The serene landscape of ancient Besherman architecture was inviting.
Fighting the strengthening Yunai forces was not. As Keaira’s Legion approached our World Ship, the Yunai spirits that lingered here had become emboldened. They were attacking us wherever they could muster their strength enough to break through the fractured realities, and our forces were busy putting them down while also trying to build our own strength for an assault we knew would come someday soon.
As two massive rocks slammed into the ground from overhead, crumbling against the cracked floors of the room, Fynn was starting to wonder if this was worth it. Iliera rushed past him and straight at the demon that loomed no more than a dozen feet ahead.
“You’ll have to do better than that,” she said as the last of the debris slid off her shield. “I came prepared to—”
“You will never defeat me, little paladin,” the demon’s voice thundered. “I am—”
A flash of luminary magic hammered the creature across the face, followed by the blunt end of Fynn’s mighty hammer. He was holding the handle with both hands and Iliera was surprised he had managed to jump that far into the air.
“Shut your dirty little Yunai mouth!” Fynn shouted as he landed in a roll. “She wasn’t finished yet.”
The creature responded with a firm kick, one that sent poor Fynn sailing across the room and into the stone wall of the structure. Iliera was worried, for a moment, but the younger fighter had enough sense to throw a protective bubble of aethereal energy around himself, and the wall did little more than stop his momentum.
“Enough of your foolish behavior!” the Yunai shouted again. “What is it you want?”
Iliera stood her ground, looking over the demon and wrestling with her own internal drive to simply smite the creature where he stood. It was the right thing to do. The luminary magic within her ached to end this being’s existence, but she thought of the soul shard in her bag and she quelled the feeling for now.
“I want information,” she said.
“Information?” the creature asked. “You seek knowledge from me?”
“I am looking for Sionis Sepher. What have you done with him?”
The demon’s eyes widened. “The Flamecaller?”
“Then, you are not alone.”
“What do you mean?”
“We seek him as well,” the demon replied. “He escaped us, but my master is not deterred.”
“Xer’Thraxis the mighty,” the creature said. “He seeks revenge against Sionis Sepher.”
Iliera saw Fynn appear in the corner of her eye. The young paladin was up and already charging the Yunai again. He was a champion, but he was not the greatest at strategizing his attacks.
“You’re going down, clown!” Fynn shouted, cracking his hammer against the Yunai’s knee. The creature growled in rage and swept his massive hand toward the young human. Fynn responded by practically flattening himself on the ground. The swipe missed, and Fynn was on his feet and scrambling up the Yunai’s leg before the beast could counter.
Iliera was impressed with the young man’s mobility. He practically shimmied up the enemy’s torso and was standing atop his shoulder in mere seconds. She realized too late, however, that Fynn’s heroic antics had actually worked, and her conversation was about to be cut short.
“Wait,” she shouted. “I need information!”
Fynn either didn’t hear her, or he didn’t care. His hammer came down against the back of the Yunai’s head with a crunch that echoed in the cave and sounded like a rock landing in a shallow puddle.
The Yunai’s eyes went blank, and he crumpled to the ground with Fynn riding along. Just before crashing into the dirt, he leapt forward, rolled with the momentum, and slid to a stop mere inches from Iliera. He smiled up at her with a boyish grin.
“Woo! One more baddie bites it,” he said proudly. “Nice work!”
“Fynn,” Iliera started, still looking at the enemy’s corpse. “Did you not hear me?”
“Oh I heard you alright,” he replied. “Great tactic. He was all like confused and junk, which gave me the perfect opportunity to just roll up in there and crack his head. We’re a great team!”
“I was serious.”
Fynn froze. “Say what?”
“I was trying to find out what he knew about Sionis Sepher!”
“Ohhhh, whoops. I didn’t realize—”
Green swirling portals snapped into existence in at least three places within the cave before Iliera could finish her statement. From each one, three more enemies emerged, each one holding a large weapon. They had bodies of flesh and bone, some of them animals, others humanoids.
“What do we do?” Fÿnn asked. “There’s a lot of them.”
Iliera didn’t speak for a moment, and then she reached out and grabbed him by the arm. “You stick close and follow me. Do you understand?”
Without hesitation, he nodded.
“We’re going on an adventure.”
She twisted sharply and slashed through the closest Yunai. Fynn was right behind with a mighty swing of his hammer, downing another foe. That left one standing between Iliera and the portal that had opened. Iliera lifted her shield, closed her eyes, and charged forward full speed.
“Right behind!” Fynn shouted, following her lead.
She slammed into the creature so hard that it stumbled backward, and the three of them tumbled through the portal together.
On the other side, the enemy landed on his back, with Iliera sandwiching him to the ground with her shield. Fynn came out of the portal and planted his feet right on her back, making all of the air in her lungs rush out of her mouth with an almost comical wheeze.
“Don’t worry, Iliera,” he said proudly. “I’ll keep us…” he paused. “Oh, no one is here.”
He stepped off her back and she quickly scrambled to her feet. The demon beneath her was still, probably killed by the force of the impact. She spun around, confirming what Fynn had pointed out; there was no one to be found.
With a sudden fizzle, the portal behind them snapped shut, and Iliera realized there was nothing but wasteland as far as she could see. The sky shone with millions of stars, and swirling energy twisted through the heavens above.
“Oh man,” Fynn said. “I don’t think we’re on our World Ship anymore.”
“It was a trap!” she growled.
“Too bad we don’t have a magic user here,” he replied, still looking around.
Iliera fished through her bag and retrieved her last hope, a magical rock that was bound to an anchor point on Azirin. Like a pre-crafted spell that could carry them over great distances. She gripped it tightly, but the magic didn’t ignite. “We’re too far for it to work,” she said slowly. “I just led us straight into a trap and now we’re stranded out here.”
“I wouldn’t beat myself up,” Fynn replied. “We’re not even sure where we are. There might be another way to get home.”
Iliera, feeling defeated, started to put her hearthstone back in her pack when she caught sight of the soul shard. They were stranded out here, with no food, no magic, and only the Luminous One to sustain them in the darkness of space.
“We’ll die out here,” she said.
“Nah,” Fynn said, strangely calm about all this. “Someone will show up. The creatures won’t just leave us here. They’ll turn up, and when they do, we’ll just steal their portal.”
Iliera was surprised she hadn’t thought of that. The Yunai wouldn’t just assume that she had been defeated. They would come here to verify, and when they did, she would be ready.
While they waited for their escape, Iliera discussed the human paladin’s past a bit. Fynn had been born in Lederan, or so he believed, but his parents had been lost during the Ayla’s fall and the destruction of the Kingdom. He had ended up with a kind woman that took him in, and a paladin named Appoleon trained him in his childhood.
She asked Fynn if he knew anything about why the Yunai would want to find Sionis Sepher, but the paladin only shrugged in response. So why was a Yunai commander chasing a single Flamecaller across Azirin? To have created such a powerful enemy… there was a story there she hoped to hear someday. She contemplated this for a while, but her mind soon began to wander toward the hopelessness of their situation.
Until, once again, Fynn was proven absolutely correct.
Less than five hours after they’d been abandoned here, a portal opened near the very spot where they had arrived. The pair were at the ready in a flash, weapons drawn, and ready to jump through the portal before their enemies could close it.
Except, no enemies emerged from the portal.
Instead, a magic user, wearing the robes of Udiria, emerged.
“Syanna?” Iliera asked.
“The one and only,” she replied. “But… how?”
“Yunai magic,” the mage said. “Our resident Shadowspeaker helped.”
As if summoned, a new figured appeared from the portal. Kelynve was her name, and she was a Yunai hunter… a Besherman transformed by technology and Yunai magic. She was the antithesis to everything that Iliera embodied, and she was not someone that Iliera wanted to owe any favors.
“We were sent to find you when you didn’t report back. Kelynve felt your spectral presence and the remnants of a portal. I traced the magical energy through the aether, found the anchor here, and voila.”
“In other words,” Kelynve simplified. “I found you. I saved you.”
Iliera’s blood nearly boiled.
Fynn, on the other hand, seemed pleased. “That’s good work!” he said cheerily. “I’m glad you showed up too. I am hungry.”
“Did you find any information on Sionis’ location?” Kelynve asked.
“No,” Iliera replied sharply. “The only thing we know now is that the Yunai don’t have Sionis. They talked like he had escaped.”
“An interesting development,” Kelynve replied. “A Yunai hunter at Irian Perch has contacted me. She said that she knows more about Sionis’ location. She has requested that we come to her.”
“She couldn’t share the information?” Fynn asked. “Sounds like a trap.”
“Or she knows something that she needs to keep hidden from prying eyes and ears,” Iliera suggested. “If this Yunai hunter knows more about Sionis then I have to speak with them. The demons are still hunting for Sionis, so we have to find him first.”
Iliera felt a hole opening inside of her. An urgency building deep within her. She had to find him, she had to protect him, she had to bring him home to Udiria. “There’s no time to waste,” she said firmly. “We will report back to the Academy and then travel to Irian Perch.”