely mine, it resonates and… this...” I gesture at the mess in front of me.
Then I realize that I just killed a member of Newerth’s royal family. “I am being honest, you have to believe me! I really forgot that I planted the thing in the first place. Nothing would have happened if he hadn’t come close to me!”
A hand touches my shoulder and I twitch. Mom is standing right next to me, a maniacal gleam in her eyes. “Don’t worry dear. It’s just proof that our anti-sexual-harassment-training was a full success. Planting the curse out of reflex is thanks to our long training. We had to prepare you against unwelcome advances because of your nature. Sooo… would you give me that?” She looks at the soul orb in my hand.
My eyes wander back and forth between her and the orb. “What do you need it for?”
She snatches the orb from me. “Just making sure that this one never, ever gets another chance at being included in the family.”