It seemed wrong that a bright sunny day should herald the end of the world.
“What did you do.” I asked Councilman Breeg.
“Everything you imagine me guilty of.” he said with a sneer.
“The planet’s orbit is changing.” Darius said. “It’s what the emergency Council session was called for.”
“That’s not possible.” I said. Changing a planet’s orbit was far beyond the power of any caster. Magic is powerful, but planets are on an entirely different scale. Even the decades that Makkis’ conspiracy had to work with wouldn’t have come close to letting them put together a spell of that caliber.
“I think he’s right.” Fari said. “I’m reading reports from around the planet and from the Imperial stations automated systems. The planet’s rotation has accelerated and it’s orbital path is changing. There’s seismic disturbances being called in from around the globe too.”
“People have fought for control of this world for so long.” Breeg said. “To bad for them, we got it first.”
“Who’s ‘we’?” I asked.
“The new rulers of this world.” Breeg said.
Darius took a step forward and caught himself. He scowled at Breeg and spoke in a slow and solid voice.
“The Council didn’t authorize this.”
“The Council has never ruled here.” Breeg said. “It is, was, and always has been a joke. A fiction to keep the malcontents on each side in place. All it was ever meant to do was to buy time and that time is now up!”
“So that’s it? Your plan’s complete and now you’re king of the world?” I said. It was hard to get a handle on the idea that Breeg’s group was literally in control of the planet. Killing hundreds of people was trivial compared to devastation they could cause with that kind of power.
“There is one thing I still need to do.” the Councilman said.
And then he breathed lightning at me.
I raised a Void anima shield instinctively. In part that was a response to my danger sense going off and in part it was because I‘d been expecting Breeg to turn on me since he started talking. I hadn’t forgotten that his casting skill was good enough to summon the fire elemental, or that he had every reason in the world to hate me.
As it turned out though, my shield wasn’t needed. The lightning arced away before it hit me. Like a brilliant blue-white river, it flowed to my left and into Darius’ outstretched hand where it gathered into a blinding ball.
No one wasted time with words from there.
The lightning strike hadn’t been a sparring jab or a move to stun me. It had packed enough power to reduce my bones to dust. Breeg was playing to kill.
Darius hurled the ball of gathered electricity back at my attacker. The Councilman dodged to the side and slung the deadly projectile around and then back at me again. I saw it coming and faded away, rolling under its path. That bought Darius time to regain control of it.
He split the ball into three buzzsaw-like disks and sent each one at Breeg along a different path.
Breeg didn’t dodge any of them. Instead he conjured a large buzzsaw of energy around himself and sucked the three disks into it.
I felt a stab of cold in my chest warning me of danger and managed to throw myself to the ground behind one of the support pillars before the next attack hit. From the floor, I watched as Breeg’s disk blew outwards with the force of a bomb blast. The pillar I landed behind shattered into a shower of debris when the exploding buzzsaw hit it.
In the aftermath, I couldn’t see what happened to Darius but I did see Breeg step back and call lightning down through a gaping hole in the roof. Summoning the elemental had drained his reserves, I reasoned. Letting him power back up was the last thing I could afford to do, so I leapt forward.
And passed right over a Runic circle.
The buzzsaw had distracted me enough that I hadn’t noticed the enchantments it had left inscribed onto the floor in its wake. Each Runic circle that I crossed over exploded and pummeled me bloody. My Physical anima shield was good, but the Runes packed an insane amount of punch. They weren’t what made me scream though. What made me scream was that the explosions included a force effect that knocked me through the outside wall of the building.
I just had time to grab a window sill of the apartment building opposite the one I’d be blasted out of before Breeg resumed his attack.
“I have no idea how you found out that I was the one who destroyed the Palace Arms, and I don’t care.” Breeg said. “I’m going to kill you, trap your ghost and make you listen as everyone lauds me as a hero who destroyed an evil renegade.”
Breeg was flying on scintillating jets of blue light that blazed from the soles of his feet. That was a trick only someone who was exceptional skill with Energetic anima casting could pull off. My wing pack worked on the same principal but was imbued with a simpler spell. I could have tried to match Breeg’s flight with it, but I knew he’d had the edge in terms of maneuverability if we took the battle to the air.
Unfortunately for him, that only left the option of taking the Councilman down the hard way.
The buildings were close enough together that I was able to leap from one to the other and ascend towards Breeg while he was screaming at me. He didn’t let me get all that close before he resumed his attack though.
Rather than a lightning bolt that he had to aim, Breeg called down a column of electricity as wide as the alley. I could have pushed my Physical anima as far as it would go and it wouldn’t have helped. There was no where to dodge the torrent.
“Took you long enough.” I muttered, relieved that he was finally going all out on me.
One of the problems with being a Void anima caster is that I don’t have perfect control over it. This had led to problems with other people casting spells on me. I nearly killed the first guy who tried to cast a healing spell on me for example because my Void anima ripped a lot more magic out of him than he’d been expecting.
Master Raychell had taught me that most combat spell casters hold back on the anima that they put into each attack spell. That prevents them from burning out too quickly and it also prevents me from draining them dry if I absorb the spell with a Void anima shield.
Councilman Breeg was a masterful spell caster, but he’d never really learned to fight. The Lightning Waterfall spell is the perfect one to use when you have to be sure to hit your target. Breeg’s saw that and cast it in an instant, putting all the force and fury he possibly could into it. It made for a deadly killing stroke and could have finished the battle in an instant. His problem was that he didn’t try to understand the situation he was in. He just went with what he already knew and failed to pay attention to the fact that his opponent had already surprised him on multiple occasions.
It wasn’t a fatal mistake on his part, but that was only because I needed him alive to learn what Makkis’ plan was.
The Lightning Waterfall slammed into my Void shield and I devoured it. I felt the threads of anima running through the spell and ripped at them, tearing power out of Breeg in gouts that singed his flesh and made him scream.
To his credit, he was a better spell caster than I’d anticipated too. With ruthless efficiency, he severed the threads connected to the Lighting Waterfall, casting away the reservoir of power he’d used to cast the spell.
“Aww. Come on. Cast another one.” I taunted him. I’d flipped onto the top of the apartment building after the lightning spell dissipated.
“What are you!” Breeg asked, his eyes wide with shock and terror.
“Everything you fear and more.” I answered, paraphrasing he earlier quip at me.
He looked at me, anima dancing around his eyes as he tried a True Seeing spell to determine what he was faced with. I could see confusing crashing over his features. At my core, I wasn’t anything special. I had an unusual talent, but apart from that I wasn’t his equal in skill or power. At least not until you added in the fire elemental essence and the bone stealer animas that I carried.
I knew it would take him a second to see those vast pools of anima that were at my fingertips and it was kind of amusing to see the realization creep across his face when he did.
Puzzlement. Focused attention. Concern. Fear. Terror. Each emotion painting over the last. It wasn’t until I smiled at him that he bolted though.
The blue flames at his feet sputtered for an instant and then blazed as bright as the sun overhead. In a second he was a figure receding into the clouds above.
I unfurled my flight pack wings and the fire elemental’s wings to give chase and saw one of the Council’s armed transports banking in towards the building.
“This is going to be a problem.” I said on the mental link Fari had setup.
“Can you cloak us again?” Darius asked.
“Yeah, but it’ll cut into my flight speed. I’ll never catch him that way.” I said.
“You won’t have to.” he said. “Hang on.”
A second later I was being hugged and then the ground dropped away and the roar of the wind drowned out everything.
I blinked and found myself face to face with Darius, who’d wrapped his arms around me underneath my own. Below us a column of blue fire that burned as bright as Breeg’s was pushing us upward. It took me a second to connect the two events.
“You can fly on your own!” I said.
“I told you Mental anima was my second best casting skill right?” he said with a smile.
Meaning his first skill was with Energetic anima. From the looks of it it he was in Breeg’s range in fact. Maybe better even.
I cloaked us as soon as my brain processed what was happening and then called out to Fari.
“Can you provide navigation for Darius?” I asked her.
“Yep. I have a lock on Breeg.” she said.
“Is he heading back to the Council building?” I asked, a suspicion growing in my mind.
“No. He’s heading out of town.” she said.
“What direction?” I asked.
Fari provided the answer with a topographic map of the area and a blinking indicator for Breeg’s position.
“He’s terrified. He’s trying to escape us anyway he can.” Darius said.
“Yeah, but look at the way that he’s changing course. He’s not just trying to get away from us. He’s trying to get to someplace. Somewhere that he feels safe.” I said.
“He doesn’t have any holdings or known addresses in the direction he’s traveling.” Fari said.
“What is in that direction then?” I asked.
“It’s wasteland out this way.” Darius said. “We don’t even patrol here. The land’s worthless and local creatures are too dangerous to bother.”
“Are any of them aerial?” I asked, thinking that Breeg might be trying to lure us into a trap.
“None of the significantly dangerous ones are.” Darius said.
I tried to think of what other possibilities there were but it was difficult to get my brain together. Between the chase and the fight and the lack of sleep and the fact that Darius and I were clasped together in an embarrassingly tight hug, thinking wasn’t high on the list of things that I felt naturally inclined to do.
That way lay madness though, and it was definitely the wrong time and the wrong situation to be noticing how nice his hair smelled.
“What about legends?” I asked, desperate to distract myself from my previous line of thought.
“Legends?” Darius asked. “Oh wait. Oh no. It had better not be that.”
“What?” I asked, knowing from his tone that whatever he’d thought of was almost certainly correct, despite how much he didn’t want it to be.
“There was a civilization here before the humans or the Garjarack colonized Hellsreach. Like tens of thousands of years before, maybe more.”
“What happened to them?” I asked.
“No one knows. Humans and Gar fought over this place for so long that most of the ancient ruins were annihilated. There wasn’t any serious work done on unearthing the past until twenty years ago.” he said.
“When the Empire put a lid on the warfare.” I said.
“Right. It didn’t stop the boiling, but it contained it enough that people were able to search the uninhabited areas of the world looking for ruins that had escaped the decades of violence we’d had.” he said.
“Let me guess, no one found anything up here, but there’s a tale from during the war about an awesome ruin that someone stumbled on.” I said.
“Yeah, it’s a common story on pre-inhabited worlds.” Darius said. “Here’s the part that makes it unique to our current situation; care to guess who owns the biggest exploration and mining company in this area?”
There was only one answer that made sense.
“Makkis and Breeg.” I said. “They found an intact old ruin and covered it up.”
“Better than that, I’m guessing they found something in the old ruin. Something that’s unimaginably powerful.” he said.
“And now they’ve figured out how to use it and are going to take over the world with it.” I said.
“How do we fight that?” Darius asked.
“We break it.” I said.
“What if its too big to break?” he asked.
“Nothing’s too big break. We’ll just need to hit it hard enough.” I said.
I was wrong about that. More wrong than I could imagine.