Iliera should have died.
When I received word that Iliera had been wounded, the news had been dire. They had not expected her to survive the first night. Her body had been ravaged by a magical power that nearly tore her apart from the very seams of her being.
Only her own control of her power had saved her.
The priests went to work on her in Bounty Bay, and they found her to be shockingly resilient. By the time I arrived, using an unauthorized portal to shorten his trip, Iliera’s prognosis had become one of possible survival. At the Baron’s medical facility, where she was being treated, I found her wrapped tightly in layers of bandages, wincing as the healers did their work, but already fussing and trying to move around.
“It’s impressive,” Klick Slickwizzle explained to me. “If you’d seen her when that sorcerer attacked, you wouldn’t believe she could have survived, much less recovered like this. I mean, her armor was like… melted to her body!”
“You can’t keep her down,” I said, feeling relieved that she might survive, and also ill from the details the goblin was providing. “I rushed here thinking someone had finally done her in, but I guess even I forgot her resolve.”
“Well, whoever that woman was, she’ll have one angry paladin hunting her down.”
“What did happen?” I asked, finally turning my attention away from Iliera. “How did all of this come about?”
“Official business,” Klick replied. “Iliera had a package to pick up from the Baron. It was some kind of wand. I don’t know what kind of curse it had, but when she picked it up… it just… it all happened so fast.”
“What happened, Klick? What was it?”
“It was definitely a portal, but it was like it used Iliera as some kind of conduit. The wand triggered itself, you know? It was… I mean… it just anchored itself to her magic. Then a woman jumped through the portal and everything went dark again. Iliera collapsed to the ground in a heap.”
“Tell me about the woman,” I pressed. “Who was she? Did you notice anything unique about her?”
“She looked like a she was from Udiria, but like… one of them historical actors. She was decked out in gear straight from the Yunai invasion, back when Lederan fell.”
I felt a cold chill run down my back. “Klick, what did she look like?”
“Black hair… not too young… pale complection…”
“Oh no,” I muttered. This couldn’t be right. This had to be a mistake. “Hang on.”
I fumbled through my backpack, pulling out a magical journal that I had kept on me or years now. I flipped through it until I reached a photograph that I had captured in Stonehaven years ago. A young inventor had captured a still shot of myself, Uncle Maron… and Lady Sonea. I held it out for Klick to see and he reacted as I feared he would.
“Wowzer! Yeah, That’s her. Holy Camole! You know this woman?”
“Unfortunately,” I admitted. “It appears I do.”
Iliera smiled warmly when she saw that I had arrived.
She also knew all too well that the news of her attack would weigh heavily on my heart. The woman that had come from the portal had been a close friend of mine for many years. Iliera had known her only a brief time before she departed.
Her name had been Evanor Stots, magic user from Udiria.
Of course, none of this made sense. The last time either of them had seen Lady Evanor, the magic user had gone back in time. The complexities of her task had been somewhat muddled, but the long and short of it was that she had vanished into the past, assumed the identity of Lady Sonea Everhart, and eventually met her fate when Udiria had been destroyed by the Yunai.
At least, that’s what we had all assumed.
Now, it appeared the story of Lady Evanor wasn’t quite finished.
“So what happened?” I asked Iliera, gently sitting beside her. “How did this all unfold?”
“I wanted the wand,” Iliera said. “I know you told me to leave it be, but I couldn’t. It was practically a family heirloom for you at this point. I admit… I was also curious how the wand knew my name… and why it spoke that name to you in your youth.”
“And now we know,” I grumbled. “Some kind of temporal setup.”
“What do you mean?” Iliera asked.
“This was all a trap,” I explained. “Iliera, that wand was enchanted, cursed, or something altogether different. It’s clear Lady Sonea… Evanor… she had always intended for the wand to reach your hands. She knew how powerful you were. She wanted this to happen, and now it has come to pass, so she’s here, wandering around out there in the present again.”
Iliera hadn’t considered this. She paused for a moment, then frowned. “All along, the name of the wand… my name… it was all just so that I could be used as a conduit for her magic?”
“It looks that way,” I confirmed. “The wand has been sent to Udiria for further study, but most of them agree. This is a plot that Lady Evanor had in place when she handed that wand to me as a child. It’s taken over a decade to see it come to fruition.”
“Why?” Iliera asked. “What was it for?”
“The spell is complex,” I told her. “It’s a temporal portal, from one place to another, while also breaching through time using massive aethereal energy. None of the magic users seem to understand how Evanor was able to anchor each end of the portal to bypass the flow of time. She has done something that the current magic users of Azirin assumed was impossible.”
“Then, why did it nearly kill me?”
“The energy required when the portal was connected was immense. It had to cover a massive swath of time and space to be fully realized, and you were the anchor for this place in time. It fed on you to sustain itself, and thankfully your body withstood that process. No mere mortal would have been able to survive that. I don’t know what power Lady Evanor used to anchor the spell on her side, but it must have been massive.”
“Well, being an anchor for a time spell wasn’t great,” Iliera said, her face still covered in magically enchanted bandages. “I’m not going to be up and running anytime soon.”
“No, you should rest. We’ll figure out where Evanor is and then—”
“Actually,” Klick said, interrupting. “I might be able to help with that.”
“How so?” I asked, ignoring Klick’s obvious eavesdropping.
“Well, she kinda told me you can find her with the fleet.”
“What?” Iliera asked, starting to jump out of her bed. “We can be there in—”
“No no,” I said, stopping her. “You’re not well enough. I can go. I’ll take Flynn and Kelynve. We can be in and out before anyone even knows.”
“You don’t understand,” Iliera said, sounding exhausted. “The fleet is leaving soon to sail against the Zinji survivors from the war. Who knows what damage she could do if she’s involved in some kind of plot against the Alliance!”
“Okay, okay,” I assured her. “I will send a letter ahead to the Alliance envoy in Boralus Harbor. They’ll keep their eyes peeled. I promise, Iliera. We’ve got this.”
Two days and one angry Yunai hunter later, I arrived aboard the Stonehaven flagship as it speedily sailed across the open ocean. It had taken a little work to strike a deal for their transport, but once they heard the details of Iliera’s attack they were eager to help. Iliera and Flynn had been instrumental in helping to push the Zinji back,. which I was quite proud to hear. Likewise, they all understood the gravity of the situation. Lady Evanor clearly had a plan. She knew, after traveling through time, to go straight to the fleet. Something else was at play here.
There were four of us in all, including the warlock Kaellax, the famous Yunai hunter Kelynve, and Flynn the paladin. Meanwhile, the fleet was comprised of at least twenty vessels, a mixture of both Stonehaven and Udirian ships that sailed in pursuit of the Zinji’s tattered forces. The effort required for us to find one person across an entire fleet could take days, and we had heard that we might catch up to the enemy before morning.
Thankfully, I knew where she would be, and I decided he needed to find her… alone.
“Spread out,” I told everyone. “Search every cabin!”
As we scattered about on the flagship, I quickly conjured another small portal to take me to the real target. The ship named The Spirit of Vers. It was a short jump from the flagship, and when I arrived on the main deck, she was waiting for me.
Lady Evanor, who I had not seen in years, stood there. She was dressed, head to toe, in the Udirian uniform from a bygone era. She looked at me for a long moment, but she said nothing. She held a staff in one hand, not in a position to battle. She looked, almost confused, as though she hadn’t expected me to show up, and yet knew I was here.
“I’ll keep this short,” I said, holding back the rage I felt right now. “You nearly killed Iliera with that stunt you pulled. Evanor, you and I… the last I checked we were friends. Tell me what’s going on, right now, so that I can help you.”
“It’s been so long since someone called me by my real name,” she said calmly. “I had nearly forgotten it, to be honest. I have been Sonea Everheart for so so long.”
“It doesn’t matter. This isn’t you. This isn’t Evanor. This isn’t Sonea,” I pleaded with her, feeling my anger and sorrow swirling together. “Tell me what drove you to this… to attempt murder and travel through time?!”
“This is me, Sionis,” she replied, her face growing cold. “I hid so much from you. I didn’t want to disappoint you. I couldn’t… but it doesn’t matter now.”
“No,” I said, defiantly. “I don’t believe it. There’s more to it. Tell me, please.”
“I am glad to hear Iliera lives,” Evanor said, a tear on her face. “I had assumed the spell would kill her outright. She is a powerful woman. I only wish it mattered for any of you. You have no idea what comes next.”
“Help me understand,” I said, extending my hand. “Please. We don’t have to do this.”
Evanor looked at my hand for a moment, then wiped her tear away and her resolve returned, her back straightened, and she stepped one pace back from him. “No, Sionis, I have chosen survival. You and your friends… I can’t help you now.”
I heard horns blaring from the other ships and I knew what it meant. Our ships had spotted the Zinji. The hunt was on, and time was running out. I ignored the alerts and stepped closer to Evanor. “You can help us,” I said, trying to inject as much sincerity into my words. “We can help each other.”
“When the fire is finally at your feet, and you feel the flames burning your flesh, Sionis… that’s when the truth comes out. Noble sacrifices and honorable deaths are meaningless. I don’t want to die, Sionis. I want to live. I have the means to do that now.”
“I don’t know what you’re saying,” I replied, feeling desperate. “I just want to help.”
“Too late,” she said. “The sea opens. This is simply the beginning, Sionis Sepher.”
Her words made no sense, at least for a second, then I turned as cheering suddenly changed to screams. Out across the water, ahead of the Zinji fleet, a blast of energy erupted out of the ocean waters and into the sky above. As it went, the ocean itself gave way, opening outward in a massive whirlpool that stretched all the way down to the dry seabed below.
“Is this you?” I asked, terrified, looking back to Evanor. “What have you done?”
“No,” Evanor replied. “It is the Yunai Queen. I am home, soon to be in her care.”
I twisted back, shocked to hear her words. “Keaira? You’re working for her?”
Evanor shook her head. “No, Ariela, the Yunai Queen’s spirit lingers here. Keaira’s ruler.”
“Don’t do this!” I shouted. “No Yunai is your ally!”
“Did you think I crafted a time twisting anchor spell on my own?” Evanor asked, looking surprised. “You really did think highly of me, didn’t you?”
The roar of the ocean torrent grew louder, the ship’s bells rang wildly as sailors rushed back and forth, pulling the sails and doing anything they could to try and turn away from their approaching doom.
“She welcomes you,” Evanor added. “Welcomes you to this realm.”
I had no time to react. Before I could even respond, the ocean gave way beneath the ship and The Spirit of Vers plunged downward to her unexpected fate. I reached out, shielding myself with magical energy, then focusing all I could to slow the ship’s fall. Others heaved against the retreating water, forcing a swell to reach out and collide with us, cushioning our fall somewhat, but we still came down to the ocean floor with a deafening crunch.
I don’t know how much time passed before I jerked awake with a fireball instinctively ready to fire. I was alone, in a collapsed wooden room, with debris scattered against a soaked and squishy sea floor. The ocean walls had not collapsed back in on us, but that could change at any moment. I tested my legs, making sure nothing was broken, and then stood and started prodding against the dome of wood that encapsulated me.
“Anyone out there?” I called.
“Sir, I hear a survivor!”
There was clamoring, then a few pieces of wood gave way and sunlight poured through a small hole.
“You alright in there?” a voice asked.
“Yeah,” I replied. “Thankfully.”
“Well, come on out then. You don’t happen to be a priest, do you? We have lots of wounded with us out here.”
“No,” I answered. “I’m a Flamecaller, but I might be able to teleport us out of here.”
“Not happening,” the voice replied. “Someone tried that. Whatever made this place open up seems to be nullifying magic that tries to pass through it. We’ve had our allies set up a larger encampment in some ruins here, but the wounded are too injured to move.”
“I was talking to a woman,” I added. “She had black hair, middle-age, pale skin. Have you seen her? She was on this ship.”
“Nope,” the man replied. “Come on. You can search among the wounded.”
I felt sick. I knew Evanor wouldn’t be among the wounded. She had been prepared for this. The only thing I could do now was reach the main camp, if we had one, and check on my friends.
“I can still help,” I added. “I can’t teleport out of this place, but within it I should be fine. I’ll start taking the wounded to the main encampment. We can figure out what we do from there.”
“No arguments here,” the man said. “Come on, I’ll show you the way.”