Iliera made a straight shot at the Zinji magic user that haunted the Academy members. She didn’t know anything about this fiend. She didn’t know why or how they had gotten so tied up in a feud with an organization that she’d never even heard of before, but she knew evil when she saw it, and this monstrosity… he was evil.
He saw her coming almost immediately and worked his dark magic to silence the energy that empowered her. She felt it leaving her body and was reminded of how much she depended on it. Her armor grew heavier, her mace became unwieldy, and she struggled to keep her focus honed in on the chaos of the fighting. He had disoriented her, and while she might be the stronger fighter, he was working hard to prevent her from getting the actual fight started.
“You’re the one who protects these fools?” Zalarnen asked as he dodged a particularly close blow, stepping to the side at the last moment while the mace slammed the ground where had had just been.
“I’m not really in the talking mood,” she replied, heaving her weapon back in the air. She took another swing and again the Zinji dodged, but this time he swiped a dagger as he sidestepped, and the blade swept across Iliera’s exposed arm. She felt a searing pain and her grip on the mace slipped. The warlock locked on her mistake and moved in, piercing her calf with his second dagger. She roared in pain and collapsed onto one knee.
“You wielders of the luminary magics think you’re so powerful, but you truly don’t understand the might of the darkness. The Yunai will consume all of your power and you’ll be rendered inert.”
“I’m done with you,” he snarled. “Farewell, Iliera Starfall.”
He pulled his dagger free from her leg and made an upward swipe that should have cut clean across her throat. Before he could complete the maneuver, however, he was thrown to the side as I straight up tackled him at full running speed. We rolled several times before the enemy jumped up. He began to summon some kind of twisted magical creature, but I waved a hand and silenced the spell with incredible speed.
“No more tricks,” I yelled, pulling a blue and gold blade, beautifully crafted and clearly forged by the city of Stonehaven. “We end this. Now.”
The enemy smiled and pulled his daggers. “Then let’s have it!”
I rushed my foe and swept my blade at the warlock’s abdomen, intent on cutting him in half, but the Zinji was able to deflect the swing, catching the blade in the hilt of his daggers, and thrusting upward. With my blade clear, he pulled his daggers wide and sliced deep into both of the my arms. I fell back as blood spilled from my wounds, and the Zinji shook his head.
“You should always use your best abilities first,” he said, a sinister smile on his face. “You’re not Sionis Sepher, swordsman of Stonehaven. You’re a Flamecaller.”
“You’re right,” I replied. “How foolish of me.”
In an instant, I ignited in a fiery combustion. My whole body became flame, and I jumped forward, igniting the ground with each step. Zalarnen attempted to block my attack, but the intense heat burned his flesh and heated his dagger so much that he was forced to release it from his grip, lest it burn through his skin.
One. Two. Three.
Fireballs collided with the enemy, knocking him further and further back. He called upon the darkness for more power, but he found himself wanting. He couldn’t overpower me, not in this form.
“You will not defeat us!” the Zinji yelled. “You cannot defeat us!”
I snapped my hand up and waved a spell that the enemy had never seen performed successfully. For the first time in this fight, I saw his fear.
Then, his body exploded into flames as a dragon’s head of pure fire was conjured out of thin air and swept down on him, flaming teeth ripping through his fragile body. There was a final curse against the Academy of Hope, and then he was gone.
As the smoldering remains of Zalarnen sizzled upon the ground, the flames around me died down, leaving me standing there with smoke rising from my toasted battle armor. I turned, exhausted, and rushed back to Iliera’s side. I scooped her up and started running to the healing waters, noticing that the battle around us was quickly coming to an end.
The civilians made light work of the enemy forces.
By the time I reached the helaing waters with Iliera, the other Academy members were gathering up the survivors that remained in Kennis. Fynn was up and moving again, too. When he saw Iliera’s wound he was quick to help her inside the healing waters, still glowing from the earlier blessing.
“The fighting is over,” one of the Besherman said, his voice hopeful. “Did we win?”
As though fate itself heard his question, a new battle horn echoed in the forest, and six more flaming rocks sailed over the tree-line and into the city. Most of them missed the city center, but one of them was coming straight for them. Wave stepped up, moved a single hand, and the rock veered course to crash down safely in the trees.
“The Zinji army is nearly here,” I said, answering the interrupted question. “They’re already at the shoreline and moving north. We can’t stay here.”
“Where will we go?” another civilian asked.
“I can’t teleport us far,” Frosty piped up. “I can barely conjure a loaf of bread at this point.”
“Ditto,” Syanna added.
“The three of us can muster something,” I said. “Can we get to the Grid?”
The magic users frowned. “Not this many people,” Syanna said bluntly.
I looked out over the water and saw several vessels sailing for the safety of the Grid. I raised a brow and looked back to Syanna. “The ships?”
The magic user looked over her shoulder at the ships and then offered a hearty shrug.
“We have to try,” I said. “We can’t stay here.”
“Agreed,” Frosty replied. “Let’s try.”
The three of us came together and went to work on weaving a portal that would get the civilians to safety. As it started to drain our power, I knew it was going to be close.
“Oh, this is… painful,” Syanna said as they all put their power into stabilizing the opening.
“We can do this,” I assured them, trying to ignore the pain. “Hold it together.”
Frosty didn’t speak, but a series of grunts implied he understood. Then, with a pop and fizzle, the portal opened, revealing the deck of a large ship.
“Go!” I shouted. “Go go go!”
Ailyn was the first one through. She hit the deck of the ship and raised her arms in surrender as at least a dozen guns came to focus on her. “Friends!” she shouted. “Friends from Kennis! Survivors!”
The Besherman didn’t fire on her, but they didn’t look too happy with her either. At least, not until the first few civilians came through the portal. Then, they realized what was happening and snapped into action.
Back in the village, Iliera and Fynn were practically throwing the civilians through the portal as Syanna, Frosty, and I all held the magical opening with all our might.
“Guys… feeling… weak,” Frosty said as his energy started to give.
“This is going to hurt,” Syanna said, looking to me. “Can we hold it when he drops?”
I nodded, just once. Frosty collapsed a second later.
It felt like a ton of bricks fell on my chest. The pull of the aether energy required to keep the portal open slammed into us all at once. I saw Syanna struggling too, but then she seemed to relax, as if she had gotten a second wind. A moment later, I felt the same sensation, like someone had come to push on my back and keep me standing. I looked to my right and saw that the paladin Vikasterix was channeling luminary energy right into my body, helping to refresh me as I fought the power. Across the way, Fynn was doing the same for Syanna.
“Hold it together!” Iliera shouted. “Not long now!”
The last group of civilians had just gone through the portal, meaning the only ones left were the Academy of Hope members.
“There’s still plenty of others here,” Wave said. “We can’t leave them behind. We should search for them before we leave.”
“We have saved as many as we can,” Jinghoo replied. “We’ve got to go!”
“Get through the portal!” Syanna shouted. “I can’t hold it much longer!”
Jinghoo grabbed Wave, much against his will, and pulled the Musfurin through the portal. Iliera grabbed the unconscious Frosty and did the same. Macksyn was next, leaving only the two paladins and the two magic users behind.
“How are we going to do this?” Syanna asked.
I grimaced and then looked at the two paladins. “Syanna, the paladins go first. I’ll hold it long enough to get you through too.”
“You won’t be able to keep it open long enough for you,” Syanna replied.
“I’m aware,” I answered. “I can use an invisibility spell and get away to recover my strength.”
Fynn shook his head. “I don’t like it.”
“Well, that’s the beauty of seniority,” I said. “We’re doing this. Understood?”
There was silence for a moment, then Syanna and the other two nodded.
“Good. Now, ready, set… go!”
The two paladins did as they were told, rushing toward the portal while continuing their spell until the last moment when they jumped through. When the helfpul luminary magic left, the two of us were unprepared for how much energy they needed to keep the portal open. Not only did Syanna not have enough time to get through the portal, the two of us were instantly thrown by the insane amount of energy that spiraled out as the portal became unstable.
I slammed against the sandy beach of Kennis and felt my body going numb.
“Syanna?” I asked, the world growing dark.
No one responded, but in the distance I could hear the thundering footsteps of the approaching Zinji army. I struggled to get on my feet, but my vision was getting blurry. I knew he was about to pass out, but then… relief.
A healing energy pulsed through my veins and I felt awake and alive. I sat up and saw a green magical energy flowing around me. I assumed a Besherman had saved me, but when I looked up I was shocked to see that was not the case. It was a Zinji healer.
“Wh….why?” I asked, looking at this soldier.
“I know of you, Sionis Sepher,” the Zinji said, his voice soothing. “I witnessed your actions, both in the past and tonight. Go. Please.”
I stood, but started looking around. “There’s another.”
The Zinji pointed to the water’s edge. “She’s alive,” he said. “I made sure.”
I just stood there for a moment, but the thundering footsteps drew ever closer and time was running out. “Thank you, I guess,” I said, walking over and lifting Syanna over my shoulder.
The Zinji shook his head. “I deserve no thanks this day.”
I didn’t say anything, instead focusing on teleporting myself and Syanna to safety.
“We’ll reclaim these lands,” I added when I was ready to go. “The Besherman won’t stand for this. The Zinji have gone too far… again.”
“Perhaps… you’re right,” the Zinji replied. “Time will tell.”
I, not sure there was anything else to be said, finished my spell and transported the two of us to the boat off the shore. I appeared to see a very worried Ailyn, who pulled Syanna off of my back as soon as we were through the portal. A moment later, Iliera wrapped me tightly in her arms and refused to let go.
“It’s alright,” I said, trying to breathe, “everything is alright.”
Within the hour, the first catapults launched.
The Grid was set ablaze. Behind us, Kennis burned. The Besherman crew wailed in sorrow. Others aboard just wept. The captain ordered the ship to veer away from the growing flames that engulfed the Grid.
“This… this is insane,” Jinghoo said as they watched the destruction.
“This is more than insanity,” Iliera replied. “This is villainy. The Zinji will pay for this.”
I was conflicted in this moment. I chose not to reveal how I had escaped from Kennis. The crew would not want to hear it, not now, and I wasn’t sure if it would change anything anyway. Instead, I grabbed Frosty, who was now recovering, and the two of us started weaving protective spells that would prevent the ship from catching fire in all this destruction. As we sailed away, we started to take note of the ones we had lost in the fighting.
At the end of the day, we realized there were only a handful of members left.
The Academy of Hope was lost… we were now only the remnants… left behind.
The Remnants of Hope.