Twice-Forged Steel gaped as the area around Kimberyâ€™s Dawn erupted into a pillar of green light that stretched into the heavens. The Azure Rider was riding the waves in the breakwaters near the island; the rough seas were shallow and tricky, and the ship easily hide amongst the spray, unnoticed by the Lintha fleets. He had been planning to begin hit-and-run tactics, but nowâ€¦ beside him, Boson Ryld stared in awe. â€œWhat is that, sir?â€
Steel considered. â€œSorcery.â€ He watched as it expanded outwards, the seas boiling away to nothing as it passed over them. â€œBut how farâ€¦â€ He trailed off, and then grinned, spinning to face his boson. â€œIâ€™ll tell you what it is. Itâ€™s our golden opportunity.â€ Turning his head, he began to shout. â€œSails full! Into the breach! That spellâ€™s going to fade, and weâ€™re going to follow it right into the belly of the beast!â€ He laughed, drawing his sais. â€œJust get me close enough, Mr. Ryld, and then break off and resume normal tactics. Iâ€™m going to prune us an Infernal.â€
â€œYes, sir!â€ Ryld nodded, and the Riderâ€™s sails rose.
Meanwhile, the reaction amongst the Lintha was that of horror. Tightly packed, sails and oars and beasts ready for a forwards charge, the sudden appearance of green devastation expanding towards them at an unholy rate filled the ranks first with confusion, and then with mounting panic. Ships began to break off, curving and spinning as they attempted to pick up speed. Others rammed into each other, the coherent plan that had been designed dissolving instantly. Sea monsters snapped their tethers or pulled their ships down as they dove for the futile safety of the sea floor. As the green light expanded outwards from Dukanthaâ€™s ship, it began to pass over those of the Lintha. The unfortunate crewmen caught in its passing had time only to see the light advancing on them, and then they did. Their ships dissolved into flinders, and those dissolved into trails of dark Essence as they were broken apart by the force of the blast.
Aboard his ship, Dukantha felt searing agony as his own spell washed over him. The Infernal was garbed neck to toe in the invulnerable black lead of Malfeas. His bones had been enchanted by powerful magics, strengthening them to stone. He had marshaled his Charms in preparation for combat. Even then, the power of the Total Annihilationâ€™s eruption was too much for him, and he felt skin dissolving and muscles fraying under the overwhelming blast. Furious, he forced Essence through his skin, repairing the damage as quickly as it was dealt, and turned his attention towards the Lunar who had foiled him. â€œYou knew.â€
â€œOf course.â€ Nganto gleamed. The scales and skin of her warform rippled with a layer of moonsilver covering, and she moved as though unconcerned with the devastation around her. Dukantha noted with annoyance that while the initial blast seemed to have caused some damage, it was healing before his eyes, and the whirling maelstrom of destruction still surrounding them was not affecting her at all. â€œYou had spies everywhere, Dukantha. But my studies of you showed me the truth â€“ it would take a calculated insult to trick you into destroying your own fleet.â€
Dukantha glanced over his shoulder and, for just a moment, watched the frontrunners of the Lintha fleet dissolving. Then he returned his attention to the Lunar. â€œVery cunning, little Lunar. You have drawn out much of my strength, shattered my forces, and wasted my spell. There is only one flaw to your little arrangement.â€
â€œAnd what is that?â€ Nganto grinned a sharp-toothed smile, her anima beginning to shine from the effort of maintaining her Charm.
â€œIt has left you alone with me.â€ His grand daiklave scraped sparks off the deck as it flew upwards, heedless of the energy flowing around them, and Dukantha leapt forwards to strike. Nganto caught the blade on her own claws, stumbling backwards a step, before recovering and cartwheeling forwards. Her powerful legs lashed out, but Dukantha had already sidestepped, easily coming in behind her.
â€œHow?â€ Even as Nganto asked, she spun to strike. Dukantha simply chuckled, catching her blow on his blade, and launched a counter-attack that slipped through her defenses â€“ only to skitter uselessly off her moonsilver hide. He spoke three simple words, and was rewarded with a quickly-suppressed wash of fear.
â€œDefense Against Anathema.â€
Dukantha grinned, stepping backwards, as the power of his spell began to fade. â€œYou didnâ€™t think I was capable of it, did you? One flaw in your intelligence on me.â€
â€œA small one, perhaps.â€ Nganto cracked her knuckles. â€œNot small enough.â€
â€œThen here is another. Blood apes.â€ As Dukantha spoke, his crew began to swarm out of the deck below.
On the deck, the townsfolk watched, awed, as the Lintha fleet dissolved. Citrios laughed. â€œSorry I doubted her!â€
Lodaris nodded solemnly. â€œBetween the destroyed ships and the panic, the advance will be blunted. And when that spell fades, it will create a rush of water in the centre of the ocean, enough to further slow theirâ€¦â€ He trailed off. â€œWhat is he doing?â€
The Azure Rider was racing the wind, as the Total Annihilation reached its limits and began to fade. Nia saw it first.
â€œSteel is going to attack Dukantha.â€ She turned to the others. â€œWe have to get over there. Now. If we donâ€™t, Steel and Nganto will be fighting alone â€“ and theyâ€™ll lose.â€
â€œRight. This may be difficult.â€ Stepping forwards powerfully, Lodaris studied the harbour. â€œNia, can you support Citriosâ€™s weight?â€
â€œLong enough to reach there?â€ Nia gauged distances. â€œYes.â€
â€œGood. Tread the clouds, then. I will walk the sea.â€ The air hung heavy with mist, and as Lodaris stepped forwards, he continued to run across the waves. Nia took a moment to focus herself, then held out her hands.
â€œThis is going to look a bit silly, but hop onto my back.â€
â€œIâ€™m bigger than you.â€ Citriosâ€™s voice was doubtful.
â€œIâ€™m stronger than I look. Now!â€ The Dynast nodded at the force in her voice, quickly climbing on. For a moment, Nia imagined what they must look like â€“ a piggy-back warpath. She stifled a giggle, and began to run, each step rising further off the docks.