Escaping from prison was something I’d spent a lot of time thinking about. I hadn’t expected to be held captive by a megalomaniacal leader of a world government, but the idea that I’d wind up in prison someday had seemed inevitable at a few different points in my life.
My best bet for escape was to cover myself in invisibility and head down into the complex, away from the volcano shaft that I’d entered through. There had to be another exit since dropping material and personnel into a volcano risked attracting exactly the sort of attention that Makkis’ conspiracy had avoided like the plague. More importantly, the local weapons array had to be deeper in the facility and if I took that out, Master Raychelle would notice and would know where to find me.
It was the perfect plan, which was why I couldn’t go anywhere near it.
Makkis wasn’t an idiot. Idiot’s don’t keep conspiracies secret for twenty years or manage to take control of an entire planet. He wasn’t omniscient either, but it was a safe bet that he could workout what my best course of action was and take steps to put himself ahead of me there.
To an extent, he already had. Any course of action I took that didn’t involve bringing Master Raychelle into the fray would lead to me being overwhelmed either by his personal troops or by one of the many weapon systems he had under his control. He’d carefully set my options up so that I couldn’t win. My only choice was in how I wanted to lose.
That’s why I ran for the exit that would take me up through the volcano. Back out the way I’d come in. In theory, that was the worst possible way I could have gone.
I ran into the first set of guards on the other side of the door leading out from the prison cells. Makkis wanted me to escape and lead him to Master Raychelle, but he didn’t want to make that obvious. The guards were well armed, prepared for an escapee and outnumbered me four to one. Those were powerful factors in their favor. They also expected their bolt casters to work on me. That was a powerful factor against them.
Invisibility should have let me sneak past them but some clever soul had given them a sonic tracking spell that let them react to my arrival in the holding room immediately. If I’d had time I could have cloaked myself in silence as well, but my brain had nearly been fried three times in the last hour so I didn’t trust myself to handle complex spells. That was probably part of the reason Makkis had shocked me repeatedly. The less I could do, the more predictable I was.
I didn’t have time to play nice, so I hit the guards as fast as I could. I started off unarmed, which meant the first guard lost the use of a few of his joints for a while. A decent healer would be able to repair him in a day or two though. The other guards weren’t as lucky as he was. Assuming I survived the next 24 hours, I promised myself I’d look into long term treatment options for them. A Crystal Guardian should be able to pay for a month or two of convalescence, especially for wounds she inflicted.
The alarm klaxons sounded the moment the first guard dropped unconscious from the pain. I didn’t know my way around the base but that wasn’t a problem. The corridor out of the cell area went in only one direction. When it did eventually branch off it was easy to tell which way to go; one hallway went up, the other went down. Since I was trying to climb out the top of the volcano that made my choice rather obvious.
The run through the base was harrowing in a way that being in the Deep Run facility surrounded by over powered monsters hadn’t been. There I’d had people with me. This time I was alone and I was running away from the only support I had in the entire world.
I put on a burst of speed, trying to distance myself from that thought as much as from the cell I’d fought my way out of. Guards were scurrying down towards the depths of the complex as I ran past them, invisible as the wind. From the orders they shouted to each other, I heard that they were moving to protect the weapon system controls and the other exit from the base. Makkis had prepped them prior to my escape.
That was chilling. I’d been right about how smart he was. I hoped I was right about the rest of my guesses.
The one guess I felt fairly certain of was that Makkis was tracking me, which gave me hope. With the tools at his disposal that could control Void anima, he could see through my invisibility spell, but he hadn’t changed the orders to his troops. That meant, he didn’t want me to know that he could see me.
I was happy because it was evidence in favor of my theory. He had every reason to play dumb until Master Raychelle showed up, and every reason to make sure I didn’t actually escape. I was counting on both those motivations coloring his judgment.
I arrived back at the room where we’d entered the base and breathed a sigh of relief that I’d made it that far. Happily, the anima suppression field was offline. I’d expected that but it was still comforting to see. Our earlier attack had been devastating, and Makkis had much better options for defense of the base than a costly repair to a complicated system. If he’d brought the suppression field back online, it would have suggested that he had resources he didn’t know what to do with. That was likely to be true in another day or so if we didn’t stop him, but as it was he was stretched thin.
I’d lost the flight pack when they captured me. Funny how prisoners don’t get to keep useful gear like that. I could deal with the loss of the rest of my stuff but missing the flight pack was a problem because the exit from the room was via a tunnel that ran directly upwards through the magma in the volcano. Without the flight pack (or a spare fire elemental to generate wings for me) I couldn’t fly out the way I’d come in. So I did the next best thing.
Leaping up the exit tunnel was simple in theory, but in practice it proved to be a whole lot more difficult than flying into the base had been. We’d destroyed the physical barriers that protected the room on the way in and there was a repair crew working on crafting a seal to put in place over the exit.
Unlike the guards in the prison area, the workers who were repairing the base didn’t have sonic scanners, so my invisibility was enough to get me past them. The problem was that they’d brought some of the automatic defenses back online already and I didn’t have anyone to shut them down for me.
It was a rough trip upwards. Between the need to hurl myself ever higher and the damaging attacks I had to absorb with anime shields, I was forced to drop the invisibility spell. More klaxons sounded when I did that but I pressed onwards.
My final leap, at the mouth of the tunnel was the one I put the most magic into. It almost felt like flying, the way that I soared out of the lake of lava in the volcano’s caldera. I landed on the north side of volcano, on the lip of rock that overlooked the fiery pit below.
It was unbelievably hot there and the gases in the area would have been murder on my lungs if I hadn’t cast a spell to let me breath. Neither of those were the most pressing problem though. The big issue with standing on the edge of this particular active volcano was the horde of fire and earth elementals that came racing towards me.
Volcanos and other active, natural locations are often the home to potent elementals. The volcano that the base rested under was huge and highly active, which meant the elementals that inhabited it were also huge and highly active. In hindsight, it made Breeg’s summoning of the elemental that destroyed the apartment build make more sense. He had access to plenty of big elementals and given their number it seemed like summoning one here would be a piece of cake.
I was banking on that. As the elementals charged up at me, disturbed by the magic I’d worked in their vicinity, I started casting a summoning spell. I didn’t have much to go on. It was the first summoning spell I’d cast. Fortunately I didn’t need to give the elementals anything like a complex command.
“Go attack the base.” I told them.
It was a struggle with the first one. Fire elementals don’t like being bound.
“I want you to burn things. Things that you haven’t been able to burn before.” I told the elemental. It was happy with that but wanted to burn me first.
So I absorbed it’s energy and began binding the next in line.
Elementals are simple creatures. Some saw the benefit of attacking the base. Others mindlessly continued to rush at me.
Those that tried to hurl themselves on me met their ends on spears of Void anima. With each one that I absorbed I felt strength return and I cast the summoning net wider. Fire’s flared up around the volcano and began racing to the peak I stood on. It was like watching the volcano erupt in reverse.
The elementals that obeyed my command raced down over the lava became my army and my invitation. It didn’t take long for Makkis to see that I wasn’t following the script he’d had in mind for me.
“You should have run when you had the chance.” Makkis said, appearing as a projection about ten feet away from me.
“I am going to kill you.” I told him. Pretending that I was consumed by rage wasn’t hard. His truth seeing spell would see no lie in my words.
“Such a disappointment. I thought you were better than childish threats.” he said. “I thought you understood the power I command.”
“I have a volcano full of fire elementals that are heading into your base to roast you alive.” I told him.
“If they were a threat, would I be talking to you?” he asked. I could hear the fire elementals sizzling and exploding as they entered the base. Makkis had turned the Void anima field on them and was snuffing them out as fast as they arrived.
“You can’t focus your weapon over a wide range can you?” I said. “Not enough to hit me without hitting yourself too. That means I can keep throwing elementals at you and you can’t hit me with that field again. You have to keep it focused on defending yourself against them.”
“And how long can you hurl minions at me?” Makkis said. “Sooner or later they’re going to run out.”
“I’ll be a lot stronger by then!” I said, and absorbed another elemental.
“Do you really not understand the power you are opposing?” Makkis asked. “Even if you could hold the power of every elemental on this mountain, you would be nothing compared to me.”
“That sounds wonderful, I don’t like being compared to guys like you.” I said.
“How drole.” Makkis said. “Do you feel brave for doing your duty in the face of insurmountable odds? Or perhaps you feel clever for finding a way to attack me where I can’t instantly kill you in return? Perhaps I need to show you your mistake again.”
The explosions of the fire elementals in the base stopped as other forces moved in to deal with them. I knew that was a bad sign and winced as I felt Makkis’ Void anima field forming around me. I went still and gathered in more of the fire elementals for myself. When the attack hit it was just as draining as the last time, but I didn’t hold back from it. The anima I was taking from the fire elementals flowed out of me and into the Void anima spell that Makkis’ weapon systems had cast.
As fast as the anima poured out, I pulled more in, taking the power from the elementals that were converging on us.
“You can only save yourself for so long like that.” Makkis said. He was impatient, probably hoping that Master Raychelle would show up before he had to go through with killing me.
Unfortunately that wasn’t an option. If Master Raychelle was anywhere nearby she was letting me play this stage out on my own.
“Do you really think you can stop me?” I asked him.
“Yes. I really do.” he said and the intensity of the attack skyrocketed.
I dropped to my knees with a gasp and felt my personal anima starting to flow out along with the fire elemental magics I’d absorbed. Makkis was done playing around. He’d planned on using me to bring down Master Raychelle but I’d proven myself useless for that. In his mind I was either too stupid to figure out the right course of action or too caught up in my anger to act on it. That made me nothing more than a liability which in turn meant it was time for me to die.
I drew in more of the fire elementals, casting the summoning spell as far and powerful as I could. I was burning anima that could have protected me against the draining effect for a few seconds. I didn’t have a few seconds though. Even with the elementals pouring up the slopes like a tidal wave, I was withering visibly, the magic within me sputtering out and my life along with it.
“Don’t feel bad.” Makkis said. “You could never have beaten me.”
I drew in power from the mountain below me, forgoing the elementals and reaching directly to the anima of the volcano itself. I couldn’t reach even a tiny fraction of it but what I did grasp bought me another few precious breaths of life.
I had to hold out. I had to buy time. I screamed and dug in as far as I could go. I could feel my skin burning with the anima that I was conducting and put the pain aside to reach for more.
Then I felt the memory a cool wind blow across my face and I smiled.
“You’re right.” I told Makkis. “Of course, I wasn’t trying to beat you.”
On wobbly and uncertain legs, I got back to my feet and tried not to sway around too much. The void anima attack was gone, but it had left me in worse shape than I wanted to show him..
Though his image was only a projection, I was able to see a glorious mix of doubt and fear play across his face.
“What have you done?” he demanded.
“Distracted you.” I told him, feeling a fierce, angry joy radiate through me.
“From what?” he asked. He knew it was over, but he didn’t know why or how and that was driving him slowly insane.
“From me.” Fari said.
She rose out of the lake of lava below us as a two hundred foot tall projection of molten rock in the shape of her usual form. Beneath her, the base hummed with power, all of it under her control.