Episode 128

The idle whine of the humvee’s powerplant echoes back in faint chorus from rune etched stonework in the massive courtyard. The vehicle rolls down a narrow passages between low walls dividing sections of old architecture risen out of the earth. Shadows shrink under the near noon sun behind tall pillars that blend magic and technology into a strange machinations. Easing down on the accelerator, Cideeda maneuvers the weathered military machine down a long straight away leading towards the imposing central tower. “Well, this is about the best route I can see at the moment. Unless we’ve seen any other ways?”

Sebastian’s ghostly visage peeks out the top hatch of the humvee and scans at the ruins ahead. “Yeah, your guess is as good as mine. We’re stuck figuring this out on our own now.”

Frustration drives harder taps upon a phone screen. Aristespha squirms in her seat with simmering aggravation and watches each failed call attempt prompt appear. “Gods damn it. This must interference from the barrier.”

She glances over to her side, towards Bach. “Is any radio signal getting through?”

Bach pushes up a grimace and uncomfortably chuckles while revealing the output from a radio app on his aetherphone. “Yeah... No. Either dead air or overpowering noise. I’ve done everything Cideeda said to try, too.”

He glances up towards the driver’s seat and scratches the back of his neck. “Anything else I should try?”

Darting her emerald green eyes briefly to the rear view mirror, Cideeda fights a frown and sighs as she steers around a fallen retainer wall. “If you’re not even finding a weak signal, I don’t think anything is going to get through right now.”

Staring up through the windshield with hands upon the dash, Sotalia’s golden eyes search above and glint against the faintly tinted light. “That field has stretched from the walls up to the tower. Gods, that’s a lot of power to do that.”

She turns her attention over her shoulder and perks a seeking brow between Aristespha and Bach. “I don’t think I’m the only one feeling the amount of magic in area has gone up.”

Leaning forward from her back seat, Dretphi tilts her head and frowns. “I FEEL it. It is unsettling.”

Sebastian floats down upon the aisle and shudders his ghostly form. “This place is powering up. I’m surprised the sword hasn’t started screaming. But, from what I can perceive, the ambient levels are rising.”

Twisting the nose on her light brown face, Cideeda sniffs and rubs the back her hand underneath her nostrils. “This place smells strange. Just the weirdest mix of scents.”

Cocking his head to the side, Sebastian lifts an intrigued brow. “From anywhere in particular?”

Cideeda shakes her head and tenses her arms as she navigates the humvee through a narrowing passage between two fallen runs of stone perimeter walls. “No. Just seems to be in the air overall. Ancient dust, upturned earth, hot iron, moist copper... bits of stagnant water...”

She cracks her door window, sniffs in the air a few times, and seals the opening back up. “Salty mist... And... Faint ozone in the background.”

Shuddering back at attention, she glaces at the rear view mirror and sighs as she settles back into her seat. “There’s just a lot going on.”

Rolling her emerald eyes, she cracks a wry smirk with a snort. “Makes sense I guess with everything else that’s happening.”

Narrowing her golden eyes, Sotalia points a black nail ahead and cocks her head. “That looks like some kind of... parking lot ahead?”

Noticing the attention when she turns her head back to the confused team, she combs backs a few stray locks of fiery orange, wavy hair over a swept back black horn. “Well, see for yourself. It’s a big space connected to the roadway we’re on.”

Bach stares out the side through his door window and nods slowly, spotting urban order contrasting the ages of erosion upon the surrounding ruins. “This is looking like a city block almost. There’s signs that there were sidewalks and other stuff.”

Scanning her violet eyes out her side of the humvee, Aristespha’s ivory face twitches during flits of recognition. Her memories twist a grimace out from the gray and blue hints on her cheeks. “The layout and architecture... There is a lot of similarity between this and the structure that we went to in the PWZ. If it was any other situation, this would actually be fascinating to go through with someone like Dr. Malkav.”

As the humvee coasts closer to the entrance of the ancient brickwork parking lot, Dretphi gazes out upon the old abandoned structures spread out nearby. She shifts her attention between faded flow channel etched displays, intricate outlines of walking paths, and remnants of park furniture. “This was a peaceful place in the past.”

After moment of thought, her steely gray eyes widen briefly. A surge of suspicion grips her, and she steadies herself within the aisle. Carefully maneuvering between the Aristespha’s and Bach’s seats while Sebastian drifts partially into the front console, Dretphi cautiously peeks out the hatch. She whispers down at Cideeda. “Stop here.”

The humvee eases to a complete stop at a four way intersection, perpendicular to a curving access road and across from the parking area ahead. Dretphi searches the skies and hunts along the horizon. After a minute of paranoia driven watch, she eases out a reserved breath. “We have not been attacked since we crossed the threshold.”

The concept filters to the rest of the team, and curiosity leads to new interest in their surroundings. Sebastian phases through the roof of the humvee and coasts high up. He floats in the quiet ambiance and stares below at the dense urban sprawl ahead encircling the central tower. Coasting back down next to the awaiting team in the humvee, he furrows his brow and crosses his arms. “I don’t think we’re going to get any closer to the toward the tower in the humvee.”

As the driver’s side window rolls down, Cideeda droops her furry ears, wrestles a frown, and snarls upper lip. “I know. I don’t see any passages ahead we can fit through. We’ll at least be less noticeable on foot at this point anyway.”

She flexes her claw tips into the steering wheel and huffs out her disappointment. “Park up ahead?”

Sebastian nods and glances down both ways of the remnants of a roadway. “About as good as any place around here.”

Zipping ahead of the humvee, he scouts around the piles of rumble at the edges of area and the scattered dusty debris shedding layers of caked on age with the faint breezes circulating through. After the powerplant spins down, the vehicle doors open and the team disembarks. Gathering their equipment, everyone inspects themselves and prepares. Before closing the door, Dretphi gazes upon the minigun upon the back seat and sighs with a reluctant frown. Bach leans over to peek inside and shifts his attention to Dretphi. “I think it did its job perfectly today.”

Dretphi blinks back to attention and curls a warm smile with a nod. “It did.”

A grin cracks at the corner of her mouth, and she perks her brow at Bach. “Wish I had more ammunition.”

Standing up straight, she secures her hold on two different shoulder straps, and sun glints off the handle of the flow blade on her back. “Not forgetting anything, this time.”

Both share an understanding nod. The team assembles near the mouth of a wide walkway between a dense corridor of ancient buildings. Stepping ahead of the team, Aristespha gawks at the disused structures and peeks through an intact, dirt caked window. “It’s amazing... These buildings are in outstanding condition.”

Sotalia walks up next to Aristespha, rests her hands on her hips, and studies the vicinity. “This feels like a city center of sorts-”

Her golden eyes snap to flickers of magical illumination seeping out from a filth coated board between two posts. Cautiously stepping closer to it, she points it out to the rest of the team. After observing both Aristespha and Bach scan it over with glowing stares, Sotalia gestures through a quick incantation. With a slow wave of her arm out, flows of magical energy drift out upon the air and wash over the mounted surface. The layers of packed dirt flakes off into a long pile upon the ground, and the cleansing spell reveals a display flickering out distorted diagrams. The gathering focuses upon the split seconds of information fluttering out from blackness.

A spark lights up Cideeda’s eyes, and she reaches out an inquisitive finger tip towards the display. After numerous searching taps upon the outer edges, she finds a spot that goads the magitech machine momentarily to stability. Gauging the silent consensus from the assembly, she pulls her hand back. One firm palm strike smacks the display. A burst of light floods the screen and settles to a stable image of a simple area map. Warbling audio emanates from the device in a pleasant, chipper tour guide cadence. Bach and Sebastian exchange confused glances at the language resonating out. While Cideeda and Dretphi catch bits of understanding, Aristespha struggles to piece together a full comprehension. “This sounds like a very old derivative of Emin?”

Recognition sparks delighted surprise out of Sotalia, and she smiles with flutter of her golden eyes as she straightens her posture. “No. It’s a parent to modern Emin dialects that is still spoken in small pockets of Uropa. Strange that this thing is speaking it.”

Aristespha tilts her head of long, silvery blue hair and lifts an intrigued brow. “Not entirely. If this place was involved in the construction of the Abstract Prism, then it had to support the top mages from around the world. So, it stands to reason they had multilingual options, for that time period.”

Sebastian cocks his head and shrugs as he hovers in place. “So, any information on how to best get to the central tower?”

Carefully tapping the ancient device, Sotalia pans the visual map around under the direction of Dretphi over her shoulder. After a minute, Dretphi furrows her brow and motions down the stonework path between buildings. “This leads to a main route towards it.”

Without further objection, the team reassembles and travels down the passage. The group navigates the disused pedestrian paths between old urban magical architecture. Near noon sun glints off the clean lines of shaped, smooth rock, and traces of fine flow channels embedded into the supporting pillars reflect briefly. Branches off the main path lead towards small courtyards within evenly divided rows of housing. Echoes of foot steps bounce off the faded, colorful displays curling down wandering strips of abandoned districts. Hints of long forgotten commerce and industry peek through the debris under collapsed structures. Nearly pristine avenues showcase the seamless transitions between smooth, matte, and rough finishes to fit ancient design aesthetics.

Dretphi stops briefly and squints through the layers of age packed dirt upon a huge front window. She scans the interior and blinks with each spark of familiarity. Eventually she spots a huge smooth stone grill in the center of the abandoned restaurant. Pulling herself away from admiring, she quickly steps up back to the group. The team continues onto the main passage and gaze up at the imposing central tower. Wandering his gaze around, Bach slows his pace. Cideeda stops next to him and perks her brow. “Find something?”

As the rest of the group halts curiously, Bach wrestles a grimace and narrows his stare as it bounces between different points around the pedestrian mall. “I don’t know. I’m feeling something around here. I don’t think it’s anything... bad. But, it’s definitely elder energy of some kind.”

Cideeda sniffs the air and furrows her brow. Flicking her furry ears around, she focuses upon a circular metal framed hatch in the middle of street. Pointing it out, she glances with an amused hoist of her eyebrow between Aristespha, Bach, and Sotalia. “Could one of you magically inclined check that out to make sure it isn’t going to blow up?”

Both Aristespha and Bach blink their eyes to illumination and carefully approach the cover. Sotalia follows closely behind, stands concentrating, and consults the other two. “It feels like some kind of elder energy.”

Bach nods along with Aristespha and frowns uncertainly. “Yeah... But, it’s different somehow.”

Aristespha checks the sword at her side and taps the handle of the blade incredulously. “I’m just surprised this sword hasn’t gone off on something yet.”

Coasting over to the gathering, Sebastian shrugs his ethereal visage and sighs. “There’s so much in the background, I think it doesn’t detect it as a surge in comparison.”

Cideeda steps close to the hatch, kneels down, and cocks her head of short, multi-colored hair. Combing a few stray locks back under her light helmet, she inspects the hatch and feels for a latch. “Definitely some kind utility hatch. I think I can open it like-”

She pulls the release and guides up the door up. Staring down, her emerald green eyes widen, and she blinks in disbelief. “You all might want to see this.”

The team congregates around and gawks at faintly glowing translucent conduits, coated in magical etchings. Aristespha slowly shakes her head. “Gods, there must be networks of these conduits underneath this whole place.”

Bach grits his teeth and strains out an uncomfortable sigh. “I swear it feels like it’s getting stronger.”

Sebastian nods in agreement and motions the team towards the central tower. “More of reason for us to get to the tower. Let’s keep heading that way.”

After a group agreement, Cideeda seals the hatch back down. The team follows their path and merges into a main trunk. Closing in on the tower, Dretphi glances around. A freshly cleared section of window seizes her attention. With a quick snap of a point, her stare scans the vicinity. “Someone was here recently.”

Sotalia’s golden eyes light up and a determined scowl emerges on her light tan face. “HE went this way.”

Checking the area ahead, Cideeda points out recent foot prints in the disturbed dirt. Sebastian glances between the team and grants a quiet nod. He stares into the distance at the huge base of the tower. He motions the group to follow and zips out ahead. With Sebastian scouting, the team swiftly travels the distance and reaches precipice of the tower base.

Hiding around the side of a utility building, the team waits as Sebastian hovers out in the open. Checking the vicinity, Sebastian darts his eyes between heavy slabs of solid stone laid, the supporting pillars wrapped in coils of elder conduits, and the heavy, reinforced archways supporting massive doors. In the quiet court, only the whistle of wind rushing around the abandoned urban buildings fills the air with sound. Sebastian pauses a moment. Furrowing his brow, his stare lands upon a huge door leading into the central tower that’s just barely parted.

With a point and a silent signal, he darts ahead and the team swiftly follows up.

Wispy white hairs drift within the current of elder power spiraling up, and Noxian’s gray eyed stare focuses upon the control console embedded to a lone, dark red obelisk. Surrounding the central dark pillar, splinters of light dart through layers upon layers of flow channels within the translucent floor. Elder glows radiate through angular pathways, spread through smooth passages, and propagate down sharply arranged ducts. The currents shift in and out of shrinking branches and thick trunk lines lead to and from the central reflective obelisk and the outer perimeter of magitech machinery thirty meters away. Flickers of activity pulse through the neatly assembled collections of crystalline modules, glyph woven cabling, and immaculately manufactured circuitry within the confines of carefully constructed enclosures. Jolts of elder power bounce between sub systems equally distributed around the core and rush to the next destination in the continuous chain.

Straightening his thin form, Noxian feels the worn tail of his blue scarf and gazes upwards. Noon sun bounces in through the open roof nearly two hundred meters above. Glancing around at the pulses of flow rocketing up massive channels upon narrowing vertical, interior corridor leading to the top of the building, Noxian refocuses his eyes. Squinting against the sunlight glowing brightly, he raises his hand to shield his view from the glare. A faint curl of a smile appears, and his curiosity gazes upon the trace shimmers of red above. Pushing against the very fluid of space, tiny pockets of ethereal crimson stubbornly appear as drifting bubbles. After a few moments, the shape wavers to a dissipating mass and the escaping miasma soaks through to its origin. A slow nod guides Noxian’s head back to face the display upon the embedded console. Pressing buttons upon a control panel, he switches between different streams of information cascading up the screen. Searching through the text, he grimaces at the figures and sighs hopefully. “Soon... Still need to charge up the-”

He stiffens his posture and blinks blankly. A rush of white flow washes up him. Brushing off his worn jacket, he collects himself and cracks a sly grin. Enveloped in energy, he pivots slowly, cocks his head to the side, and chuckles amused. “I wondered when you all would show up.”

Halted mid steps through the open archway upon the wall of the cavernous chamber, fifty meters from the center of room, Cideeda, Dretphi, Aristespha, Bach, and Sotalia stare in surprise at Noxian. Sebastian fights off an irritated grimace and floats down from his vantage point high above. He lands just above the smooth, faintly glowing floor, and levels a stern stare at Noxian. An amused smile parts Noxian’s lips, and he shakes his head at Sebastian. “You’ll have to excuse me if I wasn’t going to allow you to try to pull another surprise attack on me.”

Sebastian’s visage crosses his arms and releases an ethereal sigh. “Understandable. By the way, you wouldn’t mind telling us how you found this place? I’d be lying to say I wasn’t curious.”

Drawing in a long breath, Noxian glances around Sebastian and narrows a suspicious glare upon the rest of the team as they filter cautiously into the room. After a few seconds, the Cideeda slips in cover opposite of Dretphi behind some heavy support columns rising into the sharp pitch of the ceiling. Aristespha and Sotalia stand in the readied casting stances. Bach stares at Noxian from across the distance and summons up his determination into a stoic frown.

Granting Sebastian a nod, Noxian laughs lightly and shrugs his shoulders. “Well, it was more serendipitous than I’d like to admit. After wandering around the northwestern region a bit and finding nothing, I was honestly curious to see if you all had made any discoveries.”

He perks his brow with a smirk. “After finding out where you lived, I decided to chance placing a tracking beacon on your ride.”

Aggravation twitches out upon Sotalia’s face, and Cideeda’s furry ears flick back as low growl grumbles up throat. Focusing stale concern upon Sebastian, a frown overtakes Noxian’s demeanor. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t the first to get that idea. It seems the GAA had their sights on you. I tried to sabotage their efforts, but only delayed them really.”

Sebastian blinks in surprise and the rest of the team share similar sentiments. With a dull wince, Aristespha grits her teeth and mumbles to herself. Noxian cracks a proud grin and gazes over the group. “Regardless, I’m honestly impressed by how you found this place. You’ll have to tell me how you managed to have a spirit deliver you to the exact spot...”

His gaze hardens to a dark glare. “After I’m DONE.”

With a flush of elder energy around him, he dismissively motions the team away. “Again, I only hold the greatest respect for all of you. I don’t want to cause harm, especially not to those that seek to prevent so dutifully, as all of you have demonstrated. So, take my offer to stay out of my way.”

Sebastian lifts an eye brow and curls an unamused smile. “Do you really expect us to take that offer?”

A genuine chuckle slips out from Noxian, and he shakes his head of wispy, flowing white hair. “No. Of course not. I’d honestly be disappointed.”

Straightening up his posture, Sebastian stares through Noxian and sighs. “Don’t suppose you’d consider just walking away from all this?”

Noxian tilts his head and aims an incredulous gaze at Sebastian. After a moment, Sebastian nods in quiet acceptance. Aristespha takes a few steps closer near a rack of equipment on the outer ring and calls out. “Isaac! Could you explain to me one thing? One fellow academic of the Grand Library to another?”

Blinking to attention, Noxian sidesteps and stares at Aristespha with refreshed intrigue. “I most certainly will try to entertain such a request, as a professional courtesy. Now, whatever is it that you want me to explain?”

Focusing a cold, calculating stare from her violet eyes, Aristespha tenses her body, tilts her head up, and sharpens a stern frown. “How is what you are doing right now, conceptually any different from what was attempted at Orth Ridge?”

Silence drops from the sun lit rooftop, crashes down upon the area, and flushes the thoughts out of Isaac’s mind. A reflexive retort fumbles out of Isaac’s mouth and leaves only quiet contemplation. Between blank blinks, he vainly tries to summon up words in his mouth and falters to uncomfortable introspection. Sebastian furrows his brow watching Isaac, and glances over his shoulder to Aristespha expectantly. Drawing in a long breath, Aristespha cautiously takes a few steps closer with the rest of the team filling up near her. “This place... Despite all the potential you obviously see that it has, there are still unknown dangers. We both have studied enough of history to know how common this rhyme is.”

She motions her hands out to the surrounding, empowered architecture, and calms her pleading cadence. “The sheer amount of thought and care that has gone into this place... It would take the entirety of the Grand Library a lifetime to begin to comprehend the intricacies of this. Much less what it possibly connects to.”

Gawking up at the specks of red mists swelling into existence and fading away in the vast space above the central point of the chamber, she shakes her head of long silvery blue hair. “We are at the precipice of something that affects all of us, safely tucked away from our interference. The Architects of the Abstract Prism had their reasons. They weren’t perfect. But, it was thought out, and they considered all they could.”

She stares at Isaac and meets his pondering expression across the distance. Isaac fights against a sad frown and unconsciously feels the tail of the blue scarf around his neck. His expression settles to an uncomfortable grimace, and he nods respectfully to Aristespha. “I know what you are trying to get at. I’ve had all those same thoughts before. Many times when you all were pursuing me before our showdown in Anta... I pondered if what I was trying to accomplish was the best thing to do, much less enough possible. And, I’ll admit, walking away from it all made sense at few times...”

Pulling a confident smile across his face, Isaac shifts his gaze away from Aristespha and stares right at Bach. “But, I can’t certainly walk away now. No... Not after the Abstract Prism itself saw fit to perform the very thing I sought to achieve!”

Attention drifts to Bach with a guiding motion of Noxian’s hand. Grinning proudly, Noxian nods to Bach. “The proof of what is possible stands right here before-”

Bach’s blue eyes widen with a flood spite surging up from within. He contorts an enraged frown into a harsh glower and jabs a point back at Noxian. “NO! Don’t you fucking DARE use ME to justify your INSANE plan!”

Tensing his whole body, Bach’s steps sound out in the lull from the echoes of his booming voice. “Proof of what is possible?! Are you shitting me?! You don’t have a clue what this has been for me! You got to choose to soak up a bit of elder energy here and there. Have you wondered how it would be to have a connection thrust upon you?”

Gritting his teeth, he puffs up chest in a gasp and growls out in fury. “This power is nothing short of absolutely terrifying! I barely have any control of this energy. Every time I try to put it to use, it feels like I’m taking not just my own life into my hands but anyone around me! You act like it’s some kind of gift from the gods, but it’s been nothing more than a curse to me.”

He pants heavily as tremors of rage shake his balling fists and snaps his full attention to Isaac. “Your whole idea is to grant people access to power that has unchecked potential to do horrific things. I’ve run into others who have had only access to a small amount of Elder energy... And, they were capable of so much... But, they chose destructive and selfish things.”

With a hard swallow, he wrestles down his emotions to a stiff frown and vents out the stress shaking within through a wavering sigh. He meets Isaac’s concerned stare and slacks his shoulders. “It so easy to lose yourself with this type of power. You get caught up in the moment, and you have access to this force. Isaac! I’ve almost kil-”

Bach’s sentence cuts short as horrifying memory chokes his voice. In the strangled silence, Isaac’s stare winces sympathetically as a familiar pain twists upon Bach’s face. Collecting himself a for moment, Bach gasps down a breath and forces out a shuddering tone. “I- I have... killed someone... with this power. The same way... you tried to kill my brother...”

Leveling a pleading stare through Isaac, he closes his eyes hard and squeezes out a few tears. A sad, fatherly frown overtakes Isaac and his posture eases. Searching inside his own mind, Isaac remains silent and gazes over to Sebastian to receive a confirming nod. Drawing in a deep breath, he sighs solemnly and dons a comforting tone across the distance. “Bach... Don’t lose sight on the good you’ve done. I’ve seen what you can do-”

Bach holds up his hand and narrows his blue eyes towards Isaac. “I know what I’ve done. And, yes, I’ve been able do incredible things to save people. Having access to this power has allowed me to change what would have certainly been terrible outcomes.”

Twisting to grimace, he hisses in a breath and shakes his head. “But, what good I’ve done shouldn’t justification for... THIS! I barely know what the fuck I’m doing.”

Averting his stare around the room, he pats his hand on his chest and blinks despondently. “I’m a mistake! This feels like an accident in the grand scheme of things. I’m probably a glitch. An outlier!”

He faces Isaac and frowns. “If anything, I’m proof that you should just STOP.”

In the quiet moments, Isaac darts his gray eyes through his own mind and sorts through the surge of thoughts. Bach slumps his shoulders and shakes his head. He meets the reassuring gazes from the rest of the team, and musters up a weak smile. Sebastian returns his attention to Isaac and cranes his head gauging the sentiment. “So...”

Isaac stands up straight within the radiant white flow of energy around him. He nods towards Bach and sighs. “Bach... You are not wrong. And, I’m sorry for putting any kind of pressure on you.”

He slides his gaze to Aristespha. “Aristespha, your points are well noted and are not wrong either. I’m not that unaware.”

Determination slowly infiltrates his expression as his fingers brush back the tail of the blue scarf over a shoulder, and Isaac gazes over the team. “Know that I do all this for my own reasons in the end. And... I believe that ultimately the good that will come from my efforts will far outweigh what problems may come...”

A surge of white glows out of Noxian’s eyes, and he resolutely frowns as the power billows out from his body. “Because, we will finally have all the tools we were denied to fix properly address what may come.”

Sebastian’s visage drifts away from Noxian, and the team readies themselves into defensive positions. Noxian straightens his posture, tilts his head up, and glares over the team. He calmly motions towards the archway leading outside the chamber. “Again, you can walk away. I offer the option. Take it, leave, and any bad blood between us will end. Then, I’ll finish up what I need to do.”

Seconds crawl between the confrontation as the faint ambient murmurs of radiating power reverberate. Noxian nods with a half smile and watches Sebastian hover back in front of the team. The console in the central obelisk flickers to new life as the countless flow channels in the floor pulse.


Aristespha tightly grips the sword with a frustrated sneer. Sebastian hovers back up into the air at the ready. A burst of energy erupts into a forceful wave from Noxian. Layers of ancient dust billow up in a dissipating wall, and the concussive force breaks over the outer perimeter of magitech systems. The team scatters quickly into cover, while Sebastian keeps a watchful glare upon Noxian.

Summoning up a flaming brilliance, Sebastian’s visage launches out towards Noxian. “Why do you have to make this hard?!”

A chorus of magical power building bounces around the cavernous chamber from different sources. A volley of energy beams arc up from behind cover, angle through the air, and pelt down into barrier around Noxian. A heavy prismatic bolt rockets high into the space above, turns sharply, and speeds down. Within meters of Noxian, it splits into a wild swarm of smaller orbs that chaotically track into the protective field. Sotalia leans out from cover, swings an arm out, and releases a fiery stream across the distance that burrows into the outer layers of the magical bubble engulfing Noxian. Calmly directing reinforcing flows with his hands, Noxian searches the outer perimeter of chamber equipment and narrows an expectant stare. Twin blue laser beams strike from a position far from the rest of the team. With an amused grin, Noxian snaps gray eyes over to Cideeda dropping back down into cover. “I was curious what part of my back side you’d try to shoot, Cideeda!”

Sebastian darts back in front of Noxian, just outside his protective barrier, with a smug smirk. “Kind of hard to watch all the angles isn’t it? Wouldn’t it be easier if you didn’t put up such a fight and just surrendered? We’re already in here and the GAA is just outside. It’s only a matter of time.”

Another volley of magical artillery rains down upon Noxian and pounds ripples across the protective field. Twin blue laser beams repeatedly test untouched sections of the barrier, and dig towards Noxian before dissipating. Between each attempt, Cideeda deftly slinks under the cover of the assaulting chaos to new hidden angle of attack. Through the omnipresent noise and cacophony of magic energies sizzling into spews of sparks and plumes of miasma, Noxian blinks to a sudden awareness and mumbles. “...where is Dret-”

A flash out light erupts near the central console and a thunderous boom overwhelms the air within the chamber. A rifle round spins suspended within a thick elder field a meter from the dark obelisk under the reddening vapors above and quickly slows as the energies constrict a round it. Slowly shaking his head, Noxian grins and chuckles mocking. “You really think I forgot THAT plan?”

Sebastian grants a quick hand signal and darts back. The rest of the team sinks back into cover, and Noxian sighs dismissively. “I would hope you’d give me a little more credit. But, I understand. You’re testing how much power I really have at the moment. Let assure you...”

He bows his head down and growls darkly. “I am tied into significant reserves that are growing each second. So, take your time. Soon your efforts won’t matter.”

Sebastian disappears from view above, and his visage re-materializes next to Aristespha behind the heavy chassis of a magitech machine. “So... Ideas?”

Cideeda’s hushed tone crackles softly over Aristespha’s radio. “Not really. His barrier is as tough as usual. And, it didn’t seem like it was weakening.”

Wrestling a frown on her ivory face, Aristespha shakes her head. “He’s definitely receiving power from that device in the middle of the room.”

Sotalia squirms her back against a low stonework wall, next to a desk, and groans. “Gods, it does feel like something is charging up. I don’t think the bastard is bluffing. Fuck.”

Inspecting her rifle, Dretphi turns her helmeted head over towards the team. “He is protecting the obelisk. It is important.”

Peeking around a large magitech machine, Bach blinks his glowing blue eyes and studies Noxian patiently pacing near the embedded console at the center of the room. “Yeah... It’s not as tightly layered as his personal barrier, but it’s still pretty thick.”

Sebastian blinks and scours through a surge of ideas in his head. After a few moment, he cocks his head and glances around at the nearby team. “Does that mean he’s having a hard time forming that barrier?”

Furrowing her brow, Aristespha’s violet eyes gaze at Sebastian. “The device itself could be interfering with his efforts to protect it, since he is drawing from it.”

Meeting his brother’s inquisitive glance, Bach cracks a bold grin and lifts a daring eyebrow. “One way to find out.”

Sotalia flexes her fingers and smiles slyly, Dretphi checks over her rifle, and a faint chuckle from Cideeda crackles from the radio.

Stepping idly around the central obelisk, Noxian casually observes the stream of text data rolling up the console display. He pauses his pace, gazes up at the thickening blobs of translucent red swelling into reality and shrinking away from the world. Watching the imagery reflects in the obsidian surface of the obelisk, he nods to himself. He pivots in place and stares out over the outer perimeter of equipment. Shaking his head in disappointment, he vaguely twists a grimace on his tan face and sighs loudly. “It won’t be long. I’ll have the power and the access I need. Your efforts will be moot. Again, you may leave peacefully.”

Zipping out from cover into the air, Sebastian smugly crosses his arms. “Sorry, Noxian. We kind of need you to NOT fuck the fabric of our reality. It’s historically never gone that well for... anyone really.”

As Sebastian drifts down closer, Noxian brushes off his jacket, adjusts his blue scarf carefully, and frowns. “And what exactly are you all going to do about it?”

The sound of a rifle cocking reverberates in the chamber. Two voices quickly recite incantations. Two high pitched whines bounce around the huge space. And, the faintest rise of a white noise mixes with the chorus. Noxian furrows his brow and groans unamused. “Humoring yourselves with another assault on me?”

Aristespha and Sotalia pop up from behind different pieces of machinery and level their aim towards Noxian. Just as surges of flow condense around their hands into their spells, they snap their aim to the side. A spark of shock ignites Noxian’s stare as his mind screams out the new target. A concentrated cutting ray streaks out from Aristespha and slices into the field around the console. Sotalia swings out a spiraling torrent of prismatic energy, and the stream burrows into the wavering barrier. A surge of elder energy floods out from Noxian, swarms down into a jet of power, and sinks into the shielding around the device at the center of the room.

Streaks of vapor crack into existence behind small electromagnetic bolts splashing to the protective field around the central obelisk. Cideeda adjusts for the recoil from her gauss pistols and strafes around as metal punctures the outer layers of the field. A rifle round plows deep in the barrier, and a thunderous boom rattles ancient dust from the furthest reaches of the angled ceiling. Another swell of elder energy radiates out from Noxian and merges with protective bubble around the console. Noxian grits his teeth and struggles to quell the ire hissing out. “WELL! Not an unexpected tactic. But, I can certainly compensate for it, as you can see! Easily maintainable-”

Bach rises into view, containing a swirling orb of layered white noise between his hands. With a mighty pitch, he flings the D-ball free from his palm. The sphere of annihilation jets across the open space and homes in on the central console. It presses into the outer layers of the elder barrier and grinds out the energies. The orb shreds off solidified magic into jelly spews that splat upon the smooth floor. Stiffening his upper lip against the twitches of strain flitting across his face, Noxian grits his teeth summons up another rush out power from within and guides it into the shield around the central system. Bach narrows his brilliantly glowing blue gaze and tenses his whole body. Fiery torrents of prismatic power rush down multiple flow threads leading to the D-ball. The diminishing orb stabilizes and coats itself in new layers of annihilating power. The disintegration ball drills further and plumes of congealed elder and prismatic miasma burst forth behind it. Fear widens Noxian’s white glowing eyes, and the overwhelming strain manifests into body twisting tension.

Sebastian spots the change and yells out. “SWITCH!”

Aristespha and Sotalia hold their spells briefly, pivot, and release their power upon Noxian. Cideeda pops out from a new hiding spot, levels her gauss pistols, and unleashes bursts of tiny electromagnetic bolts into the thinning barrier around Noxian. As the rounds sink dangerously close to Noxian, Dretphi lines up her rifle’s scope, holds her breath, and squeezes the trigger. A large round punctures past layers of protection and slows to a spinning halt centimeters away from Noxian’s chest. Panic overtakes the elder empowered mage. Noxian roars out as his eyes flash pure white and wave of phosphorescent energy explodes out. Beams and streams reflect erratically off. Electromagnetic bolts spray out and ricochet around Cideeda as she dives for cover. As Dretphi shields herself, a returned round embeds itself into the receiver of her rifle. The wave dissipates short of the prismatic conduits leading to the D-ball.

Noxian stumbles upon his feet and coughs violently. Mustering up the strength to stay upright, he struggles to collect himself and screams out. “THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU ALL?! WHY THE FUCK DO YOU HAVE TO GET IN MY WAY! I’M TRYING TO FIX THINGS!”

Watching the blatant fatigue in each of his steps, Sebastian commands. “TAKE HIM DOWN!”

Slamming both her wrists together, Sotalia unleashes a radiant beam and shoves Noxian’s protective barrier against him. Cideeda holsters her gauss pistols, draws her laser pistols, and drags searing blue points over Noxian’s shielding. The forces press Noxian away from the central pillar. Dretphi charges out, and sprints to her target. Aristespha summons the flows for spell and concentrates a cutting ray into the closing void left by the dissipating D-ball.

As Dretphi closes in on Noxian, she grips the flow blade on her back and concentrates. With flickers of glow from her eyes, she draws down the radiant crimson edge sword as another pulse of flow down her armored arms ignites the weapon in red ethereal flames. Snapping back to awareness, Noxian guides a swell of elder flow and braces against the impact of the blade. Dretphi swipes into the protective field and follows up by slamming a downwards, crushing blow. She presses the glowing red edge into energy field as arcs of prismatic and elder sparks spray out.

Noxian summons up more strength and gathers enough to deadlock against the constant onslaught. Seething in rage, he glares out at his attackers and roars out. “STOP! NOW! Or... I will be forced too-”

Glancing past his assailants, Noxian spots the absence of a sword in the sheath at Aristespha’s side. Running out from cover, Bach rushes towards Noxian opposite of Dretphi. Focusing his resolute, illuminated blue stare upon Noxian, he grips the glowing Sword of the Spirit Realm tightly and charges down a clear attack vector across the open floor. His footsteps punch through the noise into Noxian’s ears. Diverting his focus, Noxian watches Bach and the sword close in. He flings out his arm. Elder power rushes out and floods out underneath the magical bubble. Swells of energy boil out from the surface of the barrier, and launch forth. The fast moving orbs swarm towards Bach. Sebastian spots the attack and calls out. “Incoming Bach!”

Bach spots the bulbous bolts speeding towards him. For a moment, he slows his progress, tenses defensively, and grimaces. From the back of his mind, a rush of confidence thrusts him forward. With an aggressive pace, Bach readies the sword and visually tracks the incoming magic orbs. He side steps the lead bolt. Pops the next with a thrust, and sword vacuums the elder power in. Left and right swings slice the next few into puffs of fading miasma. Another assertive blade first charge runs another bolt through. Upwards slash cleaves one in half, and a final swing back smacks the lead one sneaking up into oblivion.

Noxian cringes under the strain and pants in daze. He snaps back to awareness to witness Bach ram the sword through his barrier. The protective field warps and ripples violently. Arcs of energy crackle upon the blade. Against an all consuming vacuum, layers elder energy stretch to the breaking point and twist into the surging glow of the sword. Noxian gawks in sheer horror as the tip of the weapon wanders closer and closer to his body.

A blinding flash floods the area as a wave of elder power erupts from Noxian. The force lifts Dretphi up into the air, and she rolls backward mid flight. Bach coasts meters back over the smooth open floor, and crashes into a fast, bouncing tumble. The Sword of the Spirit realm clatters away. Landing flat upon the hard ground, Dretphi’s armor scrapes upon the translucent floor to rough stop. From above, her flow blade spins downwards from the highest part of the chamber as unstable energies arc over, and sparks and smoke stream behind it. The weapon spears into translucent floor and fractures into a burst of pieces.

Cideeda pops quickly out of cover, glances around, and lines up shots at Noxian. The blue beams pulse out and impact a thin barrier. Noxian stares coldly at Cideeda and shakes his head. A flash of power surges up the focused light into the muzzles of the weapons. Cideeda’s furry ears flick to the sudden high pitch whines, and she releases her grips of the pistols. Just as they clear her hands, both shatter in a concussive bursts that knocks her to the ground. Noxian swings his chilling glare towards a dazed Aristespha fighting to maintain her focus on a spell and the cutting ray digging too close the console. Before he can raise his hand up towards Aristespha, a jet of fire flashes engulfs the area around him. While Aristespha releases her spell and stumbles down into cover, Sotalia stands tall, sneers her upper lip at Noxian, and readies another spell.

In the moment, Sotalia and Noxian exchange abject glares of hatred. Sotalia summons up the energies for another attack. Noxian snaps his hand and white lance streaks out. A bright flash bursts out from Sotalia’s midsection and she falls back on the ground. Sebastian’s visage shudders erratically, and he wanders aimlessly back towards the ground. After a few moments, his ghostly form dissipates and reappears near the sword. He drifts around gripping the sides of his head while his form warps and wavers. Crawling behind the cover, Aristespha gathers her senses, searches around, and spots Sotalia laying on the ground. She reaches her and whispers. “Are you okay?”

Sotalia turns her head slightly towards Aristespha, pulls her hand from the center of her curled up form, and gazes upon the red coating her light tan and dark gray hand. “Not... really...”

Aristespha musters up her resolve against terror and goes through her medical supplies, while the violet light in her eyes wanes. “Hold on...”

Drawing a long breath, Noxian exhales slowly and shakes his head coldly. He surveys the aftermath and frowns somberly. As he steps closer to the central dark obelisk, he stops and rotates his gaze towards the open floor. Slipping a foot underneath himself, Bach forces himself up from the ground. Wincing with each motion, he manages to get his other boot flat on the ground. Sucking up the wind in his lungs, he lifts up and wobbles upon his feet. After a few moments, he keeps himself standing and straightens his posture. Prying his blue eyes open, he stares towards the central point.

Pity seeps through the cold exterior, and Isaac sighs remorsefully. “Bach. Just. Stop. All this fighting is pointless.”

Painfully stretching himself to stand straight, Bach aims his gaze upon Isaac. After a quiet moment, Isaac shakes his head and explains. “Before you do anything else, the two of us fighting is pointless. I have far more control over my power and I’m gaining more by the moment. You’ll just risk overexerting yourself, and to what end?”

Bach’s stare focuses inwards. His blue eyes sort through untold thoughts, and he grimaces uncomfortably with flit of panic slipping out. As the seconds pass, something from the back of his mind seizes his attention. Waves of fear subside. Twitches of worry calm down. Cool resolve flows out from within. Bach flutters his eyes back to the now and lifts a stare up to Isaac.

Motioning around the room to the downed team members, Isaac sighs pleadingly. “Your friends need you right now. Take care of them, and get them to safety. You’ve done your due diligence. No one will fault you for escaping-”

Isaac cocks his head uncertainly and narrows a curious stare. Uneasily searching the room, Isaac tenses his body and focuses upon Bach.

Sparks of power flicker out from Bach’s brilliant white eyes, as veins of flow spread out into his resolute face.