The planning for the assault against the Prison of Torment went as one would expect.
The military was split between the two entrances. The two sides would lead their own military campaigns, separate from one another, but united against the common foe they had found here in the deeps. The Stonehaven Generals laid out their forces and groundwork. The plan was simple, at least the first part. We would breach the entrances, at all costs, no matter what the Yunai, or her defenders, might throw at us. If she found our assault to be overwhelming, she would send the water surrounding this place to drown us all, and our efforts would be halted in a snap.
The magic users had a plan for that too, but it required us capturing a magical artifact and then wrenching control of the spell that was keeping us dry. Once in our possession, even if the Yunai tried to pull the walls down around us, our magic users could hold it up.
With little more to plan, it was time to act.
The assault, as you might expect, went far too well.
The military pushed right through the weakened side entrance gates, and once inside, we swept over the main entrance like locusts on a fresh crop. The agents and minions that served the prisoner here fled in every direction as our combined forces fought and battered through each new fortification. We were strong in numbers, stronger than I had realized, and that gave me some hope.
It also made me suspicious.
No fight in all of our days had been quite so easy.
We stood at the doorway to inner chambers, yet her guards withdrew rather than face us to the bitter end. It was clear that this was a situation where the enemy should fight tooth and nail to keep what little they have left… and yet… they did not.
There was more going on than I understood, and I made sure to highlight that with Iliera and the others. The Queen had a plan that we didn’t grasp, and that made the plan all that much more dangerous.
Of course, for us, the Yunai was the secondary objective right now.
As we cleared more of the palace, I was growing increasingly worried about the fact that we had not yet run across Lady Evanor. I wondered if the other military groups might have found her by now, but there had been no reports of it. In all the chaos, would they really report one human killed among all the Zinji?
We reached another long stretch of hallway where there appeared to be no combat. I took stock of our group and gathered them together so that we could stay updated on our progress.
“In review,” I started. “She’s been in none of the experimental areas, the labs, or even the dormitory. She’s either avoiding us, or she’s working up close with the Queen.”
“If she’s with the Queen, we’ll know soon enough,” Fynn said. “According to scouts, we’re nearly where the Queen is said to be imprisoned. It’s some kind of room filled with Yunai technology, but it’s unlikely she’s been able to leave without us spotting her.”
“Maybe Evanor’s knowledge of Ancient Besherman architecture was important after all,” I mused.
“It’s also possible—”
Before Iliera could finish her thought, Lady Evanor stepped into the hallway, looked at our group, and frowned. She didn’t flee, at least not right away. She simply turned away from us, and began walking down the hallway to the inner chambers.
Iliera bolted after her.
The whole crew followed, rushing down the hallways, making turns this way or that until we reached a massive chamber that was completely empty, aside from one woman. Lady Evanor stood at the center of the room, looking at us, breathing heavily from running.
“Evanor,” I said, hoping that reason might finally win the day. “It doesn’t have to be like this. Stand down. We can go, right now, and you can be done with this madness.”
She reached for me, and I thought for a fleeting moment that she wanted my help.
Then, I realized the truth when I felt a tugging sensation in my pack, and the wand freed itself a moment later, spinning through the air and into her hand. She looked it over for a moment and then back at me. “What was the plan? Use this against me?”
“Not exactly,” I answered.
“All the pieces in place, now,” she replied. “Time to make it final.”
Evanor held the wand above her hand and a another bolt of light erupted, a portal forming in the air, another incredibly powerful spell, though not one that reached through time. Instead, I was certain I saw the charred and broken remains of the Yunai’s planet, Pulkaan.
Then I saw movement in the shadows. The spell ended, and Evanor smiled.
“Kaellax,” Evanor said. “I’m glad you could make it. Are you still working with that traitor of a Yunai?”
“Sazar says hello,” Kaellax replied.
Evanor scoffed. “For ages, the Yunai have sought to understand a way to bond with your physical forms. No matter how hard we tried, we never mastered the science. Even when Keaira finally forced her essence upon a soul, it eventually killed the woman. Two souls in a lifeless husk.”
She was referencing Ayla, the poor Princess of Lederan that had become the puppet of a Yunai named Keaira. Keaira had tried twice now to claim our World Ship, and twice now she had failed.
“We’re not meant to bond,” Kaellax said angrily.
“That’s the secret,” Evanor said. “That’s the key to immortality for us, and the key to a truly organic form for them. All you have to do is accept the bond. That’s all. Give yourself to them, and just like that, you’ll bond.”
“Evanor,” Kaellax said, her voice sounding concerned. “Whatever you think you have figured out, you need to stop.”
“The Yunai of old locked Ariela in this prison, but only a Yunai can open her cell. Only a Yunai that has bonded with a mortal being, that is. A true bond. Aeiela figured it out, but she couldn’t tell anyone. She just had to sit here… waiting… until finally she reached out to me.”
“Evanor,” Kaellax pleaded. “This is wrong.”
“At first the plan was to lure you here. We hoped you’d bonded with your Yunai already, but of course not. So then it fell to me. You saw the portal I opened. You understand who I have invited here.”
“Keaira,” Kaellax said, her voice cold. “Evanor… please.”
A black shadow enveloped Evanor, coating her so that she looked like nothing more than a shadowy silhouette of who she was. Then, the darkness absorbed into her skin, and Evanor looked up at us with eyes that were completely black.
“She’s bonding with Keaira,” Kaellax growled. “We have to stop her!”
I didn’t have time to offer a response. Evanor had already fired two magical spells right at me. I spun around, using an ice shield to block the attacks, and before I could return to my battle stance, Iliera was charging forward. “Wait!” I shouted, grabbing her by the arm and pulling her back. “The wand. You can’t risk getting close to it.”
“I won’t stand by in this fight,” Iliera growled.
“Protect the others,” I said. “Stick to the plan.”
“Don’t send her back in time,” Kaellax said. “Not yet. If we let them bond and then throw them into the past, it could make things far worse.”
Iliera hesitated, but then moved to position herself between me and the other attackers.
By the time I turned to face Evanor again, I was forced to deflect another volley of magical energy that threatened to incinerate whatever target it touched.
I fired back with several spells of my own, one of them powerful enough to set her long cloak on fire. She tore it loose and let it burn, landing with a spin and launching another attack that Iliera blocked with her magical shield.
No matter what Evanor tried, she was heavily outnumbered.
I had just allowed my confidence to grow when I felt the room rumble.
The doorway where we entered suddenly cracked and crumbled, and a moment later an absolutely massive Zinji burst through the doorway with a mighty roar.
“Leviathan Brawler!” Fynn shouted. “Counter!”
My allies were forced to turn their attention off of Evanor as the creature slashed and clawed at them in a wild fit of anger. As they fought for their survival, I realized it was just me, Kaellax, and Evanor now, a final showdown.
“You can’t stop this,” Evanor spoke to me, her words sounding twisted by another voice. “The Queen’s plan is already in motion. All this energy is wasted. When the bond is complete, Keaira will release Ariela and the two will rebirth their ancient empire!”
“This isn’t about the Yunai,” I replied. “This is about you and me.”
“You and me?” she asked, sounding incredulous. “You mean this is about you.”
“My life ended the day the Yunai sent me back in time. I sacrificed everything to give you and this world a chance, and I got nothing for it. A certain doom to look forward to every now and again… nothing else.”
“Evanor, I’m sorry,” I said, stepping closer, my voice as calm as I could muster. “I know you’ve been through so much. That doesn’t mean it has to end with this… with you selling your soul to a monster.”
“She’s the only path for me,” Evanor snapped. “She is my future, Sionis. You’re my past.”
“No,” she snapped, raising the wand toward me. “You won’t stand in my way.”
I knew I was almost close enough to grab the wand…
“When the day is done,” Evanor added. “The Queen’s darkness will spread over Azeroth in ways you’ll never understand. All that our empires have built, all that our kingdoms have established… it will all be hers to control. Hers… and mine.”
Kaellax had been standing back. She looked troubled, but then I saw a change come over her as she too appeared to become coated in darkness, allowing it to absorb into her body, changing her, like Evanor. I was shocked. My face must have showed it too, as Evanor turned away from me to face her old friend.
“No,” Evanor said. “Don’t you dare!”
Kaellax moved like a lightning bolt, her eyes black as night, and she collided with Evanor tackling her to the ground and slashing at her with Yunai energy. The attacks seemed to miss Evanor, but when she struck the woman, I saw shadowy energy slip away. I realized now that the fight I was witnessing was less about Evanor and Kaellax, and instead seemed to be two Yunai fighting.
It was clear that Evanor wasn’t prepared for the skill of Kaellax and her Yunai. The two had worked together for years, so they already knew one another, how to work, how to bond. They worked faster than Keaira, and they had the upper hand. Finally, I saw Kaellax grab and pull on Evanor, but as she pulled away from the woman’s body, I saw the shadow, Keaira, coming away from her.
“Take her hand!” Kaellax shouted. “The wand! GO!”
I knew what I had to do.
I reached up and grabbed the wand in my hand.
“Fynn!” I shouted. “Now!”
The human paladin was there in an instant, and he threw a small glinting shard of purple life energy at me. Iliera’s life energy. Just enough to trigger the spell.
Evanor panicked when she realized what was happening, but when she tried to pull away, I held fast, and the wand remained in both of our grips. She refused to let go, and so did I, so the two of us knew what was about to happen.
We became the anchors for the time spell, our life energy confused for Iliera’s.
It was like a lightning bolt shot through my veins.
I heard her scream, I heard her shout. “No! I won’t go back!” I heard another voice in the aether and it screamed too. I couldn’t say anything. It was all so agonizing. I simply arched my back and waited to die.
My body burned, Evanor must have burned too, but we were both trapped by the spell that was using us as a magical anchor, and as hard as it might be to describe, you could feel it. You could feel the spell pulling your life away from you, one day, one week, one year.
It was the worst thing I had ever experienced.
Then, it was over.
The chamber erupted with the blinding light, then Evanor and I were gone and Kaellax continued to wrestle with the shadowy Yunai creature in the room, which she had pulled off of Evanor before the spell ripped her away.
Iliera had no time to worry about it, as the Leviathan took a heavy swipe at her just before the blast. She rolled, using her shield to absorb the edge of the Zinji’s claw, and she slid across the floor, propelled by the attack.
As the creature attempted to recover, Fynn was there with his mace at the ready, he slammed the creature across the face before it could counter, and when it stood there, stunned by the attack, Syanna and the others launched their final attacks.
The creature fell to the ground, finally defeated.
Silence swept over the chamber.
Iliera looked around, seeing that everyone appeared to be up and moving around.
“Any wounded?” she called, stepping over to where she had last seen Evanor fighting. She stopped at a charred spot on the ground and there she saw the magical wand, splintered and broken, scattered on the ground. She winced, reached down slowly, and touched it, but nothing happened. The wand was nothing more than a shattered stick now.
Kaellax roared and then the shadow of Keaira slipped away from her, darting down the hallway and out of sight. The Shadowspeaker cursed, then looked to the others. “I have a job to finish. Stay true, heroes.” Then, Kaellax morphed into the darkness and whipped away, chasing after Keaira.
“Well that’s new,” Fynn said, watching her go.
“Is everyone okay?” Iliera asked aloud.
“Just scratches here and there,” Syanna answered. “Nothing permanent, anyway.”
Fynn was wiping a string of Zinji drool from his plate armor when he saw Iliera stepping his way. He glanced around, confirming I was gone, then looked back at her.
“Where is he?” she asked, holding out pieces of the wand. “What did you two do?”
“The wand was still primed to channel your life energy,” Fynn explained. “We found a way to activate it again. Sionis sent Evanor back where she belonged. I… well I guess he got pulled back too.”
“Assuming they survived the trip,” Iliera frowned.
“Sionis knew the risk,” Syanna said. “The job is done.”
Iliera didn’t really like that response. Of course he knew the risk. So, like always, she knew I had chosen to protect the ones I cared about, even if that meant I had to give up everything.
“Well, if he got sent into the past, perhaps—”
The prison suddenly shook with a violent tremor. Iliera looked to the others, but Syanna was the one to speak up. “The water walls are giving way,” he explained. “It’s like we thought. Without the Yunai to free her, Ariela is trapped here for good, so she’s going to drown us all.”
“No,” Iliera said, retrieving her weapon and heading toward the main hallway of the prison. “We capture the magical artifact. We keep the walls up. The battle against the Yunai is over. Now we just need to survive. One step at a time.”