Sweat dripped from Iliera’s forehead, down her cheek, mixing with the blood from the deep cut on her face, and continuing down to run off her chin. The ground beneath her rumbled, but unlike the broken rocks of Pulkaan, this metal flooring was polished and unscratched. It didn’t crack or crumble, but instead vibrated and hummed.
Just In front of her, the powerful First Yunai stood. His body towered over all that was left of the Academy assault team. He stared down at them with a blank face, one that troubled her more than any she had faced so far. This being had suffered at the hands of his children, tortured and twisted into this deadly monstrosity. He hadn’t chosen this fate, nor did he attack them with ferocity of someone that hates. He was a wounded and broken creature lashing out at them with the destructive force of a being trapped in a corner with no where to go.
He had to be put down.
It was tragic.
Iliera felt burdened by this, but that didn’t change the situation. The Yunai’s blade had already cut down a handful of Academy members. He was weak, but he was not defeated.
While the other Yunai, like Reliah gathered their strength to aid them, time was not on their side.
“Okay everyone,” she started. “Stack on—”
The First Yunai‘s scythe caught Iliera directly against her shield. She went airborne, and may well have flown into the depths of the twisting aether, if not for the saving catch from Darrus. She hit the ground with a crash and pain shot up through her body. Her arm went limp in the shield straps, and the shield itself was cracked and broken. She looked up from her injury just in time to see blue and red fire erupting from the Yunai.
“End it ALL!” he yelled.
Then, it was over.
She was dead.
They all were.
In the Sandiri Sands, I had gone to work fighting against the Yunai with the few members that I had at my disposal. The problem was, the Yunai weren’t just attacking in the desert.
“Word from Udiria!” Macksyn shouted from behind. “Three more enemy ships have shown up in the Garage. They think they’re attempting to simply overwhelm us across the World Ship.”
“Can they send anyone else?” I asked.
“They’re calling for everyone,” Macksyn replied. “We need to help them.”
Out over the dry desert, two Yunai ships had arrived shortly after I had teleported the Academy members here. We had been locked in combat ever since. But it didn’t make any sense. Why here? Why had these ships flown past Udiria?
I felt an energy in this place, a pulsing darkness, like an ominous threat that had threaded itself through space and time. I had assumed it was the Yunai, but three ships weren’t that destructive. There had to be something else happening here.
Why would they be interested—
A sudden and terrible feeling swept over me. It hit me so hard that I stumbled backward. Macksyn caught me as I fell and carefully lowered me to the ground.
“Sionis?” he asked. “Are you okay?”
“Iliera. She just…”
I didn’t speak. I couldn’t. Macksyn knew what I was saying, and if it was true, that meant the Yunai had won. I forced myself to stand, focused my energy on one of the Yunai ships in the air, and instantly teleported inside.
When I materialized on the ship, I had already allowed all of my power to manifest itself as fire within my body. I went to work on destroying anyone and everyone within my reach.
Explosions ripped through the enemy ship as I unleashed wave after wave of attacks. Without Iliera, the Yunai would rebuild their forces and return to destroy Azirin. I would die this day. We would all die . So, I wanted to make sure I took as many of these Yunai with me as I could.
Here in the darkness of death, Iliera was left with one nagging feeling.
She had failed everyone.
Would Azirin burn? Would the Yunai destroy it all?
Quietly she pondered, but then, like an echo in the darkness, she heard a faint voice.
“No! After all we have endured… it must not end this way!”
There was a spark of light in the darkness.
“Hope is not lost,” Reliah spoke. “The spark of life still flickers within these mortals.”
The light grew brighter. It changed from a yellow glow to a green one. Iliera felt a power wrapping around her shattered arm. As it touched her skin, it sent warm pulses of energy through her. She felt empowered by it. Her strength returned to her. Her mind cleared. The darkness began to retreat from her, and the room came back into view.
She was alive!
She looked around and saw the others. All of them. They stood tall with her and held their weapons as though confirming to one another that this had just happened.
Reliah’s voice boomed aloud. “Arise Champions! Fight to save your world!”
Iliera smiled. Here they were, refreshed and alive. The Academy of Hope stood once more. The First Yunai raised his blade once more, not ready to surrender.
“Together,” she said aloud. “Let’s end this!”
They charged at the enemy, swiping their blades and bringing down all their mightiest spells. The air crackled and fizzed with the raw power. All kinds of magic sparked and exploded in bright flashes as they collided with the enemy’s body.
Iliera ducked and rolled, passing between the First Yunai and the other members, swapping patterns to keep their foe distracted. When the enemy dared to turn away from either of them, he paid the price with a slash of claws or the teeth of a jagged blade.
No one was wasting this second chance.
Fire ripped through the enemy ship as it crashed to the surface.
I had teleported back to safety just before the whole thing went critical and exploded into flames that would no doubt scar the surface of our world. While I had been fighting in the ship, I felt Iliera’s soul return. She was gone… then she wasn’t. I didn’t know how to explain it, but I knew in my heart that she had died and then returned to life. Macksyn looked worried when I briefly tried to explain it, but he didn’t object.
“So, what’s the game plan?” he asked. “It was mighty impressive bringing down a whole ship by yourself, but I imagine that’s a one time deal?”
He was right. I had expended all of my energy in that assault. If I hadn’t felt Iliera’s life return, I would have likely died in my attempt to take down the second ship.
“I don’t know,” I replied, honestly.
“We should go to Udiria,” Macksyn suggested. “If the Yunai are trying to secure the Garage, we need to keep it shut. We worked hard to secure that gateway. I don’t want to lose it again.”
“Something is happening here,” I assured him. “I can’t leave yet.”
“At least send a few of us,” Macksyn pressed. “This is a desert. We don’t need to defend this place from anything.”
I thought of resisting, but the monk was right. “Fine. Get most of our members and let’s get you to the Broken Isles. I’ll stay here with just a few others and we will figure out what the demons have planned here.”
Macksyn nodded firmly. “Thank you, Sionis.”
“Don’t thank me yet,” I replied.
Fynn’s shield cracked under the pressure of the last hit, but Ailyn was safe. The Shadowspeaker thanked him and quickly rushed back to get a better vantage. Iliera was wounded, but the paladin stood her ground, blood spilling at her feet.
They wouldn’t make it much longer.
Despite everything they had thrown at the First Yunai, he continued to stand.
Fynn decided he had to do something.
“I have an idea!” he shouted.
Iliera stopped and looked at him. “What?”
“I’m going to distract him.”
“That’s not a good idea.”
“It’s our only chance!” he shouted.
She would have said no to his plan, so he didn’t bother explaining. Instead, he just rushed forward, pulling all of his power and calling upon luminary magic to protect him in this darkest moment.
Iliera moved to counter his attack, but Fynn wasn’t planning to finish his charge. Instead, he stopped short and called to the enemy.
“Hey! Big guy!”
Even with the battle raging on all around them, the First Yunai seemed to hear and understand who had just called him, turning from the others and looking right at the paladin.
“Oh wow,” Fynn said. “You look really terrifying.”
The First Yunai stepped toward him.
Fynn planted his feet as best he could and lifted his glowing sword into the air. He was prepared to protect himself. One big bubble to deflect the enemy. It wouldn’t last long, but it would be enough to stop one direct blow… maybe.
It would be up to the others to take advantage of that window.
“Come on!” Fynn shouted again. “You smell funny!”
“Death!” the First Yunai shouted. “End you!”
The scythe was pulled back. Fynn saw his life flash before his eyes, and then he called upon the Luminary One for power. He pulled everything from within, the hope, the power, and the desperation.
The scythe came down with the force of one hundred men. It slammed against Fynn’s protective barrier, and in that brief moment, both the weapon and the shield shattered.
Fynn and the First Yunai, both completely oblivious of what to do next, froze in place.
It was just a moment, a brief second of hesitation, but that was all they needed.
Iliera leapt into the air, bounced off the a nearby member’s back, and brought down her pointed crystal hammer on the titan’s spine, right at the base of his neck.
The First Yunai’s eyes went wide.
“All… life… ends,” he said, his mouth slowing with each word.
Then, after long moment of uncertainty, he fell.
Silence filled the room.
Fynn, finally able to move, went to work on the wounded. The others took a moment to actually breathe. Around them arcane energy still fizzled in the air, Yunai magic was withering back into the darkness. A few people collapsed. Others just lowered their weapons. A few didn’t even do that. They stood ready… waiting… not ready to believe the fight was done.
Meanwhile, Iliera’s eyes fell upon the other Yunai that had helped them. Reliah at the front of this group. They too looked tired, but Reliah nodded slowly to her. “You have saved us, and our reality can have hope again, Iliera Starfall…”