The fighting was fierce.
The Yunai Warbreaker laid waste to the Unified Army’s forces on the front line, but our soldiers didn’t go down without a fight. The machine was damaged by the initial attack and the Academy of Hope took up the charge. As the heroic Iliera held the mechanoid’s attention, the assault force hit their foe with everything they had, disabling its massive weapons and eventually burning through its power crystal-infused core with their arsenal of magics.
When the machine finally died, the Yunai sent their hounds to stop the progression of the assault, but they were no match for the heroes once Iliera got the beasts separated. Divide and conquer was the method of attack, and it worked like a charm.
But they enemy was not to be underestimated.
A young Academy student was lost when one of the hounds emitted a deadly blast of Yunai magic. Fynn tried to shield as many as he could, but the young priest couldn’t escape the damage. As his body crumpled to the floor, everyone knew it was only the first casualty to come in this hellish place.
The hounds were put down, and they soon stood before the Yunai High Command. A triumvirate of leaders that had ruled over the Pulkaan landscape for eons. As soon as they realized who they were up against, Sionis saw the magic in Iliera’s shield intensify.
This one was personal for her.
They opened their assault as they had with the other creatures, but they quickly realized they were no longer facing simple machines or animals. The leaders here caught the Academy students with mines, blasting them with dark magic and shrapnel that downed six students in the first blast.
“Stay behind the protectors!” Iliera shouted. “Avoid the mines!”
The attackers fell in line.
In the skies ahead, Yunai ships prepared to fire on them.
“We’ll get taken out if we don’t do something!”
“I have an idea,” Ailyn, the Shadowspeaker, yelled. “Cover me!”
Fynn gave her a shield and the woman rushed to one of the enemy command pods. She took control of the device and used it to generate a shield on the platform, a shield that deflected the enemy weapon fire with ease.
They cheered. A moment of victory.
Then they fought on.
The first of the three fell, and the other two grew fearful.
Their concern bolstered the assault force and solidified their resolve. Ailyn’s plan grew in scale, with both Kaellax, using another command pod to clear out the mines and attack the Yunai.
The efforts came together, and despite the growing number of enemy ships firing at them, the shields held. After a hard fought battle, Iliera stood atop the body of the final Yunai leader.
“For Pulkaan!” she yelled. “For Azirin!”
The raiders of Bellulan cheered in response.
Fynn and a priest named Darrus tended to the wounded, the dead were given a moment of silence and then left behind so others from the unified armies could retrieve them when the assault was complete. Deeper they pressed into Bellulan. They were uncertain of what they sought, but they hoped, as one soldier had said, they would know it when they found it.
Then they did found it.
A vast array of ships that the Yunai used to pierce the break in reality. If the unified army could destroy this hub, the Yunai would be severely limited in their ability to invade new World Ships.
They started coordinating with their forces, striking out at ships that they could quickly destroy.
Their attack did not go unnoticed.
Soon, the Ship Keeper arrived to put an end to their efforts.
She was no match for the combined strength of the assault force. In her last moments, she tried to launch as many ships as she could, but Iliera turned the tables on this idea, breaking the forces into small strike teams and boarding ships to stop the enemy from escaping.
One of the ships departed. Five Academy students were lost.
But still, the Ship Keeper fell.
More and more heroic forces arrived. Everyone was pouring everything into the fight, with new teleportation centers being set up that could quickly pull other heroes inside the deeps of Bellulan.
“We’re winning!” a young paladin, Aremadiel, yelled proudly. “We’re really winning!”
“No time to stop,” Iliera announced. “We have to find Reliah.”
“How?” Macksyn, a Patnesh monk, asked. “We don’t know where to look.”
“The Luminary One will guide us,” Aremadiel said proudly.
“Or, that might be where we should look,” I interjected, pointing ahead.
A large bulkhead, not far from us, stood looming over the others. Yunai guards still stood at their position to hold it. Unlike the other areas, however, this one was reinforced with extra security.
“My guess is she’s in there.”
“Seems a reasonable guess,” Iliera said firmly. “Charge!”
We charged into a new section of the prison, and we found the Voice of the Yunai. We rescued her from her captors, and in that moment, we knew the tides were turning.
Everyone was able to breathe. When Fynn finally stopped moving for a moment, he wondered if it was the first time he’d actually done so since coming in. He couldn’t remember doing anything other than gritting his teeth, mending wounds, and mourning the dead.
He hadn’t been prepared for this much destruction.
Aboard the Traveler, he had been a force of destruction. Here, he felt like a candle in a hurricane.
His gut was twisted and his heart pounded in his chest.
He knew that they were here for the right reasons. He was just worried about their chances of getting out of here alive.
Meanwhile, the life energy of the Reliah materialized before them. “Thank you, heroes,” her disembodied voice spoke to them as they secured her chamber. “I am glad that you have answered my call. Unfortunately, Heroes, time is short. We must save the others before the Yunai finishes their greatest plan.”
Reliah looked to her right and a portal swirled open, revealing Azirin in the dark beyond, but swirling around the World Ship was a growing cloud of electrical activity and green magical energy. Dozens of Yunai ships were encroaching on the surface, having charged forward from the surface of Pulkaan.
“He’s throwing everything he’s got at our World Ship!” a soldier yelled from the back of the group. “What good will it do for us to capture the Yunai planet if our home is a wasteland before we return?”
I realized he was right. I turned to Iliera. “He’s got a point.”
“The Yunai must be defeated here,” she replied, her eyes glowing with the energy of someone fulfilling destiny and revenge in the same breath.
“I know. The assault must continue, but we have to split our forces. If some of us return to Azirin to defend from the Yunai assault, we stand a chance of holding our ground until you finish this fight. Then you and the unified army can come help us clean house.”
“If we divide our numbers now—”
“If we don’t, then our World Ship might not be there for us when we finish here.”
Iliera paused. I saw a small spark of doubt in her expression.
“You’ll be fine,” I added. “We’re already at the doorstep of the Yunai. Reliah has our back now and we have a plan. We aren’t just a bunch of mortals in an unholy assault anymore. You can do this. The Academy was built for this.”
“What if you’re wrong?” she asked. “What if you go to Azirin and we don’t stop the Yunai in time? The world, and you, could be lost forever.”
“Then you’ll use the Burning Vengeance to find a new home, just like your people did before,” I said, giving her a warm smile, “But we’re not going to let the Yunai win. That’s why I have to go back. If we don’t slow him down, we might never get a chance.”
There was a long pause, but then Iliera nodded. “Okay.”
“Heroes,” Reliah’s voice boomed. “I can take you to the throne of the Yunai. There you must free the other of my people from their prisons and add their power to your own. When you are ready, we must press on!”
“That’s your ride,” I said. “Get in there and finish the fight.”
Iliera nodded again. This time more determined than before. “Okay everyone! We’re pressing on, but I need some volunteers to go with Sionis. He will be traveling back to Azirin to help mount a defensive from the Yunai that are assaulting the planet.”
Arms went up. Some from brave soldiers who wanted nothing more than to stop the Yunai here on Pulkaan. To be honest, a few arms were shaking too. Scared and overwhelmed, some of the Academy members just wanted to go home.
“Okay, those going with Sionis, plan and coordinate your attack. Those of you staying here against the Yunai, we ride!”
Reliah spouted an energy beam that spiraled out and then formed a portal. Red halls stretched out in front of them on the other side. “Go, heroes. Save us all.”
When they had gone, I looked over the group that had remained with me and decided it would have to do. I turned my energy to Azirin, reached out through the Twisting Aether to feel where the highest concentration of Yunai energy was massing. I felt it, pulsing in the darkness, and reached out to it, bringing them together.
“Okay everyone!” I shouted. “Here we go!”
The group was instantly teleported through time and space.
We hit the ground hard. Sand flew up all around us. Not far from us, two Yunai ships were setting down on the dry arid surface.
“Where the heck are we?” one Academy student asked.
“The Sandiri Sands,” I said, feeling rather confused. “It’s a realm in the World Above? Why are we here?”
“Does it really matter?” Macksyn asked.
I smiled. I was happy to have the monk here with him. “No,” I admitted. “I suppose not.”
“Then let’s get on with it.”
I nodded, then hoisted my spell-blade in the air. “For Azirin!”