The chains wrapping themselves around the Necrolites and their souls were made of pure adamantine compared to any other binding spells. A group of them wouldn’t be too taxing to break, but an entire town? Not to mention keeping a portal activated on top of a protective barrier to save those he broke free.
If there was one good thing about this situation, it was that unlike when he discovered Kyrik, the reaper locks weren’t as strong and had to be bolstered by other spells.
Luckily, he was able to reach out to the top Warlocks, ones who he knew would remain silent about this ordeal. The leader of the Warlocks, a black gryphon named Sal’Iv, worked alongside Jirmen to break the chains while the others would rush to grab those freed and send them through the portal. Jirmen didn’t tell any of who the culprit was, and he hoped to never have to, even through the Warlocks knew about possessions. They wouldn’t judge, but would be suspicious and rightfully so.
Jirmen’s call to the Warlocks proved to be a smart decision, as he felt Kyrik transform in the distance. The sudden surge of reaper energy intensified the chains briefly, nearly disrupting Jirmen’s work. Despite the magic fading, his mind remained distracted; if Kyrik transformed, he was in trouble, and with Kali and Azulia nowhere to be found, worry festered like a plague.
A shadow enveloped Jirmen as Sal’Iv approached, strain etched on her black feathers. Most of her reserves were gone, not holding the power Jirmen did.
“Archmage, we both cannot stay here and free them.” Sal’Iv’s face was stony. “If you remain without dealing with the source, we will be overrun.”
Jirmen growled quietly. “As much as I hate to admit it, you are correct. Me remaining here will not save them all.”
“I have called for more Warlocks. We can take over.” Sal’Iv cast an eye to the Necrolites beating against the barrier. “I know Kyrik has transformed, too.”
“I keep forgetting you know he can.” Jirmen muttered. “Right, I leave this to you. Free as many as you can; I will put an end to this.”
Churning the winds around him, Jirmen took to the skies. Straining his senses to find Methir, he found them to be distorted by redirection. Kyrik was to the north, but Azulia was nowhere to be found either. As much as he didn’t trust the latter, he knew she’d be able to take care of herself. Kyrik, on the other palm…
Working with the reaper personality inside Kyrik was the best bet. If anyone was going to track a reaper spell, it’d be one. There wasn’t any point in denying his other reasoning, either; to make sure Kyrik didn’t lose control and he hated that he thought this.
Methir was right about him being too hard and untrusting, but after learning the real intentions of the reapers in the final days against Ephiral, it was impossible to shake. But he needed to give Kyrik the benefit of the doubt. He needed to trust him more, and maybe the split personality would become more relaxed.
Right as he was about to catch up to Kyrik and Kali – having sensed her presence – something else caught his eye. A blast of pure death magic rocketed toward him with nary enough time to react. Throwing up a powerful ward, Jirmen absorbed the blast and was flung to the rooftop of a nearby building where he managed to prevent a crash.
He knew the source long before she floated through the mists toward him. Like a wraith Methir floated, suit now covered in glowing skeletal armor. The calm and caring look in her eye was gone, replaced with maddened determination. Her left palm remained clenched, Jirmen detecting power radiating from it.
“How did you find the shard?” Jirmen asked, knowing full well that pleas wouldn’t change her mind.
“When I was in some ruins on the eastern coast, I stumbled upon it.” Methir answered to his surprise. “My eyes were opened upon contact.”
“I’ve trained you enough to recognize the red flags, Methir.” Jirmen discretely began powering a blast of frostflame. With luck, she wouldn’t notice until it was too late.
“This was no red flag, Jirmen.” Methir landed delicately upon the roof. “I found something that none of you did.” She opened her palm, revealing the shard. “Touch it, and you will understand.”
“How do you know I won’t just take it?” Jirmen frowned.
“Because if you tried…well, that’s a surprise. I really don’t want to harm you or Kyrik.”
“So that attack earlier was you saying ‘hi’?”
“You could repel it; you were in no danger.”
Jirmen regarded the shard warily. “Are you going to tell me it talks to you?”
“Not quite.” Methir chuckled. “You’ll understand.”
Jirmen sighed depressively. “Is there truly no way of talking you out of this?”
Methir’s face contorted with rage. “No. I have come too far to stop now.”
Jirmen nodded solemnly before a fusion of ice and flame erupted around him, coming from the depths of the elemental planes themselves. Methir’s eyes widened at the raw power he wielded as it condensed at his front. The Frostflame burned and froze the air, dispelling the mist nearby.
“Last chance.” Jirmen warned. “End this willingly, or I will force you.”
Methir blinked a few times before a cold grin crossed her face. “Jirmen, Jirmen…from how tightly you cling to the past, I thought you’d look back more often.”
Before Jirmen realized what she was talking about, a bolt of death magic struck from behind. His wards were all that saved him, but the spell was canceled. Clinging to what he had left of the elemental energies, he threw an orb of frozen flame that trailed Methir. Whilst she dealt with the attack, Jirmen whirled to see a phantom reaper floating toward him.
The form wasn’t one he recognized; the face was distinctly avian, with great black wings made of sharp feathers. A cloak of darkness obscured the rest. Nevertheless, to summon an image of a reaper, one must know what they look like.
Either Methir was seeing them without telling Jirmen, or this was an avatar.
Nevertheless, it needed to be dealt with. Combining flame and lightning, Jirmen fired a beam of orange-white plasma at its center. The being crackled with electricity as it burned, disappearing in a flash of light seconds later. Yet, its presence didn’t fully fade; the power source must be nearby. He’d deal with it after Methir.
The shriker in question had done away with Jirmen’s attack, throwing bone and necrotic spells. The sharp projectiles bounced off Jirmen’s ward, the spells reflecting. Powerful as they were, he was the Archmage of Falmari. He’d faced down Ephiral’s heralds and reapers.
Still, something was wrong. He couldn’t put a finger on it, but ever since he was struck, spells came a tiny bit harder. Almost unnoticeable, but to someone as attune with the arcane as him, it called. Jirmen was forced to ignore it, flinging shards of ice and calling bolts from the sky to penetrate Methir’s wards.
“Not going to plea for me to stop?” Methir caught one of his bolts, something he didn’t quite expect, and charged it with her own element. It glowed bright pink with a hint of black, supercharging before crackling toward Jirmen.
“We’re past words now, Methir.” Jirmen replied distantly, using a gust to propel himself away from the attack. “You have forced my claw.”
Methir didn’t take his statement well if the frustrated snarl was any indication. Although he wanted to try and speak logic into her, it wouldn’t work. The whispering in her ear was too loud to hear his shouts. Perhaps there was a tiny part of her that resisted, but force needed to be applied to yank it out.
Noting the area behind him was grassy, an idea formed in his head. Such a spell would absolutely kill her if it wasn’t blocked. From the way she relentlessly attacked, it was the perfect way to halt her tracks.
Jumping backward and landing on the grassy ground, Jirmen felt it tremble and quake as he lifted boulders from deep underground. Spinning rapidly, they caught flame before streaking like comets across a night sky toward Methir. The velocity coupled with the rotation was strong in itself, but the lace of arcane he injected was sure to give Methir a surprise.
Batting the first one out of the way, it exploded upon contact, damaging Methir’s wards. Alarm crossed her face as more rocketed towards. Expanding her barrier, it blocked the rest of the meteors, but stopped her assault long enough for Jirmen to counterspell the barrier after the last struck. With her vulnerable, Jirmen smashed her chest with a block of ice, throwing her onto the rooftop.
“You gained power but you forgot your training.” Jirmen spoke calmly, locking her down with arcane chains.
“You really are an old fool.” Methir spat. “You make the same mistake twice.”
Snapping around, Jirmen reflected the bolt of death magic launched by the phantom, dispersing it upon contact. Something wasn’t right about it, though. She wasn’t stupid enough to use the same tactic, but she hadn’t broken free of her chains.
Jirmen didn’t register it at first. Pain lanced through his foot, through the right side of his chest and out the shoulder. He turned his head to the source, only to wish he hadn’t.
A spike of bone erupted from underneath his foot, piercing it and curving under his ribs to protrude out his shoulder.
“I really, really wanted to avoid that.” Methir broke the chains, lurching to her feet. “But alas, you left me no choice.”
Jirmen said nothing, blood dribbling down his chin as he leaned on his staff. He couldn’t break the bone spike!
Methir approached, holding out the shard once again. “Touch it. It can heal you and show you the truth.”
“Methir,” Jirmen managed to gasp through the pain, “Do you…even know…what the reapers planned? What they…were about to do?”
“The Harvesting, yes.” Methir nodded grimly. “But this is different.”
“Who…do you have contact with?”
“No one. I am acting on my own.” Methir said, surprised at his question. “I simply know what to do now. This is the beginning, and when I finish, I will accept any punishment.”
Jirmen was at a loss. He was positive she was speaking to a reaper from beyond the veil, but to hear her deny…what was he going to do? It was still likely for her to be under some sort of influence, but it was much harder to break. She had a death grip on the shard, and he was far too injured to react properly.
A shadow fell over them as a pair of dark wings blotted out the moonlights. He knew who it was immediately and felt both fear and relief at her arrival. Relief, as she’d be able to break what impaled him. Fear, as she’d see the situation and no doubt attack with intent to kill.
The Queen of the Damned flew downward, catching herself before touching the ground. In her palm, a great wicked spear absorbed all light, bloodied runes glowing. The tip resembled that of a wing, meant to stab and rip the target. Bloodletter, Azulia’s cursed weapon.
Shockingly, she didn’t utilize it. Rather, she threw her left palm outward, a ray of darkness striking at Methir’s head. It collided instantaneously, with Methir having no chance to avoid nor counter the attack.
“What are you doing?” Jirmen watched in horror, not recognizing the attack.
“She is clearly influenced.” Azulia spoke as if it were obvious. “I am ripping it out of her mind.”
“You’re going…to destroy her mind!” Jirmen stood helplessly, unable to get out of his impalement. It was as if it sapped at his very essence!
“You told me not to kill her. Would you rather me do that?” Azulia slid an eye to him. “You’d finally distracted her enough for this to work; I could’ve easily thrown Bloodletter through her chest. You should thank me for even attempting.”
The shard in Methir’s palm flared, glowing with reaper magic. Azulia flung a lance of ice at it, only for a shroud not unlike a reaper’s to envelop the claw. It absorbed the lance, spreading along Methir’s body as Azulia’s spell was interrupted.
Instead of another attack, Methir vanished in darkness, becoming untraceable once more.
“Well, it appears death is the only option.” Azulia moved gracefully over to Jirmen. “That spell won’t work the same way again.”
“Well, you tried, which is more than I honestly expected.” Jirmen growled.
“I could kill you too, you know.” Azulia said silkily. Jirmen rolled his eyes. “But I quite like having you in my debt.”
With a slash from Bloodletter, the bone was broken, freeing Jirmen from his impalement. Azulia caught him before he struck the ground, eyes locked on his wounds.
“It’s worse than it looks, isn’t it?” Jirmen used what was left of his strength to prevent blood loss.
“Your little apprentice is quite the wicked one.” Azulia pressed a palm to the wound on his shoulder. Jirmen’s vision went static from the pain his body had yet to register. “Physically, this would can be healed. Magically…even I cannot break this.”
“Cursed. Fantastic.” Jirmen sighed. “Well, you got wings, and I don’t. Don’t suppose I can use you as a taxi?”
“Just this once.” Azulia carried him in her arms. “Once I throw you at your Warlocks, I will be finding Methir. And I will not hesitate this time. Do you understand?”
“I…do.” Jirmen reluctantly nodded. “But it is not me who you will have to explain this to.”
“I am quite aware, and if he throws a fit, I will handle him. This threat cannot be held in check by his emotions.”
As Jirmen was ferried back to the Warlocks, he looked down at the sea of Necrolites. Already, they were becoming too late to save. Even if Methir were stopped, the death toll would hit the hundreds.
He knew what that type of guilt did to someone. If Methir’s sanity were reversed, she’d still remember. She’d feel the weight of her actions. As much as he hated himself to think so, perhaps death would be better than facing the monster in the mirror.