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In the antechamber, Phillia heard the explosion echoing from the back of the fortress and felt the strength of her enchantment falter. She dodged a demon lunging at her, grabbed him by the wrist, and flipped him over her shoulder before stabbing him through the chest with her glaive. Another demon raised a hand cannon autocaster and fired. The blazing bullet shot toward Phillia, and she pivoted while projecting shards of stone from the floor into the demon. Most of the shards only dented her armor but two skewered her between the armors’ metal plates.
At that moment, Muria and Purtain executed a guillotine maneuver toward Phillia, Muria wielding a dark flaming greatsword and Purtain gesturing magickal sigils.
With a twist of Phillia’s wrist, the blade of her glaive came loose on a chain and she flipped laterally while spinning the blade horizontally. Purtain dodged below and spouted fire toward Phillia as Muria leaped over, her blade lifted in an overhead slash.
As Phillia twisted midair, she finished gesturing her own spell’s sigil with her free hand and a blast of kinetic force threw Purtain’s spell into Muria, throwing the demoness back into the wall and cratering the stone. Purtain then threw himself backward in a hasty retreat.
Landing by the steps, Phillia surveyed the battle. The elementals were quickly losing ground as the demons were able to pierce more meridium shards into the stone, bottlenecking the elementals’ reinforcements.
“Irnok!” Phillia yelled over the din of elementals and demons fighting with one another, “They found Eron!”
Now with the chance to see her fighting companion, Phillia saw the pained expression in Irnok’s face, as if he could sense what was happening from afar. “We will hold them here!” he yelled back as he drove his corrupted arm through a demon’s throat and retracted it to deflect the blow of another demon wielding a mace.
All around him, smaller elementals more mature than the nu’raabi grappled, punched, and crushed demons. The demons, in turn, used magick and meridium shards embedded in the rock to force Irnok’s spawn out of the stone. Many elementals had fallen and their deaths sent their kin into a fury, but less than a fourth of the enemy had perished. Those who remained fought with deadly efficiency.
“Go!” Irnok roared to Phillia.
Phillia attempted to run backward, but a spear of energy intercepted her path.
“We aren’t finished yet, bitch,” Muria snarled from across the chamber, blood running in rivulets down her face from her eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. Burns and patches of melted flesh had already begun to heal, but she still she limped within her fractured armor. To her side, Lord Purtain and a dozen soldiers gathered and slowly began enclosing Phillia in a semi-circle. Some charged autocasters behind those about to engage Phillia in a melee while the remaining fifty attackers engaged Irnok and his progeny.
As their ranks closed, Phillia began chanting a spell, but her focus faltered. She was beginning to feel her wounds, burns, and internal bleeding that sapped her already depleted mental fortitude. She breathed in deeply, as Xanenax had taught her, and began pouring energy into her glaive, building power for her next strike and causing the spear to glow orange.
Purtain’s head and those of the two soldiers behind him suddenly flew off, and Knel pivoted through the crowd of soldiers toward Muria. Screaming madly, Muria raised her hand and shot missiles of energy from her palm which Knel dodged as she slashed through the squad, leaving the projectiles to skewer the guards behind her. Knel whirled her blades as she pirouetted past Muria, decapitating her. Before Muria’s head landed on the floor, Knel stood beside Phillia.
“Eron’s at the food stores,” Phillia told Knel as she created a mental key to unlock the spell-shield she had made Eron and touched it to Knel’s fingers, delivering the signature. “They found him.”
“Hold them here,” Knel ordered as she spun around and sprinted up the stairs.
The soldiers surrounding Phillia stared at the trail of death Knel had left in her wake and staggered backward. Phillia smirked and began spinning her still-glowing glaive’s blade playfully as she stalked toward them. “You boys and girls really bit off more than you can chew.”
Illathiel materialized near a crevice a few dozen yards in front of the fortress gates, to where she had tracked the boy.
I can’t sense his presence, Illathiel thought to herself as she concentrated her Vision. A dark domed barrier blocked her view of all but the front entrance, which had been breached. Covering the rest of the fortress were layers of magickal defenses primed to activate if she should attempt to enter any other way. And amidst the chaos and violence, Illathiel also sensed something deeper, a much more primal energy that resided within and beneath the forest of stone, something Illathiel felt was better to avoid disturbing.
Illathiel could see casters in the distance attempting to dispel the enchantments holding the keep’s defenses in place, but they soon became entirely occupied with fighting the tide of elementals or fleeing. From within the fortress and atop the bluff surrounding the spired keep, demonic soldiers and mercenaries fought elementals across the compound, even on the tops of the columnal mountains, and the tide was slowly turning in the elementals’ favor, their numbers overwhelming the attackers whose ranks were breaking.
Knowing the distraction wouldn’t last long, Illathiel summoned her radiant silvery longspear and snapped one of the concealment runes she carried on her as a precaution. She leaped down to the ground as the world around her blurred. This far from the Upper Realms, her access to the dwindling residual divine energy from God’s presence was tenuous, weakening her power. Her hands began to shake out of fear, but she stilled them, though it required great effort for her to remain calm. She flew directly toward the front entrance, dropping to kneel just outside the shattered gate. Immediately, she could feel the fortress’ defenses begin to deteriorate the concealing rune’s enchantment, and she knew she would only have a few more moments before it dissipated entirely.