Bo Riverstone had conquered many demons in her life, some figurative but some quite solidly literal. Standing in the ruins of an evacuated office building, she found herself struggling to both catch her breath and remember why she’d ever thought her present line of work was a sane one.
“That was the toughest one we’ve encountered so far,” her Mom said. Her mother was spared the necessity of catching her breath due to the fact that she had no body to breathe with in the first place. Echo, as her daughters had taken to calling her, wasn’t unique in the galaxy but as an incarnate spirit bound to a Jewel of Endless Night, she was more than a little unusual.
“They’re appearing quicker too,” Bo said. “At this rate, I don’t think we’re going to be able to keep up.”
“Mel’s one warp space communique away,” Echo said.
“The last time my sister was here, everyone on the planet died,” Bo said.
“They got better,” Echo said.
“Yes, but we don’t have a trio of arch-mage class Aetherial casters to pick up the pieces at the moment,” Bo said. “And anyways with as fast as these malefic spirits are arriving, one more Void caster isn’t going to be enough. We need to fix the problem at its source.”
Bo started to pick a path out of the crumbled building. She kept an eye out for survivors as she climbed from the pit of the buildings sub-basements but from all the reports she’d gotten the building had been fully cleared before she took the fight to it.
Moving through the rubble proved to be a lot harder than creating it had been. The building was one of the old, squat, solid offices with plenty of basement levels excavated for storage. The builders had stayed within the city’s construction codes, so it wasn’t their fault the lowest levels were dug deep enough to allow for an easy transition of a spirit from Beyond Space into the physical world. Bo made a mental note to tell someone in zoning and planning that they needed to update their building codes and check any existing structures that ran as deep as the destroyed office building had.
“I’m sorry, I’ll keep trying,” Echo said. There was tension and regret in her voice. Not all of the incursions had been dealt with as well as this one. With Bo’s early arrival, only a building had been lost this time.
“It’s not your fault Mom,” Bo said. “No one else has been able to find the summoner responsible for these attacks either.”
“No one else has my power,” Echo said. “I should be able to do this.”
“You shouldn’t need too,” Bo said. “The fate weave is supposed to make things like this impossible.”
“It’s not as powerful as it was,” Echo said.
“I know,” Bo said. In part that was her fault. If she’d disagreed with her sister more, if she’d gone all out in her fight against Mel, Bo might have been able to preserve the old form of the fate weave. The stronger form. The one that kept them completely safe at the cost of consuming the lives of those society didn’t see.
Bo climbed out of the last of the wreckage and found her support crew waiting for her. When the Imperial Auditors arrived, they’d been careful with their assessments of the Royal Agents. In a sense the two groups were kindred souls, where the Imperial Auditors were charged with protecting the Crystal Empire though, the Royal Agents held a more limited scope of responsibility; they only needed to worry about the safety of everyone on Abyz.
In the end, the auditors arrested only a small number of the Royal Agents. The rest were placed under the direct command of the Prime Minister and, for the most part, continued working to protect the citizens they had served for years.
“No other incursions reported boss,” Nalasi, Bo’s senior lieutenant, said.
“Or we just haven’t found it yet,” Harios, Bo’s other senior lieutenant, said.
The other casters on Bo’s squad were handling to crowd control and and tending to the people who’d been wounded by the demons initial attack.
“We’ve got enough of a presence here that the caster may be holding back their second for the moment,” Bo said. “Alert Minister Alinaki. If I’m right, another major attack is going to come a lot sooner than we’re ready for.”
“Or a lot farther away,” Echo said.
“What do you mean?” Bo asked.
“We shouldn’t have been able to reach this demon before it tore up most of the city,” Echo said. “I plotted out our incursion points and they’re not random.”
“Why haven’t we seen a pattern to it before this?” Bo asked.
“We’ve been mapping them in two dimensions on a map of the planetary surface,” Echo said. “I don’t think that’s how our summoner is looking at their targets though.”
“They’re picking the spots to attack in three dimensions?” Bo asked.
“Four actually,” Echo said. “They’ve been spaced around the Royal Capital at varying distances and directions, but each incursion has been when one of the three moons is at perigee.”
“Why would the distance to a moon matter?” Harois asked.
“Because interplanetary teleportation is extremely difficult,” Bo said.
“Wait, these monsters are teleporting in from the moons?” Nalasi asked.
“Not by themselves,” Echo said. “If they had the capability to do that, they would flee once the fights turned against them, and all of the invaders have fought the bitter end.”
“Yeah, because they’re spirits and destroying their bodies here doesn’t actually kill them,” Harois said.
“It doesn’t kill them, but it does leave them drained, and banished back to their home plane,” Echo said. “If you think about the kind of place they come from, you can see why that might be a fate worse than death.”
“If the summoner is conducting the spell from the moon that would explain why the fate weave isn’t able to stop them,” Bo said.
“It’s trying its best,” Echo said. “The fact that we were in the vicinity at all, is probably due to its manipulations. If we were deployed based around the suggested pattern of the other attacks, we would have been a hundred miles to the east of the capital.”
“We need to do a couple of things then,” Bo said. “Harios, start interviewing the people who work here. Everyone we evacuated.”
“Sure thing boss,” Harios said. “What am I looking for?”
“Any reason why they might have been targeted by our demon summoner,” Bo said. “If they violated their pattern they were after someone or something. Focus on teleportation detection or prevention research, and ask Minister Alinaki to crank up as many teleportation area denial fields as she can manage for the next few hours.”
“You said we needed to do a couple of things boss,” Nalasi said. “Should I be getting a shuttle prepped for a lunar expedition?”
“Yep, work with Echo on the transit route,” Bo said. “We need to be at their base in under an hour.”
Fifty five minutes later the Royal Space Yacht “Light Tripper” slammed through the walls of a previously undetected structure on the Abyzal moon of Dridos.
“You’re under arrest,” Nalasi called out from inside her space-suit. With the moon, and the base they’d crashed into, being an airless environment, Nalasi’s words carried to the edge of her visor and then to the other space suits she was linked to.
“I think they’ve figured that out,” Bo said.
The Light Tripper had approached under the cover of an invisibility spell. No one inside should have had any warning of their arrival, or of the instantaneous exposure to hard vacuum that accompanied their crash into the building. It wasn’t the friendliest of greetings, but Bo wasn’t feeling in a particular friendly mood.
“Assuming they’re still here,” Echo said. “I’m not detecting any active anima in the building.”
“Stay sharp,” Bo said. “They might be cloaked.”
“Shouldn’t we be too then?” Nalasi asked.
“We’d make terrible bait if they couldn’t see us,” Bo said.
“Aww, this is another bait mission?” Nalasi said. “Why did I draw the short straw this time?”
“It’s the cost of being talented and clever,” Bo said. “People start relying on you and trusting you to have their backs.”
“Note to self; learn to suck more,” Nalasi said.
“Don’t worry,” Bo said as she entered the enemy base. “If a demon eats you, I’ll make sure not to take you along on any more bait missions.”
“You are all heart boss,” Nalasi said, following Bo into the darkened, empty building.
The base showed signs of recent use, but there was a disturbing absence of inhabitants. Bo lead them up to the top of a tall summoning spire which reached out like a vulture’s talon towards the planet far above them. The top floor was entirely crafted from etched glass, walls, ceiling and floors. In the center of the room, a triangle was scored into the floor so deeply that regular runs of it were open to the vast shaft that was burrowed into the moon’s interior. The center of the triangle was an empty circle that was surrounded by etchings inlaid with the bodies of millions of tiny insects. From a distance they formed what looked like a solid black cord that ringed the empty summoning circle and held back the creatures which passed through it.
“Why is there a pit under a glass floor?” Nalasi asked.
“Because this isn’t a tower,” Echo said. “It’s the barrel of a very peculiar gun.”
“They’ve been shooting the demons at us?” Nalasi asked.
“No,” Bo said. “Or not exactly. Look at the roof, there’s the first part of a targeting lens but there’s no armature to hold the other redirection crystal.”
“That’s how they got the demons to appear in places like a basement,” Echo said. “They only need someone to carry the final piece of the lens to their target destination and this spire can form a link to that location.”
“There must be similar structures on the other two moons then,” Bo said.
“I’m already calling it in boss,” Nalasi said. “I’ll have the Royal Navy sweep them clean.”
“Why would someone do this?” Echo asked.
“Because they think they can get Abyz back,” Bo said, pointing to the great sigil carved into the glass floor. “Before the Queen’s reign, before the original fate weave, Abyz threw off the rule of a fanatic Warlord family that called themselves the Overmasters. That’s their symbol.”
“That was a very long time ago. Is it them or someone who’s borrowing their insignia?” Echo asked.
“It doesn’t matter,” Bo said. “If they have the resources to build a place like this, then they’re a threat in either case.”
“Speaking of threats,” Nalasi said. “I think there’s one that we need to turn our attention to sooner than later.”
“You’re thinking about what’s at the bottom of the pit?” Bo asked.
“If the top of the spire is the transport mechanism, then the bottom will be where the portal to the demon’s home realm is,” Echo said.
“Yeah, the question is just how secure is that portal?” Nalasi asked.
From deep below them the answer rose in the sound of the beating of hundreds of wings.
“They don’t really have a good sense of who their dealing with,” Bo said. “Mom, would you like to handle this?”
“Certainly,” Echo said.
The black lightning that lashed down onto the surface of the Moon lancing through the building and the land around it. Mind anima directed the lightning to seek out each of the thousand demons that were rising up the barrel of the summoning spire. Void anima moved the lighting through the shadows of solid matter to so that the monsters couldn’t hide from Echo’s wrath. Physical anima and Energetic anima ripped apart everything the lightning sought out and Aetherial anima ensured that none of the demons escaped its touch.
“That’s not what that Jewel used to do is it?” Nalasi asked.
“I’ve modified it some,” Echo said.
“That’s good,” Nalasi said and inched away from Echo. “What’s our next move?”
“First we close the portal below us for good, then we track down the Overmasters,” Bo said.
“They’ve almost certainly left the system by now,” Echo said.
“I know, and it’s a big galaxy to hide in, but I know some clever and talented people who haven’t been eaten by demons yet, so I think we’re going to find them and give them a reminder on why they want to leave us alone,” Bo said.