Its very presence seemed to disturb the land.
Dark clouds gathered above for over a month now but no rain would come. The air was stale and hardly a breeze would come. The forests to the distance grew eerie by night and only turned quiet in the day. A horde of undead had marched from that very forest that day. He remembered burning them by the hundreds to the ground… only to see them rise again the next moment.
Quxtin Yonus, the Wizard of Ending Flames raised his head and stared at the demon.
Ra'gelor met his eyes.
Since his defeat they had been working on moving the demon to Iredis. The King's Council had convened and with the consent of Archimage Lasandra, agreed that the home of the Order of the Elements would be the safest place to hold the demon. The knights, though brave they were, proved powerless against the demon's might. Though the Lord-Knight was the one who delivered the ending blow, it was their magic that subdued the demon long enough for the old knight to do his part.
Better if it had been my flames to end this foul creature, he thought, but Lasandra would not allow it for the risks were too high and the High Sage himself had dismissed his idea.
"Not hot enough," the genius child had said, bringing a smile to his face now.
Towering ice elementals lumbered along slowly as they moved one of the nine massive stones employed in this spell. A grey slab, jagged near the top but rounded by the base from years of wear, enchanted to the core and inscribed with ancient magic by those before the Templars, taller than a tavern though no wider than a wagon. Even so, these teleportation stones took a great deal of effort and time to move, not forgetting the careful planning and calculations made to decide the exact placement of the stones along the teleportation route.
All nine of these stones would be used to move Ra'gelor. Even that was a stretch by the calculations made by the scholars in Rondiar. If not for the High Sage's assurance that all nine would suffice, Archimage Lasandra would have opted to break the journey in two parts, thereby extending the whole process by at least another a moon turn.
Quxtin anticipated the day when the High Sage was old enough to cast a spell.
Mana, the energy that which they used to summon their spells, is limited in quantity, regenerated with time and rest though the process could be hastened by potions and spells. The capacity of a mage's mana increases with age. Most children would have enough to cast a spell between ten and twelve. Some begin as early as eight, though rare and spoke nothing of their talents as a mage. Every passing year a mage's mana increases, some more than others, and as far as the Order was aware only with death would this increment come to a stop.
To cast a spell a mage must first bring forth his elemental glyph. The glyph was how one could tell how much mana he or she possessed. Quxtin recalled seeing the Bishop's glyph for the very first time that day. The sheer size of it challenged even Archimage Lasandra's, who was known to have more mana than most.
Then again, Lasandra may not have ever revealed the true depth of her mana yet.
Still, mana was not all there was to magic. Skills and intellect came into play as well. Battles were not won by sheer volume alone. The White Light had proven that for a fact during her early days in the Order. Her talents with magic were on par with the High Sage's intellect. How hopeless it was then to know that she was only the second best student during her generation.
The two of you would have made such a team, yet now… He thought of the White Light and the boy who taught her so much. If only he hadn't been cast out that day…
Quxtin shook his head. It was not his place to question the wisdom of the Archimage before Lasandra. The reasons behind his decisions may never be known to them, but Quxtin believed that the Archimage then had acted in the interest of the Order as well as Hylan's. What's done was done and his opinion of what should had been done back then did not matter. He had a task at hand to focus on now and one that might well affect their chances of victory should there be another war with the Black City.
"Lord Quix-tin," a knight called as he removed his helm.
"Ahks-tin," he corrected him. Only his parents had ever gotten his name right the first time. "Yes, Captain, are your men in place?"
Sweat rolled off the forehead of the larger man. The humidity here had grown worse over the days.
"They are," he said with his gryphon following behind. "All along the route between the stones. Once the spell has been casted, they will await the signal and move along the route accordingly. Any sign of trouble and you will have my men ready to answer."
I would prefer your knights, he thought but saw no need to offend the Captain. Soldiers of Hylan were brave and dedicated, but one knight was worth at least ten soldiers. Not that ten knights would make much difference if anything went wrong. And after a moment's thought as he stared at Ra'gelor, nor ten mages either I fear.
The first teleportation stone was placed roughly five yards away from Ra'gelor. Subsequent stones were spread out by the leagues until they reached Iredis. The four Heads of Elements were now waiting for the demon's arrival in Iredis, accompanied by the Lord-Knight himself and several elder mages long retired after the last war. Quxtin should be there to with them but Lasandra felt that he should be here to witness the teleportation since he had been the one supervising the preparations.
A faint shadow passed by them and they turned around to see a gryphon landing behind them. Lasandra dismounted and made her way to them, nodding, with the High Sage following behind. As always the boy's attention was placed in the book in front of him. Every time Quxtin met him he would have a different book in his hands. It was a wonder the child had yet to finish every book there was in Hylan.
How odd, Quxtin thought back to all the times he had met the High Sage. He always seem to be in the middle of one but never near the end. Perhaps he always stop before the end? It was not unheard of for some feared the end of a great book like the end of a great friendship.
"Captain Windon," Archimage Lasandra greeted.
"Archimage," the fair-faced and brown haired Captain said in return.
Her robes of sapphire and teal swayed with each of her step. Her age was clear on her face but the years had done little to her strength. Icildix was in her hand, catching the light and scattering it all around them. The magic staff had been handed down from generation to generation in her family, taking a new form with every new mage that wielded it. Some said that this was Lasandra's secret to the speed of her ice spells, but Quxtin knew that Lasandra was just as deadly without it.
The Archimage of the Frostsnap did not earn that title by simply waving a staff.
No mage from the Order of the Elements would be able to perform the teleportation spell. In their Order, they studied only the four main elements: Fire, Earth, Water, and Air. The White Light was an exception of course. To perform the teleportation spell, a foreign school of magic was required. The Arcane Scholars, wielders of arcane magic.
Your school of magic. Quxtin looked to the High Sage.
Nine stones were used and so twenty-seven scholars had been requested from beyond the Northern Gate. Three scholars were placed to each stone, all of them dressed in the same manner of long-sleeved clothing, woven with rare cloths-of-magic that seemed to glow and shimmer in the light. The scholars in Rondiar wore no such cloths for they were only studied minds and could not cast a single arcane spell. The High Sage and Administrator Langton though, were both arcane scholars yet neither of them dressed with cloths-of-magic. Quxtin made a note to ask why the next time he met with the Administrator.
"Any word about the execution?" Quxtin asked, watching the three arcane scholars instruct the ice elementals moving the stone.
"It will be held outside Rondiar," Lasandra said. "And our Princess is most strongly against it."
Of course she is. "Has Her Grace not caused enough trouble already?"
Lasandra shot him a disapproving look. "Mind yourself, Quxtin, she is still the Princess. And you cannot deny the child has noble intentions when she aided the Prince. In the matter of this, she simply wants no bloodshed and I see no wrong in that." Yet the Archimage sighed. "Alas she cannot understand the degree of the atrocity committed in Zwyedior. It's not a simple matter of right or wrong here. A point she has yet grasp."
Yet grasp indeed. "I cannot imagine the King giving in to her in this matter."
Lasandra shook her head.
"Did you learn more of the Princess's tale that we heard of?"
"Ah," Lasandra smiled, "that would be Her Grace telling the story of how she was taken by slavers and sold to evil men who lost her to Ra'gelor, only to be saved by her brave Prince in the end, who sacrificed his life to protect her. And it was by Sera's mercy that her Prince came back to her safe and sound. The people of Rondiar are quite entranced by her tale, especially the girls."
Quxtin noticed a glance that Captain Windon gave to Lasandra when she spoke.
"You know something, Captain," he said, "do share."
The Captain dipped his head. "Nay, my Lord, it is something we all know. The Saldarian Prince was not the one who rescued Her Grace."
That made the Archimage laugh. "I see our Captain is not going to allow a Saldarian to steal the glory from one of his Order."
Captain Windon smiled. "Captain Teynier of the City Watch and Sir Percson of the Whiteguard had both taken extra effort to make it known within the Order of Fayte Kaywin's role in the Princess's rescue."
All three of them nodded approvingly. The son of the Lord-Knight had done remarkably well as expected. There was no doubt that he would be granted the Light of the Spirits. Even so… "How is the boy, if I may ask?"
Captain Windon had heard little of him for he had spent most of his time here. It was Lasandra who had made several trips to Rondiar recently who gave the answer.
"He is training hard and performing his duties well," she told them, and they were both pleased to hear that, until she went on. "But he trains and does his duties like a soldier past his prime."
The Captain seemed to understand her meaning.
"He has lost his will and drive," Lasandra explained before sighing. "I can only pray he finds them again."
The boy is heartbroken, that Quxtin understood. Yet… is it only your heart that breaks when the love of your life is marrying a man of the same race as those who butchered your family?
Suddenly, Quxtin felt a desire to help the boy. "Perhaps we can invite him to our city, Lord Frendon as well. It has been long since the Lord-Knight made an official visit anyway."
Lasandra liked the idea. "There is no need to bother Frendon. He is as busy as it is already with Saldara. The boy will have to visit our city during his pilgrimage. Have a few of our female students his age show him around then."
"I sense a plot," Captain Windon said, not disapproving.
"Only to remind the boy that the Princess is not the only girl in Hylan, Captain," Quxtin reassured him.
"Archimage Lasandra," one of the scholars called, and Quxtin knew their conversation was at an end. "It is time."
The three scholars had placed themselves around the stone and Ra'gelor.
"Our guests are ready," Lasandra announced to their small party.
Eight from the Order of the White Shield, ten from the Order of the Elements including them both, and three from the Order of the White Rose. They looked to Lasandra, each one of them ready to meet any emergencies with swift action.
"Then let us begin," she said, turning to him. "Quxtin."
Flare, he thought, and cast his hand towards the sky, firing off a bolt of flame that exploded into a burst of fire.
At once, three purple glyphs appeared beneath the feet of the scholars, the energy of their magic gusting their robes with air. Their large sleeves swayed and flapped as they raised their arms and channelled magic to the teleportation stone that now glowed with power.
Ra'gelor was intrigued by the display but not the slightest bit bothered by it. He watched with interest - with intelligence - as the scholars chanted their incantation for several minutes, throwing their arms from side to side, feeding the stone with arcane energy. Leagues away the other scholars were doing the same, preparing their stones for the spell.
One might think you would be interested in this, Quxtin thought when he saw the High Sage still engrossed in his book.
Minutes passed and just when Quxtin was about to look away, a beam of light erupted from the stone to the sky. The beam pulsed once and engulfed them with light. His skin seared and for a heartbeat his panic caused him to draw his flames. Things could have gone bad had the burning sensation not went as quickly as it came. He moved his arm from his eyes and saw smokes trailing off from the teleportation stone. Ra'gelor was nowhere in sight.
Off in the distance they saw beams of light shooting up to the sky before pulsing once as the spell activated.
The spell worked. Quxtin turned to see Lasandra smiling and the awestruck look on the Captain's face. After more than a month of hard work their job was finally done. The men and women around them cheered. Even the High Sage had looked up from his book.
Lasandra turned to the boy. "Thank you for your assistance, High Sage, we-"
"Something went wrong," the boy said, tilting his head a little as if something in the air felt off.
Then he went back to his book.
"Scholars!" Quxtin yelled. "What has happened?"
One of them tried to answer but the spell had left them all exhausted. The priests from the Order of the Rose had been attending to them, but they had been warned by the scholars themselves not to heal them. Mana-depletion was a problem that not even the Bishop knew how to aid.
"The spell has taken too much from them," Lasandra said, hurrying to her gryphon. "Come, we proceed as planned."
Planned, in case of emergency. Quxtin ran to his gryphon and got on it. "High Sage, are you coming with us?"
They could use his knowledge to figure out what went wrong with the teleportation.
"Done my part," he said, walking away to his gryphon where one of his aide was waiting for him. "Going home now."
Small wonder the child had no friends.
The party soared across the air on the gryphons, following the route where the other teleportation stones were placed. Soldiers on horseback raced with them on the ground, but these group would only travel to the nearest stone. They outpaced them in little time and passed the second stone. The scholars here were exhausted as well, but there were no sign of trouble. Four mages flew up to join them but Lasandra sent them back.
"Escort the scholars to Castle Vladertz as planned," she told them. They had made prior arrangement with the noble Vladertz family to use their castle, west from their location, should the need arise. "Leave the stone for now but return once our guests are safe."
There were those who would have done the opposite instead, for new scholars could be taught while the teleportation stones could not be remade. They flew on past the third and fourth stones, Lasandra giving the same orders. The soldiers Captain Windon placed would aid the escorts.
It was at the fifth stone where they found their problem.
Spells were firing off in every direction. The fifth stone was placed in a clearing within the forest, the most arduous place they had to set the stone at. Ra'gelor was toppled over on the ground, writhing against his bonds as his growls rumbled the air. The demon was helpless and of no threat still, so they flew closer and only then did they see their enemy.
Sera help us.
Darklings, creatures with serrated fangs and narrow limbs, agile and deadly in groups. Their oily skins were grey and wrinkled, while their large white eyes were made for night and blind in the day, though their noses would serve well enough in place of sight. They stood no taller than a child but they were fast and could jump higher than the height of a man, leaping and lurching for its preys.
"Minions of the Dark Lord," Captain Windon spat, drawing his sword as the Light of the Spirits empowered him.
Quxtin estimated there to be more than fifty of them.
Ice glyphs formed in midair and a group of ice sparrows crystalized into existence. Lasandra sent her scouting spell in every direction into the forest that surrounded them. The forest was dark and it was from darkness where the darklings come.
"Captain Windon, the command is yours," Lasandra told him, for battle strategies was not her forte.
And the rank of Captain was not granted on leadership alone.
"Clear the darklings and regroup by the stone," he yelled.
Then he leaped off from his gryphon.
Bravery often came with a touch of recklessness. The knight of the White Shield slammed into the ground with tremendous force, blasting the area with the Light of the Spirits. Ten of his soldiers who would have otherwise been overwhelmed by the horde of darklings were saved with that single move. The oily creatures screaming in pain as the light seared their skins from them.
Quxtin could see the renewed strength in his ten soldiers and the lone knight that commanded them. Led by the Captain, he and his men charged the darklings and pushed them back, cutting them down and fighting their way to the three mages that had been separated from them.
We had seven mages placed here, he thought as they rained magic from the sky.
The darklings were wiped out in a matter of minutes.
"Where are the others," Quxtin asked the moment he landed.
The sorceress fell into his arms, the sleeves of her robe torn and her arms scratched bloody. She shook her head, her face pale and cold sweat beaded on her forehead. He lowered her gently on the ground and searched for a priest, but the followers of the White Rose were preoccupied with the others. One of the soldiers had lost an arm while another was bleeding out after having a chunk of his neck bitten off.
Captain Windon kneeled beside that man, holding him with one hand and whispering words of comfort into his ears… while the other hand slipped a dagger into his heart.
The sorceress grasped his hand.
Quxtin lowered his head closer to her mouth. "Again?"
One of the other sorceress screamed.
Quxtin spun around and saw a women impaled on a sword. The sword was as long as she was tall and half as wide, forged from shadowsteel, maliciously serrated and gripped tight in the clawed gauntlet of a demon armoured in darkness. The Shadowlord stood at least eight feet tall, his armour darker than night, his skin only a shade lighter, with a cloak of black smoke bellowing behind him.
Run, was his first thought.
"Run!" was what Lasandra yelled.
"Run!" was Captain Windon's command.
Quxtin lifted her in his arms at once and spun to his gryphon. But the majestic beasts could offer no aid to them anymore. Six-legged creatures with large carapaces were feasting on their mounts, their tiny fangs sinking into feather and flesh. Eight, eleven, fourteen, their numbers just kept increasing as they emerged from the ground. Soon there were three to four of the insects to a single gryphon, the mounts screeching in agony, some in mid-flight, as the creatures pulled them down and swarmed them.
How? How did they catch the gryphons off guard? How? Another scream, this time from a soldier, made him turn back. The Shadowlord had seized his next victim, stabbing the helpless man into the ground as the other soldiers slashed at him futilely. His cloak of darkness expanded and engulfed the soldiers around him, seizing them before strangling the life from them.
Until Captain Windon was on him.
The Light of the Spirits freed his men from the cloak of darkness. Captain Windon and three other knights drove the Shadowlord back. Their slashes caused the demon to flinch with each blow and soon it was guarding itself with its massive sword. When the Shadowlord struck them, they bunched up together and raised their shields, absorbing the blow together before they jumped apart and continued their assault.
"Quxtin!" he heard Lasandra scream.
He looked to her and saw a field of ice before her, tens of darklings frozen in place with more of those insect creatures that killed their mounts. The dark minions died screeching as the ice took them. The Archimage pointed to the stone and it was there he saw the arcane scholars being dragged away by darklings.
"Jeanne, Lewis!" Quxtin called and two of his mages went on ahead to rescue the scholars.
He placed the sorceress down and surveyed his surroundings.
No good, he thought and cursed himself. Everyone is too close to each other.
Men and women were screaming around him. Quxtin raised his fire glyph and sent bolts of devastating flames into clumps of darklings. Every one of his spell took out at least seven of the dark minions, but ten would emerge in their place from the forest. At some point one of the priests took the sorceress away and Quxtin found himself fighting towards the forest. His spells were large and wild and highly destructive. Without enough space he could not fight properly. Once a darkling got too close to him and he ended up scorching himself. A shameful mistake, one he had not committed since the War of Light and Darkness.
It angered him.
He summoned his fire glyph on the field before him and soaked the grass with his mana. The darklings lunged at him and at the final moment- Ignite! And the creatures of darkness screamed their dying breath as they were scorched to ashes in an instant.
Thick bellowing smokes engulfed him the next moment. Quxtin cursed and clenched his fist, draining the mana from his spells to extinguish the flames. This much smoke would kill them faster than the dark minions.
"Lasandra, we can't stay here!" he yelled, risking a glance back. "We have to-"
The Archimage was now fighting the Shadowlord.
She blasted him with a flurry of glacier spikes each of them half the size of the teleportation stone. The Shadowlord struggled to hold his ground against her, smashed to the ground each time her glacier spike collided with him. When the Shadowlord lunged, Captain Windon would intercept and meet it head on with his shield. There were knights and soldiers all around them, lying on the ground and motionless, some of them in pools of blood.
His mages had formed a circle around them, fighting off the dark minions that poured from the forest in every direction. Each of them were accompanied by soldiers who were struggling to fight off the insect creatures. Priests and priestesses behind them charged them with blessings and spells, sometimes even shooting off a bolt of light to catch a stray darkling. The three Orders trained together frequently but teamwork alone was not going to save them here.
Lasandra cried out in pain.
No! He turned expecting the worse, but thankfully the Archimage protected herself. The Shadowlord stood where she was before and had knocked her a few yards across the inner circle. Then Quxtin saw it. Shadows engulfed the demon and warp him right in front of Lasandra instantaneously. Captain Windon could not catch up. The demon drove its massive blade down on the Archimage but she defended herself with a shield of ice. With all her concentration focused on defending herself, Lasandra had no means of countering.
She won't last!
Or at least that was what Quxtin had thought.
An ice glyph appeared behind the Shadowlord and from it, a pair of giant talons seized the demon and tossed it away. As he watched the demon rise, Quxtin realized that no one was near the demon and Lasandra was staring at him, screaming, "NOW!"
A knight emerged beside him and took his place just as he strode away.
Quxtin shut his eyes and felt the mana course through his body. From the depths of his pool he gathered the energy and poured it out to the world before him, saturating the air with his mana. When the Shadowlord rose, two ice glyphs appeared beside him and bounded him with chains of ice, while an earth glyph above his head dropped a boulder down on him. He concentrated his mana around the Shadowlord, coiling it with strands of his mana, showering the rest all around him. Like colour dyed on air Quxtin could see his mana wrapping around the demon, glowing bright with intensity and collecting beneath him.
Come forth, Cataclyst. And a staff of fire razed to life in his hand, the flames flickering along the shaft, beholding a fiery gem of scarlet-crimson at the head.
The Wizard of Ending Flames summoned his fire glyph.
A column of flames blasted from beneath the Shadowlord and flared to a blinding white. The demon howled in fury as flames spilled from the column and wrapped around him, burning and scorching away the shadowsteel armour. The heat so intense that the grasses around it burst into flames. Quxtin poured more of his mana into his spell, the demon was in pain but it was not dying. The armour he wore was protecting him, but Quxtin pressed on and focused his flames at where the demon was unprotected.
Soon he felt other spells appeared around his. Every individual's mana was unique and Quxtin could feel his fellow mages aiding him as they channelled their mana into his spell. Soon he felt the armour of the demon crack, heard it as well even from such a distance. Your end is here, Shadowlord.
Then everything stopped.
He opened his eyes and saw a wall of black smoke rushing towards him. Quxtin had only time to shield himself with a wall of flame, but the smoke swallowed it whole and sent him to the ground. A rush of hot air swept by him with the smell of burnt flesh. Bits of ashes floated about as Quxtin pushed himself up. Who he saw then stopped him from getting up to his feet.
They had considered that this might happen and Lasandra had even spoken with her about it. Alas there was little they could do. As Lasandra had said then, "Should he choose to make an appearance, we had best pray he spares us again."
"Lasandra," the Dark Lord said. "I am pleased to see you well."
"I would be better if you had not sent one of your Shadowlords to kill us," she said, rising to her feet before she summoned Icildix to her hand again.
Her ice glyph appeared beneath her feet.
The Dark Lord was young, too young for the position he held, as was the White Light. Only in his twenties, the Dark Lord was already the strongest mage in the whole of Hylan. Not even the White Light dared claim she could defeat him. On this day the Dark Lord wore a thick robe made with cloths-of-magic corrupted to a shade of night. The hood he wore over his head left his visage unseen.
But Quxtin could see his power with his bare eyes.
The tendrils of darkness that danced around his feet, like dark creatures swiping at light, hissing and snatching at the air. Around him the air seemed to distort ever so slightly. Quxtin had witness such a phenomenon during the War of Light and Darkness when the previous Archimage fought. The mana within the Dark Lord was corrupted and unnatural. No mortal man could possess such a deep pool of energy.
Beside the Dark Lord his Shadowlord kneeled motionlessly, smoke trailing off his body as bits of armour fell apart. The Dark Lord placed his gloved hand on the demon's head and suddenly, the demon screeched in pain. They flinched from the sound and forced their hands against their ears, the voice of the demon so terrible and filled with so much pain. The Shadowlord crumbled to ashes when the Dark Lord was finished with it.
"I sent him to retrieve Ra'gelor," the Dark Lord told her, his lips curved into a hint of a smile. "He only attacked when he was provoked."
Quxtin remembered that smirk the first time he met the Dark Lord when he was no more than just an initiate, freshly enrolled into the Order of the Elements, eager to learn how to control his ability. That smirk said so much about him, his cockiness and his carefree attitude. The boy would have easily gone wild if not for the girl who would later become the White Light. She was the reason why he could have ever gotten so powerful and skilled.
"Ra'gelor is not toy," Lasandra told him, placing herself between the demon and the Dark Lord. "No good will come from turning him into one of your dark minions."
"What I intend to do with him does not matter," the Dark Lord said. "What matters is the fact that you do not understand what he is. It is safer to keep Ra'gelor with me in my citadel."
"Giving him over will doom us all," Lasandra said.
The Dark Lord shook his head. "I assume you would choose to die trying to stop me."
"You assume correctly."
"Clever," the Dark Lord told her. "You know I would never kill my favourite teacher. Well, second favourite, I always did prefer the liveliness of fire over the staleness of ice."
Quxtin felt his entire body tense when the Dark Lord turned to him.
"Are you well, my teacher?"
He contemplated his answer. "Singed myself a little but otherwise fine."
That made the Dark Lord laugh and his was a laughter that unsettled all who heard it.
"I see my teacher isn't following his own teachings very carefully," the Dark Lord said.
And in the next moment the Dark Lord was next to Ra'gelor, a cloud of black smoke in place of where he was a second ago. The demon visibly cowered in front of the Dark Lord. Even Ra'gelor knew that the Dark Lord was a powerful foe.
No, Quxtin thought. It was not power that Ra'gelor feared, it was the intent behind that power that frightened the demon.
Lasandra lifted her staff but Icildix was immediately wrapped with black tendrils, coiling around it until the staff shattered into pieces and disappeared. That did not halt the Archimage for a second, her other hand waving as she fired off massive shards of ice at the Dark Lord.
A wall of darkness ate them whole.
Strike of Fire. Quxtin raised both his hands and swung them down, sending a bolt of fire blazing down from the sky at the Dark Lord.
The spell was negated all the same.
Quxtin had seen the Dark Lord do the same for a barrage of spells from a hundred mages. The effortless look he wore when he negated all those spells was enough to steal all hopes from them of ever defeating him. And it was with hopelessness that Quxtin now watched as the Dark Lord reached for the demon…
…and was blasted across the clearing.
For a few impossible seconds, Quxtin had thought the Dark Lord dead. How his body just lay on the ground without motion or breath. Then suddenly his body shook and he sucked in a deep breath, gasping for air the next moment. He sat up and saw the barrier of light that now shielded Ra'gelor.
When was this spell placed on the demon? Quxtin wondered, looking to Lasandra who seemed to know no more than he did about this.
The Dark Lord raised his hand and an orb with the colour of the night sky appeared. Quxtin frowned at the sight of the orb. He sent the orb to collide with the barrier, causing sparks of energy to shoot all over the place. Ra'gelor howled in fury behind the shield it as the Dark Lord finagled his fingers, altering the movements of the orb as he examined the barrier. At least that was what Quxtin guessed he was doing.
After an agonizing while, the Dark Lord snatched his hand back and the orb disappeared. Ra'gelor was visibly weaker behind the barrier. The land around him charred in many different spots where the latent energy touched.
"I am impressed," the Dark Lord conceded. "Let me guess, Kestel?"
Lasandra stared back at him defiantly. "And her."
The Dark Lord considered for a moment then shook his head as though he disagreed with Lasandra. "Have it your way. I shall have the demon later than sooner… after it destroys your city."
And with that the Dark Lord vanished with the rest of his minions scurrying back into the forest.
Quxtin looked around the clearing at what remained of them. He saw more bodies on the ground than ones standing on two feet. They had lost many men and women in this fight, more if the Dark Lord had wanted to. That was when Quxtin noticed that the three arcane scholars were gone. Taken away, no doubt, but thankfully Jeanne and Lewis were both still well - injured, but alive.
"The scholars," he said.
"They knew the risks," Lasandra told him.
Quxtin nodded. The scholars had only agreed to aid them in exchange for private time to examine Ra'gelor themselves.
"What spell is this?" Quxtin then asked as the barrier of light faded from the demon.
"She told me that precautions were taken in case he shows up," Lasandra explained, her sapphire robe dirtied but still largely intact. Icildix was back in her hand as she summoned hulking ice elementals to help transport the wounded. "She didn't say what exactly and thus I was not able to share. Forgive me, I should have at least told you that much."
Quxtin shook his head. "The barrier is strange. It seems to harm what it's trying to protect more than… protecting it."
Hearing himself say it aloud helped him see the genius behind it.
"Magic amplification," Lasandra said, no more sure of it than he was. "Our magic might not be enough to kill Ra'gelor, but the Dark Lord's clearly was enough to cause it tremendous amount of pain."
Force his way through and the Dark Lord might had done them the favour of eradicating the demon. Leave it and he would not be able to capture the demon. No doubt the spell behind the barrier was far more complex than a simple magic amplification spell.
Such was the work of the White Light.
Even so, he could have taken Ra'gelor still if he had chosen to, Quxtin believed, if the Dark Lord had been willing to take the time and effort. He watched as the knights gather their wounded while the followers of the White Rose muttered a final resting prayer for those who had perished. All those dark minions pouring out from the forest. They came from the Black City but clearly they did not march out, not when they had received no warning from Grand-Rosia. He could have done much and more but he chose not to. Why? To show us how insignificant we are to him? That he may choose to destroy us when he deems it convenient?
Captain Windon appeared beside him, his armour missing a few pieces and his shield dented severely. He shook his head despondently and looked to the sky, shutting his eyes in a quiet prayer. When they opened again, the Captain turned to him.
"Lord Quxtin, if I may ask," he said, "do you think an alliance with Saldara will be enough?"
Quxtin considered his question but dared not answer him truly.
"I pray it will, Captain," Quxtin said. "We had best pray it will."