The battle potions were crafted.
The weapons were sharpened and polished.
The morning sun would rise in a few hours, and all of Starfall’s able-bodied soldiers would embark to launch their greatest military campaign since arriving on Xernia. The siege of the Citadel would mark the end of the Yunai invasion.
In the pub, downstairs at the Inn, I found Iliera sitting alone, looking at a large glass of mead. She seemed contemplative, concerned, like she was always thinking about all of the darkest scenarios and how to stop them before they came to pass. When she saw me she offered a gentle smile.
“Not sleeping?” I asked.
“In a few hours we will begin the final attack to free my world from the Yunai. If our plan works, in a few weeks, my home will truly be safe. We will be free of the threats that have loomed over us, and I will have seen it done.”
“I can see how sleep might be a bit hard right now.”
“What about you, Sionis Sepher? Feeling homesick again?”
Iliera frowned, then pulled me, gently, into an embrace. I wasn’t all that surprised. We had grown close in the time that I had been here, and I was thankful for the friendship. Despite the situation that had gotten me here, I found myself quite comforted in her care.
Then, the world beneath me shook.
“What was that?” I asked.
Iliera was up in an instant, her eyes glowing with anticipated. “The Yunai?”
“I don’t know,” I replied. “We’d better find out.”
The inn felt like it shifted, and I was surprised when I reached the doorway to find that… the rest of the garrison seemed unharmed. The people on the other hand… soldiers were scattering in all directions, animals bucked and broke away from their keepers, even the pets seemed on edge.
The ground shook ahead, and a deep growling sound echoed through the air.
“What’s happening?” Iliera commanded. “Soldiers. Attention!”
A few of the guards stopped at the boom of her voice, gathering themselves and rushing over to her. They looked mortified. “Black creatures, General Iliera! They swooped down… they grabbed several of our people. They… covered them in… like… darkness.“
My heart stopped. I knew immediately what had happened. The Yunai… Keaira.
A scream echoed across the grounds, and it turned from a cry of fear to one of painful agony. I used my magic to move across the garrison with great speed, but I was too late. I arrived just as Tessa’s lifeless body crumpled to the floor. She had been coated in what seemed like pure black ink, and then it had… killed her.
Iliera reached me as I moved to touch whatever it was that encased Tessa’s corpse.
“Stop,” she said. “We don’t know what foul magic this might be.”
“I know what it is,” I said gravely. “The Yunai is here.”
“Is that possible?”
“Noaath said it might find us here. We have to evacuate.”
“Where will you go?”
I thought about this for a moment. We couldn’t escape to another World Ship, so I had limited options. There was only one place on Xernia that might have enough magical power to keep whatever this was at bay. It was our only hope now.
“We can go to the Udirian tower in the magical fields. If any place can be fortified against this monstrosity, it’s there.”
Iliera didn’t hesitate. “So shall it be.”
“Emergency Plan No Place To Go!” I shouted. “Alert everyone. Gather immediately!”
Iliera sprang into action behind me. We spread the news as quickly as we could. We had practiced the emergency plan a few times when we had first settled here, but it had been some time since we’d considered it. Still, the pieces were in place. If the Yunai arrived, we were to gather in the center of the garrison and the magic users would extract us to a safer location. We’d never really settled on where that location might be until now.
At the fountain of Starfall garrison, the survivors were already gathering. There were fewer of us than there had been, and I knew Tessa wasn’t the only victim of tonight’s attack. I started conjuring up a portal that would get us to the Udirian stronghold, and from there we would have to hope we had time to fortify our defenses.
Iliera ordered her soldiers to their posts, telling them to keep their eyes out for any attackers that might be attempting to breach the walls. She knew the Yunai were beyond her own understandings of space and time, but she knew Kaellax had fought off this fiend at least once, so she figured her garrison could do it too.
There was a shadowy shape that swirled across the garrison, it grabbed one of the other survivors and pulled them away from the group before it began to ensnare and cover them in its form. They screamed for help, but I had to focus on my goal.
The portal stabilized as a second survivor was snatched away.
“Go! Now!” I shouted.
One by one they jumped through the portal. As the last of them started to jump in, I knew my turn was up. I looked to my left and saw Iliera there, her hammer in hand and ready for a fight.
“Secure the garrison,” I said. “I’ll be at the tower. If you don’t hear from me…”
“Go Sionis, don’t speak of death,” Iliera replied. “Not now.”
I nodded, then jumped through the portal, sealing it shut behind me.
Udirian magic users and freelance adventurers were both taken aback by the sudden portal and dozens of panicked refugees that poured through. By the time I arrived, closing the portal behind me, a dozen of the city’s best were surrounding us, no doubt certain that we were here to attack.
“Friendlies,” Fynn, the young paladin that had come with us, called out. “We’re from Starfall. We’re not foes.”
“What happened?” one of the magic users asked.
“Starfall is fine,” I said, stepping forward. “I need to speak to your leader. Immediately. There is a danger here that they must know about, and these people need protection.”
“Danger? What danger?”
“It’s too long to explain more than once. Tell your leader I come with news of the Yunai.”
The magic user looked surprised, then nodded. “Come, I will take you.”
I started forward and immediately wondered what I was supposed to say to the most powerful magic users that could in any way explain the situation we were all in right now. A monstrosity manifesting itself to erase us? I steeled myself, and decided I would tell him everything. Fast.
As far as I knew, the monsters would be coming for us any minute. I only hoped that the tower’s normal defensive barriers would be enough to hold them off.
I had to hope.