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The undead dragon hurtled through the sky in a nearly-vertical trajectory towards the ground, piercing layer after layer of clouds, leaving the waning sunlight behind, breaking through the pall of smoke into a hellish realm of ash and dim orange firelight from the burning town below. He folded his wings and plummeted like an enormous wardstone point towards the University's wards, eyes blazing with intent.
The rat's presence coursed through him. The monstrosity needed the dragon's mind as a conduit; the foreign device allowing his attack was lodged in the dragon's head. Vesperocci knew Vedicus was vulnerable while stretched so thin, and that in his own obliteration within those great wards he would cause incredible damage to the rat, rending his mind and body from one another. It would not kill him, but it would send him temporarily fleeing back to that vile darkness from which he hailed and perhaps end this battle before more innocent lives were cut short. Vesperocci would not survive, but then, he was not alive. Not really. He lingered as he had for more than a thousand years. He finally had an opportunity to set things right.
He would not fail his vassals a second time.
The University below grew steadily larger- and suddenly Vedicus was gone. There was an enormous surge of… something, and he was gone. The rat was not hiding. The rat had never hid himself well enough within Vesperocci that the dragon could not perceive him. Instead the creature's influence was totally absent, driven out of him somehow. The telepathic ring seemed to be functional, but it was no longer in use.
He beat mightily at the air- he strained all of those horrific devices which gave him locomotion in place of muscles-turned-to-dust- and he turned his trajectory away soon enough to merely graze the top of the wards with his hind claws. The wards, curiously, did not harm him, but he did not dwell on this. If he was truly free of Vedicus, than he was free to participate in this battle in a more meaningful way, and he already knew just what he was going to do.
The air lay still, but fur rustled, rising columns of smoke turned, and light debris floated and tumbled.
"Explosion" wasn't the right word. The four Kent Supergolems had been making some progress, but they had all of them abruptly flown apart in every direction. It wasn't just the golems, either, it was the furs riding them. They did not explode, they were not blasted apart, instead they were carried apart as if it was the will of their very essence to do so. Individual parts divided and divided until there was nothing but a huge ghastly red smear- a mist- hanging in the air. Those cursed wards then came crashing down onto it, devouring that power and growing even stronger than they had been before.
A slurry of surviving matter rained down on Armel and the other collie's. He rubbed it between thumb and forefinger, and the look of consternation deepened. "Water and stone," he murmured. These were the two principle physical raw ingredients in the creation of wardstone, combined in manufactories through arcane processes beyond his understanding. The process was not a simple combination however; it was a fundamental transfiguration. Wardstone was not water and stone, it was wardstone. He'd never seen anything *undo* wardstone like this, and he'd never heard the rats mention it being possible.
Desdemona arrived a short time later, the same grim look on her face. She'd seen it too. "When Notrol 1 fires," she declared, grim intent permeating her voice, "Notrol 3 and Notrol 4 will fire as well. If we don't destroy their workshop, we will never bring down their defenses, and we will fail."
Her eyes slid off the University to meet his, "I refuse to fail."
The Necromantic energy seethed around Telemain for several heartbeats before it began collapsing. Each red arc was trailed by white, sapping it's power, until they all fell inwards against the psionic band and vanished, dropping Telemain to the ground in a lump.
Antinom and the others rushed over to him as best they could given their injuries, and they found Telemain alive. He seemed distracted, though. His eyes darted around, blinking, but his mouth lolled and he failed to answer any questions.
"Get him off the ground," Priscus intoned monotonously, "we'll carry him bac-" he fell. They all fell. Rather the ground lurched beneath their feet with such ferocity that maintaining verticality was impossible. Afterwards, an eery stillness settled over everything. "Is everyone alright?"
Antinom huffed, his breath catching as he clutched at his leg. He wasn't going to be walking anywhere now- and he couldn't say he'd want to be even if the bone were still solid! The very world had jerked so hard that it had broken his leg! Would it do so again? "We must," he gasped against the pain, "we must get back to the University."
Priscus' fur rustled in a… breeze? The air remained still. He swept his dispassionate gaze across the scene. The lynx appeared injured though conscious. Zodt had not suffered any additional injuries in the quake but was looking more listless by the minute. Telemain was rolling around on the ground, his body functioning and intact but not under any coherent command. That hybrid who's power was so alluring to his kind was also still alive but obviously terrified. "I…" he started speaking, but he wasn't actually sure what he was going to say or do. He might be able to carry one of them at a time, but the others would be in no shape to defend themselves from wandering golems.
The 'wind' was beginning to pick up- and yet the air remained infuriatingly still, stifling.
"Help me fashion a stretcher," the affectless rat commanded of the hybrid, gesturing at the nearby rubble, "or remove us from this place to safety." He moved towards the nearby ruin to look for wood planking, only to find that he was fighting a current flowing in the opposite direction. It whipped at his fur and enchanted cloth armor and sent bits and pieces of debris into his face.
Antinom could feel it too, now. It wasn't wind, it was magic- unaffiliated free magic from errant spells and the natural movement of energy from the world towards wexlar. Now it was moving in a more directed path- and there was an enormous amount of it- enough of it to actually tug at physical matter as it passed, to lift ash and cloth and paper through the air, to drag at a feilan's fur and clothes.
The current grew greater and greater until Priscus was forced to the ground with the others. He held an arm up to shield his face and demanded of the delirious ferret, "what did you do!?"
It had been so easy for Vedicus. Telemain's mind had generated the most confounding, infuriating circumstances for the rat in the past, and it wielded a terrible chaotic force, but it was still only a feilan mind. A feilan mind was a frail thing in the face of Vedicus' power, particularly when he's given convenient access through the pitiful shortsightedness of the ferret's own actions. Had it not occurred to him that psionically linking himself to Vedicus' machines would also psionically link him to Vedicus? The rat did not care. He would make sure nothing ever occurred to Telemain ever again.
That laughing, taunting creature dancing forever just beyond his reach was now laid before him, bound and tied, staring up at him from a grotesque rendition of a serving platter, and Vedicus wasted no time tearing into him. He pierced the flesh of the ferret's mind with jagged incisors, making a point of ripping him into as many small pieces as possible before the intolerable feilan could think of some new way to confound him yet again. Feast…rape… simple words without meaning. Vedicus sought and saw what their was to see, felt around in all those memories as he ripped them apart from one another.
He came to a thought and memory about the University, about a grand scheme to redouble their defenses- something requiring the return of every last fighter to the safety within it's walls.
He had Telemain.
The University was of trifling importance next to that.
His teeth pierced deeper into the flesh until he punched through into that which the rest of the ferret's thoughts and memories so haphazardly guarded with their clutter, to the core of Telemain's being. He found something else- something which was not Telemain. Something which reached back out to him, and grabbed him, and tugged at him in bizarre, uncomfortable ways.
It was a curiosity at first to Vedicus. He thought he knew what it was: it was the chaos Telemain so often used to frustrate his plans, or perhaps the source of it. He was not particularly concerned as it swirled around his being, following his perfect pathways back and forth again and again and again. This was no threat to him. He was necromancy and artifaction and technology perfected. There were no hooks in his framework for this vile thing to grasp-
He felt a sudden sickening tug at his extremities like a string being pulled through him, connected somewhere inside. Then he felt another. And another. The force throughout increased exponentially, abruptly, filling his not-mind with a new sensation with which he had little experience. He was… afraid. He recoiled, screaming into the abyss where Telemain's mind had previously formed coherence, and fled back through the psionic bands into the dragon's mind.
He penetrated and scrambled the magic of the psionic band in an attempt to cut it off, but the leading edge of the terrifying thing had just barely reached his new perch, and it clung to it, burning it's own new pathways through the ethereal realm independent of the communication devices.
With something like a wail Vedicus receded totally from the world- he receded from Vesperocci- he receded from the collies far across the town attacking the University- he receded from Amelia, crouched weeping within the enemy's fortress- his mind pulled fully back, withdrawing the tendrils of influence which so often permeated the whole of the battlefield until all there was, was Vedicus, the rat, the construct, standing somewhere in those ruins, panting heavily, visibly shaken.
Amelia deflected Kosigyn's hand and grabbed at him, burying her face against his shoulder. She wept and sobbed, totally lost to everything in the world other than this shred of kindness, comfort, and warmth.
Vedicus jerked his head back and forth, aiming his nose.
Had he lost it? His evasion seemed to have worked. He could not feel it anymore, but then again he couldn't feel anything anymore. He was isolated where he stood, hidden from those under his nominal command, his senses confined to this body, to conventional biological-anologues like smell- the burning town; and taste- the ash in the air, the corruption; and touch- the… something… a tugging at his hand.
His hands… they'd turned… they were… alive. He stared at the naked appendages, fury contorting his tortured face.
He turned them over and saw something- what appeared to be a tiny white filament stuck to the back of his left hand, waving lazily back and forth. He swept it off with his right hand, but when he drew the hand back the filament stretched easily between them, stuck to both. He feverishly brushed his hands against one another- the filaments spread, more of them linking his hands like a puppet-master's strings. He thrashed about, dragging his hands against his robes, digging his claws into the warm fleshy things, biting fingers off- he became covered in white strands pulling at him, at what he was, from every side, eating into him. In his throes he tore the hood from his face revealing a sea of the bright iridescent strands weaving back and forth like parasitic worms swimming in a fur's innards, surrounding his eye sockets and mouth, wriggling ever deeper.
They were chaos and disorder. They were consuming him from without- that trick- that "jinx"- its normally-invisible forces made to shine brilliant white by the sheer enormity of the task, the quantity of energy, the immense power of the order they were set against. They had found a single flaw in his design. One flaw, tweaked just so, begot others. This horrifically terrifying force was going to unravel Vedicus if he did not find some way to stop it.
His masters… they'd designed him well. He was not defenseless against these kinds of attacks.
The rat fell to his knees, hands clutching either side of his head, digging into flesh, and he screamed as his rotted corpse flashed brilliant greens. Like the first golems used in this newest war, years ago when he'd first tried coercing Telemain, delayed transmutation spells triggered one after another, changing Vedicus fundamentally between different states and back again in rapid succession, trying to throw off the chaos. But the flaws had spread to these defense constructs and the chaos spread back out from them after each cycle, successively further each time, until the system was no longer effective.
Hundreds of shielding spells and restabilization spells and resynthesis constructs and load redistribution routines became active- thousands of them even- all fighting this intrusion, this foul force, this "majide." All of them fighting, but all of them merely postponing the inevitable. Their complexity was fuel on the fire. They became flawed- the flaws spread like infection between them and metastasized throughout the hideously complicated, ancient construct mere mortals referred to as Vedicus and perceived as the locus at Vedicus' body. There were places beyond the realms of matter and magic into which it protruded. It was vast. It was massive in it's own way. And it was beginning to fail.
He gasped, each breath growing more ragged as the filaments choked him. He fell forward onto his hands and knees.
There remained one last defense. It was, simply, power. Chaos could be held at bay with an expenditure of power. As long as their was more power than chaos, order could be maintained.
Vedicus began consuming power. At first it flowed from the vast and seemingly infinite reserves of magic contained within, but as chaos accelerated so too did the required flow, until his internal thaumatic generation was overwhelmed. He needed more. Long-dormant mechanisms within himself became active one after another and reached out with ethereal siphons to drink from everything around him. This was a world of profuse magic. This was a region where the world's magic focused. Most of it wouldn't do. It was not appropriate- it could not be converted quickly enough into useable forms. But some of it could.
It wasn't a wind. The air remained still.
Notrol 1 had been a tiny black figure in the distance, but it now glowed brilliantly with purple light. A great ray shone forward from it's eyes where the fields restraining the fey within were beginning to burn through, but there were hundreds more. Fingers of light stabbed outward in every direction in growing numbers and intensities as fissures spread across the wardstone hide. The skeletal heat-vanes glowed so hot they were white and painful to look at, brilliant like an angel's wings.
At the northward wall of the University, both Notrol 3 and Notrol 4 came to a stop a few hundred yards from the outermost extant of the defenders' wards. Nearly as one, their stances began to change- their bodies dropped slightly against their legs, their arms shifted forward to provide counterbalance, behind them great skeletal fingers or spines splayed out into radiators, their eyes clanked and clicked and the lenses focused like double spyglasses.
Armel and Desdemona set their own stances against the warming metal beneath their feet on the command deck of Notrol 3. Armel busied himself interfacing with the two lesser collies controlling the golem's functions, freeing Desdemona to glare out at the walls, at the defenders behind their wards.
The University furs knew what was coming, she surmised. There was a growing flurry of activity down on the parapets.
The machine was humming beneath them, quietly now but ever louder. "Minutes," Armel replied, "we will attempt to fire just as the blast from Notrol 1 reaches us." The tone of his voice said 'we will try, but it will come down to luck.'
Marcus- the young Dysuhlian rat, cast off in this modern, crippled Dysuhlian society where all the social institutions had collapsed- the first Dysuhlian to gain admission, or at least begin the admission process, into the Unseen University as a student- pulled himself up onto the parapet of the southern wall. Most of the defenders had moved to the north where the main battle had been well and truly joined, leaving a smattering of troops here to watch for any more of Vedicus' surprises. Troops- and Marcus, who had no business here other than the business of satiating curiosity.
They definitely had something to watch.
It was… well it wasn't a storm. It was not like the hurricane announcing the undead dragon's arrival, nor was it like the heat-lightning which followed the draconic creature around, nor was it like the blankets of chaos and destruction which the little kangaroo rat had used to wipe out much of the opposing army on this side of the wall. If it reminded Marcus of anything, it reminded him of a maelstrom in the traditional sense of the word- a vast whirlpool. The whole surface of the world was a membrane of stuff- debris, timbers, bits of structures, cast-off things, and bone- yellowed in the dirt or bleached by the sun, remains of an ever-larger number of the enemy's skeletal warriors- and black shimmering wardstone. This was the second time he'd seen bits and pieces of golems- or entire golems- tumbling over the ground. The first had preceded the arrival of the undead dragon.
All of this detritus formed a film obscuring the surface of the town like a surface of liquid, disturbed by pseudo-ripples and pseudo-waves coursing through it, flowing over particularly sturdy ruins like rapids over stones.
Things in the center, where the whirl itself, the funnel, resided, broke down and became indistinct. No matter how hard he squinted, his eyes refused to make sense of what he was seeing.
Nessus' senses returned to him- just in time to experience the collapse of the house atop their heads. Much of the heaviest timbers had already fallen, sparing them a sudden pointless death, however he personally was in no shape to dig himself out. This was good fortune.
If he'd known just how bad things were on the other side of the rubble, he wouldn't have wanted to anyway.
Desdemona and Armel braced each other against both the trembling of their supergolems and the powerful flow of magic sweeping over them. Desdemona clenched her teeth against the strain as they huddled low on the command platform.
The smaller Kent, Rennes, and Dysuhlian assault golems and mobile turrets below them were encountering increasing resistance from this dark flow. The hapless Kent golems were being carried away with it one by one, as were huge numbers of skeletons and most everything else not firmly anchored to the ground. The Notrol supergolems swayed against it.
She would not yield, not now, not even in the face of this.
Armel had to scream to be heard, "Any minute now!!!"
Desdemona relished the thought of the University furs staring up at their impending deaths. The Notrol Supergolems were designed to be terrifying, and the sight of the machines preparing to fire only elevated the menace. They were awash in purple fey energy, two whirls of the stuff framing each eye.
This… maelstrom they were enduring was pulling those energy whirls into lopsided ellipses, drawing some of the power away, but not enough to make a difference. The supergolems were going to fire, and those wards were going to come down, even if Desdemona had to stay in this horrible place for a thousand years.
A piercing roar tore through their ears and the collies thought at first that Notrol 1 had fired, but the sound had come from the wrong direction, and it did not sound like a golem. Desdemona whipped her head around in time to see the multifaceted shape of the undead, reconstructed, corrupted draconic corpse- it's eyes glowing a curious white- swooping in from above to crash headlong into the greater mass of Notrol 4. The supergolems protective wards were down, as was necessary when preparing to fire. The dragon dug it's hind claws into the machine breastplate and with another roar, clawed and bit at it's arms and head and command platform.
Desdemona lurched to that side of the command platform of her own supergolem, straining against the current and rumbling machinery below to watch and listen- face a study in surprise, anger, panic, and fear- as she heard the distant cracks and twangs and saw the flashes of the collie commanders of Notrol 4 trying in vein to protect themselves. The tiny spells did nothing.
Notrol 4 was turned away from the University, stepping first back and then forward and to either sides as the dragon tore at it's armor and threw it off balance and drew it away from it's purpose. The spells of the defenders whose numbers had been reduced to man the Kent Supergolems fell silent one after another. They were smeared into paste or crushed into pieces by enormous fists and claws and teeth.
Antinom, Priscus, and the others huddled as close to the ground as possible, pressed into the deepest available ditch near the tallest available wall of debris, teeth set, eyes squinting or closed or wide open with fear, ears laid back and overwhelmed by the oppressive noise crushing them from mere feet above their heads. The world lurched and tilted and seemed to spin beneath them like a beast shaking ticks from it's fur, always threatening to dislodge them as, above their heads, a solid wall of *everything* screamed past like a tornado flattened from a funnel into a pan.
A black shape- a mauler golem writhing in the flow- burst over the far pile, twisting and grasping in the current- slammed once against the ground- and hurtled over their heads taking a chunk out of the near debris pile.
Antinom pressed himself hard against the ground and squeezed his eyes shut.
Marcus clung to the parapet as did the rest of the reserve southward defense force to steady themselves against the vast current which reached even here, within the safety of their wards. Outside the whole of the world looked utterly uninhabitable beneath the maelstrom.
Desdemona held on for dear life, eyes narrow slits, teeth set. Notrol 3 swayed so severely that it twice had to widen it's stance. It was as if the world itself were ending all around her. Vast ripples coursed up and over the University's wards one after another to disappear on the other side. The wards of the golems and supergolems made them appear as comets with long serpentine tails blown out towards the south. The rising crescendo of Notrol 3 was drowned out by the cataclysmic environment all around them.
"Now!!!" Armel shouted- screamed his lungs out- somewhere behind her, his voice nearly carried away.
"Now!!!" She repeated, though no other supergolems remained to receive her order. Notrol 4 had been drawn off and was out of sight- sight was severely restricted by the blizzard of everything.
The sky exploded with white light. Notrol 1 in the distance simply eviscerated into a brilliant cloud riding a great beam of fey energy in both directions simultaneously, one end piercing the sky, the other hurtling in towards the University.
Luck was on their side. The timing was almost perfect. Notrol 3 fired it's own main armament just as the attack from Notrol 1 arrived, and both attacks intersected on the wards above the Workshops.
Naia could feel the currents of magic being pulled from all directions to that single area in the town. She could even feel the currents tugging on her own power as the world itself seemed to be devoured by whatever was at the center of this pull. When the mauler golem tumbled past, she was already on the ground trying to shield herself from being drawn toward Vedicus. Ever so gradually, her feathers began to glow a white, starting at the tip of the feather, until her feathers were all completely illuminated. A field of energy surrounded the group, which filled with the glow until they were essentially in a bubble of sheer light. Though it took several minutes to grow so bright, the brilliance vanished just as swiftly. Those that had been within were now just at the edge of the University wards with 1 exception. Naia, being an entity of magic, could not escape the pull of Vedicus' maelstrom.
Naia hadn't tried to transport the others, but much like occurrences since Telemain freed her from a cruel master, this use of magic manifested on its own. However, since she wasn't able to escape the pull of the vortex, it was causing her own power to bleed off. She was being drained of her very essence, drop by drop.
It wasn't as if she was being swallowed whole by this force, but it was severely taxing on her body. After that expenditure of power which saved her master and those around her, the light which had filled her feathers had faded, some were beginning to fall out, while others seemed to disintegrate at the pull from Vedicus. She could feel herself weakening as time passed. If something didn't happen soon to stop this drain of power, Naia wouldn't be able to hold out much longer before she was drawn into the heart of the maelstrom.
- Posts: 4473
- Joined: Sat Jul 19, 2008 6:37 pm
- Gender: Male
- Species: Ferx
- Location: Northern Virginia
Within the wards the effects were minimized, but not completely blocked out. The shaking of the earth was reduced to the pitch and roll of a boat, but even so it unnerved the defenders. The sky above the University was all tinged purple, but the shapes drawn above were visible through the dome, and such had never been seen before, not even in Wexlar.
But, such is the manner of a fur's mind, that even with titanic disturbances all around them, their focus was fixed on their own small tasks. Perhaps the enormity of such things made them harder to see all at once, perhaps the academic training of most had given a sort of mental tunnel vision to them. However it was, the healers tending to Caraennyn did not draw their eyes away from the cat, and Kosygin kept a hold of the vixen.
The horse wasn't sure how to deal with a breakdown now, right in the middle of a battle. He just stood there, offering what comfort he could. Gradually, certain facts pierced his mental paralysis, such as the fact that under his hands he felt not flesh, but wardstone. He did not, as yet, put two and two together, but he did look down at Amelia, trying to get a better view of just what exactly was embracing him.
His concentration, however, was soon to be broken by a slightly more sensational distraction...
With an inarticulate cry, Telemain dropped from his levitated position, landing in a heap at the bottom of a ditch. The ferx's eyes were fixed open, staring into the far distance, his teeth clenched and grinding, and his limbs thrashing as if he were caught in a fit of epilepsy. Indeed, that may well have been the case; everything in his brain was all firing at once, random thoughts and memories whirled from the back of his mind to the front and back again like a zoetrope, leaving him not so much as a second of coherent thought.
He saw nothing of Priscus trying to get his attention, nothing of the other rats taking shelter in the ditch, and nothing of his apprentice spreading her magic over them, teleporting them to the safety of the University grounds.
Oddly enough, he did see the grounds themselves for a split second, before blacking out into merciful unconsciousness.
Anyone might have been excused for becoming slightly unbalanced at the sight of a sudden appearance of furs inside a protected space, and indeed, it might have gone ill for the rats if Telemain, with his obvious journeyman's vest, hadn't been with them. As it was, their return raised a hue and cry among the defenders within, no less so with word that Nessus and another feline had apparently come in with them at another section of the Octangle.
Kosygin, as befit a teacher's assistant, was the one to keep his head, or at least to recover it first. "Send word to the Dean, and to Valencii! We've got everyone in now." The horse himself wasn't familiar enough with the situation to know that Naia was still out there, and Telemain was in no state to correct him. As for the furs around, none of them had the presence, or absence, of mind to go against the authoritative voice.
There was in the center of the Dean's mind, a calm center, that always took a cool view of the situation she was in. It ran deeper in her even than the care she had for her students, which allowed her to authorize severe punishment when necessary. In the midst of faculty squabbles and heated academic arguments, it was the voice of reason, even when the badger herself was shouting as loud as the rest.
This detachment, however, sometimes missed the reality of the situation. For example, right now all that Dr. Martin was thinking in that calm center was that to die in one's undershirt under the weight of a falling dragon corpse was a death not quite suited to the dignity of her position. Her next mental experience was bewilderment, as the necromatic dragon veered off at the last second, and tore towards one of the Notrol golems, talons out.
This time, the calm center noted that the dragon had passed through the wards as easily as if he'd been a University Member. That, she couldn't help but think, was significant somehow. Her thoughts were immediately directed elsewhere, however, by a message from below.
"Telemain and the others have come back!"
"Thank God!" She exclaimed. "Has Valencii started yet?"
"Sent word to him already, ma'am."
"Excellent." The Dean breathed, not in complete relief, but at least in a loss of tension. Things had been put into motion now...
Valencii gave no attention to the... things happening to what was left of Dench. He was currently busy with his own modifications to one of the University's ancient spells. Most of the work was done already, but the High Energy Magic head professor just couldn't help but fine tune the arrangements. After all, one had to be keyed up to start at a moment's notice-
"They're here! Launch the counter-attack!"
Ah, yes. The mouse smiled a little smile, signaled the messenger back with a wave, and then began the incantation.
The Unseen University was bigger on the inside of its walls than the outside. This was one of the first facts a newcomer was confronted with upon arrival, and oddly enough, one of the first he was likely to forget. Or if not forget, at least cease to consciously notice. The dimensional warp surrounding the University was as old as the wards, and every local took it at face value, like the sun at day, or the moon at night. It was just a fact in the world they lived in, and that attitude tended to infect any newcomer that stayed long enough.
For all that furs took it for granted, though, the warp was really remarkable, when one examined it, and professor Valencii had. He often described it to his new students as "A redistribution of space; we pull in space where matter can reside from the outside, like so." And he would pull a tucked-in sheet through a ring, bunching it up. "Of course, the actual truth is so complicated that what I've just told you amounts to little more than a useful metaphor, but this was the general idea that led to the creation of the warp."
It was at this point in the lecture that the cleaning staff usually chased them from the dormitories.
For all its complexity, though, the warp was a thing that furs had made. And whatever furs can make, furs can alter.
From the outside, it would have appeared that the University was shrinking. The actual truth was that it needed less of the space outside because it had more space inside, but most any non-wizard who you told that to would just gape at you. Valencii had drawn more of the sheet through the ring, and the upshot of it was that the carefully-aimed lances of fey from Notrol 1 and Notrol 3 met above, and not on, the HEM building. The collision of energy produced a thundering explosion, but it was too scattered to pierce the wards, and they drank in the dissipating fey.
And then, after pulling the warp to it's very limit, Professor Valencii let it go like a compressed spring. The rush of space from inside to outside was too sudden, too uncontrolled to be gradually accepted. The University sprang outward, like background scenery bursting into a three-dimensional set piece, but it sprang ahead of the wave of space that it had collected.
The upshot of it was, that all the matter from a good-sized radius around was suddenly compressed into an area that was much, much to small to contain it, like an inter-dimensional trash compactor. Suddenly thereafter, the wave of space burst outward like a colossal seismic disturbance, turning the surrounding landscape from a plain to rolling hills. The partially liquified earth, soaked with all matter of caustic alchemy, crested and broke like the great waves of the sea, carrying the debris of the demolished town and demolished invaders with it.
- Posts: 1937
- Joined: Mon Oct 19, 2009 5:26 am
- Gender: Male
- Species: Lynx canadensis
- Location: Travancore/Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
The lynx sat amongst many others - and other academia looking bewilderedly at them in the university grounds. His vision took awhile to right itself, but he could identify who and where he was - a place he had familiarized in the time prior to the conflict. He ran a paw through his head, wincing and snarling as his paws met with a wound grazed by his ears, fur soggy with blood.
"Feres!" came Galvan's cry, one that the lynx was all too happy to hear.
He looked off to the side to where the source came from, slowly to avoid any sudden pains. The older feline was approaching from a corner to where he lay. Galvan stood up and brushed himself, jogging quickly. "Stars, you're a mess." he remarked, the cat's eyes scanning all of Feres' visible injuries.
"I feel like crowfood." Feres murmured, struggling to get on his feet. Galvan promptly reached out both arms to grip the lynx's shoulder gently to get him to stay.
"Don't move. I'll do what magic I can to heal you for now, but --"
"I'll get it looked at. Yes, yes, I'm an apothecary, Galvan." he growled irritably, frustration making itself evident through the injuries he had suffered. Feres splayed his ears, realizing his ungrateful tone. "Sorry--"
"No, it's fine. Just be quiet and still, Feres. Cliff would make me eat my fur if anything happened to you."
"Hush." Galvan stretched out his paws, chanting something under his breath, the palm pulsating with a warm red light. Slowly, Feres was enveloped in a faint light, the wounds healing and sealing at a slow pace as the lynx started to feel the throbbing aches and pains dissipate. "It's merely temporary, but that's the best I can do." he shook his head, looking to the rest. "I'm going to work on the rest--"
"Telemain," the lynx interjected, struggling at first to stand as if he forgot how, looking for his friend. "Is he alright?" he moved over to examine him, getting on the floor.
"He's unmoving. Perhaps he's--"
Feres shook his head, his ears pressed against the mammal's chest. "Breathing. Shallow...and erratic,' He was nervous, uncertain what to make of his condition. He did what he could and shifted the ferx to a more comfortable position where he could breathe normally. Perhaps there was a spell, or something he could try to bring him back --
"Do what you must, Feres. Triage. Remember. We have to tend where we have to first." Galvan sharply scolded, already helping one of the rats.
"...right." he stood, gnawing his lip as he tore himself away from Telemain to start tending to the others systematically - the critically endangered first. "Do we have healers or medics around?" he called out to the others surrounding them. "We need some help." His knowledge of first-aid and applied medication swelled back as if it was clockwork to him, his panic, worries and fears allayed.
When the whole of the wall on which he stood leapt up and surged outward his confusion was quickly replaced by a tremendous terror and dizzying sensation of vertigo. The young rat shouted something akin to "YAAAAGH!" and threw his arms around the parapet, thinking for a moment that the section of wall had been torn from the University and swept into the swirling death of the world outside. A fervent glance to either side showed that it remained intact. Had the whole of the University come loose from the earth to be sucked into that vortex like a ship trapped in a whirlpool?
He held on for dear life.
Unbeknownst to both of them, Desdemona had shouted almost in unison with that small rat from where she stood atop Notrol 3. Defying everything in her experience- everything in those sick alien experiences given her by the rats- the whole of the Unseen University SHRUNK! It shrunk just enough to entirely avoid the attack they'd launched and steal victory away from her, and she just couldn't believe it. How could this happen? How could the world ALLOW this to happen!? The collie slammed her fists against the command surface again and again until they bled, howling anger and pain at Armel and the others and the enemy forever out-of-reach.
"How can this be!?" She screamed for the last time, and, as if it had been listening and now felt sorry for doing this to her, the University stopped shrinking and reversed direction- exploding outward at the lot of them.
The collies shouted and screamed in fear, but they had no time to do anything else. Though the University stopped short of crushing them, the gigantic wave of terrain rising like the mythical tidal waves of Yamahan lore did not. It was upon them in a second. The supergolem was carried up into it. The force shattered the joints in it's legs and they folded like twigs against its body. The whole crumpled thing twisted as it collapsed. The heat vanes pierced into the coiling ground and shattered along their lengths one after another in rapid succession. The body broke like egg shell. Wardstone was everywhere. Fey bled burning purple death into the air.
Through the anger-turned-fear, before the charnel house destroyed her, the collie commander wondered at how their whole world and their carefully laid plans had all come to pieces so completely.
The undead dragon of the west from eons past lunged into the air ahead of the first wave just as it twisted the feet out from under Notrol 4 and utterly destroyed it, but he'd gained more distance than altitude, and that undulation of land soon caught up. He'd turned slightly in an attempt to peel away. It hit almost the entire length of his body at once, sending a cascade of explosions and debris off the opposite side. Even his constructed shell, that which Vedicus' evil had wrought, could only stand so much punishment, and it soon began to give way piece by piece along it's length. A flechette of countless glistening black facets arced up and away from the wounds, carried by his momentum and the uncontrolled venting of magic.
Sensations like pain screamed through him, but his mind was calm. It was alright. The impact had thrown his skeletal form a small distance into the air and as it came to pieces he could see the University there, still standing, and as his corpse fell back to the roiling sea of earth his mind kept functioning long enough to watch every last golem and collie perish.
He'd gained a chance to make up for his failure in the past, and he'd seized it with greater success than he'd thought possible. His part in the battle may have been small overall, but it had still been significant, and it had been enough. Finally, after more than a thousand years of lingering, all that remained of the ancient Dragon of the West dissipated into the world and sky.
The center of the Maelstrom didn't make sense because so much of it wasn't visible to all but the most magically adept of feilans. It was something like an enormous sea urchin mixed with an enormous squid, black and glistening, metallic in some ways, liquid in others, a machine of splines and conduits and magic made solid and whole sliding past itself and folding inward again and again and again. And there were teeth like needles. Everywhere. Moving like the leafs carried by leaf-cutter ants across all that their was, but focused at a maw which some feilans of old who were prone to night terrors might recognize.
But inside all of this, Vedicus was still there. The familiar, reviled form of the rat still existed; an anchor in the real world, the locus from which the power generated by the mad machine and it's willpower could pour into the world. It was a silhouette of blinding burning white against the inky blackness all around-and-apart of it. Here the battle raged, a battle between order and chaos where immense power plummeted down what amounted to an endless pit of chaos to disappear from the world forever, and in doing so continuously lift the order of the construct just a hair above that precipice. Black scars crisscrossed that white visage here and there: a line across it's midriff, a radial spread of cracks like a spider web laid across the brilliantly glowing shape of it's collapsed skull; it was a history of damage inflicted on the locus by those who'd opposed it's will.
That a day such as this could come had never occurred to Vedicus before. Even now he couldn't wrap his head around the thought that, after today, nothing would ever occur to him ever again. He could not bring himself to accept it.
Black eye sockets gazed up as the University abruptly loomed and then was obscured by a great sheet of dirt and mud and alchemical acids and bases and remnants of everything which had once stood. As the wave welled upward it carried with it the outer extant of the construct's energy siphons- that which others perceived only by its effects on the world: the maelstrom. It carried the mechanisms into the sky, attenuating them more and more, until finally they gave way all along the wave's crest.
Time passed very slowly. The glowing white form's black empty mouth gapped open and it's arms of light lifted as if to shield it's face.
The wave came crashing down into it.
Marcus was still there, at the parapets. The defenders too. They all watched it happen; they watched the seismic waves crash through the center of the maelstrom again and again. They watched the maelstrom begin to collapse along with the not-wind which had threatened to pull them all into it. They watched as that indescribable thing at it's center was, like the rest of the debris of the town, swept away into the distance. It was over in seconds, and most of the defenders returned to their individual tasks and responsibilities almost immediately, a power of focus and attention Marcus found both marvelous and ludicrous.
They'd witnessed something big- something enormous! Not just now with the removal of the maelstrom and whatever foul thing had been driving it, but everything which had happened in this day. The fighting. The destruction. It had been like a forest fire raging everywhere but bursting here and there into firestorms as furs of great power or great conviction, good or evil, rose to burn brilliant for mere moments before extinguishing their own flames forever. They'd seen gigantic mobile war machines carve the world as easily as butchers with well-honed knives of light. They'd watched small furs take out entire hordes of metal monstrosities with unbounded, furious chaos. He couldn't even wrap his head around the courage of the fighting furs out in the field. He couldn't begin to count the dead.
Yet the furs of the University could push it out of their heads and… and… and haul water around! Or sweep debris from stairs! Or reinforce some inscrutable little bit of ward! Marcus shook his head. He did not understand. He could not understand. As they performed important work he sat atop the wall paralyzed by the enormity of it all.
Moss sat on an inn stool fumbling with his hands as the innkeeper eyed him critically. He was here in this coastal Edwinish town for a job. He'd failed so often in securing them. But he had to eat. When the rat-monster had created him to spy on the Purple Fey, it'd left him with all of life's frailties and needs. He needed food, he needed a roof over his head, and he would rather prefer to have company as well. Most had been supplied by the band of… bandits? Traitors? Rebels? Whatever those furs had been who'd fought with the Fey to drive the rat away from their village. Heroes was probably the right word. They'd provided those things, but he couldn't bear the thought of bringing Vedicus down on them again as he had before. So, when they went their way, he went his. They'd made for Gawain. He'd wandered in the opposite direction.
He was a liability.
From his expression the innkeeper was probably thinking the same thing. "You 'ave any experience? Things can get rough in 'ere."
"Well," the gerbil started, but his voice caught in his throat. He felt suddenly ill. His vision blurred. He stumbled from the stool and made for the door, trying to get to the trough outside, thinking he was going to be ill. The short feilan fell to his knees midway there, threw his head back, and screamed as a myst of red and vile darkness exploded from every orifice.
Gawain… the renegade fetch wasn't sure how, but something in him, some remnant, said he would find the black-faced ferret here. That feilan was only the shadow of a memory, of a target of some kind. This fetch was convinced that finding the ferret would restore his memory and return to his life the purpose which he'd lost. He tracked him across the world to that end, seeking that which most men made for themselves.
However, he needed to eat, and he needed a secure place to sleep. This required a job. He'd had several since awaking from the amnesiac slumber on that farm in Domus two years ago. The farmer's daughter had taken him into her care and nursed him back to health, and he had helped on the farm for a time, learning to work with his hands, learning the values other feilans held dear but which rang hollow in his mind. When he'd heard the tale of the magical battle in the town and of the ferret participant, the image fixed itself in his head. He could stay no longer. He set off then, seeking what he sought.
Odd jobs aboard ships had taken him this far, to Gawain. It was logical for him to seek a job with the ships of the land- trade caravans- to take him throughout the country.
He started scratching out his name on the work contract when his hand froze. Ink bled from the quill. A great pain filled him, he dropped to his knees, and, clutching his head, he screamed at the heavens.
Amelia's sorrows turned more and more to fear as she felt the feilan against which she sobbed stiffen ever so slightly. She continued to cling, trying to burry her mounting hysteria where she buried her face and tears, but fear continued to infiltrate her nerve-wracked thoughts.
The horse knew. The rest would soon know too. What would they do to her? What would SHE do to her in their place!?
The vixen pushed the horse away with perhaps more violence and force than originally intended, wild eyes sweeping madly back and forth at- everyone. They were like machines, doing their menial chores with no thought for the world crashing down around their ears. To her eyes they became as golems! They moved to and fro performing functions without soul or feeling!
The hallucination drove her to flee, but she made it only a few steps before a piercing pain struck through her mind like an arrow, ricocheting around the place. There was a great void, a great emptiness, seemingly just behind her head, ripping at her- at something inside her which clung to her every thought. She dropped to her knees, clutched her head, and screamed. Streamers of red and indistinct shadow, remnants of Vedicus influence, exploded out of every orifice to coil madly about for a scarce few moments.
It was a scene repeated many places near and far, from Melissa on the northern wall to distant Fetch and golems previously under Vedicus' control.
A deep throbbing suddenly dulled everything inside, and a last gasp of corruption escaped him to coil harmlessly into the sky. Nessus blinked furiously at the blurriness that obscured his vision and put a soft edge on the world, but it refused to abate. His thoughts were sluggish, but they were now more or less in order, and he felt… alive again.
The world had grown quiet now after the University did whatever it had done. From his new perspective on the soft grass he couldn't see just what the university had done, but the fighting seemed to have stopped.
After a few moments of lying on the ground and quietly breathing he noticed that the tops of the University buildings unobscured by the walls were awash with light now and then, in fits and bursts of growing frequency. He wrote it off as more hallucinations.
Marcus clung and watched. Even some of the defenders were drawn from their tasks. All around, beyond the horizon, the sky was lit here and there with what may have been mistaken for distant lightning. It was all around them, in every direction. The eerie flashes of light shone with ever growing frequency until nearly the whole circle of the horizon was dimly lit and then, suddenly and as one, they ceased.
Abruptly the whole of the southern sky turned white.
The young rat shielded his eyes, as did everyone who feared blindness. He thought for a moment that he was seeing the sunset, but the position was wrong, and the color was all wrong, and the sheer magnitude… This was not an orb of fire setting in the sky, it was the afterglow of what must have been an unspeakably energetic event occurring just out of sight beyond the limb of the world. His ears began ringing at the stark silence of it.
As the brilliance faded to angry yellows and reds, it revealed countless streaks of familiar and unfamiliar colors moving with what must have been tremendous speed at a tremendously distance. From his perspective they crawled up into the sky, higher and higher above until he was actually looking straight up at them, and finally a great straight-line wind like the front of a Dericho passed over the University accompanied with a deep extended sound more felt in bone than heard in ears. Thaumatic devices scattered within the University to monitor magic were sent a-spinning and bubbling and churning furiously as, high in the stratosphere, the accumulated magical potential of a thousand years of hatred and violence began to slowly fade away.
Outside, Marcus stood against the wind. The foreign undulating landscape all around them slowed the wind at ground level somewhat; it was cool and refreshing- not particularly strong on the parapets though it whipped the school's various banners and flags about something fierce.
A sudden, gentle wind rustled Nessus' fur, stirring him from a fitful half-sleep in time to see the last vestiges of smoke and ash and wispy clouds swept from the sky all at once. It was as if a deity in heaven had drawn a cloth across the surface to wipe it clean.
The sky was growing dark. The fitful not-lightning had ceased, but the surface of the buildings visible to his left were lit red and yellow. At first he thought another attack was imminent, but then he realized it was only the light of the setting sun.
The day was ending.
Waves through a medium are a translation of energy, not a translation of the medium itself, and they can just as easily throw something vertically as carry it away. It was so for the tiny black orb- the soul detector for the mobile fortress Demiurge- which had been lofted high above the violence below by one of the seismic waves.
The magical device presently fell back to the earth a few miles from the University walls. It clinked off an errant rock, arced a short ways through the air, and rolled down a hill to come to a halt against a lone flagstone. After a last brief shimmer of red energy pulsed across it's surface, it fell silent, waiting.
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It was partly a coping mechanism, and partly a discipline instilled in such institutions that could maintain such an anomalous calm for so long. You did the work in front of you, and you did it well; that was how you could pull off immensely complicated spells and researches. If you let your end slip.... you'd live just long enough to regret it.
Of course, you always had to keep a watch out of the corner of your eye, in case the lab suddenly exploded. Something certainly exploded, anyway. The blinding white light in the southern sky, the whirring needles of every thaumometer within a hundred miles, and the subtle rattling of bones and teeth in all present couldn't help but attest to that.
All that only took a minute. Another minute was spent in looking around, trying to figure out just what had happened. No more noise came from outside, now; the maelstrom had dissipated. The dome of purple over the University, too, paled and let in the natural colors of the world and setting sun.
"Did we win?" No one could tell who first asked that, but it was the first question that entered the minds of any fur who could stop to think. It spread in a pervasive way into all the sections of the walls and grounds. Had they won? No one was attacking anymore, the walls were still standing, those who were asking were at least alive and breathing air from cleaner winds... that would probably suffice for now.
Kosygin, having directed the Infirmary workers to cart whoever couldn't walk into the infirmary, turned his attention back to Amelia. He was just now beginning to recognize her, and was beginning to close in, before suddenly drawing back as a sudden expulsion of a red mist heralded the demise of Vedicus and his influence upon her. The horse waited a few seconds before approaching the prone figure more cautiously.
"Amelia, is... that you? Are you... alright?" Given her state, it was entirely possible she was someone else by now. The second question, however, had no excuse for its stupidity, except that he was genuinely concerned. The battle was over, he knew by now, and right then the vixen was a student who needed help. The rest could wait until after....
Telemain was still unconscious when they brought him into the infirmary; no beds were there, only pallets on the floor. That extra bit of room was appreciated, but it meant that every body would have to be placed carefully if the healers weren't going to trip.
A thoroughly exasperated healer put him next to Caraennyn, who'd passed out sometime before, before turning to the matter of the rats brought in. "They'll go here," she pointed out one of the few empty sections left, "And if they give any trouble about being put next to 'animals,' just ignore them." Not a threat to be taken lightly in such circumstances.
Valencii pushed himself back from his desk, nodding at a job well done. The satisfaction was not unmitigated; he'd essentially undone one of the most ancient and traditional magics of the Unseen University, quite beyond any possibility of re-instatement, at least in the next 100 years or so.
Still, it was satisfactory. Everything had worked out according to his calculations (not always a sure bet), and had accomplished the task he'd set out to do quite elegantly. "Hah, Dench, now what do you say to that no-"
Of course there would be no answer. There was literally nothing left to answer. Not a scorch mark, not an aura, possibly not even atoms; the fey leaves nothing of its vassals behind, save, perhaps, a memory.
A moment of silence. "Right." The mouse whispered, as he gathered his things and emerged into the general daylight, fading into evening.
The Dean descended; no fur commented on her lack of robes or staff. She was Authority; with the Archancellor dead, she was probably the highest-ranker present, and so was the one you sent all the questions to. By now, the question wasn't whether they had won, but "What now?"
The badger was never sure what she actually said then, perhaps something along the lines of, "Do what's in front of you for now." Honestly, she wasn't sure. All the preparation, all the fear, all the fighting... and now it was done. What came next would bring with it its own problems, she was sure, but those could wait at least one day.
They were still here, and still alive. That was enough for now.
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His wounds were looked up prior by Galvan and another medic. Now it was silence though he could still hear moans and cries, people shuffling confused as he was at this very moment. In his mind, he could still hear the screams and the sounds of conflict. He rubbed his face over and over with his paws -- gently, so as to not aggravate the injuries that were just mended -- murmuring some kind of incoherent noise or a purr to soothe a flaring relapse of the violent conflict. Never before had death stared so close to him in a face of helplessness. In fact, everything about the entire journey made him realize how he had none of the awe-inspiring and nervewracking power that some of the furs displayed today. He couldn't hold a single candle to Galvan, the man he considered an uncle.
He gripped the now empty tankard tightly, threatening to break it apart. He needed to feel safe without relying on others. It had been this way during his youth with his family during their delves, and it was this way throughout this entire mess. He needed to be stronger, more confident. Self-sufficient. He picked at the wooden tankard with a claw, scratching its side and digging out strands of wood idly. He sighed.
"It seems things for the most part are quiet." Galvan's comforting voice, powerful and warm reached Feres' perking ears. The lynx turned around and nodded to the cat approaching from behind.
"For now, at least...I don't even know if it will be back with an army greater than..." he stopped himself as Galvan planted a gentle paw on his head.
"For now," he mimicked, "Look to tomorrow and start with what you can. Thinking far is well and good, but Matthiews had taught me that looking at what's directly in front of you is just as important."
The mention of his adoptive father made Feres cringe, letting out a frustrated growl. He had given up his search for him to fight a war that he had no involvement in. From Galvan's tale of his arrival prior to the war, which the cat repeated clearly with a lot less urgency earlier in the day, Batyn had no ties to his own disappearance, which meant coming to Gawain was a fruitless cause - save for finding that Zack had saved his own family.
Perhaps it wasn't so fruitless, he felt, the need to correct himself springing up. Perhaps the harsh lesson he learnt through this ordeal would help him prepare better for the future. Or plan for it.
"Yes." Feres meekly replied, setting the tankard down. "Tomorrow..."
"I'll be leaving."
Feres perked an ear, raising a brow to him. "Why?"
"With things settled here, my work is done - I'm needed elsewhere." he stopped, looking out the window. "I'll tell you what I've learnt about the legend of L'immortel."
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