So, twice a week becomes once every two weeks again. Yay for me?
One Hour Remaining
â€œSo, thereâ€™s something thatâ€™s been bothering me.â€ Perfected Tears Upon Alabaster Sorrows calmly sidestepped as the dreadful clockwork dragon bore down on him, driving his daiklave into a chink in the creatureâ€™s neck. Electricity arced across the connection, and he stepped back as the behemothâ€™s attention was diverted in his direction. It gave out a roar, spitting trails of acid that scorched the walls and splattered across Sorrowsâ€™ sword as he rolled to one side.
Mnemon rolled her eyes. Reaching into an alcove, she twisted the crystal rod that she held three times, and the dragon hesitated. â€œAbout why my mother bothered installing defenders like this?â€
â€œNo, that seems fairly easy. Acid and claws â€“ very bad on large groups, keeps the numbers down.â€ Sorrows shrugged, reaching out to tap the dragon on the nose. It quivered with impotent rage, brass teeth attempting to open enough to snap at his fingers. â€œNo, I was rather wondering what the actual plan was. The Realm Defense Grid is powerful, but the Conduits are going to respond in force if you just start blasting away. I canâ€™t see a way for you to get more than one or two of them before they teleport to twenty spots on your grid and pull it to pieces.â€
Mnemon snorted. â€œThatâ€™s because you think small.â€ Releasing the rod to stick in place, she strode past the dragon to a side alcove. â€œThis way.â€
Sorrows frowned. â€œThe main path is that way.â€
â€œThe main path is a trap. That doorway deposits you in Elsewhere.â€ Mnemon said.
â€œNo and then.â€
â€œAh.â€ Sorrows nodded thoughtfully. â€œCunning. But you were sayingâ€¦?â€
Stepping up to the alcove, Mnemon studied it a moment, comparing it to her memories. Five statues of the Maidens of Fate ringed the wall. Stepping up, she placed both of her hands in those of Jupiter. She felt air rushing around as the alcove began to lower itself. â€œUsing the Imperial Manse against Creation would be foolhardy at best. I would have to scour entire nations from the world hoping to catch the Conduits off-guard, and the chances of them escaping would be vast. There is a far, far simpler option.â€ She glanced back to Sorrows, as the ground they were on descended further into the manse. â€œThe Solars intended for this weapon to be used against any of their foes who threatened Creation. Even the Yozi. You have heard of the thirteen gates to Malfeas placed across Creation?â€
â€œNo.â€ Sorrowsâ€™ response was dubious.
â€œThen youâ€™ll have to trust me. One of them is, and always has been, in the heart of the Imperial Manse.â€
Sorrows blinked. He considered the comment. Finally, he said â€œIsnâ€™t that absurdly dangerous?â€
â€œNothing demonic can come through. The Manseâ€™s defenses would obliterate even a Third Circle demon in the time it took to fully manifest. The gate is not designed to transmit flesh or spirit â€“ nothing more complex than a thought could manage the passage. Only pure Essence was meant to flow through it.â€
Sorrows took a deep breath, looking honestly surprised. â€œYouâ€™re going to attack Malfeas.â€
Mnemon smiled triumphantly. â€œMore or less. The Grid is immensely powerful, but not wholly. The Yozi themselves can withstand its power for some time, and nearly all of their Third Circle souls can survive between one and two minutes of deployment. Therefore, one minute of deployment is what I intend. Every First Circle soul and nearly every Second Circle soul in Malfeas is going to die. The Third Circles will be rendered all but comatose for months on end while they repair themselves, and the Yozi will fall into silence alongside them.â€
Sorrows whistled. â€œAnd the Conduits wonâ€™t have any backup. Not even yours.â€
â€œGaiaâ€™s Conduit will. Thatâ€™s all the backup we need. Without the Yozi, the Conduits canâ€™t destroy the Realm Defense Grid quickly enough to avoid being wiped out. We can win the war with one blow.â€ Mnemon, judging the passing stonework, released Jupiterâ€™s hands. As she did, she noticed out of the corner of one eye that Sorrows was leaning against Mercuryâ€™s chest. Seeing her, he straightened quickly. She narrowed her eyes. â€œI thought I told you not to touch anything.â€
â€œSorry. We were already movingâ€¦â€ Sorrows began.
â€œYouâ€™re lucky we werenâ€™t both dropped into the Essence-furnace at the heart of this place.â€ As the lift shuddered to a halt, Mnemon swept out of it, keeping her face away from Sorrows to hide her sudden sweat. Another trap. He must have leaned on it the instant she touched Jupiterâ€™s statue, while her back was to him. What would have happened if he hadnâ€™t?
Better not to think about it.
â€œHow much farther is this control room, anyway?â€ Sorrows sighed palely. â€œMany more challenges, and my Essence will be depleted before it even comes time to use it.â€
â€œThen try using less. Weâ€™re just over halfway there.â€ Mnemon rolled her eyes. â€œYou didnâ€™t think this would be easy, did you?â€
â€œI was rather hoping.â€ With a delicate shrug, Sorrows gestured to the hallway that was laid out before them. â€œLead the way, my Empress.â€