They found the star right where Gwen calculated it should be.
“This is unreal. We’re in outer space,” Ally said.
“Not exactly outer space,” Gwen said. “More like a reflection of the skies above the Earth.”
“That’s easier for you to believe?” Renata asked.
“Well, we have air to breath here, and there’s a floor to walk on, so not exactly matching what I know of outer space,” Gwen said.
“What is this that we’re walking on?” Kelian asked. “It’s like glass or something.”
“Crystal, technically,” Nyka said. “We’re standing on the surface of the crystal sphere that surrounds the Earth in this fold of Counter-Time.”
“And the star?” Ally asked. “What is it really?”
She gestured to the dull orange disk they were walking towards. The one with the Unmaking Pledges of Night and Day engraved on it.
“It’s not the star as it exists in the Earthly realm,” Gwen said. “What you see there is the accumulated essence of the star that’s interacted with Earth’s mystic auras.”
“So it’s a representation of all the magic the earth has received from the star?” Ally asked.
“It’s more than that, but in broad strokes you’re right,” Nyka said.
“I can’t see any writing on it,” Renata said.
“The words are written in the star’s heart,” Sondra said.
“How did you do that?” Ally asked.
“With a gift of light,” Sondra said.
“Can you do it again?” Kelian asked.
“We’re about to find out,” Sondra said, as they entered the sphere of the star’s brightest radiance.
“Be careful, please,” Kelian said.
“Yes, please don’t blow us all up,” Nyka said.
The looks Sondra gave the two of them said very different things, but she reached forward to touch the star without voicing either sentiment.
Up close, the star looked like a dully glowing orange gong about as tall as Gwen was. It floated in the air as weightless as a balloon but Gwen felt it pulling on her as though some fraction of the vast weight it held in the Earthly realm had been captured by the disk.
She watched as Sondra reached forth and laid a palm gently on the disk’s surface. Touching a star in the Earthly realm is impossible, no matter what it was made of, any body would burn to ash long before its owner could get close to the celestial furnace. In the celestial folkds of Counter-Time though physics played by starkly different rules.
Sparks flew as Sondra reached forward and the air around them burned with a heat vaster and deeper than anything Gwen had ever known. From her core, the ice magic she’d mastered rose, but against the heat of foreign sun she was only a small, trivial thing.
“Show me,” Sondra said and the sparks turned inwards, flowing across the surface of the disk to form into the letters of an alphabet that Gwen knew only from Gwena’s memories.
The original words of the spells on either side of the disk had been the same. The closest translation Gwen had found for them read something like: “let she who is my equal and all sworn to her, when she falls before me, be given death absolute by our magics.”
The words that crackled to life before them showed the effect of the passage of time in faded splits in the letters and gaps in the words. To Gwen’s eyes the aeons had change it to read “let she who is my equal and all be given death absolute by our magics.”
“The trigger phrase is missing,” Gwen said. “The Thrones were right. If either of these fire they’re going to hit everyone. Like everyone everyone. Not just those associated with the Thrones.”
“That’s the bad news,” Nyka said.
“Here’s the worse new,” Mava said, pointing to the horizon. “Dawn’s only a few minutes away.”
“One hundred thousand years, and it comes down to a matter of minutes?” Renata asked. “Why didn’t someone try to fix this sooner?”
“Because only the Thrones could call me back and without me, no one else can get here,” Sondra said.
“It’s ok, we’ve got minutes to work with,” Gwen said. “That’s good. Everybody stand back.”
“What are you going to do?” Ally asked.
“Try our best counter-spells on it,” Gwen said.
“Then I’m staying here,” Ally said. “You’re going to need power, and so you’re going to have my sunlight.”
“You’ll have all of our power to work with,” Mava said.
“No sense holding any back now,” Nyka said. “Though you know there’s a part of me that wants to cackle and blow everything up just so I could say it was all part of my grand plan and that I finally got you.”
“Hard to say anything when you’ve been spaghettified by a black hole,” Mava said.
“And once again you foil me,” Nyka said. “Feels like old times.”
“Yeah, everything sucks and we’re about to die,” Mava said. “Exactly like old times.”
“We’re not going to die today,” Sondra said. “Let’s break this curse and be done with it!”
Sunlight blazed in her left hand, yellow and brilliant as the day. Starlight flared in her right, blue and sparkling with power.
She gave the light to Gwen and Gwen wove it as fast as she could, stringing filaments of power into a spell that drew the strongest aspects of the ancient magics of Night and Day together.
Ally added her inner light to the mix, as did Mava, and Renata and Nyka and Kelian.
Calling on words sacred to both Thrones, Gwen poured every mote of energy she’d been given into the Disenchanting spell and hurled it against the Unmaking Pledges.
Electricity and fire and frost surged as their light fought the star’s light.
The disenchanting spell shattered with a colossal boom. The pressure wave it produced sent them all tumbling away from the star.
“It didn’t work.” Renata said, the first to climb back to her feet.
“Didn’t it?” Ally asked. “What does the writing say now?”
Gwen looked at the disk and saw that the messages were missing a few more letters.
“Let all be given death absolute by our magics” was what they read. There was worse news than the failure though.
The spells were beginning to flare with their own light.
“It’s starting to fire!” Sondra called out. “We have to do something.”
Gwen stared at the writing, willing it to vanish, wishing she had an eraser that could remove it. She didn’t though, and it couldn’t be erased. Just like writing on a test paper in pen, there was no taking back what was written.
Insight hit her the instant she thought about her test papers.
“We can’t erase it,” she said. “But we can change what it says!”
“What do you mean?” Nyka asked.
“We can’t remove the letters from the star, but we can carve new lines over them, change their meaning!” Gwen said. “We can redirect the spells somewhere harmless!”
“Do it fast,” Mava said. “It’s glowing hotter already, it’s going to reach critical mass any moment!”
“Give Sondra your power for this one,” Gwen said. “And Sondra write where I tell you too!”
“What message are we going to make it say?” Sondra asked.
“We need to make it harmless,” Gwen said.
“It can’t be allowed to target any people then,” Sondra said.
“It could target me,” Mava said. “I’m already one of the targets and having it erase me won’t change so much of history that time will collapse.”
“Sorry, but you’re stitched through history so deeply that you’re the last person we could lose,” Gwen said. “Literally any of the rest of us are more expendable. Your history and the length of the life you’ve led make you more valuable, not less.”
“We better come up with something then,” Mava said. “I can feel the light getting ready to pop.”
“What about venting it into space?” Ally asked. “Make it target no one at all.”
“Worth a shot,” Gwen said. “Sondra start writing this!”
While the others fed their dual-queen their power, Gwen instructed Sondra on the sigils to add to the phrase to change its meaning from targeting people to instead explode in the vastness of interstellar space.
“It’s fighting me!” Sondra said as she tried to graft the new letters onto the spells.
“You have to modify them both at once!” Gwen said.
“I can’t be on both side of the disk at the same time!” Sondra screamed.
“That’s our cue,” Mava said as she and Nyka stepped forward, relieving Sondra as she staggered and forced herself to continue standing.
Gwen had to change the phrasing of the words to make up for the lost seconds, and as she watched Mava and Nyka work, she saw a new problem develop.
“The phrase is too long!” she said.
“The Pledges are starting to give,” Mava said. “We need something to write! Anything!”
“There’s no where to send the magic to!” Gwen said.
“Send it into the Pledges themselves,” Ally said. “Make them wipe themselves out.”
“They’ll detonate right here though!” Gwen said.
“I know, but better here than on Earth right?” Ally said. She reached over to put a hand on Gwen’s shoulder, her face drawn taut.
“Yeah,” Gwen said and nodded.
“Hurry up,” Mava said. “We’re not holding this back enough!”
Gwen gave them the final glyphs. The ones that would curve the death stroke from the Pledges back into the star itself.
The star wouldn’t die. The energy would radiate out around it as much as into the star. There wouldn’t be enough to make it go supernova, though there might be enough to change it’s color.
Those near the star wouldn’t be as fortunate, but that didn’t include anyone on Earth.
Just the last of the Elite’s and Nightfolk.
She watched as Mava and Nyka threaded stellar fire in their hands and wove the words of doom into the star’s heart.
Unimaginable power from the Pledges began to course back out from beneath their fingertips as the Pledges finally unleashed the hellish fury they’d built up for endless centuries.
In the last instants before the spells exploded, Gwen saw her final miscalculation.
The words she’d given Mava and Nyka were being destroyed along with the pledges themselves.
As the spells fell free from their final limitations, they did so bound and directed only by the barest pieces of their original directive, their ultimate direction impossible for Gwen to make out in the endless light that engulfed her.