The day was done. Penswell collapsed back into Niminay’s embrace and felt weariness she was carrying shaking her limbs like leaves in a gale.
“You need to stop.” Niminay’s whisper was gentle as she stroke her fingers across Penny’s brow and brushed aside the strands of hair which had fallen loose there. “For a few hours at least. They can call you if a real emergency comes up.”
Penny heard the words Niminay wasn’t saying. A “real” emergency would be one whose messages Niminay was physically incapable or blocking or resolving herself. The city of [Doom Crag] could come to life as a sentient war machine and Niminay would make sure the first Penny heard of it was in the morning briefing as a line item labeled “Unexpected Urban Renewal”.
“I shouldn’t,” Penny said as she failed to offer any resistance to Niminay leading her out of the command room and to the teleporter to their guild house.
“Shouldn’t push yourself farther?” Niminay said. “Yes, that is true.”
“I’m not that tired,” Niminay said, resting her eyes for just a moment.
“You’re arguing with a [Illumination Fern],” Niminay said.
Penswell blinked. They’d gone through the teleporter already. And up a flight of stairs. And she was, indeed, directing her argument towards one of their guild house’s light providing plants.
“Ok, but only for four hours,” she said.
“Are you really going to be back in fighting form in four hours?” Niminay asked.
“No,” Penny admitted.
“And is that the sort of example you want to set for the [Strategists] you have working under you?”
“No,” Penny said, and added, “You’re mean.”
“Yes. Just the worst,” Niminay said. “But you’ll still sleep till you wake up naturally right? No enchantments to cut it short or try to cheat more hours in than you actually get.”
“Hey, those are not cheats,” Penny objected.
“There’s nothing wrong with cheats,” Niminay said. “Since you can only use those spells a few times in a row though wouldn’t you say it would be worth conserving them?”
“Really mean,” Penny said.
She had a suspicion that Nim had already used the similar “cheats” [Archers] could learn. Nothing else could explain how she was still so energetic after more than a full day of constant life and death combat.
Normally a day of battle meant a sorte or two, a fair amount of movement for positioning and made one or two individual battles against the commanders on the other side.
The battles across the [Fallen Kingdoms] though had been fought at the edges of both sides capabilities. The teleportation networks on each side meant that battles were joined instantly, over and over again, and the Consortium’s forces, at least the one’s Niminay had to fight, were as powerful as the strongest warriors in [Fallen Kingdoms].
But there she was. Awake, alert, and giving Penny the support Penny so desperately needed after spending the day lived in a thousand different bodies.
“I’ll make sure we have breakfast and your morning reports waiting for you whenever you wake up,” Niminay said and brushed Penny’s forehead lightly with a kiss.
“I should marry you,” Penny said.
“I’ve been saying that for years now,” Niminay said. “All we’ve got to do is set a date.”
“It needs to be special,” Penny said, feeling the blessed darkness of sleep calling out to her.
“Any day would be special with you,” Niminay said, guiding Penny over to her bed and helping her take her enchanted boots off.
“No, special so everyone knows I got you,” Penny said. “If we don’t make a big enough deal over it, you’re suitors are still going to keep showing up a dozen times a week.”
It was a debate they had semi-regularly, and Penny knew she was right based on how Niminay could never bring herself to suggest that anything sort of a world-wide party would be enough to communicate that she was off the market. Or at least that’s what it would take to drive the point home for the more clueless sorts who seemed to think Niminay was some sort of quest reward they could unlock if they tried an ever stranger series of bribes.
“What do you think, a public proposal on the bridge of the Consortium’s crashed command ship?” Niminay asked. “Or do we jump right to the ceremony there?”
“They’ll never bring the command ship close enough to crash,” Penny said. Tucked cozily into bed, she felt her fatigue lessening.
“I’m hearing ‘if you can bring down their command ship, I will marry you on the spot Niminay’, is that about right?” Niminay asked.
“Given that it supposes you survive the crash, then that sounds wonderful,” Penny said.
“Good. Let that fill your mind with pleasant dreams then,” Niminay said and got up from the side of the bed.
“I don’t trust any dreams with the command ship in them to be pleasant at this point,” Penny said.
“Fair enough,” Niminay said, “but you should still chase after some kind of dreams.”
“I will,” Penny said and saw Niminay freeze in place, stiffening because she knew what was going to come next.
“Work is done,” Niminay said. “You’re in bed now.”
“I just need to check in with one last party,” Penny said. “It’ll be quick. I promise.”
Niminay narrowed her eyes. They both knew that was a promise which was as sincerely meant as it was unlikely to be upheld.
“Really!” Penny protested. “They’re part of the information transfer we’re getting from the other world. We already know we won’t have everything moved over until tomorrow and I’ve read through all of the critical details already.”
“Can’t that wait till tomorrow then?” Niminay asked.
“I’m not concerned about the information,” Penny said. “Ok, wait, I haven’t been replaced by a doppelganger, the information is obviously important. In this case though, I want to check to see how the person who is transmitting it is holding up.”
“Is the transmission difficult?” Niminay asked, her curiosity overcoming her reluctance at keeping Penny awake longer.
“Not at all, just slow,” Niminay said. “The problem was that BT had become [Disjoined] in the process of getting to our world. I left them to send that projection to look for anything I could find on curing a [Disjoined] status effect, but right before I ran out of mana there they sent a message that BT was ok, but Glimmerglass was missing.”
“I heard about the [Disjoined]. I didn’t think they could speak,” Niminay said.
“I think BT may have been a special case,” Penny said. She adjusted herself to sit up a little more, a move Niminay didn’t look entirely thrilled with.
“Do you think whatever worked for her could work for the others?” Niminay asked, returning to sit on the side of the bed.
“I don’t know. I hope so,” Penny said. “And in either case, I think knowing will help me sleep better.”
“Then by all means, cast away.”
Niminay hadn’t recovered much of her expended mana from the brief rest, but for a simple projection spell it was plenty. In the interest of conserving her resources though, she opted to use an even less expensive to connect one of her and Niminay’s private channels to the team channel Glimmerglass’s party was using.
“Hi folks,” she said, relying on the telepathic web to identify her to everyone on the channel. “I haven’t found anything on the [Disjoined] condition yet, but it sounds like you’ve had a breakthrough. Can you share what it was?”
“I’m not sure we can,” Mellisandra said. “Glimmerglass reconnected to her [Inspiration] and then used an ability I’ve never seen. [Fracture].”
“It wasn’t Glimmerglass,” BT said. “It was Tessa. I don’t know how she did it but she pulled my GM account out and then vanished with it.”
“I think I need some background here,” Penny said as Niminay nodded in agreement with her words.
BT laid out what a “GM” was in the other world and the theory that because there was no matching entity in the [Fallen Kingdoms] something about “Hailey” joining with BT had been intrinsically flawed.
Or maybe it was Hailey who’d explained that?
Or both? Penny had heard [Inspirations], or players, speaking directly but Hailey and BT were different. They seemed to have merged together more seamlessly than any other pairing Penny had encountered so far.
“So where is Glimmerglass now? Or is it Tessa at this point?” Penny asked.
“We don’t know,” Mellisandra said. “When she vanished, Glimmerglass disappeared from our party list.”
“We tried sending message immediately and they came back twisted,” Damnazon said.
“Twisted how?” Niminay asked.
“Twisted like we were sending them to a [Disjoined],” BT said. “Sometimes they wouldn’t even go through.”
“Let me see if I can find her,” Penny said, sitting up fully in bed. Niminay made no protest, only offering Penny her hand to draw additional mana from if she needed.
The mapping spell was so basic even fledgling adventurers could manage it on a local scale. Penny’s version was substantially more powerful but still on the bottom end of her abilities.
“She’s in the [High Beyond]?” Penny said. “How did she get there? How did anyone get there?”
The [World Shift] which had proceeded the Consortium’s invasion had changed many of the extra-spatial pathways around the [Fallen Kingdoms]. Opening the [High Beyond] up had been among the many effects but to the best of Penny’s knowledge only a few had managed to make the trip and it had been under very controlled conditions, lest the explorers wake some forgotten terror abandoned by the gods before they left their creation.
“Can you get a message to her?” BT asked.
Penny was curious about that too so she repeated the spell to connect Glimmerglass into their shared team chat, though before she finished the spell she added a number of costly wards to it. The last thing she needed under the circumstances was to connect them all to some sanity blasting monstrosity which would slither down from the moonlet to consume their minds thanks to the channel Penny had setup.
“Glimmerglass, can you hear us? What’s your condition?” Penny asked, her fingers paused to cut the connection the moment her wards were so much as tested.
“Penswell? Yeah, we can hear you just fine,” Glimmerglass said sounding surprised but not in any particular distress.
“Tessa! Is she still there too?” Hailey asked.
“She is, but we’re split again.”
Glimmerglass spent the next half hour explaining the events which lead up to the shattering of the god soul and how the party had been blasted to separate locations of the dungeon in the aftermath.
“Do you even need to bother with the dungeon?” BT asked. “You’ve got the full suite of recall spells don’t you? You could zap back here unless the dungeon’s blocking you?”
“I haven’t tried, but I don’t think recalls are blocked,” Glimmerglass said. “If I do that though I could only bring Starchild back with me.”
“We’re holding down the library here without a problem,” Mellisandra said. “So no need to rush back on our account. Wait, is there a recall spot here?”
“Yes. It should be back in operation now that the city has been reclaimed,” Penny said.
“Great. If another attack comes and we need our healer, we’ll call and you can recall back then,” Mellisandra said.
“Assuming there’s time,” Penny said. “I agree with you staying int he [High Beyond] though Glimmerglass. We have very little visibility on what’s happening there.”
“The data Marcus is sending over should have the current status of everyone there,” BT said. “He was sending the live server readings as well as the initial monster spawning point layouts.”
“We’ll try to relay that to the team there,” Penny said.
“I think there’s more than one team here,” Glimmerglass said.
“There should be a lot more than one there,” BT said. “I visited a bunch of them when we were doing damage control.”
“How many people are we talking about?” Penny asked.
“For just the players? Tens of thousands. Easily. A lot of people were rolling up new characters for the expansion’s launch.”
There was a pause before Glimmerglass spoke again.
“Starchild says they have all of the survivors of [Sky’s Edge] gathered in one of the early cave areas,” she said. “And there’s nowhere near a hundred of them much less tens of thousands.”
No one asked the next question, but it hung there unspoken anyways.
Where had the missing adventurers all gone?