Whatever Tessa had expected, the outcome of using [Fracture] was not it.
Rather than BT’s body being engulfed by static, it was Tessa’s vision which was lost in the sparkling haze.
What did you do? Glimmerglass asked, the terror in her voice a response to the sudden blindness rather than ignorance of what Tessa’s intention or action had been.
Hang on. I’ve got this, Tessa said, despite the deep certainty that she did not, in fact, have control of anything, much less the static which enveloped them.
You called the static, Pillowcase said, it’s yours. Make it work.
Fixing BT and Hailey was the goal.
Focus on the goal.
The static wasn’t real. It was a manifestation of something that dissolved reality, and unwrote existence.
Tessa stood on the knife edge of oblivion and saw it was a blade she’d already wielded. She’d slice herself apart to save Pillowcase and the rest of her team. Doing that same for someone else didn’t seem hard at all by comparison.
The static cleared. The hissing melted away to a pure, soundless tone.
And she struck. Without movement, without breath, she cracked the bonds which shackled the soul of *GM Burnt Toast* to Hailey and BT.
In the medical tent, Tessa stepped away from BT, whose eyes flew open.
“What did you do?” Everyone in the tent wondered that, and any of them might have asked the question.
“That’s…” BT said, her gaze riveted on Tessa’s hand though the rest of her body was frozen.
“Not allowed here,” Tessa said. In her hand, a sigil burned, morphing through the shapes of a language older than the creation of the universe.
If she could read it, Tessa knew it would speak to her in the language of the gods. It was real enough but it wasn’t something which the [Fallen Kingdoms] was designed to endure the presence of.
Everyone else in the tent had gone perfectly silent in the light of the god soul Tessa was holding. Or not just the tent. The city? The world? It felt like the whole universe was holding its breath, Tessa couldn’t be sure it wasn’t just herself.
Grasping the god soul was no more possible than allowing it to exist in the [Fallen Kingdoms] in the first place. But it was her job. She was the only one who could.
Just not for long.
“Tessa…” BT said, reaching out a tentative hand.
“There’s no time,” Tessa said, shaking her head.
She had to drop the god soul. Cast it out beyond the borders of the [Fallen Kingdoms].
But first she needed to use it.
Can I do that? Is it ok? she asked.
No, Glimmerglass said, this is dangerous and more than we can control. But it’s for Lisa, so do it anyways. I’m onboard.
Hurry! Pillowcase said.
Tessa tightened her grip, her hand merging with the edges of the god soul as she invoked its command protocols.
In the [Garden Hall of Deep Winter], Pillowcase stood over Lost Alice’s fallen form, her shield raised high and light flaring in a dome around them.
The ice flowers were gone. The wisps of light consumed.
Everywhere around them the [Formless Hunger] roared, searching for some gap in Pillowcase’s defenses it could slip in through.
“How are you doing that?” Lost Alice asked, gasping the words out through gritted teeth.
“[Transdimensional Redoubt],” Pillowcase said. “I leveled.”
“That’s fantastic,” Lost Alice said, struggling more with each word. “How long does it last?”
“Long enough,” Pillowcase said.
“Does it…” Lost Alice paused to catch her breath. “Does it let you move?”
“Dammit. You should go then,” Alice said. “But I don’t want you to.”
Pillowcase heard the desperation in Alice’s voice. It was driven by more than pain. There was a unspoken current of despair that was growing stronger behind Alice’s eyes.
“No,” Alice said, fighting back against herself. “That’s not…not right. I can’t say that. Go, just go. You have to. You promised you’d live.”
“She will,” Tessa said.
All around Pillowcase’s left hand a orrery of golden light swirled and her eyes shone with light in every color imaginable.
Or were they her eyes? Pillowcase’s form wasn’t solid anymore. As some unseen wave rippled through Pillowcase, Lost Alice saw hints of other people standing in her place instead.
Glimmerglass, we need you here, Tessa said.
“[Casting spell: True Form Restoration],” Glimmerglass said.
Pillowcase bent down and Lost Alice watched as she shifted from the form of a [Clothwork] to that of a beautiful [Elven] woman.
Glimmerglass, kneeling where Pillowcase had been an instant before, focused the spell on the stump of Lost Alice’s missing leg, trying to direct the healing energy into the seething ring of static which prevented the wound from closing.
For a high level adventurer, the spell should have restored any bodily impairments in just under three seconds. For a low level adventurer, the time between near death and flawless health should have been effectively instantaneous. Lost Alice enjoyed neither of those results, but her health did fill back up and her pain lessened substantially.
“Much better,” she said. “But it still hurts.”
“The [Unstable Rent] is fighting me,” Glimmerglass said.
“Let me deal with that,” Tessa said.
Lost Alice watched as the [Elven] shift against, taking on the appearance of a rather bedraggled young human woman she’d only previously seen as a ghost.
“Sorry, this might hurt,” Tessa said and pressed her hand to Lost Alice’s wound. “[Fracture].”
Lost Alice howled in pain. Her eyes blazed a brilliant red and her fangs grew an extra inch.
But the [Fracture] didn’t fix the [Unstable Rift].
“Sorry sorry sorry,” Tessa said as she pulled back.
Around them the [Transdimensional Redoubt] flickered.
“No,” Lost Alice panted. “It’s ok.” She struggled for another breath. “That sucked, but I’m glad you tried.”
“You should leave me,” Lisa said. “Really Tessa. I am so happy you came back, but not to this. Don’t stay here.”
“She’s right,” Pillowcase said, as the [Clothwork] form briefly appeared before Tessa’s human one took hold again. “Ok. We need to leave.” Tessa held up her left hand where the golden orrery was still spinning. “All of us.”
With a twist of her wrist, the orrery flared again.
Rose made it to the [Heart Fire] before any of the rest of her team, but only by a little bit. She was holding back, her nerves were torn between rushing to Pillow and Alice’s aid and not charging into something deadly on her own. She knew she was going to be the one to jump across the level capping zone line and make contact with Pillow and Alice – no one else was going to take that particular risk – but she wasn’t adverse to have people close enough nearby to pull her out of the fire if it turned the [Formless Hunger] was waiting for them.
“How did you get so fast?” Jamal asked. “I thought we all ran at the same speed?”
“I got a class ability that speeds me up,” Rose said.
“Cool. Wait, when did you level?”
“I didn’t. I just sort of switched classes.”
“You did what?” Jamal asked as he, Starchild, Lady Midnight, and Obby caught up to her at the [Heart Fire].
She was interrupted from answering by an explosion of light. It wasn’t merely bright though. The light had a physical force and despite reactions which were several times better than her human ones, Rip wasn’t able to avoid much of the blast.
“Sorry,” Pillowcase said. She was kneeling over the fallen form of Lost Alice.
The fallen and badly injured form of Lost Alice.
“What happened?” Rose asked. She was at their side before she was even aware she was getting up.
“The [Formless Hunger] was waiting for us,” Pillowcase said. “It set a trap.”
“Lady Midnight! Alice needs healing!” Rose yelled it much louder than she needed to.
“I’m working on that,” Glimmerglass said.
Rose turned to look at who was speaking and leapt across the chamber when she saw that an [Elven] woman she’d never met was standing where Pillowcase had been a moment before.
“Who…” she started to ask before Obby placed a hand on Rose’s arm.
“Are healing spells being disrupted by the [Unstable Rent]?” Obby asked.
“Yeah,” Glimmerglass said. “They seem to be doing some good, but they’re not removing the damage-over-time effect.”
“It’s a lot better than it was,” Lost Alice said, but she sounded so weakened that Rose couldn’t see how that could be true.
“Can I help?” Lady Midnight asked.
“Yes please,” Glimmerglass said. “I think we can hold the wound where it is with healing but I need to be able to look into other options.”
“Understood,” Lady Midnight said and cast [Minor Blood Channel].
“Thats…that’s almost as good,” Lost Alice lied.
“If..if…if..if your health starts dropping I can switch back in,” Glimmerglass said, twitching as static played over her.
Everyone present recognized the vocal tick as more than a simple stutter.
“Are you…?” Rose couldn’t bring herself to say the word.
“[Disjoined]?” Glimmerglass asked. “No. Or not yet.”
“I’m something a little unusual at the moment,” Pillowcase said as her body shift from [Elven] to [Clothwork].
Tessa appeared as she shifted to human form once more and raised her left hand to show the god soul she was carrying.
“Oh, that’s a bit dangerous,” Obby said.
“Yes. It’s doing it’s best to tear us apart,” Pillowcase said, the golden light fading as human shifted to [Clothwork]. “We’re managing for now though.”
“Getting rid of it would be for the best,” Obby said.
“Working on how to do that,” Tessa said, as the [Clothwork] returned to human.
“Is everyone else seeing what I am?” Starchild asked.
“Pillowcase is turning into other people?” Jamal said. “Yeah, I’m seeing that too.”
“We’re not exactly other people,” Glimmerglass said.
“And this isn’t working,” Tessa added.
“None of our sensory capabilities can encompass that wound,” Pillowcase said. “We need another avenue of attack.”
“What does that thing in your hand do?” Rose asked.
“It’s basically a set of GM powers from the game,” Tessa said. “We pulled it off…off…a…a friend because it was doing this to them too.”
“GM Powers? What can you do with those?” Jamal asked, excitement and awe mixing in his voice.
“What can’t you do!” Rose said, similar awe sweeping through her.
Then she considered one of the less pleasant possibilities.
“You can’t send us home right?” she asked.
“No. GMs could ban players but I can’t dare try that now. I have no idea what would happen,” Tessa said.
“Can you fix her wound with it?” Lady Midnight asked.
“GMs didn’t have a ‘heal player’ function, at least not as far as I know,” Tessa said. “I was able to teleport us away from the [Formless Hunger], but that’s one of the simplest functions the GMs had.”
She glitched out again, switching back to the Pillowcase in the process, which seemed to drive the static away.
“If we had time we could work out more of the god soul’s functions, but it’s growing more unstable every second,” Pillowcase said.
“It’s potentially as much of a problem as the [Formless Hunger] is,” Obby said. “But it would give you god-like power if you could master it.”
“I had a discussion about god-like power already,” Tessa said. “I think things like this can cause bigger problems than they solve.”
“If its hurting you, get rid of it,” Lost Alice said.
Tessa knelt down beside her.
“This might be the only thing that can close that rift in your leg,” she said.
“I can manage without a leg,” Lost Alice said. “Probably have someone forge me a magical prosthetic one that shoots lightning bolts or something.”
“I know, you would be totally badass,” Tessa said. “The rift isn’t going to stop damaging you though. It’s a permanent effect. If we can’t remove it, then as soon as the healing stops, you’ll start dying again.”
“We can hold that off with healing spells,” Lisa said. “You don’t have to keep glitching like that. It looks like it’s going to destroy you.”
“I think there’s a way I can do both,” Tessa said. “If I’m wrong though, I think we both wind up getting erased. And one way or the other, there’s no second chance.”
“I hate it,” Lost Alice said. “But I trust you.”
“In this together then?” Tessa asked, offering Lost Alice her free hand.
Lisa looked at the offered hand, and then up to Tessa’s eyes, before Lost Alice closed her eyes and nodded.
“Definitely.” she said as she took Tessa’s right hand.
Holding on to Lost Alice, Tessa brought her left hand up, bathing them both in the radiance of the god soul.
Then she shattered it and light bloomed everywhere.