35 – Kevyn
“This is a hell of a time for you to summon me, Regulus,” Kevyn spat to the sky. “I’ve got draconians on my doorstep, and you’re keeping me from chasing them off. Do you see what’s wrong with this picture?”
You realize you’re in no condition for extended battle, correct? Regulus sounded nonplussed with Kevyn’s attitude. Even if you manage to grasp what I’m about to teach you, I doubt you’ll be able to sustain it for long. This delay is, in a sense, a favor.
Kevyn blinked at the Dragon King’s words. “Teach?” She had an idea what that meant, and though she appreciated Regulus’s willingness to teach her the Dragon Artes, “Regulus, this isn’t the time for me to be learning! Hello? Draconians? They hate humans, remember?”
I do remember. And unless you want your spine ground into dust between their jaws, you’ll need my gift. I promise it will be a quick lesson.
She hadn’t much information on the draconians, but she definitely wanted to keep her spine. What colors did Almira say again? Bronze and pearl? And bronzes were called “primal drakes” or something equally terrifying? Maybe Almira and Cyrus could hold off one of them, but Reeon needed help. Shadowreave, though diluted, was still Shadowreave, after all, and that magic came directly from Reeon’s sylph-less core. He wouldn’t last very long. And Renaun, though adept with potent Light magic, was probably more focused on helping the villagers. There was little chance, Kevyn concluded, of scraping through this one.
Yet Regulus seemed confident his “gift” was the key. And the only visible or tangible evidence could prove the Light King wrong. Kevyn had to take her chances.
With a sigh, she sat down cross-legged in front of her parents’ graves, and closed her eyes. She breathed deeply and slowly, as her thoughts churned out words: hey mami, hey pa, it’s been a while, and i really don’t want to be here yet, but here i am. things are a little crazy and they just keep getting worse but i’m doing my best…see, you see me, right? i’m doing my best…i’m doing…
When Kevyn next awoke, her awed eyes wandered the night sky all around her. Light Dragon King Regulus sat a short distance ahead, his golden scales gleaming with the stars. A full blue moon hung above.
Kevyn patted at her ceremonial outfit again and crawled to her feet, as Regulus spoke. “Straight to the point. I am acknowledging your awareness of your darkness by giving you this gift.” He lifted his head to the moon. “Light magic, as you understand, is a healing force. It does not boast the defenses of Spirit magic, and neither does it possess the power of Aura. Light is not an offensive magic.
“I and my forefathers, however, are not so addled as to believe we can live without our offensive tactics. Of the three magicks of Sei, Light is swiftest and most graceful. It shines straight and true, no matter its obstacles. With this grace in mind, my sires fashioned Lunarcleave, the first of the two offensive Dragon Artes of Light. Watch.”
Regulus stood from his seat, claws shining bright blue with moonlight. A gentle swipe of his foreclaws launched a glowing blue scythe to the moon above, and without a sound, smoothly cleaved the moon in half.
“My ancient sires craft the phases of the moon with this spell,” said Regulus, disregarding Kevyn’s wide-eyed, jaw-dropped wonder. “That said, Lunarcleave is most powerful on nights of the full moon, and to execute it otherwise, you will need to summon moonlight into your hands.”
Kevyn pulled herself out of her awe for a moment to breathe, “I can pull that off in broad daylight?”
“So long as you summon sufficient moonlight. Your studies should have taught you the prayer to do so. Lunarcleave is the Arte for which that prayer applies.”
Kevyn felt something tighten around both of her forearms, and in curiosity, pulled up her sleeves. Gold-lined bracers gleamed under the night lights.
“The Lunar Bracers,” said Regulus. “The moonstones on them will shine once you have enough moonlight for Lunarcleave. We haven’t enough time for you to try the Arte here, but I place my faith in your abilities.”
The night sky and the cleaved moon blacked out around Kevyn, and Regulus faded from view. Only his voice remained as she came back to Effulgence Point, at her parents’ graves.
Know that your condition right now means you’re unable to sustain Lunarcleave’s power for long. Against these draconians assailing your home… You only have one shot, Priestess. Time it well.
With an itching back flaring against her bandages, and a racing heart pounding in her ears, Kevyn struggled to scramble down the grassy steppes of the memorial grounds. Each long stride made her wince, but as she neared the foot of the hill, high-pitched cackles and panicked cries sounded louder and louder, along with the clangs of metal on metal.
Kevyn’s steps scrabbled faster across the ground, as she forced herself to disregard the stinging pain lancing down her back. A little saying repeated in her head over and over again: “As the night’s veil shrouds my path, the Tidecaller shines brighter. As the night’s veil shrouds my path, the Tidecaller shines brighter…” She felt a warm film wrap snugly around her forearms. Lunarcleave needed “sufficient moonlight,” right? There was no better time to start gathering it than now.
Her concentration shattered, however, as Kevyn neared the village. A tremor vibrated through the air, the same sort of tremor that forewarned trouble those many years ago. Wide-eyed, mystified villagers scrabbled about, running for shelter, while pale-faced clerics crept uncertainly toward the Lighthouse’s courtyard. Hearing a cackle from the same direction, Kevyn pulled up the hood of her robes and joined the line of mages.
In the dragging march toward the Lighthouse, Kevyn focused on the voices she heard ahead: two, male and female, both with a strange hiss to their tones. “We’re just two tired lizards in search of some hospitality!” one cried, “And the Light shrine just happened to be here! Surely not even the clerics would kick us out?”
Kevyn looked up, and, seeing two people lounging on the courtyard’s centerpiece monument, bit her lip. No one, not even Kevyn or the Archsages, disrespected that monument. Sure, moss amassed on the surfaces of the carved stone dragon, and centuries of the sea breeze had rounded out the edges of its fangs and talons, but there was no denying the village’s adoration for the statue. Its golden inlays and globe gleamed with freshly-burnished pride, and a small garden flowered around the relic. The stories told around it, the legends of knights becoming dragon riders, history calling it the “point of ascendance,” were all reasons to treat the relic with respect. And here these two loafers lounged about, picking at the gold with their nails and climbing all over it!
“The clerics aren’t kicking you out.” Kevyn glanced out under the brim of her hood to find Reeon. “In fact, if it weren’t for us, they probably would submit to your brutality. I’m not having any of that.”
“Brutality?” A young man, tall, tanned, and with chains wrapped around his arms, snorted, as he picked at the stone relic. “You heard Alesta; we’re just relaxing. Just finished up a round of recon, you know! Made a great report back to Lord Eurami, so now it’s just a matter of taking a break, then flying back to Sephone all peaceful-like.”
“Then why have Renaun tied up and bleeding so much?”
The man shrugged. “I dunno. Monthly woman troubles?”
Renaun, tied up? Bleeding? Kevyn nudged mages aside as they continued thronging the courtyard. The words to the moonlight prayer cycled through her head again. One shot, Regulus said, and Kevyn was going to make it count. But how bad of a shape was Renaun in? Breaking through to the front of the crowd and seeing Renaun prone, bruised, and constricted by chains told Kevyn enough. Her blood rose from a hissing simmer to a boil. Draconians.
“Look, we know, we know, humans have this thing where they really like to get riled up for no particular reason. So this…” The man nudged Renaun with the heel of his boot. “Consider this, oh, what was it, Alesta?”
“’Preventive measures,’ Cain,” Alesta replied. She pushed aside white waves of hair from her eyes and leaned against her spear. “Leverage. Just so we can have a little bit of peace. Patrolling those forests is no easy task, you see, and avoiding a scrape with Jerran, of all drakes…Now that’s a call for a vacation.”
Cain laughed a weird, high-pitched cackle. “Overrated! He hasn’t seen the field in years, Alesta! I could have killed him, easy! Maybe take home some of his scales too?”
“Lord Eurami wants him for herself. You’ll have no scales to take home to Rathnevia once she’s through with Jerran.”
A bolt of lightning hissed by Alesta’s face, followed by Cyrus’s voice. “Cut the talk and let’s keep it simple. We wouldn’t have minded if you were really just stopping by, but you’ve made a hostage situation and hurt these villagers. We’re kicking you out.”
Alesta looked down at Renaun. “Humans. Rude bunch, aren’t they?” Lifting her spear off the ground, she spun it around and slammed its end into Renaun’s stomach. Alesta smiled at Renaun’s short squeal and ensuing coughs, then shrugged at the crowd’s begging protests. “Really do something about that rudeness, won’t you? She won’t get hurt anymore if you’re just a little nicer.”
“You’re one to talk about niceties,” said Reeon. “Get out.”
Cain slid off the relic and hoisted Renaun up by her chains. “Then let’s trade,” he said, sneering. He shook Renaun. “This pipsqueak, for you.”
“And playing dumb’s not going to help your case,” said Alesta. “We know who you are, Dark Ranger. Say no or wait, those clerics behind you are going to get a little toasty. And this little girl…Well, I hope Cain’s not too interested in knowing what color her blood runs.”
Nasty puppeteers, Kevyn inwardly snarled. All of Effulgence Point’s mages and clerics, and Renaun, for one Reeon. At least the draconians didn’t seem to know anything about Renaun’s significance. She glanced toward Reeon again, then back to Cain clambering onto the stone dragon’s head. No way in Fu’s blazes was he going to get away with this for any longer. And losing the new Light Sage was the last thing Kevyn needed. She stepped out of the line of mages and marched to Reeon’s side.
And as Reeon replied, “I’m not going back,” Kevyn ripped off her hood, lifted her hand, and fired a burst of light that sent Cain flying off the relic. Not even hearing Reeon’s protest, Kevyn snapped her hand like a whip, knocking Alesta aside and away from Renaun. “You’re getting really close to making my shit list,” said Kevyn. “Trust me, you don’t want to be on it.”
Stalking back around the monument, Cain scrubbed grit and spittle from his cheek. Smoke rose from his midriff. “Oh look how cute that is,” he hissed. “Little human priestess, you wanna play?”
“I’ll burn a hole through your gut if that’s what you mean by ‘play,’ you scummy dirtbag. Pawing all over our monument, beating up my friend, and now trying to exchange my village for my boy? What’s hell like in Rathnevia? I’ll make sure you have a good report on it.”
Cain made a crazed grin. “Not before you do.” Claws extended from his nails as he lunged for Renaun.
But in a flash, Renaun’s chains shattered into pieces, and a glowing silver blade hummed through the air and slashed along Cain’s side. A white milky dust wafted by and settled on Almira, crouched a short distance away. Both hands held silver daggers. “Dragon Arte: Diamond Dust,” was all she said, as a white glow spewed from Cain’s wound. Then standing, she glanced at Renaun. “Save your thanks. You’re lucky to be alive.”
Renaun nodded and crawled away, just as Alesta, pearlescent wings held aloft, burst by and jabbed forward with her spear. Unfazed Almira leaped aside and strafed behind Alesta, then pivoting around the pearl draconian’s suddenly materialized tail, ground her heel into the drake’s back. Almira disappeared again in a cloud of white mist again as Alesta turned around, growling. Spear met poleax, however, as Cyrus, whose weapon crackled violet with lightning, rushed into the fray.
Cain, however, with his dripping wound, did not move. Even as his chains unwound and hung freely, he didn’t move to adjust them.
Reeon used the opportunity to harshly whisper to Kevyn, “Great job. Of course, you just had to piss off the one person we didn’t want to piss off, right?”
“He pissed me off first,” Kevyn replied. She only caught Reeon’s sour glare before she noticed a breeze circling Cain. “Now what, is he going to do some windy thing?”
“If by ‘windy thing’ you mean transform, then yes!” Without waiting for a reply, Reeon grabbed Kevyn by her arm and dashed toward the beach. “We’ll leave the partner to Almira and Cyrus, but we’ve got a bigger lizard to worry about!”
A deafening roar interrupted Kevyn’s inquiry, and Reeon’s flight. The former stared in jaw-dropped amazement as a giant, bronze, winged lizard coiled around the side of the Lighthouse. Digging its claws into the stonework, it leered down at Kevyn and Reeon through massive orange eyes, and roared again.
Kevyn clung to Reeon’s arm. “I vote we let Almira and Cyrus take care of this thing, while we go and play with the partner?”
“You pissed him off!” Reeon snapped back. Yanking Kevyn and himself out of the way of a burst of fire, Reeon matched the bronze draconian’s tail swipe with a sweeping arc of his lance. He winced at the recoil but stood his ground. “What did Regulus tell you?”
“He taught me Lunarcleave! But I’ve only got one shot. I mean, let’s face it, I still feel like crap.”
Cain dropped off the side of the Lighthouse, and landed on all fours in front of Kevyn and Reeon. The two ducked under the beast’s jaws, and vaulted to the side, but the draconian was quick. His jaws threatened to crush the two again, but Reeon’s last-minute Veil pulled him and Kevyn out of reach.
As Cain turned his nostrils to the air, Reeon quickly whispered to Kevyn, “I don’t plan to let this go on, Kev.” He scrubbed aside a dribble of blood from the corner of his mouth. “So I’ve only got one shot as well.”
Kevyn warily eyed her companion as the pieces came together. “You don’t mean to use Shadowreave again, do you?”
“That’s why I’ve only got one shot!”
“You mean you’ve got no shots! You use Shadowreave again, you’ll kill yourself!”
“Kev, I know my own limits. I’m not going to kill myself!”
The argument got Cain’s attention, quickly enough that Reeon barely shoved Kevyn out of the way before the draconian’s claws crashed into the shadowy shield. It unfortunately crumbled, and Cain’s claws swiped at Reeon instead. Kevyn could only watch, wide-eyed, as he rolled and skidded along the ground, until he slammed into the wall of the Lighthouse. He sat, dazed, as Cain rounded on Kevyn next.
But Kevyn was already running. Her instincts told her go in the opposite direction, but she also wasn’t about to leave Reeon on his own. Though her injuries rendered her painfully slow, she mustered the energy to loose a burst of blinding light. The draconian reeled and blinked wildly as Kevyn raced to Reeon’s side. She winced at his bruises and scratches, especially the deep scores down his side. “Come on,” she said, pinching his cheek. “Come on, Ree, stay with me! Now you’ve really got only one shot!”
“Then…we’ll make it count.” Reeon tried to push himself off the wall, but groaned and sat back. “Bronze scales are the hardest of the species,” he started. “If we want to break through them, we need a dragon’s claws.”
Kevyn bit her lip. “I guess the closest we’ve got are the Claw Artes. Almira’s probably using Galaxia against Alesta.”
“And we have Shadowreave and Lunarcleave.” Reeon eyed Kevyn. “Can you trust me?”
Cain blinked and shook his head one last time, his sight cleared. He roared and came down on all fours again, prompting Kevyn to reply, panicking, “I don’t think I have much of a choice here!”
Kevyn’s burst of light got the bronze draconian to close his eyes and turn his head away, its confusion allowing Reeon to push himself back onto his feet. He wasted no time – shadows tangled around his arms to form clawed gauntlets as he wound up. Then nodding to Kevyn, he said as reassuringly as he could, “Wait until his head turns to release the spell. Come on, I’ve never seen Lunarcleave, you know.”
Kevyn nodded, and heart racing, clasped her hands in one last prayer: As the night’s veil shrouds my path, the Tidecaller shines brighter. The Lunar Bracers winked into view around her forearms, moonstones glowing vibrantly as Kevyn wound up too. Energy coursed down her arms into her hands; she could feel the pulse pounding through her veins. Her body screamed in agonized resistance – Lunarcleave’s energy was still too much for her weakened body to handle – but telling herself Reeon must be suffering the same, she swallowed down the pain. She closed her eyes and focused on what Regulus had shown her before, and commanded herself to replicate the same bright blue arc.
A ball of heat flared a distance in front of her – Cain’s breath attack was coming again. Kevyn felt her back flush icy-hot, like the blood had drained out of her body and pooled at her feet. But Reeon’s voice held her steady, as he firmly commanded, “Release it! Now!”
Power surged through Kevyn’s body like an earthquake, as she threw herself into the swiping movement she remembered Regulus’s foreclaws following. Lunarcleave left her hands in a twisting beam of blue light, and lined up with Reeon’s arrow-like Shadowreave as the two spells cut through Cain’s fire.
The spell’s successful execution almost had Kevyn jumping in delight, until Lunarcleave began colliding with Shadowreave. Each white spark that fizzled between the two spells fed Kevyn’s dread as well – Light and Darkness were opposing elements. And opposing elements created Cancel Theories.
She could see it now: the successful spells would collide one last time and create a spectacular fireworks show in a glorious Cancel Theory. Cain would recover from his blindness, then his jaws would crunch around her and Reeon, if his fire didn’t reduce them to cinders first. So much for celebration.
Lunarcleave and Shadowreave completely touched each other. Fireworks upcoming.
Except, instead of exploding, the two spells meshed with each other. Sparks still flew about between and around them, but as they continued to cut through Cain’s fire, they twisted into a corkscrewing medley of white and black lights. Even Reeon stared in wonder as the impossibly combined spells drilled into Cain’s agape mouth, and exploded in a burst of the same melded lights.
Alesta’s scream pierced the air, along with Cain’s defeated and agonized yelp, as she transformed and flew into the cloud of smoke. A beat of her wings dispelled the remaining smoke, revealing a reverted, unconscious Cain draped over the pearl draconian’s back. “How…” She growled and hissed through her teeth. “How dare you! Not only do you resist the draconians, but you dare to use Origin Theory against us?! You are not meant to wield the gods’ power, measly humans!” She winged high into the sky, roaring back, “This isn’t the last you’ll see of us! Dark Ranger, we will bring you back!”
With that, the two draconians disappeared into the southern skies.
Kevyn sighed and dropped to her knees, as Reeon leaned back against the wall and slid down. After a moment, while clerics and villagers flooded the courtyard cheering, the former voiced their thoughts:
“We made it. We fought a draconian, and we’re still alive.”
They chuckled together, but Kevyn’s thoughts quickly flew to another topic.
What was “Origin Theory”?