Episode 14: Time is Running Out

      Iliera, paladin of the Silver Hand, hero of the Alliance, and refugee of Xernia.

      She stood on the deck of a spare-faring vessel, looking out across the devastated landscape of an ancient planet. Behind her, the leaders of the Academy Armed Forces stood together, discussing their next move.

      Meanwhile, she held the latest report she had written to Sionis Sepher in Udiria. The fighting on Pulkaan was beginning to take its toll on the Academy members. The Yunai were so many in number they could cut through them for days. This world was their home. Somehow, Iliera had become the invader, and she had brought hundreds of her own trusted students here.

      She was responsible for the safety of these people, and she was failing them.

      As she found her frustration growing, her mind began to wander to earlier days.

      Three years. Was that really all it had been?

      Just three years ago her reality had been so far removed from this nightmare.

      She had been young, energetic, and ready for a career in jewel crafting that would have sent her traveling all across Xernia. She had hoped to pick flowers, start a family, and maybe even train her very own elephant.

      The fight against the Yunai changed all of that.

      They started a war. They tried to take her village. In that moment, filled with fear and panic, she called upon the power of the luminary one and it answered in force.

      She had protected them then, and she had not stopped since.

      When the heroes from Azirin came to Xermia, she had met Sionis Sepher. Together they had helped reclaim her home. They stood fast against her foes, protected her family, and marched toward the enemy.

      Slowly they pushed back the enemy until Xernia was free.

      If only it had been so simple.

      The Yunai never gave up. They never surrendered.

      So she did what she had been doing since the luminary magic had answered her call.

      She fought.

      She repelled the Yunai assault, and together they were pushed back.

      Finally, Xernia and Iliera’s family were safe, but the Yunai were not gone. It couldn’t be ignored. No matter what peace was established, no matter how much they fought, the Yunai would always be out there amongst the stars.

      Thinking on how Xernia must be strong for the Legion’s return, she helped secure the rest of of her world, pushing back any last traces of the enemy until the world was purged of their corruption.

      Then dire news arrived. The Legion, a Yunai army, was going to invade Azirin.

      No time to plan.

      No time to prepare.

      Iliera had felt her heart torn in two. Could she leave her family, her people, and everything she had known? If she did not, would the Yunai return stronger than before, bent on Xernia’s destruction? She wrestled in this contemplation for days.

      So, she made a decision. It would be Iliera’s charge to seek out and destroy the Yunai, no matter where that adventure might lead her. Someday she would see the world safe from these monsters, once and for all.

      Now, she stood on the Burning Vengeance, a Traveler serving as the tip of the spear for the assault on Pulkaan. She stood with the Unified Armies of Azirin, the Academy Armed Forces, and the Udirian Miliary. The grand army that Keaira had brought to bear on the World Ship had fallen to our might. They had been weakened and sent into retreat, but they were recovering down there on Pulkaan. They had figured out that our counter-assault was not as strong as we had projected.

      The window to defeat our enemy was closing. It had to be here. Now.

      Yet their spearhead offensive was dulling under constant assault.

      She turned away from the large viewing window just as one of the Musfurin was walking toward a Commanding Officer.

      “A report for you, High Beacon,” the Musfurin said, kneeling before the Commander and handing them a scroll.” The leader, Azirin in origin, took the paper and quickly unrolled it, his face scrunching as he did so.

      “Iliera,” he said, looking up at her. “It looks like you’re up again.”

      She frowned. “The Voice of the Yunai again?”

      “I’m afraid so. Sounds like another message.”

      Her heart sank.

      There was a Yunai on Pulkaan. Unlike the dark monsters that we had known before, this one appeared to be benevolent. It spoke to us in whispers, warning us of the evil Yunai invasions, and spoke to us of how we could defeat our foes once and for all. This creature, the Voice of the Yunai as many called it, was also a prisoner of her peers. She was tortured and broken, and her messages and whispers reflected an existence of unending pain and confusion.

      The Academy had learned a lot about the Yunai’s plans by allowing this relationship to continue, so the leadership had asked that Iliera serve as the ears of the operation. Listen to the Voice of the Yunai, interpret her warnings, and report back.

      “I’ll head to the surface immediately, High Beacon,” she said firmly.

      When she arrived on the planet’s surface, she shivered ever so slightly. The sensation of traveling through portals here was still new, and she had not grown accustomed to it. The small hovel where they had discovered ancient life forms that still resisted their Yunai oppressors looked sad in the pale light of this world. It sometimes felt like the darkness on Pulkaan sought to devour everything.

      Several of these poor souls were wandering through one of the nearest caves, while two Udirian adventurers walked beside a Musfurin at the hovel’s entrance. Iliera veered to the left, to a small offshoot where they had stored a special stone.

      A stone that Nardin Edar, a Besherman researcher, used to communicate with the Voice of the Yunai.

      “I’m glad to see you again,” Nardin said as Iliera approached the chamber.

      “The High Beacon sent me,” she replied. “How can I help?”

      “I hear you’re leading one of the assaults on Bellulan,” Nardin said, his voice hesitant, as though he was questioning the conversation. “You’re part of some school or something?”

      “The Academy of Hope,” Iliera replied, proudly. “We are many things.”

      “I’d be lying if I said I’d heard of them,” Nardin replied, a hearty smile appearing. “I’ve got news for you. We have word from the Voice of the Yunai. She wishes to speak to you.”

      Iliera nodded. With a careful touch, she laid her palm on the stone. She felt a vibration growing from within the rock and she closed her eyes.

      The vision came with great haste and a voice filled her mind.

      “Again I speak. Iliera. The Yunai were not always so cruel.”

      Warmth. Life. Iliera could feel it.

      “I remember unity… until it was shattered by betrayal.”

      Cold. Darkness.

      “I remember our fall from the peaks of understanding and compassion.”

      A flash of light. Standing before Iliera, a life force so powerful it was almost overwhelming. Not here in the small cave on Pulkaan. Somewhere else. She could sense this being and the strength that flowed from her own energy.

      Her name was Reliah. She was a mighty Yunai of old.

      “The time for hiding is over. I must be freed.”

      The being was gone, and with a blinding flash of light. Iliera fell away from the magical stone and collapsed on the ground.

      “It’s possible,” Nardin said as he helped her up. “Bellulan is a stronghold for the Yunai, but it’s also a prison of sorts. It’s possible that the Voice of the Yuna, this Reliah is within. We need to act now. I fear this plan has been in the works for a very, very long time. It can’t be anything less than fate that we are here, right at the end, to stop the Yunai before they succeed in truly conquering our reality.”

      “You’re right,” Iliera said, feeling emboldened. “We have to put a stop to this madness. Once and for all.”

      “Report back what you saw here,” Nardin added. “The unified armies must act.”

      Iliera bowed and left the hovel. With each step she took from the stone, the better she felt. Reliah had shared just a moment of a vision, but there had been so much potential in it. Life still flourished in the galaxy. The Yunai had not destroyed it all. Not yet.

      She saw the magic users a short ways ahead and marched toward them with divine purpose. She was going to assemble her forces. The unified armies would assault Bellulan and she would be the one leading the charge, with all of the Academy of Hope behind her.

      There was no more time to waste.

      She would call upon any and all that had stayed behind to protect Azirin too. If what she had just seen was true, their efforts would be meaningless if the Yunai succeeded here. Just thinking of all this had given her armor the glow of the Lumiary One, and she knew she was on the right path.

      This was destiny.

      A young Musfurin girl, torn from time itself and set on the path to save the universe.

      She wouldn’t fail.

To be continued…

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