The light faded from Dae’s eyes and her vision cleared at last.
Gone was the ash filled wasteland and the towering Divine Sanction. Gone were the trees of the Green Council and the mountains of Gallagrin that had loomed in the distance.
Instead, all around her, Dae saw colors. Streaks of blue and red and green racing across the ground beneath her and through the sky above like a mad painter was splashing them across a canvas as wide as the cosmos.
“It’s a lot to take in, isn’t it?” a woman said from behind her.
Dae turned to look at her and was dazzled. Every shade of green ran up and down the woman’s body. She stood clothed in first leaves and then bark and then a dress of tender fronds. As she moved her features changed, not distorting, but not remaining human either. From elvish ears, to a sylphs smooth face, to a dwarf’s broad nose, each aspect of her shifted without ever seeming like they belonged to anyone else.
“It is,” Dae said. She felt power, a raw radiance of awe, shining from the woman. The dragon fear Haldraxan had wielded was an echo of that power, stronger in some senses but so shallow by comparison. “Was I right about what would happen?”
“You are not one of mine, so I cannot see your thoughts,” the woman said. “You asked Gallagrin to trust you though and you were right in that.”
“Where is she? Where’s Alari?” Dae asked.
“Galllagrin is a foreign shore for me,” the woman said. “By compact and sworn vow, I may not choose to touch her.”
“You’re the god in the Divine Sanction though aren’t you?” Dae asked.
“I am Telliakai, and, yes, a part of my essence was bound in that machine,” she said.
“You hurt Alari then, where is she now?” Dae asked, sparks of anger pushing back at the radiant awe.
“My power did, though not under my command,” Telliakai said. “A curious loophole, but one which shall never be exploited again.”
“So Alari is safe from you from here out?” Dae asked.
“Safe from me? Yes, she has always been that,” Telliakai said. “Safe from those who call themselves mine? There is no contract in the world that can promise that. We left you mortals freedom enough to ensure such things couldn’t come to pass.”
“So where is she now?” Dae asked.
“Outside of this sanctum,” Telliakai said. “Safe for this moment, if that comforts you.”
“I want to see her,” Dae said.
“I cannot invite her here,” Telliakai said. “By long standing agreement, I will not reach out to Gallagrin or influence my cousin’s realm in any manner.”
“If you can’t invite her, or won’t, is there anything to stop me from doing so?” Dae asked.
“Nothing at all,” Telliakai said. “I should enjoy the visit and flirting with the taboo.”
“How do I bring her here then?” Dae asked.
“Speak her name, call to her, and perhaps she will hear you.”
“Alari,” Dae called out, with no answer.
“Queen Alari,” she tried, with no luck. “Princess?”
“This isn’t right,” she said.
“It does not feel like you are calling her name, the one that you would consider true for her,” Telliakai.
Dae stood quietly, watching the god, and trying to find the right variation on Alari’s titles that would work to bridge the gap between them. She considered and rejected a dozen historical variations on the Queen’s formal name. They had the outward sheen of a True Name, all elaborate and ornate methods of deferring to the supreme monarch of the realm. None of them were how Dae ever thought about Alari though. In the end only two words captured that truth.
“My love,” Dae whispered, her heart trembling at the judgment it felt like the universe was going to pronounce on her.
“Adae!” Alari shouted, stumbling into the god’s sanctum with a bewildered expression.
Alari’s confusion turned to relief and then joy. Dae was wrapped into Alari’s arms and drowning in her kisses before another word was spoken.
“That explains so very much,” Telliakai said when the two of them parted at last.
“Dae, is that a god?” Alari asked, sliding herself slightly in front of Dae as though ready to shield her from another divine blast.
“A pleasure to meet you Gallagrin,” Tellaikai said.
“Yeah, she was the one bound up in the Divine Sanction,” Dae said.
“So, does that mean that the Sanction’s not going to rampage and destroy the realms?” Alari asked.
“The Sanction is a machine, it will do as its wielder chooses,” Telliakai said. “But it will do so without my essence, so destroying the realms seems like an exceedingly tall order to execute. You mortals are endlessly surprising though.”
“You seem happy about that?” Dae asked.
“Of course! I’m delighted to see the cleverness of our children,” Tellaikai said.
“You don’t mind them binding you and forcing you to fight for them?” Alari asked.
“I admire the courage and insight that it took to accomplish the feat they managed to achieve,” Tellaikai said. “But please don’t think they ever bound me. What you saw was a distillation of the power that I left in the realms. I am not so small as to be captured by this world.”
“Why are you here now then?” Dae asked.
“This moment could last an eternity and I would not reach the end of answering that question,” Tellaikai said. “You doubtless know aspects of the truth though, so tell me why you think I’m here?”
“Here isn’t a space in the realms is it?” Dae said. “We’re in a place like the God’s Home that’s set aside for the divine.”
“Partially true,” Tellaikai said. “This space is divine. But it is not like the God’s Home. That was a meeting hall we designed within your realms so that we could talk and disagree without shattering the little things we were working on there. Like the continents.”
“This place isn’t a place at all is it?” Alari asked. “This place is you.”
Tellaikai smiled and the awe radiating from her was replaced with a sensation of pride and joy.
“Yes,” she said. “It seems our choice to sleep was a good one. Our realms have grown more bright and clever than I could ever have hoped.”
“Why did you bring us here though?” Dae asked. “I thought setting you free would let you go back to sleep.”
“It has,” Tellaikai said. “But before I turn my attention away from your world again, I had to speak with you.”
“Me?” Dae asked. “Why, can you fix me?”
“I can do nothing to you,” Tellaikai said. “You are not mine to harm or to heal.”
“Can she be saved still?” Alari asked.
“Saved?” Tellaikai said. “Saved from what? Neither of you are in any danger here.”
“From my power,” Dae said.
“No, nothing can save you from that,” Tellaikai said. “Even my cousins and I cannot be saved from our own power.”
“You’re still a citizen of my realm, Adae,” Alari said. “I can still command the power out of you.”
“No,” Dae said. “That’s not going to work this time. My magic isn’t Gallagrin magic anymore. It’s mine now. That’s why I had to let Kirios go.”
“It has to work,” Alari said. “I didn’t come this far to lose now. I refuse.”
“Gallagrin, consider your words carefully here,” Tellaikai said. “The possibilities here are broader than in your realms, but so are the costs.”
“I would pay literally any cost for her,” Alari said.
“Alari, you know I would never leave you, but there is no way in heaven or hell that I will let you destroy yourself for me either,” Dae said.
“Umm, what are you two talking about?” Tellaikai asked.
“She had to become a Berserker to save me,” Alari said. “And to free you. You owe her for that! Break the damn rules and save her already!”
Tellaikai chuckled and the colors swirling through the ground and sky rippled with her mirth.
“You do not want me to begin break rules,” she said. “And there’s one other small problem with your request.”
“What?” Alari demanded, wicks of flame starting to burn as a halo around her.
“She’s not a Berserker.”
“What?” Dae asked, blinking in surprise.
“You have met Berserkers haven’t you? Or at least heard of them?” Tellaikai asked.
“Yeah, one of them nearly killed me half a year ago,” Dae said, her voice slowing on each word as she processed the implications of what the god had said.
“Did they seem overly interested in conversation? Or at all concerned about their rapidly devolving state?” Tellaikai asked.
“No, that’s not how Berserkers work,” Dae said, unable to quite accept the obvious conclusion Tellaikai was leading her towards.
“Does she seem to be losing control?” Tellaikai asked Alari. “Is her power flaring erratically at all?”
“She’s not a Berserker,” Alari said, the fires around her winking out one by one.
“What…,” Dae said stumbling over the thought, “What am I then?”
“Again, we have eternity and I couldn’t finish answering that question,” Tellaikai said. “What I can tell you is that the power you have claimed does not define you. You define it. There are many names in many world given to those who have done as you did and can do what you you possess the ability to do. When I crafted the world I thought you would be called ‘Sorcerers’ but your names are you own to choose.”
“What is a Sorcerer, in this sense I mean?” Alari asked. The realms had casters called sorcerers already but they didn’t have anything like Dae.
“My cousin believed that our mortals could grow beyond themselves within the span of a single lifetime. It was a principal difference in the experiments we designed. In my realm, life advances from generation to generation. In Gallagrin, you transform into brighter, more powerful versions of yourselves every time you call upon the magic given to you.” Tellaikai said.
“That’s what I am now,” Dae said. “I stopped calling on Kirios for power and just called on it directly.”
“Isn’t that what a Berserker does?” Alari asked.
“Yes, except all they care about it power,” Tellaikai said. “Bound to a Pact Spirit they open themselves up a flow of magic they only partially control and cannot shut off and so they drown in it the flood of it.”
“I let Kirios go so he wouldn’t drown with me,” Dae said. “Is that all there is to it?”
“No, not all,” Tellaikai said. “That’s one reason why we are speaking. You are a clever and gifted creature. To break a pact bond out of love is a rare choice. To be able to call the magic without it is unique in this world so far. We hoped you, our children, would develop this far, but to see it come to pass is the fulfillment of millennia of our dreams.”
“So, just to be clear, this isn’t the afterlife, and I’m not going to die, right?” Dae asked.
Tellaikai laughed again.
“You will most certainly die, you have not lost your mortality, but it will not be in this moment,” Tellaikai said. “Or likely for many moments to come. Your magic is yours. It defines and reinforces who you are. If any on the battlefield you stand on would still seek your life, I feel very sorry them and the frustration they will face.”
“I’m going to live,” Dae said and staggered back a step. “Wow, that’s a thing. A good thing.”
Alari kissed her again.
“A very good thing,” Alari said.
“This moment could last eternity, but even eternities must end,” Tellaikai said. “It has been a joy to meet you, Sorcerer and Queen. You are not mine but I still offer you my blessing. Live and grow, in this life and in all the ones to come.”
And with that, the sanctum and Tellaikai were gone and the war between the Green Council, Senkin and Gallagrin was over.
From the ashes and raw earth, buds of life, impossibly spared from the devastation, began to bloom forth.