Hey guys. I know this takes you out of the story, but since not enough of you check my other sources for announcements, this is the only way I know to make ALL of you aware of this—when I made Elmiryn and Co. leave the Lycan village, I made a critical error by not stating certain key items leaving with them. These things are needed for the plot, so in this chapter, just be aware that those items will be made available to them, and in my next round of edits, I’ll be sure to change this silly error. You guys are literally getting the rough draft version today, so it’s going to look rather raw. I hope you just remember the circumstances this story is being written under and that, above all, it’s free.
Thanks for your understanding.
“Nyx…uh…Kali…Ny–FUCK! Can you two stop doing that!?”
“We aren’t doing it on purpose, idiot,” Kali–that was definitely Kali–snapped.
“I’m sorry Elle, I–er–we were working on it, but as things stand it’s a little hard to concentrate now.”
“Oh you mean because we’re about to be hurdled into the white void of space at high speeds by an inept cum sucker?”
Nyx had spoken to Elmiryn about her desire to go through with Quincy’s plan, and the warrior had grudgingly agreed. She knew Hakeem must have said something rather persuasive to get the girl to agree to such an idea, but as it stood, it was the most solid plan they had so far. She wasn’t prepared to say this out loud, but Elmiryn wasn’t even sure she could sprout wings and fly.
Heh, if only Saelin could’ve heard me think that. He’d say, “So pigs finally did it, huh?”
Quincy was meditating over Eate’s Son, her magicked boomerang. Elmiryn had yet to actually see it, but apparently the magic little item had the power to create tiny tornadoes. The warrior had seen tornadoes. Out in the Sibesonan heartlands, where the Ailurans and Fiammans fought their war, vast plains of open grassy fields were host to tumultuous weather. Luminous thunder storms would drag in from the west during the summer, and made the air smell like wet dirt and chamomile tea. Powerful cold winds would sweep in from the North during the winter, carrying snowflakes and clouds swollen with moisture that, by the time it fell to the earth, turned to bruising hail. When the warm and cold seasons clashed, it was like the heavens warred with one another, and in that battle the sky would meet the earth in a winding cyclone that tore at the bloody fields without care for human or therian. Everything in a tornado flew. Everything in a tornado was destroyed. A quarter of her men had died to sudden tornadoes interrupting a battle mission.
Elmiryn did not like tornadoes.
Nyx–it was Nyx now–bit her lip and nudged Elmiryn. “Maybe we shouldn’t antagonize the woman controlling the situation.”
The redhead snorted. “Well if we die and I become a ghost, I’ll only wish I had. So why waste the opportunity?”
Quincy brandished her finger at Elmiryn, one eye squinting open. “You know, I have more control over the winds than you think. I could just let a certain inbred get tossed out into the void.”
“Or we could just stop speaking in hypotheticals, and just get on with it,” Hakeem said pointedly.
No one spared any quips to that, and Quincy returned to the meditation of her artifact.
The warrior sighed roughly and rubbed at her face. “Look, I just wanted to ask you Nyx…both of you, I guess, if you still wanted to go through with this.”
“Yes,” the Twins said in unison. Their faces smeared together as one, making her eyes cross.
Elmiryn shook her head with a dubious grin. “Wow, I never thought I’d see the day you’d have to talk me into doing something, and not out of doing something.”
“We haven’t got many options,” Nyx responded, eyeing the boomerang warily.
Kali appeared and gave a shrug, “I don’t see what the issue is. The wizard has lifted you before, hasn’t she, sister?”
“And broke every bone in my body when I came back down…” Nyx muttered with a frown.
“Wow, that’s really comforting.” Elmiryn just stared at the Twins, her hand pulling at the skin of her brow, wrinkling the top. “Before, if it had just been me, I would’ve been all for this. Now? Not so sure!”
“We were supposed to be convincing her, Nyx!” Kali snapped.
“I was just being honest!” Nyx snapped back. The girl gave a sigh of frustration and said to Elmiryn, “Elle, Quincy wouldn’t suggest the idea if she didn’t have all contingencies covered. I’d think our landing would be an important one.”
“About that…” Quincy murmured. Without moving her head, she said, “Bwa-taika, can you use the Aeumani Armor?”
“The ay-yoo-what?” Elmiryin asked.
Hakeem, who stood near the edge of their island, gave a faint shake of his head. “Not as it is, no. It is too much for me in this state. It’d kill me most likely.”
Quincy’s head made the faintest of turns. “But if we changed it somehow…?”
“Yes. Maybe then.”
“We should test it first.”
“Yes, we should.”
“Are you ready? I am done with my preparations.”
Elmiryn and Nyx/Kali looked back and forth between the couple, bemused looks on their faces.
“What are you wizards talking about?” Elmiryn snapped, annoyed at being left out.
“Aeumani Armor,” Hakeem explained as he approached Quincy, who stood to her feet, reaching for her magic bag. “It is the chainmail shirt that I wore back in Belcliff.”
Understanding passed over the woman’s face. “You mean that black armor. The one that gave you gravity magic.”
Hakeem smirked as his wife pulled the large chainmail shirt from her bag like a hat-trick. “It is a spacial-temporal artifact that allows me to transcend the limits of time in small increments, and to break the limits of space…but yes, among other things, it lets me use gravity magic.”
“But if you can’t use it…” Nyx started.
“As a little human…” Kali continued.
“What do you intend to do?” The other finished, frowning at her twin’s word choice.
“Well,” Hakeem started as he took the chainmail in his hands. “This is chainmail. A thick one through four weave. It’s a heavier version than you might find, but flexible compared to other chainmail grades.”
Elmiryn shrugged. “I prefer one through eight with scales, myself. White steel, of course.”
“That isn’t a bad choice,” the man-boy conceded. He traced an edge of his armor and the metal grew hot where his finger trailed, the links melting from the piece at large to fall to the ground in a neat square. He picked it up and it was roughly the size of his palm. “But this? This is ahkpetra. A rare metal found on Talmor, harvested and refined by the nymphs of the Doros Volcano. It is tougher than steel and much more capable of being infused with higher levels of arcane power.”
The woman raised her eyebrows to show she was impressed and gestured at the small piece of chainmail with her chin, “And how is that going to help us with landing?”
Hakeem’s smirk blossomed into a soft smile—something he seemed more apt to doing now that he was in a child’s body—and stepped over to the edge of their island. He turned his back to the void and looked at them all.
Now his smile was a manic grin. “Like this!”
And with that, the wizard back flipped over the edge into the void. Elmiryn’s mouth dropped. Nyx/Kali gave a start, yelling as they clumsily started forward.
“Hakeem!” Elmiryn heard Nyx yell between their quick shifts.
That was when Hakeem suddenly launched back into view, flipping through the air. When he landed safely before Nyx/Kali, who fumbled in their attempts from tripping over him. However, the wizard’s momentum was more than his adolescent legs could handle, and he slammed down onto the ground face down. The boy grunted, lifting himself up onto his hands.
Quincy burst out laughing.
…That’s when Elmiryn realized the brunette hadn’t shown any signs of fear or alarm.
“You knew!” She snapped accusingly.
“You cared!” Quincy only giggled back. “That is surprising. But Taika, your landing was not! HA! Ha, ha, ha!” She doubled over, clutching her stomach.
Hakeem glowered at her sullenly as he rose to his feet. “Well the effect works at any rate.” Was the warrior imagining things, or were his chocolatey cheeks turning rosy?
“What effect was that? Some goddamn peek-a-boo trick?” Elmiryn argued, still annoyed that she’d been taken in by a joke.
Quincy wiped at her eyes as she went to hug her husband around the shoulders and wipe the dirt from his cheeks. “Elmiryn, you are fantastically short-sighted,” she sighed. The wizard looked at her, azure eyes wide. “When we come down onto those other islands, and you should have no doubt as to whether or not we will, we will be falling at an incredible rate and force.”
Nyx/Kali crossed their arms and rubbed their chins. Then she turned to Elmiryn with wide eyes. “It’s a brake!”
“A brake?” Elmiryn parroted, before her features cleared and she grinned. “Oh! Ohhh! I get it!”
Hakeem nodded, wincing as he checked his knees for scrapes. “I can’t use the full force of my mage armor. However, I can take a piece of the Aeumani to produce a small gravitational force in the direction I choose. It won’t make our landings completely pleasant,” and here he looked at Nyx/Kali, “But at least nothing will be seriously damaged.”
The redhead nodded. “Okay…that sounds reasonable. I guess.” Her eyes moved to Quincy. “You said you were ready?”
The other woman gave a firm nod. “Yes. If you’d all gather close together. Just give me a moment to put Hakeem’s armor away and we’ll do this.”
Hakeem and the Twins stood at either side of Elmiryn. Nyx took the warrior’s right hand suddenly, her face managing to hold for a moment while the edges of her features flickered like a flame.
“Elle, I’m nervous.”
Elmiryn squeezed her hand. “I’m right here. Whatever happens. You won’t lose me.”
The Ailuran smiled up at her, before her face shifted to Kali’s awkwardly blinking into the warrior’s eyes. With a cough, they released hands.
Quincy, done returning Hakeem’s armor to her bag, retrieved Eate’s Son and stood before them all. “Are we all ready?”
“Yes,” they said simultaneously.
The wizard nodded and stepped in close to Hakeem. “Everyone, I know it will be tempting, but don’t hold on to each other. It’ll just lead to injury and confusion.” She took a breath. “Tuck your limbs and heads in. Don’t tighten up. When we land, you want to be as flexible as possible.”
Quincy took another breath deeper this time.
With a hup she threw the boomerang, and it whistled through the air, twirling and twirling. They all watched it go. Elmiryn’s heart beat hard against her chest. Her palms grew sweaty and a weak feeling entered her legs as she felt the beginnings of a strong wind touch her skin.
She smiled with excitement a split second before the tornado appeared and launched them all up and away.
Lethia knew something about dreams and nightmares. More than having just studied them, she experienced them, vividly, every night. Syria had trained her to record her visions upon waking, even the bad ones—especially—the bad ones, when she was a teenager. Lethia couldn’t foretell the future or anything like that. She just gained…insights. On things. On people. At least that was what Syria said. Then again, she never said much else on the matter. Just recorded whatever the girl recorded, soothed her tears if it had been a particularly harrowing nightmare, shared in her delight if it was a good dream. Looking back, it was odd that Syria never told her what any of it really meant. At the time, the teenager had just assumed that her mistress had been trying to teach her to think for herself. Now…now…
Now a nightmare stood before the girl, live and breathing, its presence so unwholesome and terrifying that Lethia could not move. Could not speak. These basic functions left her, like fair weather friends, as the being known as Izma approached her…one root-like-foot after another…
Her voice, nauseating and yet enchanting, came riding not in words, but in a mysterious music filled with sorrowful violins.
does the dozy daisy wonder,
where her tomorrow has gone?
do not cry, my daisy.
such a pretty little thing.
the haze and the blunder
of thy mistress poses no more consequence
than a wilting plant in thy flower bed.
all that is required…
…is some simple gardening.
Words returned to Lethia’s tongue like spirits from the after life.
“You want me to kill Syria…” the girl whispered, her eyes streaming still with tears.
Izma smiled again, and the girl managed to close her eyes, though she could not escape the terrible sight.
Among other things…yesss…
After the third landing, Elmiryn threw her hands up into the air and screamed. “Again!”
“NEVER again,” Nyx/Kali moaned, still lying on their side on the grass.
Hakeem was a bit unsteady on his feet, but seemed otherwise fine. Like Elmiryn, Quincy seemed more exhilarated than anything else.
“See?” the wizard said. “That wasn’t so bad!”
Elmiryn went to lean over Nyx, her expression critical despite her grin. “Nyx, you do the whole flippy-floppy thing with your champion powers. Why the hell is this any different?”
“Because I never fall so fast and I always know where I’m going to end up!” Nyx snapped. A shift, and in the next second, Kali’s feline face mirrored her sister’s sickened expression.
The warrior rolled her eyes and held out her hand. After a moment, the Twins took it, rising to their feet.
After a series of wind howling, tornado launches, the group had made it to the island that held the keep. It was the largest of all the split land masses and its forest appeared appropriately thick and ominous.
“We’re okay,” Kali growled, staving off Elmiryn’s attempts at holding the Twins up.
Quincy and Hakeem were already heading toward the forest line. The brunette looked at them over her shoulder. “Not that you haven’t heard this a thousand times before, but can you two hurry it up?”
Elmiryn waved at her. “Yes, you impatient hag, just give us a second.”
The wizard made a rude gesture before stopping to linger at the trees with Hakeem. At least they were staying in sight. The last thing they needed was to be split apart now.
The redhead looked at Nyx and bit her lip. “Hey…both of you…listen to me…”
The Twins turned their faces to her and the warrior sighed. “I’m getting…a feeling…in my gut. This will be serious. I just want you to know that no one else matters. Nyx, and you Kali, are my priority. Everything else is secondary.”
“Everything?” That was Nyx. Her solemn expression seemed to hiding a serious question there, but the warrior was confused as to the nature of it.
“Of course,” she said, declining a comment.
The woman rubbed the Twins’ arm, awkward in that she couldn’t hold Nyx without holding Kali, who was clearly uncomfortable with the intimacy. This frustrated her, and the woman had to occupy her hands by gripping her sword belt. She felt stupid, like how her former military leaders did when they assessed the battle field in their shiny, untested armor.
Elmiryn waited for the Twins to fall in step with her before walking together to the wizards at the forest line.
As one they entered, and everything went black.