“An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.”
- The Journey to the Afterlife
The cloaked figure is about to cast a spell when the door shudders. Someone announced his presence to the whole throne room. Sadly I've no way to tell if my parents have already made it this far. Though they certainly had the time for it.
I let go of my husband and use both hands to widen the grid which is protecting the ventilation shaft. The people in the room have all their attention on the door anyway. Another impact rocks the door and runes flare on its surface, announcing the presence of an old and powerful barrier. Whoever is on the other side of the door can't get in without breaking the barrier first.
The figure returns to his chant, casting in a low, raspy voice. That's when the floor around the throne lights up, revealing a complicated pattern of magical circuitry. A portal spell.
“You take care of the door, I'll stop him from completing the portal,” I order Marcus and ready myself to punch the grid in order to be able to cast my spells without obstructions.
The magic around the throne starts humming with power, a certain sign that the spell is being channelled and about to take effect. I punch the grid and send it flying into the room, startling everyone. Without waiting for their reaction or caring for the damage to the surroundings, I aim my open palm at the magical circuit and the cloaked guy who is standing on it.
I waited for the last moment to force our friend into a tight spot. If the cloaked guy is anything like my father, then I don't want to take him head on. In fact, I want to avoid fighting him at all. For that reason I delayed our intervention and waited until the cloaked guy was committed to his spell. It's fortunate that he decided to power the rune circle himself. He probably didn't trust in his ship to supply a steady stream of energy. No wonder with the power outage from just earlier.
A portal spell doesn’t have room for mistakes or energy fluctuations.
But now that he is committed to the spell, even if he is just powering the circle, he is left with three options. Option one, try to go through with it while I blow up his ass. Option two, cancel the spell in an orderly manner and dissipate the gathered energy. Option three, forcibly interrupt the spell and suffer the consequences, namely magical backlash.
Seeing the golden orb of light emerging from my palm, the cloaked guy decides that option three may not be healthy, but still the one with the least consequences to his own person. He jumps out of the circle and rolls off with unexpected agility as my attack spell impacts the spot where he was standing just moments ago.
My magic registers the lack of a target and fragments according to its design. The result is very similar to a fragmentation grenade. Countless marbles of golden light pepper the ground, throne and the surrounding guards, each creating its own miniature explosion.
Some unprepared guards are wounded, others with a little more sense for self-preservation manage to shield themselves, blocking the marbles which contain only a fragment of the original spell's power. But the damage to the floor is extreme as dozens of little craters open up, sending out metal fragments of their own.
The magical circuit flickers and its light vanishes as the energy snaps back to the caster. The cloaked figure twitches in visible pain, clawing at a non-existent enemy.
As I ready myself to follow with a second attack, Marcus's hand shoots out, throwing a little axe of light. The weapon rotates twice before it sinks into the door, its nature drawing the attention of most of the guards. The door shudders again and one of the quicker soldiers races for the weapon. He most likely assumed correctly that it won't be good for the barrier to be attacked from the inside.
Barriers are a tricky thing. Most of them work only in one direction. The more versatile a barrier is, the harder it is to maintain. And I assume that Marcus just hit the door with the strongest dispelling chant he knows.
Before the guard reaches the axe, it explodes in a flash of light, wiping out the complicated runes on the door. The next blow from the other side throws the door wide open, revealing my parents and Beth together with several of our soldiers. The wings of the door slam into the guards to the left and right, sending them flying. I think it's preferable to being squashed to death.
While they charge into the room, I pull myself forward and drop to the ground. Landing in a low stance, I hurry to get out of the way by throwing myself at the closest guard.
Marcus isn't as quick and is forced to block a hail of attack spells which is aimed at the ventilation shaft. He summons a shield of light which simply absorbs most of the magic. Some of the guards finally identified the hole as the source of the sabotage.
As our people charge into the room and force the guards to turn their attention to a more immediate problem, the attacks on the ventilation shaft lessen. This gives Marcus a chance to join the battle.
In the meanwhile I have my own hands full. The guard in front of me turns out to be of the sturdy type. He was blinded by the flash of light, which I used to disarm him by twisting his sword out of his hand. But he wasn't completely taken by surprise. After the weapon fell to the ground, he started fighting back by swinging his bear-like fists in a slow and methodical manner. We exchange a few blows with me dodging all of his attacks while it becomes clear that my opponent is no amateur.
He is used to fighting quick opponents, steadily forcing me into a corner. I growl and throw myself at his waist, channelling a large portion of my power into my inner magical system. Even if he is strong, my body armour should withstand a few blows. The plates on the floor squeak as my feet dig into the metal. The guard manages to pummel my back with three blows before I lift him and send both of us into a spiralling motion.
Stepping sideways I hammer the wall with his upper body, stunning him.
I am about to change my grip when a sharp pain stings into my lower torso and a blade appears from my lower belly. Someone attacked me from behind and managed to slip his blade between the plates of my armour. And a belly wound on top! Those hurt like hell!
And why do I always get stabbed in the back?
I scream in rage, turn around and throw my opponent at the backstabber. Both go down in a heap and then Marcus is above them, bringing down a longsword of light. The weapon slides through both of their chests, pinning them to the floor. “Fool! Why didn't you wait?”
“I wasn’t hit in a vital spot, so stop overreacting!” I reach out and throw a death curse at a guard who approaches Marcus from behind. The man struggles and is pushed back, but doesn't go down immediately.
Marcus twists the longsword and pulls it out of the dead bodies, flawlessly changing it into a bow. He draws and aims in a single motion, sending a flash of light right past my cheek. I don't have to look at the result, since a fine shower of blood wets me from behind.
I reach for the wound on my belly and cast a quick healing spell to stop the flow of blood. Dedessian physiology can heal a lot, but bleeding too much can still result in loss of consciousness. With an effortless move I use my foot to send the dropped sword from earlier upwards and grab it. Then I swing it at Marcus and he dodges. The weapon buries itself deep inside the opponent who resisted my curse, splitting open his chest.
Massive trauma to the body is still the best way to kill someone. I send a second curse into him, this time using the sword like a lightning rod to transmit the spell. The man trembles and his heart stutters. Then he topples over, his lifestrings cut.
When I turn around, the battle is almost over. Only Dad and the cloaked figure keep fighting next to the throne's remains. It's a fierce magical duel in which neither of them seems inclined to step down. The released power of their auras is so strong that I don't even dare to step closer. It almost seems as if they don't care that they could damage the pyramid.
Unfortunately, having my father fighting exactly that opponent is the worst outcome for us.