“Liar!” Kyrik screamed at Azulia. “There is no way Methir could do this!”
“Because you are so adept at seeing personality traits.” Azulia hissed. “As I said, the Nexus Point does not lie. She is behind it.”
Kyrik snapped his head to the image once again, noting a difference between it and the last time he saw Methir. Her skin was paler, eyes wide and wild. Manic. Clutched in her left palm was a glimmering pale shard that oozed green mist. Kyrik recognized it to be reaper in origin.
“Then you manipulated it!” Kyrik marched up to the queen, surprising her and Jirmen. “You made her look like this!”
“Jirmen, has Methir been off to you?” Azulia ignored the small dragon before her.
“No.” Jirmen shook his head in disbelief. “She knows the dangers of studying darker magics.”
“Ah, but that is the thing with dark magic; as you learn it, it learns you.”
“Again, she knows the dangers.”
“That shard is not something commonly come across, though.” Azulia examined it closer. “Yes…yes, I think that is the source of the reaper energy.”
“How do you know?” Kyrik demanded.
“Unimportant,” Azulia replied evasively, once again focused on Jirmen. “Have you tried contacting her? A simple scan will dismiss all my claims.”
Jirmen shut his eyes, only to open them a second later and staggering. With confusion clear as day, he tried again, only to be rebuffed by an unknown force.
Seeing the archmage fail should’ve been a clear warning, but Kyrik reached out to Methir mentally. The instant he established connection, what felt like a thousand knives jabbed into his brain. When he regained vision, he was on the ground, having been floored by such a counter attack.
“Get up!” A pair of claws wrapped themselves around Kyrik to help him up. Blinking a few times, he recognized Kali being his helper.
Jirmen and Azulia were nowhere in sight, however.
“They took off the moment Jirmen tried again.” Kali explained quickly. “If we want to catch them, we need to go now.”
Kyrik nodded, spreading his wings and flying up the stairs with Kali. “When you read her mind, did it feel like a thousand knives?” He asked Kali.
“It did.” Kali nodded slowly. “I take it that’s what knocked you down?”
“Yes.” Kyrik answered with panic.
“I did not wish to speak so, but I felt something off about her.” Kali admitted quietly. “I simply assumed it to be me being unused to this world, the more I was around her, the more I felt it.” She sighed.
“And you didn’t say anything because you didn’t want to offend her and I, right?”
“You two took me in. I did not want to repay with suspicion.”
Kyrik felt anger unlike any other, but he couldn’t blame Kali in the slightest. The rational side of his mind knew he shouldn’t be, but the irrational part was too frayed from the revelations coming back to back. First Methir murdering, then Kali saying she had her suspicions all along? Who says that? But he was happy deep down she told the truth, even if it strung.
When they reached the top, Jirmen and Azulia had only just gotten outside. They spoke inaudibly, but the conversation was likely something along the lines of ‘where was Methir?’.
“The Warlocks still haven’t heard anything from her.” Jirmen said. “They’re mounting a search.”
“I don’t think they will find her.” Azulia’s fingers curled in another rare loss of composure. “But, our personal reaper can.”
Kyrik didn’t need to be told, having already begun. While he wasn’t entirely sure how to detect the magics, he knew it was unique and the moment he found it, his other consciousness was sure to know. Within seconds, he found it, staring up at the Archmage’s Spire with growing anxiety. When he strained his senses, his eyes flew wide at the familiar sound of chiming bells.
Wordlessly, he took off as another bell joined the first. Louder and louder they grew, causing his scythe to appear on its own as the reaper half reacted.
The bells came from the portal room, located near the top. From there, the act of opening a rift was much easier; why it was, nobody really knew, but nobody ever complained. There was always half a dozen open to various parts of Falmari, and whenever Kyrik first got up in the morning he usually took one.
Green mist obscured the windows, and when Kyrik flew inside and landed on the wooden floors, he nearly gagged. It held no scent, but it clogged his throat as if it did. Using his element to clear it away, Kyrik discovered three things wrong in the circular room.
The first was an open portal, rapidly blinking out of existence. From it, Kyrik saw the inside of a building, but before he got a better look it closed. Before he could reopen it, his eyes fixated on the corpses of two warlocks. Sure enough they were impaled with a bone, but it was frontal, their blood pooling slowly around their still warm bodies.
The third thing wrong was by far the hardest to swallow. Unlike before, this held a trail. The spells cast were hastily made, leaving the caster detectable. Distorted and not at all what he remembered, but Kyrik nevertheless identified to be Methir.
Right as he made the connection, one of the corpses reached out and grasped his wrist tightly.
Jerking it back, Kyrik watched as they rose, spirits screaming internally as their bodies acted on their own. Kyrik’s scythe glowed at their reanimation, ready to sever the soul from body. It was the only way to save what was left. Yet, he found himself hesitating. Not from the Necrolites – as risen corpses were called – but more evidence of Methir’s crimes.
Before he had a chance to settle himself, lances of crimson ice rose from underneath, impaling the Necrolites and encasing in a thick wall of rime.
“She knows she is caught.” Azulia strode forth, no longer disguised.
“Are you going to explain what that shard is?” Jirmen landed behind with Kali.
“All you need to know is that I have seen many artifacts in my long undeath. That is part of one.” Azulia examined the location of the portal. “She is beyond saving. I will end this myself.”
“What do you mean, beyond saving!?” Kyrik protested. “Nobody is beyond saving!”
“Kyrik, your naivety has its charm, but this is not the time to believe in fairytale endings.” Azulia spat. “Methir is gone, and if we stay our attacks, she will do nothing but kill and kill.”
Instead of a portal, Azulia created a shimmering mirror. Inside was not a reflection, but the interior of an unknown shop. Gothic in design, Kyrik briefly wondered if that was how her portals looked like. If so, how?
“This is where she went.” Azulia regarded them with a cold glare. “Stay and find your non-existent answers if you desire, but I am ending this threat personally.”
Without waiting for an answer, Azulia stepped inside the mirror, its surface rippling like water.
“If she’s handling this personally, she certainly knows what this is.” Jirmen growled. “Stay here. I’ll ensure she doesn’t kill Methir; there must be a way to free her.”
Giving Jirmen an incredulous look, Kyrik dashed into the portal. There was no way in any hell he was going to stay here! If this was reaper magic corrupting Methir, then who better to help than him!?
Going through was like jumping into water, minus getting wet. When he came through the other side, the air itself was different. Heavy and ominous, waiting for something to happen. The twin moons were shrouded behind clouds, giving making the night much darker.
Yet, there was still others about outside, going about their life oblivious to the situation at claw. Azulia watched from one of the windows of the thrift shop, as Kyrik identified. Quaint and made of old wood, it must have been built before magic was used to levitate draconic buildings. In any other circumstance, Kyrik would’ve loved to explore what it had to offer.
“Are you here to help me or stop me?” Azulia twisted her serpentine neck toward him.
“I’m here to help Methir.” Kyrik answered adamantly. “I’ll help you stop her, but I won’t let you kill her.”
“Hm.” Azulia turned her attention back to outside. “I feel her presence nearby, but I am unable to pinpoint. Going outside to search would only cause a panic, and I don’t have the time nor patience for that.”
“Since when do you care about that?” Jirmen had passed through, Kali ahead slightly.
“I care when it interrupts my work. I only purge towns as a way to cut off a limb; Methir is but one, so the town doesn’t need to be salted and burned. Discretion keeps the hunters away and while Lei and Tarvi relish their attempts, my throne is running out of space.”
“Kali, this isn’t your fight.” Kyrik said to the dreamtender quietly. “You don’t have to come.”
“For the same reason I didn’t speak out, so too will I stay.” Kali answered adamantly.
Kyrik nodded, grateful for her presence. Although, he wasn’t sure if she had the skill to combat, she could certainly aid in any evacuation needed. With it settled, he strained himself to detect reaper energy.
Only to be rebuffed almost immediately by another spike into his mind.
“I could have told you that would happen.” Azulia noted his staggering. “Why do you think even I cannot detect it?”