Kyrik had attacked the queen. Jirmen couldn’t believe his eyes. Never was Kyrik the type for violence, so to see him take the initiative was enough to stun Jirmen into inaction long enough for the young dragon to fly off into the mists.
“I’m going after him.” Kali announced.
“That mist will kill you immediately.” Jirmen snapped, holding his staff out to block her way.
“Then give me a protection spell. I’m not sitting this one out.” Kali demanded, the orb on her tail glowing intensely with her emotions.
“No, you’re going back.” Jirmen grabbed Kali by the horn. “This is too dangerous for you.”
“Absolutely not!” Kali wrestled herself free, only to stumble outside the barrier Jirmen had erected.
Horror ripped through Jirmen like a knife as she stood, eyes wide in fear. The necrolites slowly approached, reaching for Kali like a starving beggar. Only, instead of collapsing from the choking mists, Kali turned around and launched a low powered sphere of earthen energy that floored the encroaching Necrolites.
“What!?” Jirmen nearly shouted. “How are you not dead!?”
“Alien biology?” Kali answered with as much confusion as he. “It’s hard to breathe, but I can.” She gave him a steely look before taking to the skies, disappearing into the mists.
The crumbling of wood and loud steps alerted Jirmen of Azulia’s approach, preventing him from following Kali. If left alone, the queen would doubtlessly murder everyone nearby.
She had nary a scratch upon her hide, nor was her jewelry misplaced. Instead of anger, she appeared impressed, staring off where Kyrik had flown.
“So, he does have power in him…” Azulia murmured. “To strike me, he is bold indeed.” She shifted attention to Jirmen. “You’ve seen this before too, haven’t you?”
“Aye.” Jirmen strengthened the barrier, repelling the Necrolites.
“And you know how to reverse it, yes?”
“I do, but I’m not sure I can save them all.”
“Do what you must, then. Not even I can condemn anyone to reaper reanimation.” Azulia spat with distain. “I will ensure this ends swiftly.”
“Try and spare her.” Jirmen began to channel light in his palms. “If there is truth to your words, if she cannot be saved…then do what you must as well.”
Azulia regarded him quietly before nodding silently, unfurling her wings and launching herself into the air. If she wasn’t making a quip or remark about the situation, she must really be serious about not condemning anyone to this. Far more likely was her playing along, but Jirmen always suspected there was truth to Kyrik’s previous words about not being evil.
The truth would come out tonight, and right now he needed to free as many as he could.
Kyrik flapped harder than he ever did in his life, straining his wings to their breaking point. Underneath, a sea of Necrolites watched with dead eyes, unable to take flight in their primitive state. As undeath claimed them, the necromantic powers that bound their souls would override ‘realistic’ movements. If Kyrik didn’t stop this soon, he’d have an army quite literally nipping at his heels.
Flying over levitating buildings, Kyrik found himself lost. All the dark magic in the air corrupted the buildings, which were made to conduct the arcane to allow flight. With the overflowing corruption, they radiated a green glow. Kyrik couldn’t mark them as he normally might have with his own essence.
The crystalline homes, made by shrikers, couldn’t be used to identify location either. They all looked the same in the thick mist.
Why did Methir ever think an army of the dead would work!? The Sect of the Damned was involved! They weren’t any more effective, being driven back in the final push when one of Ephiral’s heralds obliterated their forces. Methir was there! She was the one who told him this!
What did Methir discover to change her mind? If Azulia was put off by the idea, it must be horrible.
A thick wall of haze approached, previously unnoticed until it was right before him. Kyrik felt Methir’s lifeforce inside, but it was distant. Intangible.
“Kyrik, do not make me harm you.” Methir hissed from the haze. “I know you know how powerful necromantic magic is.”
“You can’t just kill a town and enslave them, Methir!” Kyrik protested, voice cracking from the emotional pain. “If you want to attack Ephiral, let me help you! We can work together!”
“If you want to help, then leave.” Methir ordered coldly. “You won’t do it what it takes. His prison is weakening. I meant what I said; magic is going straight to him like a gravitational pull. When he absorbs enough, he’ll erupt out. We have no gods, not even demigods. There is no one to protect us, so I must do this to save the world.”
“And if we don’t have gods, how do you expect to take him on!?”
“How pessimistic of you, Kyrik.” Methir said sourly.
“Let them go, Methir.” Kyrik pleaded. “Can’t you hear them screaming?”
Methir didn’t answer immediately. “I can.” She said with remorse and clarity. At first, Kyrik thought he got through to her until she spoke again. “But I have to do this. I don’t expect you to understand. When I am done, I will free them.”
“But it’ll be too late!” Kyrik thrust his finger down at the swaying Necrolites, hearing their cries of despair. “Their bodies will rot! They’ll never return to their lives!”
“Then that makes us on opposing sides.” Methir replied quietly. “I’m sorry muffin, but I can’t let anyone stand in my way. Including you.”
Kyrik felt her presence retreat as something dripping with necrotic magic ripped through the air toward him. A sharp bone like the others, seeking to plunge itself into his hearts. He didn’t move, unable to grasp the sight before him.
Methir killed three and made a golem to distract. Why? When she was caught, she fled here. Why? What was so important about here? A question to forever be unanswered, as his mind could no longer focus on the logic.
Methir was trying to kill him. Kill him. As soon as it penetrated his scales as it was about to, he would plunge into the Necrolites to be eaten alive. He wouldn’t stay dead for long, no, but the pain he’d feel as his body was torn to shreds, consumed. That she’d condemn him to that torture.
And yet, he couldn’t move until something large struck him from the side, pushing him out of the way. A yelp of pain – not from him – echoed through the night. Kyrik felt his shoulder nearly snap as he landed on the crystalline rooftop, a large black form collapsed on him.
“Kali?” Kyrik found his voice, recognizing the runes along her shoulders.
“Why did you run off alone?” Kali asked not aggressively, but certainly angrily. Her beak-like face was inches from his, making it impossible to look away.
“Jirmen was going to kill her!” Kyrik tried to wiggle free, but she held him tight. “Let me go!”
“Not until you promise you won’t run off alone! I don’t agree with Jirmen or Azulia, but going off alone will get you killed like it almost did!”
At her words, Kyrik noted her face contort in pain as something warm dripped onto his midsection. Averting his gaze to the source, his eyes widened at the gruesome sight before him. Breathing all but stopped the instant the bone-shaped projectile was felt against his scales.
“You’re hurt.” Kyrik announced blankly, lifting her gently with his element. Scrawling protective wards onto the surface of the roof, he created a barrier strong enough to keep the Necrolites at bay. They scratched at the walls and burst inside the building’s entrance, clawing toward the roof ever so slowly.
Returning to Kali, he trembled at the sight of the bone sticking out of her side. It oozed with decay, seeping into her body. Strangely, it didn’t seem to be doing much harm to her. A normal penetration if he had to guess. Still had to be removed, but curiosity nevertheless briefly overtook his racing mind.
“I don’t know why I’m not affected,” Kali murmured at his question. “Alien biology is the best explanation I have.”
Kyrik nodded, unsure of how else to reply. “This is going to hurt.” He said. “I need to pull it out; even if it isn’t corrupting you, it’s still deadly.”
Kali gave her consent, and without delay Kyrik removed the bone. She screamed in agony, a noise he never liked to hear. It reminded him of the time where he came across a wounded soldier, but was unable to save him. Listening to the whimpers and death cries from dozens of arrows, it haunted him for days. Yet there was nothing he could do but be kind and send him into a peaceful death.
At least here, he could cleanse the wound. At least here, he could heal Kali.
The blood on his claws couldn’t be removed, but she would live. His chest heaved from the healing magic, but he had enough to fly and confront Methir.
“You can’t run off alone to something like this.” Kali felt the newly stitched together scales and flesh. “What if I wasn’t there?”
“I’d die and come back.” Kyrik muttered under his breath.
“You’d die, yes.” Kali got up, still wincing. “I may not know Methir like you do, but no one should have to deal with something like this alone.”
“Why do you care?” Kyrik asked, trying not to offend. “I’m not trying to be mean, but you really have no stake in this.”
Kali hesitated in her answer. “I…don’t know. My amnesia goes deeper than I realize, but I feel a sense of impending doom. I don’t know if this is the cause, so even if we never met, I’d still wind up here.”
“I can’t describe it. It feels like creation will fall, and I don’t even know how or why. Better yet, when. This is a catastrophic event, and it may usher in said doom, so I must stop it.” Kali turned her head to the encroaching Necrolites. “Our goals are aligned, and I do not wish to see Methir fall further.”
Kyrik nodded, accepting her answer before picking up the bloodstained bone. “I think I can use this to track her.” He placed it into another scrawled rune. “Since she isn’t hiding anymore, and I know what to look for, it may act as a beacon.”
“Do you mean to carry it with us?”
“Unfortunately.” Kyrik grimaced. “But, I’m no stranger to blood and bone. This doesn’t bother me nearly as much as you might think.”
The magic that went into the bone left a trail, and Kyrik used a tracking spell to always feel that energy. The reaper part of himself did the same, once again finding common ground. A glowing green hue radiated from the bone, pulsating like a heart. It thumped in his palm, tugging to the northwest before going south.
“Well, this is going to be harder than I thought.” Kyrik muttered. “It’s all over the place.”
“Is it possible she is redirecting the magic?” Kali cast a wary eye to the Necrolites who climbed the walls.
“A conductor might be likely.” Kyrik held his chin in palm. “It’s going to be impossible to narrow her down if I keep getting pulled different ways. Lemme alter this and…ah, yeah, definitely a conductor.”
“Can you track it?”
“Yes, because I’m homing in on the redirection rather than the source.” Kyrik looked further in the direction he was previously flying. “Should be that way. Not sure what to look for, though, so keep your eyes open.”
Breaking the barrier as the Necrolites pounded upon it, Kyrik unleashed a gust that swept the attackers back before taking to the skies. The bone pulled him further and further into town, where the mist grew denser. It was impossible to make out Kali’s features at this point, seeing only a black shape.
The screams slowly died away, signaling they didn’t have much time left to save the town. Maybe less than ten minutes before permanent brain damage or worse. The time limit strengthened his resolve, forcing his wings to beat faster.
The conduit was unlike anything Kyrik imagined. He expected some sort of stationary object, as most were. A simple smash and run, but no, there was something peering out of the mists atop a church tower, by the lantern.
A billowing shroud around its skeletal frame served as an indication to what this was. Avian in shape, with a long skeletal beak and glowing green eyesockets. The other half of Kyrik shrieked in disgust and anger, threatening to take over once again. Kyrik almost let it, as what he was staring at should be impossible. Upon approach, it summoned a spectral scythe, glimmering with green light.
“Is that a reaper?” Kali whispered.
“Yes and no.” Kyrik motioned for her to stay back. “It’s the specter of one. Think apparition or phantom. But to summon one here…I need to transform. I’m not taking any more chances lest the reapers are coming.”