The Longest Battle – Ch 22 – The Heaviest Chains

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Jin sat in the center of the summoning circle. Around her lights of every color flared, inscribing her name on the air and into the stones beneath her.

“It was foolish of you to give out your true name as much as you did.” the Golden Vizier said. He was supposed to be dead. Jin had watched him expend all of his magics to power a spell of annihilation that would scour the central continent clear of life. He hadn’t intended to do that when he unleashed the slumber power of the Twelve Gods of the Celestial Hours. His plan had been to chain them to the Wheel of Eternity as they once had been. With the Wheel in his possession he would have ruled over them and through them the whole of the world and the skies beyond it.

His plans had come to ruin though. A stalwart band of adventurers had arisen, each driven by the wrongs the Golden Vizier had inflicted on their people. Together they had undone the Vizier’s plan and disrupted his ritual. In retribution and rage, the Vizier had sought with the last of his powers to expunged all those who had stood against him.

The power of the disrupted ritual would have accomplished that and more if not for the sacrifice of the party’s smallest member. The halfling Roseglow, their healer, had fought on when all the rest where disabled and spent. She’d wrestled the Golden Vizier in those final moments and called the apocalyptic surge of power into a portal she had created to the Astral Seas.

Roseglow and the Golden Vizier were vaporized by the blast and their ashed tossed to the immaterial chaos of the astral plane. It was a terrible loss to the party that had stood against the Vizier but for it the world was saved.

Jin had been with them. Pen had sent her in to investigate the world when they found signs of its being tampered by an unknown dream lord. With her mandate limited to “investigation”, Jin had chosen the role of a commoner. One that could be involved in the issues her meta-awareness told her were important without drawing undo attention to herself.

She had traveled therefor as the squire to Lady Aelwyn, the Elven knight who joined the adventuring party after the Forest of Bright Harmony was burned and its remains used to power the Ash Beast Engines of the Golden Vizier’s army.

Though her mandate forbade it, Jin would have happily helped in the party’s final battle, and in a sense she did. Though the Vizier did not succeed in shackling the Twelve Gods to the Wheel of Eternity, he did manage to wake them. Unseen and unnoticed by the party, Jin fought the battle on that level for them, returning the gods to their slumber so that they would not begin to remake the world into the one they remembered from aeons past.

She’d thought she was done with the world after that. The case seemed resolved, even if the mystery still lingered.

Then she found herself trapped in a summoning circle and bound by her own name.

“I knew there was some outside force interfering in my plans.” the Golden Vizier said. He was pacing around the outside of the circle, a look of malicious contentment written large on his features.

“You thought that you were above my reach, thought yourself untouchable? Didn’t you?” he asked.  “I know your secret though. I know what you are. And I know what your weakness is.”

“That’s interesting.” Jin said. “What do you think I am?”

She felt the Golden Vizier shaping reality around her. It wasn’t dream magic though. It was the ancient forces of creation the Twelve Gods had once wielded when they’d forged the world from nothingness. By letting him speak, Jin knew she was letting him set the stage and choose the props that appeared upon it. In theory that should have been terrifying. It was exactly the wrong way to approach a battle with a reality shaper. In practice though Jin liked to think of it as giving him enough rope to hang himself with.

“You are not of this world. You’re a creature from beyond our sphere, terribly powerful, as omnipotent as I am, except for one thing.” the Vizier said.

“And that would be?” Jin asked.

“You believe you are still human. You think that the bonds you have formed with the people here matter. That they are as worthy of life as you are.” he said.

“And you think I’m wrong in that?” she asked.

“No. You are quite right. You cling to the chains of mortality, to what you believe yourself to be and in so doing make yourself no more worthy than they are.” the Vizier gestured to the rim of the circle.

Seated around the edges of her prison, the adventurer’s that Jin had traveled with sat staring inwards with blank eyes. From their lips, her name spilled forth, over and over. They were the ones who had called her. They were the ones who bound her.

Jin didn’t need to reach out, didn’t need to touch the seal that enclosed her at all to know that their lives were what it was woven from.

“You can free yourself at any time.” the Vizier said. “But you won’t. The moment you leave here. The moment that circle is empty, their lives will rush into the Void and they will die. You are bound by the illusion you cling to and thanks to my power, you will rot under it for all time!” the Golden Vizier cackled.

Jin laughed as well. It was a shorter laugh and one that was tinged with sorrow.

“You poor foolish man.” she said, shaking her head.

“I am no man anymore! I am the Wheel of Eternity reborn! I am the alpha and the omega of this world. All here are mine to do with as I will!” the Golden Vizier shouted. Gleeful exaltation radiated off him in the form of brilliant light that was shadowed only by the great doors to his throne room being blasted open.

“Not all of us.” a tall woman said. Behind her stood a motley assemblage of heroes from every race on the face of the planet. They had braved peril beyond any of their imaginings, fought foes beneath the earth and within the heavens above, shattered relics and reforged artifacts all in the service of the young prophetess who stood on the leader’s right side.

The prophetess, Kulooani, had never doubted the visions she’d seen, though some had been clearer than others. She’d never given up on averting the catastrophe that she saw looming either. At the same time though, she’d never expected to meet the source of her visions, or to discovered that they came from a young woman no older than herself.

Jin smiled at her, pleased that the stories she’d whispered into the winds had found someone with kindness as well as the drive to seeing the apocalypse averted once more.

This time, the sleeping gods remained slumbering. This time Jin was not distracted from the central crisis as it came to a head. This time she was more than needed in fact. The Golden Vizier turned to face the interlopers who had burst into his chamber and Jin felt reality shifting to obliterate them where they stood. She could stop that. She could bend the Vizier’s power back on itself. Defang him and give the heroes who stood before him a fighting chance.

Instead she remained in the circle and watched.

The Vizier has been right. The people who surrounded her and caged her in, the adventurer’s she’d journeyed with, they limited her. The humanity that she clung to was a burden. Even the image that she projected was an illusion.

The Vizier had been right about all of that, except that he’d also missed nearly everything that mattered.

With a simple inhalation and exhalation, Jin sat back and let herself believe in the people whose lives she’d touched.

The Vizier raised the force of the cosmos against the heroes who stood before him, and the cosmos struck back. In the hands of the heroes’ leader, the heart of the broken Wheel of Eternity pulsed. Jin had talked with Ponli, the heroes’ leader, in her dreams. She’d seen the yearning for greatness that lay in the heart of the former stable girl and had given her the knowledge of where the broken center of the world had fallen.

Ponli had been the first one Kulooani had recruited, and from their they’d build a small army. To each man and woman and other sort of creature, Jin had come and had shared with them a vision of what they could become.

As the Golden Vizier’s limitless power drained away, the true Wheel of Eternity was restored. The Vizier summoned forces from every forgotten and unnameable corner that he could, struggled against the loss of his omnipotence with the force only a god could muster.

Kulooani, as Roseglow before her had done, locked herself in battle with the Vizier. Jin could see the strands of fate weaving together into a familiar pattern, so she chose to act.

With the quietest of whispers, she spoke to Kulooani. Her voice was carried on no winds, but instead floated to the prophetess on the currents of a dream.

“You are more than you know.” Jin whispered. “And I believe in you.”

The Grand Vizier had trapped one dream lord. He’d bound her in a net of her own desires. He’d thought of everything and been well informed how to fight her.

But he hadn’t planned on fighting two of them.

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