Part 5 – Talkative Gateway
“...you're some kind of planar vortex, aren't you?”
Cilya stared down the pulsing orb of darkness almost as though she expected an answer. She then shook her head and sighed. “Wonderful...” grumbling, Cilya paced around the outer circle on the floor. She examined from a short distance the inner circles that acted as layered wards. “Well, looks like everything is still intact. Ulathians probably wanted to be able to turn this thing back off easily. Jerks.” Scratching her head idly, she considered her options. “Only a little bit of this left,” she put a hand on her belt-pouch that held the silver dust she used for her ritual magic. “But what better use could it have huh?”
Slowly and carefully, Cilya walked a path around the outer circle while sprinkling the smallest dusting of the shimmering magic powder on the ward. As she neared the first quarter of the circle, the dark orb crackled silently with more shadow-lightning. The bolts noiselessly struck the floor near Cilya, and from the target of their strike an indistinct shadowy figure that looked like a man began to rise as though emerging from the stone itself.
“I figured this was too easy.” Frowning, Cilya finished with the pinch of dust in her hand then readied her staff. “Alright, let's get this over with.”
“No...” the voice, hollow and breathless, echoed around the room. “...I will not be stopped.”
“I hate to disagree with a disembodied voice and a shadow-man, but yeah this has to stop.” Cilya paused. “Who are you anyway?” Without another word the shadow-man lunged toward her, wispy hand outstretched. “Gah!” Cilya shouted then smacked the nearly intangible figure with her staff. Its passing disrupted the form and the figure dispersed instantly. “Really? That's it?” No sooner had she said that did she realize it was stupid to taunt a inter-dimensional rupture of unknown power.
Taking the opportunity, Cilya started laying down the fine dusting upon the circle again. She cleared nearly half of the remaining circle when dozens of silent shadow-bolts lashed out from the orb. Wherever they struck, the floor or the walls, another ghostly form emerged. They turned toward Cilya and charged as the first one had.
“Damn.” She instinctively fired a crackling bolt of power at the nearest, only to watch it shred and fly into the orb. “Damn! Okay now what?” Thinking quickly, Cilya theorized that her magic was only swallowed because it had to pass through space first. If the magic was unleashed instantly, perhaps it would work. “Here goes nothing!” She conjured one of her more powerful glyphs to mind, and unleashed its energy from her open hand. A wave of fire rushed forth, nearly sucking the air from the small room but burning away the shadow figures like darkness at the dawn. “Ha!”
Wasting no time, Cilya continued laying down the silvery powder that would act as the conduit for her magic to renew the wards. “Damn it Eloi, this would have been so much simpler with some help!” However, she quickly finished the circle. Every bit of the outermost ward shimmered with silver dust. “Well, that wasn't so...”
A silent bolt of shadow-lightning struck Cilya square in the chest. It was cold, worse than ice directly against her skin. It felt as though her body was freezing from within, an icy talon wrapping around her heart. Within moments her vision began to blur and then faded to blackness. A low ringing in her ears soon faded to silence. Her body went numb, she couldn't feel if her staff was still in her hand or even if she was still standing. The whole world faded away. She was pretty sure she was dying.
“You will not stop me.” The voice was the same as before, empty and without tone. It rang in her ears, so loud as to be painful yet without any feel of resonant presence. Perhaps it was in her mind. That's when it occurred to Cilya she could still think.
“What's happening to me?” Cilya thought the words. She might have said them aloud too, she had no idea.
The voice in her mind echoed again. “You are becoming vessel for my power.”
“I'd rather not.” Cilya focused. In her mind's eye she formed the vision of a high cliff-edged mountain clearing. At its center was a pool of crystal clear water, emerald green grass encircled it and waved in a gentle breeze. She stood on the grass, clothed only in a loose flowing gown of diaphanous silk spun from starlight. Her amber hair blew freely in the breeze, flowing like liquid in texture. Across the pool stood a man formed entirely from ebony ice, his touch freezing the grass into glass-like sculptures.
“What is this?” the voice came from the man instead of resounding from nowhere.
“This is an internal world of my design.” Cilya smiled. The sky beyond the clearing was filled with twilight hues from shimmering gold to deep violet. At the zenith of the sky was darkness smooth and gentle as velvet, gleaming with pinpoints of starlight that shimmered as diamonds. “I don't think you realized it, but my greatest talent has always been illusion. Haven't had much chance to use it lately.” The crystalline man of darkness creaked back into a defensive stance, the ice of his form cracking and reforming as it moved. Cilya's grin was toothsome and wicked. “Which means, you're in my world now.”
“You cannot defeat me like this...”
“Oh like the nine hells I can't!” With a quick gesture, Cilya shaped the grass around the man into blades of glimmering gemstone that lashed at him like the tentacles of a hungry sea-creature. As they cut, shards of black ice scattered to the ground and melted. The dark water flowed into and merged with the pool, which reflected only the star-filled sky above.
“No...” even without tone or breath, the voice somehow sounded concerned.
“Yes!” Beams of evening light glimmered across the clearing, striking the man from all sides. The warmth of their glow began to melt more of his form, and each drop drained into the pool. “Should have stuck to shadow-people to attack me. This was the worst choice you could have made!” Raising her arms toward the heavens, Cilya made the stars dance above. One by one their silver light shot downward and struck the melting man like the wrath of a vengeful god. Each streak of light cut a hole clean through his form from above.
“Shut up and die!” Cilya cut him off. Bringing her arms down, the sky at once rained hundreds of motes of starlight that cut through the man's body like fire. Barely still recognizable, Cilya gestured toward the man with one hand and the clear waters of the pool with the other. Like arms the water rose up and grabbed what was left of the ice and darkness and pulled it down into itself. The tips of his fingers were the last to go under and vanish as he reached toward Cilya. Then he was gone.
And the room was back. Cilya stumbled a step to her side, then dropped to her knees. Staff still in hand, she watched as for an instant the shadow-bolt faded. No time had passed. The shadows that had crackled about the orb faded, leaving only a perfect sphere of absolute darkness floating motionless in the air. She stared at it for a while, taking a few deep breaths as the cold within her faded. Regaining her footing, Cilya stood at the edge of the ward circle.
“Ha! That's what you get! Cilya Redmeadow! Remember my name!”