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Chapter 11

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“Few matters are so fundamentally misunderstood as the worldsoul. It is, in essence, a mana core for an entire planet. Just as we cultivate our own cores, the worldsoul is a naturally occurring conglomeration of the native floes of mana throughout space. Without it, mana does not gather around a world. Without it, magic cannot be performed there. A soul-less world, is a dead world.”

—Cosmic Errata: Notes on Interplanetary Mana Tides, Theron Greenmantle

For the third time in the day, Sylvas found himself flicked away by powers that he couldn’t even begin to understand, spinning head over heels in the process.

But unlike the last two times there was no physical trauma to accompany the instant nausea of being tossed around like a doll. It was as if one moment, he was on the ground, half sprawled out and cradling his charred arm, and the next, he was thirty feet in the air with the tower and the battle beneath him. However as it had been with both prior occasions, it did not appear that Sylvas’s fate was to end up splattered upon the rock below, as soon as gravity began to assert its hold upon him, a stream of light shoot out from the tower to surround him.

Flinching as it arrived, the next thing Sylvas knew was that he was surrounded by a well of pale white energy, its presence against his body soft as a down quilt. Yet more importantly than how it felt, the light somehow stopped his descent from gaining any meaningful momentum and instead gently pulled him downwards back towards the tower. The point-eared woman who’d cast him aside earlier was saving him now. 

Not that it looks like it’s costing her much to do it. Sylvas was gently pulled back towards the battle, seeing that she wasn’t even looking in his direction. The fact that he had been saved, had Sylvas assuming that she had finally understood why he had interfered with her aim. Something instantly confirmed when she launched another beam of white light at the recovering form of the Crimson King, choosing to avoid the centermost part of its body and boring a hole through the scaled shells adjacent to it.

A move that had the conquering crustacean taking a step backwards.

Maybe we can beat this, Sylvas suddenly thought as his journey through the air came to an end, the light that had captured him winking out just a couple scant feet above the tower floor, close enough that he was easily about to catch himself. Maybe…maybe this isn’t the end.

It was a desperate thought clearly reflected in all of the white-armored mages as they unleashed a renewed torrent of magic at the Crimson King, its ravaged body bleeding out countless streams of red hued light. 

The short mage that first rescued sprinted beneath the arching bulk of the Crimson King’s body, another great fist of stone forming around his hand. One that he delivered squarely to the monstrosity’s face, a fresh spar of stone launching out from under his feet and guiding him directly towards the eidolon’s maw. The Crimson King had already been reeling before the mighty crunching uppercut arrived, but once it did, the powerful, thundering blow sent it flying back towards the portal that had spawned it. 

Wait, they aren’t trying to kill it, Sylvas abruptly realized as a series of concussive blasts suddenly erupted before the Crimson King’s face, causing it to shrink away from their impact. They’re trying to force it back. Force it back into the void. I can do that.

It was a thought that instantly had Sylvas reaching out to the lingering dregs of the spell that hung in the air with his mind. The one he had devoted years to mastering. The one that still remained perfect in his memory. The one that now he had actually cast and felt how the magic worked through it, he could repurpose, picking out the individual parts he needed to save them all. 

Sylvas closed his eyes to blot out the otherworldly horror that he’d unleashed upon his realm, refusing to let the weight of what he’d done slow him down as he searched for whatever threads remained.

And against all odds, he found them.

There were only a few of them still left, mere fragments of the grand tapestry he and the others had woven to open the portal. Yet as Sylvas examined what was left, he knew that it would be enough, the few fragments that were missing were practically burned onto the inside of his eyelids and easy enough to reconstruct.

If not there, then on my arm, Sylvas thought with a distant grimace, remembering all too well how this same spell had then rebounded against him, the sigils and threads charring his arm to the bone. Without the dark crystal, the circle or…or the others, I’ll need to shoulder the entire casting. But I can do this. I have to do this.

The magic of the ritual came easier to him now than it had before as he grabbed hold of rapidly fraying threads and started repairing them. The practice of having already created them was certainly a part of the ease, for he was used to channeling the mana into these shapes now. But more than it just being familiar, Sylvas was armed with a degree of certainty that he’d been missing before. 

As the Crimson King had begun its journey into the world of the living, Sylvas remembered being overwhelmed by the feeling of wrongness, that he’d been acting against what was best. Yet this time as he rewove the ritual’s magic, he felt a new certainty that this time what he was doing was right. A process that was only sped along even faster when he managed to lift his deadened, scarred up arm up an inch or two, the mana he poured through it twisting itself into the right spell-forms as it surged through the burnt-out channels without his input. Reopening his eyes as the magic solidified in his grasp, Sylvas saw the supposed gates of heaven open the rest of the way before him, causing the pearlescent sky of the otherworld to shine through, its alien appearance offensive to his mind. 

There… it’s open, Sylvas thought as he wrestled the ritual into place, all his concentration going to keeping it active. Now…now hopefully they can take advantage of it.

And to Sylvas’s immediate relief, they did, an excited, incomprehensible shout from among the other mages splitting the air.

Instantly an array of lightning spells lanced out towards the Crimson King, shocking and staggering the creature until it was completely off-balance and unable to react. More too, the flame-caster that Sylvas had seen earlier flew from over the tower’s edge and laid into the eidolon once more, this time with a barrage of boulder sized fireballs. Nor was the short mage who had first saved Sylvas excluded from the renewed assault, the man clad himself entirely in a thick coating of stone, more than doubling his size, magic enhancing his strength so vastly that every strike he landed rocked the Crimson King backwards.

Then it was step by step, inch by inch, that they all drove the eidolon out of Croesia and into whatever nightmare realm it had come from. Of course, the thing Sylvas had called god didn’t make it easy for them, railing against the assault as best it could. It lashed out both with its spindle-arms and the aura of destruction that surrounded it, but neither one could reach or find purchase among the mages driving it back, all but sealing its fate in the process as it destroyed anything it might have used to find traction.

Almost…there, almost… there, Sylvas repeated to himself as his body trembled, but not with the terror or pain that were both still lurking somewhere outside of his Paradigm, but exhaustion. 

Even before fighting an otherworldly horror, he had performed more magic than everyone else on the planet combined prior to the arrival of the strangers, and the efforts had not left him feeling energized. In spite of that, he forced himself to join the other mages in striking at the eidolon, splitting his mind and focus away from maintaining the ritual to conjure bolts of pure force, or as he knew them, arcane arrows. His reserves of mana, that he’d once been so proud of, had been almost entirely depleted by the day’s events, but with the final dregs that remained, he launched bright sparks of blue power at the Crimson King.

While his attacks had little visible effect, he felt satisfaction in joining with the other mages as they hammered at the eidolon. Everywhere that its shell had been shattered now began to bleed crimson light, with streams of bubbling, oozing darkness soon joining it. Working together, they drove it back to the edge of the portal, and then each time that it managed to hook one of its claws onto the white band surrounding the hole in reality, all attacks were focused on that claw until its grip was lost. 

The thing must have had a hundred claws arrayed around its body, and Sylvas could have sworn that it caught hold of the portal rim with every single one. Not to mention the arms that it was lashing out with hopelessly trying to grab onto anything at all. It was no use of course. The solid stone of the tower-top was already reduced halfway to slag and rubble, and it had the consistency of pudding in the eidolon’s grasp thanks to its aura of destruction. There was nothing there that would stop the slow drive back out of the world.

The short mage’s stone covering had sloughed away in the face of his close proximity to the eidolon, but as he launched himself away from the Twilight Prophet on a ripple of stone that sizzled away to dust before he was even full off it he looked up to where Sylvas was still hanging in the sky and gave him a wink. Sylvas didn’t have a clue what that wink was meant to mean, but it seemed friendly. At least in comparison to the creature now halfway back through the portal.

A concerted effort from all of the mages began now, the point-eared woman, the fire-slinger and the short one all working together with focused blasts of their respective elements, not into the dark opening at the heart of the Crimson King, but all across its armor. Using the thing’s resilience against it to push it back further than if the spells had been sinking into the darkness below and doing it real harm. Other mages still in flight around the tower’s top cast protections over them so that they could focus solely on their assault. 

At last the great pillar of writhing claws and arms had been driven back and the portal that had been the doom of the whole world became the focus of the gathered mages. Just like Sylvas and his many apprentices had worked in tandem to create the portal, the mages worked together on a counterspell. A well-practiced one, judging by how easily they all picked up their respective parts.

All the other tears in the sky that had been letting the lesser Eidolons through to run riot had been obliterated sometime while Sylvas was distracted by the creature in front of him, and now the gates of heaven needed to be swung shut once and for all. 

He could see the other mages on the rooftop trying to undo what he had done, but they were working blind, fumbling in the dark at a spell of such complexity it had taken him years to master. They may have been his better in every way, but not at this. This spell was his in a way that no other ever would be. An obsession carved into his memory as surely as the mana had carved through his body.

Through the fighting, he had felt as though he was in the way, surplus to requirements, but now it was these strangers from another world who were out of their element. This was his domain. There was little mana left in him after everything, but still enough for this.

I can do this, at least.

With a squeeze of his hand, the fragile spell that had opened the portal gave away. He had control of it now, mastery of it, and he crushed the vital threads of mana until the spell-form collapsed. There was no will contesting his. No overwhelming force trying to keep it open, or to push through.

As the spell broke, the portal collapsed in on itself. Sliding closed far more neatly than it had first been brought into being, all of its perfectly circular circumference shrinking at the same rate until there was nothing in the air but a mote of light, then not even that. The gathered mages breathed a sigh of relief.

With a flick of the wrist, the point-eared woman let Sylvas fall back to the ground, his landing softened by the deep banks of dust that were all that remained of the massive stone slab that had once capped the tower. 

In their white armor, they all looked similar enough that the differences in stature between the various mages could be forgotten. Particularly once they started shaking hands, clapping each other on the back, and bodily seizing one another in tight hugs – in the case of the short one. Sylvas was soon on the receiving end of one of the short man’s bone crushing grapples, the man’s beard bristling against his own cleanshaven face. “You did good lad, couldn’t have shoved it through without you.”

“Your assistance avoiding the Eidolon’s protective shell was similarly appreciated.” The point-eared woman added, already moving on to her next task, her staff had vanished back into nothingness, and a conjured quill was scribbling out her battle-report on a glowing slate that drifted beside her as she cast various spells of detection over the empty space where the portal had been, recording her results. She cast a glance Sylvas’ way. “My apologies for misunderstanding your intent during combat, some of the cults on uncontacted worlds that have been seeded with arcanum are…resistant when we arrive.”

“Resistant? That puts it rather mildly,” the short man stated with a half snort, half growl as he shook dust and gravel from his beard. In the heat of battle, they’d called him Fargus. Crying out to him. “Though if the lad hadn’t stopped the summoning, there’s no doubt the Harrower would have been through and burrowed to the core before we even got here. The whole planet would have been dead, without a doubt.”

“I cannot deny that the delay he provided gave us sufficient deployment time. Though, that wouldn’t have been a problem had we not needed to rely on the drop-pods.” The woman didn’t sigh, as that would have been a far greater display of emotion than she seemed comfortable with. But her tone was still a little curt. Sylvas hadn’t caught her name, nobody had needed to shout it out, she had known what to do at all times.

“Ugh, the pods again?” Fargus replied with a scoff. “Look me in the eye and tell me that you’d really rather have Gimmerin port us down here. You know as well as I that half us would end up phased inside stone, instead of top of it.”

It was a challenge that the woman simply chose not to reply to, her attention instead turning to look towards what Sylvas identified as the flame-casting mage as they came down to land beside them. 

Until now he had been kept in the air by a steady stream of flames and sparks from his feet that left the otherwise white armor blackened with soot from sole to knee, but now that he was on the ground, Sylvas had the opportunity to actually look at him. He had dark hair, slicked back from a proud face with a prominent nose, a pair of goat-like horns curling back over that slick black hair and his skin was a bright vibrant red. With the other two, it had been easy enough for Sylvas to assume that they were odd looking people, but this one more or less confirmed to him that they were all different species from him entirely. 

Catching his stare the red man gave him a curt nod and raised what Sylvas thought was an eyebrow. “You all right buddy?”

“Uh, y-yeah,” he replied, his voice coming out a bit too high pitched for his liking as he looked away. Little of everything that had happened made much, if any, sense to Sylvas, but he did his best to commit it all to memory. With time, a lot of time, he hoped he would be able to parse through and make sense of everything. 

Or at least some of it, Sylvas added dryly as he watched Fargus exchange a pair of slaps with the fire mage, before turning to look his way, a smile across his face. Or at least, Sylvas assumed that he was smiling under all that moustache, given that he sounded happy. 

“You did well lad,” he said simply. “Most folks turn run when they first see an Eidolon, let alone one like that. You should be proud.”

However given that Sylvas had been responsible for said Eidolon appearing, he couldn’t quite muster that emotion, let alone capture the short man’s sense of gleeful victory. So instead he sidestepped answering it directly, and instead asked a question, his voice that scarcely sounded like his own, “Is it… over?”

Immediately, as if by literal magic, the other mages in close proximity around Sylvas and the man suddenly found themselves with something to do, the pair practically spinning as they turned away. The lithe woman moving to investigate where the portal and the ritual had taken place and the horned man turning to search the skies, no doubt looking for more of the flying abominations that had been swooping them earlier. 

A reaction that told Sylvas all that he needed to know about where the short man’s answer was going to go next.

“Ah, yes and no, lad.” He said gently, his eyes dropping down to the ground as if he were suddenly shy. “The yes part in the sense that the eidolon is back where it belongs and there won’t be any more of its kind coming through.”

“As for the no part, uh,” Fargus continued as he cast a quick spell that manifested the outline of a glowing eye over his head for an instant. “Well, according to that last scry, the world soul of your planet is dead.”

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