“Hold on! Just hold on!”
There was a desperation in Iliera’s voice as she cried out. I didn’t have time to feel desperate. I didn’t have time to wait for Iliera’s protection.
Inside of the Traveler, we had gone to work, fighting the Legion forces. The heroes made good progress, but then the Academy of Hope ran into my old nemesis.
Yunai Lord Xer’Thraxis.
While most of the other academy members fought onward toward our main objective, some of us had been cut off, as Xer’Thraxis demanded a final confrontation.
The Yunai first attack caught us all off guard when his blade swept across our path like lightning. Iliera was protected by her magic, but the force of the swing threw her backward. Fynn didn’t even see it coming. He took the hit and spiraled off to the side, sliding down the side of a steep slope within the Traveler. Iliera, seeing that I still stood, had opted to rush toward the lifeless Fynn.
As she looked him over, I felt the ground moving, and we suddenly realized that the Traveler was powered. Someone had activated a departure sequence, and now the massive ship would undock with the World Ship and go who knows where!
Meanwhile, Xer’Thraxis didn’t seem to care. He looked me over for a long moment, then released his blade and slashed his claws at me with all his might. I felt the tension fade in the weapon and quickly dropped it, slipping through the twisting nether in the blink of an eye. Teleportation on this vessel was easier than it was back home, no doubt because we were swirling through the aether already… soaking in the energy here.
Xer’Thraxis roared in response, twisting around and slashing at me with his massive blade once more. I dodged the attack with ease, and the sword slashed through the ship, cutting deep into the hull.
“I will destroy you,” the dreadlord said.
“You say that,” I replied. “Over and over again you try to kill me, but you’re always the one getting sent back to the aethereal magic from where you came. Now, look at that, here we are. Where will you go when I kill you this time, Xer’Thraxis? I’ve heard that if the Yunai die within the broken reality they can’t escape the twisting aether.”
“That’s the thing, Sepher. When I can just come back from the dead, why would I ever fight like my life depended on it? No, here in this moment, you will see the true me.”
With that, the Yunai Lord was in the air, faster than I anticipated. The Yunai’s blade swept down and I was barely able to stop the momentum with a fire blast. Xer’Thraxis came at me again and again, each swing of the blade gaining momentum and power. I did what I could to deflect and dodge, but I couldn’t get a good footing for a counter. I reached into the nether, ready to blink again, when I suddenly felt an icy grip close around my chest.
“Fool,” the demon rumbled. “You cannot run through the aether without me knowing!”
Now, the Yunai began to squeeze. The pressure against my ribs would have been bad enough, but the enemy hands began to burn through my regalia. I could feel the corruption as it seeped toward my flesh.
“It ends, Flamecaller,” Xer’Thraxis said proudly. “Once and for all, you are ended.”
I pressed back against the demon’s grip with magic, and for a moment I nearly wriggled free, but the Yunai wasn’t letting me slip away.
“Your magic won’t protect you forever,” he growled.
“It doesn’t have to,” I replied.
“Your confidence is sickening. I will be happy when I am rid—”
The purple glowing crystals of Iliera’s mace collided with Xer’Thraxis’ face so hard that I was nearly certain they cracked on impact. The Yunai was thrown from his feet, and his grip around me was released. I tumbled for a moment, then righted myself and teleported to Iliera’s side.
“Is Fynn okay?” I asked.
“He’s not great.”
“So what now?”
“We finish this,” she said. “Together.”
I smiled at her. “Let’s do it.”
Xer’Thraxis recovered his stance and turned to face the two of us. Before anyone could speak, the Legion Traveler trembled, and the swirling vortex of the twisting aether vanished to reveal the great dark beyond.
Behind the Yunai Lord, floating alone in space, was a planet.
“By the Light,” Iliera stammered. “It can’t be.”
Xer’Thraxis laughed. “Behold, the truth. A planet that crossed through the broken realities. Your physical creation in our spiritual realm. The anchor point for all the Yunai!”
As we stared, he used this moment to strike. He thrust himself at Iliera with all his might. The paladin, having been distracted for a moment, was not ready. The demon’s blade rushed straight for Iliera’s heart, but it was knocked off course by another mace, this one glowing with the energy of the Light.
Fynn landed beside us, his eyes alight with the energy of the Luminescent One, and his armor stained with blood. “We finish this,” he said flatly. “Now or never. I feel like I’m gonna pass out.”
I nodded and quickly conjured a fire blast. As I formed it into a ball of energy, I looked to Iliera and raised a brow. “Ready to strike?”
“Always,” she said.
“Here it comes!”
I tossed the magical ball of energy into the air and waited until Iliera’s mace crashed into it, sending it directly at Xer’Thraxis’ head. The Yunai cried out in agony, unable to dodge the speed of the attack. The blast sent him tumbling and he tripped backward, beginning to slide down a slope in the the vessel. He leaned into it, and briefly appeared to be attempting an escape.
“No!” I shouted. “He doesn’t get away again!”
I conjured several icy spikes, thrusting them through the air. They came down on Xer’Thraxis, slicing into his body and pinning him against the floor of the ship. The demon sent another blast of Yunai energy at us, but Iliera blocked it with ease. In a heartbeat we stood over him, three normal heroes.
The dreadlord expressed something now that I had never seen in all of our confrontations.
“Please,” Xer’Thraxis begged. “Do not kill me!”
“Why would I spare you?”
“Death. Permanent death. I do not want to die.”
Iliera gestured to the planet above them. “This destruction is your fault. You know nothing but death, you monster. It is fitting that you can now face it for yourself.”
Again, the Legion Traveler began to tremble. A deep rumble came from within, shaking the hull with powerful vibrations.
“What is that?” Iliera asked.
Xer’Thraxis looked pale. “He… No, it cannot be. He has fallen!?”
“Who?” Iliera asked.
“Kidesh! Our leader!”
“You failed, Xer’Thraxis,” I said. “You tried three times to destroy us, and we just keep pushing back harder each time. You say we’ll be purged, but you stand at the brink of your very existence. Your fate is in my hands; the hands of a mortal.”
“I will do anything for my life,” the the Yunai said, turning back to begging.
“There is nothing for you to do,” Fynn said. “Except run.”
“What?” Sionis asked. “What are you saying?”
“Leave him here,” Fynn replied. “He knows the power of Azirin and her denizens. There is no point in him continuing to fight us.”
The paladin turned to the demon. “I don’t care where you go from here, but the Legion will fall, as the Yunai have done before, and you can choose to fall with it or you can make another path.”
“I will flee,” Xer’Thraxis said. “Into the aether. You will never hear from me again.”
“Good,” Fynn replied.
“Are we sure about this?” Iliera asked.
Fynn gave a firm nod. “This is how it must end.”
With that, I turned from the edge of the ship and my jaw nearly hit the floor.
A massive portal was swirling open before us. On the far side of it, I could see Azeroth.
“What is that?” I asked.
“A portal of some kind,” Iliera replied. “That’s our way home.”
“We should meet up with the others and get off this ship.”
The group started to move and almost instantly Xer’Thraxis broke his restraints to stand behind them. “That was your final mistake, mortals!”
The dreadlord thrust a new blast of magic unlike anything I had experienced before. It hurtled toward the three heroes and I knew I couldn’t protect myself. The Light descended on Iliera, shielding her almost instantly, and then, to our surprise, a shield of Light protected me as well.
The green blast washed over us and, as the Light retreated, Fynn collapsed beside us. It hit me like a bag of bricks. The young Fynn had protected me instead of using his powers to stay safe.
My body erupted in flames as my power overflowed from the rage I felt. Raw aethereal magic swirled through my very being. I launched myself at Xer’Thraxis, coating my hands with icy spikes, slamming into the monster’s face with several good punches. The Yunai, weakened by his powerful attack, fell to the ground in the assault. I gave him no quarter, pressing my flaming hands to the demon’s skull and releasing all of the magical energy I could.
Xer’Thraxis screamed, he growled, he roared.
Then he begged. Then, as the fire engulfed him, he died.
He died. For the last time.
The fire swirled around me, my rage not satisfied by the kill. I turned my anger on the vessel itself, firing magic from my fingers until the metal was glowing red from the energy.
“Sionis!” Iliera shouted. “Stop!”
Her voice cut through my mind like a knife and it soothed the flames in my heart. The fire began to die away, and I was left standing in a smoldering mess. The vessel continued to shake, and I wondered if we would have the chance to escape at all, but then I spotted someone approaching from the far ramp.
“Sionis!” the magic user, Syanna, called them.
“You did it?” I asked.
“Yes, now hurry up! We need to get out of here.”
Iliera and I quickly pulled Fynn to his feet, and I was thankful he still drew breath.
“Hang in there,” I said. “We’re almost out of this.”
The three of us met with our allies and pressed forward to where the others had gathered. There, magical Udirian soldiers were summoning a magical spell that could get us back home to Azirin.
“Everyone,” the leader shouted. “Get ready!”
A moment later, we were all teleported, through the aether, and back to our World Ship. Safely on the ground, I shifted my attention to Fynn, gently lowering him to the soft ground.
“We make it?” the paladin asked.
“We did,” Iliera replied.
“Boss,” he said with a smile. “I knew we could do it.”
Iliera smiled and a single tear streamed down her face.
“Listen,” Fynn added, looking to both of us. “This last year, fighting by your sides and learning so much from you, it was amazing. I’m proud to have had that opportunity.”
His breathing was slowing.
“Hold on,” Iliera said as she tightly gripped his hands. “We’re getting a luminary priest.”
“It’s okay,” he replied. “This is right. It feels… right.”
I frowned. “Not like this.”
Iliera glanced up at him. “What can we do?”
I thought of Surfal… of a shared soul… I didn’t know the Besherman magic to make it work, but I might be able to temporarily borrow his pain.
“I’m going to try something,” I said, taking a deep breath. “Close your eyes, kid.”
I reached within my magical essence, searching for the pulsing power of my life force. Deep within, beneath the aethereal and physical layers, I found the source.
I wouldn’t need much… just a small link.
I pulled on it, like unraveling a yarn, and carried it through my essence and into that of the dying paladin. I found his own life force, reached within, and then forced a bond between us that felt… indescribable. I tied my own being to his.
He groaned in pain. I nearly collapsed from the wave of exhaustion that washed over me as I drained my own energy to give him a chance. Physically, nothing changed, but suddenly, I felt a painful spot in my side, and I realized my body was becoming damaged as it absorbed Fynn’s own injuries.
I stopped myself, evaluated our condition, and determined we could survive. So, I pulled on the link between our souls, and the thread came free. I collapsed next to the paladin, feeling as though I had been beaten to a pulp, and knowing he still felt at least that bad, if not worse.
“Sionis! Are you okay?”
“We’ll be fine,” I assured Iliera, groaning a bit. “We’ll be okay…”
I’m not sure if she believed me or not… I passed out before I could tell her anything else.