Twilight of the Gods
"If we dont end war, war will end us."
- Herbert George Wells (1866-1946)
Pax Eternus Fleet Flagship
Gladius-class Battlecruiser Libertas
Somewhere in the Void
The relentless frigid winds of winter broke upon the immobile figure, snowflakes joining their siblings as they finally rested after a long journey. They settled upon ancient metallic scales, long since devoid of the life that had borne them into the world. A thin layer of ice had formed, the only hint that there was anything remotely living beneath that frozen body. Had the winds been that of the elementals, perhaps this strange obstacle would have been noted. After all, this particular path had been devoid of hindrance since the beginning of time.
Ice cracked and crumbled away as a pair of eyelids opened. Beneath were two dark globes, pupils dilated, whose depths threatened to draw one in as easily as the void that surrounded the motionless figure. They turned their attention sideways and through the layers of degenerate matter hewn from the depths of the world.
Natalia of Tacitus shifted her feet as the figure reappeared less than five paces away. Unnatural flakes of snow began to melt immediately in the presence of Justia, but they vaporized an instant after that. Golden scales receded by the will of its master, each layer cascading upon the next as they steadily faded from existence. The man beneath paid no heed as the scales shimmered away to reveal a wrinkled blue undress coat with buttons undone and medals misaligned.
"Natalia," Godfrey of Antigonus turned from the crimson-haired woman and with the sweep of a hand, cleared his desk of useless papers. He respectfully brushed aside a necklace of finely woven platinum and instead picked up an aged gold ring. Godfrey turned back to the woman, his left hand once again accompanied by the familiar weight, and frowned. With a gesture, the room was bathed in a pleasing soft-white light. "What's the matter?" he asked.
Natalia sighed as she examined Godfrey from head to toe. He was of tall stature, with thickly muscled arms and a broad chest that strained the fabric of his white tunic. His beard was unkempt, as was the blond hair that had been swept back lazily. The famed Golden Knight of Socius did not belong in a naval uniform, much less that of an Admiral. He was a warrior and his physical presence was imposing to all but the most stalwart. Yet it was a strength that many drew on during the dark times that had gripped the world.
"What's wrong?" Godfrey echoed again.
Natalia sighed again as she crossed the distance between them. She grasped the rank bars upon his chest and carefully rearranged the medals beneath. "You look terrible," she grumbled. After taking a step back, she eyed his facial growth. "How are we supposed to follow a man that can't even shave?"
A smile came to Godfrey's face, unbidden but not unwelcome. "Enough. We both know you have a lot of work to do," he said as he readjusted the medals himself. "This might be the first time your ship has served as my flag, but that just means you should be paying even more attention to her instead of me."
Natalia gave a motherly smile. "The Libertas has not been this well-prepared since the fall of Virego, my compliments to the Santa Ana and her engineers," she spoke as she walked back to the entrance. Beside the doorway, she retrieved a floating tray. Natalia turned back to Godfrey. "The same could not be said of you, Uncle."
Godfrey paused. He had sat down behind his desk was halfway to picking up the necklace when Natalia caught him off-guard. Clouded eyes that betrayed an age far beyond his pleasant visage darkened with those words.
"I thought you might need something to drink," Natalia set the tray upon his desk.
The clatter of porcelain and glass upon the roughly-hewn stone table snapped Godfrey out of his thoughts. "You have not called me that for ages," he remarked as he picked up the necklace. A dozen clear crystals that shone with inner brilliance seemed to brighten ever more once they were again around their Master's neck. "Is this...?" Godfrey held the glass and eyed it suspiciously. It was warm to the touch, and Godfrey watched as the white emulsion swirled about with specks of green herbs. With no answer forthcoming, he took a small sip and almost dropped the glass out of surprise.
"I'm glad you like it," Natalia said smugly. Her green eyes sparkled as she watched over him.
Godfrey set the glass back on the table almost as if he could not believe it existed. "Everett told you?" he asked, the mint taste was still fresh in his mouth. "And where did you get the milk? I had thought such simple pleasures were all but impossible to obtain."
Natalia straightened. "If you would like more, I'll have to ask that you avoid your little trick in the void again. The number of alarms you set off had the crew on edge... and considering the circumstances, that is saying quite a bit." She frowned as Godfrey turned his chair around and stared out the windows. Outside, the relentless storms of Fimbulvetr continued. The snow could not be seen though; only darkness enveloped the Libertas.
"I was relaxing," Godfrey answered. "But if it means so much to you, I will be more discreet." He continued to stare out the window, thinking of the emptiness beyond, when he realized that Natalia had yet to leave. "There is something more, isn't there?" he asked as he turned back.
Natalia reached into the crisp folds of her black uniform and retrived a sealed envelope. She handed it to him.
The writing upon the yellowed parchment was unmistakable, letters of the High Speech penned by a familiar hand. It was addressed to him simply, no titles or ceremony. Upon the back was an equally simple seal, bearing the mark of Asgard.
"Odin," Godfrey whispered as he set the envelope on top of the marbled desk.
"Tritoch asked me to deliver it to you at this time, as a personal favor," Natalia explained. She brushed at a crimson strand of hair that had fallen in front of her eye. "I will leave you now."
Godfrey said nothing. He did not even notice that the lights had dimmed and he was alone. The unopened letter had consumed his senses. He could not feel the steady vibrations of the deckplates, nor see anything but the yellowed parchment and practiced script. His mouth had gone dry and he had stopped breathing.
He could only chuckle out of empathy, laughter that was hollow and without joy. He rested his head against his hand and closed his eyes.
"This resistance will be meaningless!"
Far above the continent of Pegasus was the home of the Enlightened, a sect of humanity that had long since shut themselves from the world. The people of Asgard had been content with their faith and had not fallen prey to the need for power. Such had been their isolation that even those of similar beliefs had thought them all but legend. They were forgotten in time, a footnote in the histories of religion.
The Gods, they did not forget.
Asgard's reappearance had only accelerated the pace of war. The once purely-religious and perhaps luddite men and women of that theocracy had returned as demanded by their Goddess. Unlike the legends, the Asgardians were not mere descendants of Mage Warriors -- the union of Esper and Human -- nor did they return unprepared for the storm of battle. High technology and excellent spell-forms had made their fleets feared by all free peoples. The nation had ended an uneasy peace in Virego, and with undying faith in the righteousness of their cause they joined a war that had engulfed the world.
During a time when Espers were looked upon with jealousy, suspicion, loathing, and occasionally sympathy, a conversation between the two kindreds that regarded each other as equals was almost unheard of. But this was no mere exchange between peers, but between leaders of regal stature.
Not since the sack of Olympia and the fall of Socius had two men of such power, Esper or Human, conversed. It could not be helped. Wounds had not yet begun healing before they had been torn open again. The betrayal of Loki had stunned the world. The Gods, the Avatars and even the hordes themselves -- those that had victoriously descended upon the continent of Gondwana and the Confederacy -- could not believe what had happened. Even now, the League had collapsed and the Confederacy was fighting for its very life. Their patron God had abandoned them as worthless casualties in a conflict far greater than the mortals who fought in it.
"You are wrong. If we do not draw the line here, if we do not fight to protect the lands of Pegasus and the nations beneath, all will be lost," Odin's voice was full of spirit the two leaders stepped out of the castle tower and onto the rampart. Cold air greeted the two men, the chill of Fimbulvetr reached even here, through the layers of magical shielding that protected what was now the last bastion of civilization. Unnatural storms had broken upon the defenses but not even Hlidskialf had been spared the cold harbinger of armageddon.
Godfrey of Antigonus turned to Odin. They were men of equal size, warriors of both the physical and the magical. Both men were in full armor suits, on the off-chance that a Deity would turn their eye towards the center of Asgard. Dragon mail covered by thick plates of metallic substances mined from the deepest places in the world clanked as the two men made eye contact. The gold armor of the Socian Royal Army was offset by the brilliant shine of the silver plates that Odin wore, representing the purity of the Enlightened faith.
"Odin, one does not draw the line against the hordes commanded by Deities! One does not fight Gods on their terms with sorcerery nor technology!" His hand stretched forth and gestured in the distance.
Castle Hlidskialf was set against the darkened skies, far above Pegasus upon the floating island of Idavoll. Beyond, in the space between them and the fortifications of Gladsheim was an armada that blotted out the sky. Thousands and thousands of Asgardian airships were preparing for battle, their silver hulls gleaming under the aging sun. Vessels of every ship and size had been mustered; the Goddess had prophesied the upcoming battle and her children had gathered all that could be found in the sky above Pegasus.
In the center of that grand fleet were some three-dozen Valkyrie-class battlecruisers, their sleek eagle shapes each dwarfing even the Castle Hlidskialf itself. They were the pinnacle achievements of Magi-technology, not even the Socians had managed to blend magic and science into such an elegant yet functional form. A single broadside of elemental cannons had eliminated the capital of Esperanza. When Godfrey had heard of that battle, he had asked the messenger to clarify his meaning. How much of the city remained? Could the Ruling Council of Esperanza maintain order within the nation?
The messenger's reply had silenced an entire room of bickering Socian royalty. The capital had been completely destroyed, the very ground itself had melted away until nothing remained but a pool of metal ores. It had taken under a second for the Pride of Asgard to slaughter ten-million men and women of Esperanza.
To see so many Valkyries together and still know that Asgard was doomed... Godfrey's face twisted. "The Gods have gone mad! You know this, Odin!" he shouted.
Odin stepped forward upon the ramparts of Castle Hlidskialf, ignoring the biting frost and rested his hand against the ancient stone. He stared at the fleet, his fleet, and sighed.
"All I ask is a single squadron," Godfrey pleaded. "Balder has-"
"Balder has deserted us!" Odin shouted. He spun around to his childhood friend. "Asgard is all that remains! We both know this, Godfrey, son of Wilhelm and Prince of Antigonus!" His blue eyes blazed and his blond hair flapped in a sudden gust of wind. "Socius is gone! There is nothing left of our homes! The entire continent is smashed beneath the seas and subject to horrors that had never seen the light of day. You cannot ask me to abandon these people!"
The reminder of his homeland brought with it a storm of repressed memories. Godfrey glared at the Esper that had become the military leader of Asgard and spat against the wall. "You are leading them into certain death."
"So are you!" Odin's gauntlet clanked against his friend's golden chest plate. "Your task is just as desperate, Godfrey."
Godfrey nodded sadly. "However, my mission will see the end of this war. It will strike a blow so great against the Gods that they will finally know our plight. They will be stripped of the bloodlust that has gripped the Trinity and regain their senses."
"You are betting your life and millions of others on legend," Odin retorted. "Not since the dawn of the Golden Age have any been to Equality. There is no evidence of such a place."
"Nor evidence that you could protect Pegasus or Asgard with any number of vessels," Godfrey stared at the massive airship fleet that had been gathered. "Another squadron, a few ships of the line... that is all I ask."
"Impossible, you know this. The eyes of all the Gods and their many servants are upon my people; now is not the time to divert resources to your cause. Your chance will only grow slimmer if I order any element of this fleet to assist you." Odin gripped his friend's shoulders and stared right into those dark eyes. The two men stared into each other's soul.
Minutes passed without movement from either man. At last, Odin straightened. "You are no better than them," he whispered. He spun away and walked back towards the tower, his purple cape bellowing behind as the winds picked up pace.
"I will end this war!" Godfrey shouted at his old friend's back. "I will end it by any means necessary!"
That caught Odin's attention and the great Esper stopped in mid-stride. "And I will preserve life at all cost!" Odin responded in kind. His clear blue eyes glared back at Godfrey. "Neither of us can fall, son of Wilhelm. Your task is no more important than mine."
"That is where we disagree," Godfrey whispered. The winds of Fimbulvetr strengthened and the capes of both men bellowed out magnificently. Above, a triangular formation of three hawk-like airships passed by at stunning speeds.
Odin turned his back. He had read the words on Godfrey's lips. "You have changed," he waved at the two armored men within the tower.
"I will stop the war, Odin. I will make sure nothing like this ever happens again, even if it costs my life and the lives of all that follow me!" Godfrey gritted his teeth and shook his arm at his old friend. "How could there be anything else more important? Equally important?"
Odin clenched his fist and spun to face Godfrey. "You have forgotten the value of life!" he shouted back across the distance that separated the two men. "You have forgotten what it means to protect something you love!" He turned away and walked past the two similarly armored men. One took up a protective stance, blocking any movement towards the leader of Asgard. The second joined Godfrey's side.
"Not even Gungnir can save Asgard now!" Godfrey shouted at his friend's back. "You are a fool, Odin!" He spat on the ground in disgust, angered that a former-Socian would be so stubborn. He could not believe that the Esper would dare accuse him of forgetting the value of life. He knew exactly what it meant to lose someone dear, unlike that self-righteous bigot.
"We should go," Tritoch counseled. He was also dressed in armor, though the Esper was clearly uncomfortable in such gear.
"Indeed," Godfrey growled. "There is nothing more to do for a nation of the walking-dead."
"Why did you speak with Odin in that manner?" Tritoch asked as the two men made their way through the halls of Valhalla. "You two have been friends before you picked up your first blade." He took off the heavy golden helmet and rubbed what looked to be sweaty black hair. An illusion spell covered the Esper's birdlike visage to maintain their secrecy. "In all these years you and Odin fought perhaps three times. Now, during a time of diplomacy, you call him names and insult his honor?"
Godfrey frowned as they rounded the corner. The hallway ended there and opened up into the vast docks of Valhalla, where hundreds of airships were tethered and being repaired. The shipyards were busy and incredibly loud -- work was being done to prepare for their last line of defense -- but the two men of Socius continued talking to each other with the aid of spells.
"Tritoch, we both know how crucial this operation is. A single division of Valkyries was all I asked. Enough firepower so that we could level the Pillars in half the time and our chances of success increased a hundred-fold," Godfrey explained. His eyes drifted to the sleek shapes of the Asgardian fleet, their airships were things of beauty and defied his knowledge of magi-technology. "A couple more ships here will do nothing, Asgard is doomed and everyone knows it."
They were moving fast and soon a dark-blue hull could be seen in stark contrast to the rest of the airships assembled in Valhalla. The degenerate-matter armored Gladius-class battlecruiser, its design a tribute to the ships that had once sailed the seas, was the pride of Socius. Few of those airships remained, but no one was surprised to see one safe in the sanctuary of Asgard. Yet it was not the famed Libertas, but rather the Caedo.
"Godfrey, you are the brother I never had. I had no complaints when you commandeered my ship for a pleasure cruise to Asgard. But that is unreasonable," Tritoch gestured to his vessel. "Those letters don't proclaim the designation of the Libertas. Even you knew that it was too dangerous to be seen in Asgard with that infamous ship. That's why we took the Caedo, because it attracts so much less attention than the Sword of Socius. That's why I am cloaked by this accursed illusion and you stay within the armor of Socian Knights. Attention, Godfrey!"
The Esper stopped and looked over the railings. They were high up, for some dozen floors stretched towards the ground where an uncountable number of technicians, engineers, magicians, and even priests worked to prepare the fleet for a final battle. Below that was thick dark cloud cover that churned about, delivering a blizzard that was unending upon the land of Pegasus.
"The attention of the Gods does not worry me," Godfrey growled. "Nor was that the reason for taking your ship. Natalia simply needed more time to prepare the Libertas for combat. After all, the Caedo did not have to fight an ambush of Titans before her last zone-shift."
"Not the reason? You were the one who convinced me of this mad plan," Tritoch pointed at the unkempt face of his childhood friend. "Remember? An invincible shield that cannot be pierced and the sharpest sword that can cut through anything; when the two meet-"
"I remember that conversation," Godfrey interrupted Tritoch's quote.
"Then you should recall that while the Gods clearly have limits and our initial assumption that they were omnipotent was false, our assault will only succeed if the Gods do not turn their eyes in our direction," Tritoch's eyes, though human in illusion, still bore the deep hawk-like gaze of his true visage. "So long as they fight with each other, their abilities are strained in that conflict. So long as their wills are bent towards deicide, their servants will remain silent. Yet the moment they notice our intent, we will fall."
"Many of those were your own assertions," Godfrey pointed out.
"Well, it's not as if a mere human, even of Socian nobility, could possibly match my understanding of the fabric of reality," Tritoch pointed out as he continued towards his airship. "We'll end this stupid war. Our plan will succeed, but if you continue to strain relations with those that should be our allies, if you test the patience of the Avatars, then all this will be for naught."
An aura of power emanated from Godfrey. It caught Tritoch's attention; it was madness for Godfrey of Antigonus to reveal himself in the center of Asgard! The Avatars were still actively searching for him. However, the energies swirling around his neck disappeared quickly enough.
"I will do whatever is necessary in order to stop the madness," Godfrey voice was hollow. "Too many have sacrificed themselves so that I might succeed. Whatever the cost, whatever is required..."
Tritoch's eyes were downcast. His heart ached at the thought of all his kin that had fallen so that Godfrey could even have a chance to do what was necessary. After all, it would take power unimaginable to stand in front of Gods.
"After we finish with Primordium, the War of the Magi will never happen again," Godfrey promised. "Nothing can stop me now," the essence of pure magic could again be felt. It was weaker this time, but no less impressive. "I will ensure that the Gods will never hurt us again, Humanity or Esperkind."
Tritoch shook his head. He pulled his friend along, metal gauntlet and scaled armor making a deep booming noise on contact. "That kind of division is part of the reason why this madness started." Tritoch pulled on his helmet and hid his fake visage. "Esper or Human, things are never so black and white. But you would know that better than any of us."
Godfrey of Antigonus dismissed the magical energies surrounding him. His strength had vanished with the melancholy reminder, swept away as quickly as it had appeared.
"Do you remember Everett's passing?" the Esper asked softly. His eyes focused purposefully on the crystal necklace hidden beneath golden armor.
Godfrey scowled in response, choosing to hurry to the Caedo instead. It was exactly the answer Tritoch expected.
Pax Eternus Fleet Flagship
Gladius-class Battlecruiser Libertas
Somewhere in the Void
Dark eyes snapped open suddenly. Godfrey shot to his feet, his mouth open as his mind raced to verify what he felt. His heart pounded in anticipation as the calculations finished and meticulous attention to detail acknowledged what he knew deep within his soul.
They were on the move.
A puff of smoke rose from his desk as Godfrey incinerated the envelope without thinking. The letter would only confirm what he already knew: that Odin had found himself rooted in Asgard, with someone in Hlidskialf in particular!
He picked up the blue hat on the table and carefully adjusted its position atop his brown hair. Once satisfied that the visor -- decorated with golden oak leaves and the crest of the Socian Royal Navy -- was properly aligned, he picked up his sheathed sword, touched the golden ring around his finger for courage, and stormed out of his office.
"Admiral on deck!"
The Libertas' bridge crew turned and saluted their Admiral. Godfrey scanned the faces of the men, noting the expected but disappointing absence of Espers. It was unfortunate and a reminder of the times. Long had it been since the days of magical-crafting at the hands of the Olympians. Those happy days had been ended by the nations of Virego and their mad quest for total control over magical power.
Most of the officers returned to work immediately; there was always work aboard a vessel that had been in combat as long as theirs had. Maintenance and preparations would continue until the very moment battle stations were ordered.
Admiral Godfrey gave a reassuring nod to those few faces that looked to him for support. He walked by Captain Natalia and the holographic plot that would be the center of attention once the operation begun. For now, the plot served to show the many ships of their combined fleet, and could offer details on readiness if he felt the need. "Lieutenant," Godfrey addressed a flag officer near a cluster of data terminals, "I want a communication link established with all the Admirals."
The man nodded and barked the necessary orders as Godfrey took his spot beside Natalia.
"What is it?" she asked with a frown.
"Have navigation prepare for the zone-shift," Godfrey ordered.
Natalia's eyes widened in understanding. "Are you sure?"
Godfrey nodded silently as his attention turned to the blue globes appearing around him. Each sphere opened around the midpoint to reveal faint flickering forms, mostly humanoid but all familiar to him. The floating blue globes turned a shade of green, and the voices took form in his mind.
"Admiral Godfrey," the gruff voice of Dante Quemadura was first to reach him. A man in his early forties, he was blind with facial scars marking the explosion to which he had lost his vision. Even without his eyes, the chief architect of the Florentine Alliance was still an imposing figure. With both drive and motivation, the charismatic officer had survived the end of his nation when Virego was smashed. He had even kept his fleet intact, and added to that some several dozen others that had once been his greatest enemies. His battleship had been rechristened the Avenger and he relished any opportunity to take revenge on those that had destroyed his homeland.
"Is it time to slay the Gods?" Dante was casual, as if he were asking if it was time for tea. There was no doubt on his face or unwillingness to commit. They had spent years on the run, without a place to call home. Without purpose or hope, Dante had been the first to support Godfrey. Now after weeks of hiding in the stealth of the void, he was eager for battle.
Godfrey smiled. His eyes passed from leader to leader, pausing on the last. The form was non-human, but rather a face that was vaguely birdlike.
"All three Deities are finally moving," Godfrey stated plainly. "The time for action is upon us."
"Our spells have confirmed the same," Tritoch's voice echoed through the minds of the five leaders and calmed their worries. "The Paracelsus Fleet is prepared to make the zone-shift," the Esper wasted no time with politics. "We will end the war today, fellow Admirals."
"It would seem that chance is on our side, since the Gods certainly are not," the blond hair and blue eyes of Balder had fooled many into thinking he was human, but his lineage was unforgettable. The son of Odin was a powerful ally. A proponent of peace to match Tritoch, the Esper had not followed his father to Asgard but instead worked with his own kind searching for another solution to end the War of the Magi. "The Yggdrasil Fleet will follow Fleet Admiral Godfrey to the ends of the world."
Balder had spoken with grace and cunning. With a single additional word, he had made it clear that the leader of this endeavour would be none other than Godfrey of Antigonus.
The globe to the left of Balder's holographic avatar was a man that could have been Dante's past self. His uniform was crisp and his face devoid of the heavy scaring that most surviving officers had during these times. The strategically brilliant Admiral Lanford of the League had met Godfrey in battle more than once. The Kingdom of Socius and the League of Gondwana had been bitter enemies, especially in light of the League's imbuing technology to which their vessels owed so much of their magical power. Not even the nations of Virego had been as unethical. Yet even their dagger-shaped vessels -- so reliant on magic drained from Espers that they had not even been designed aerodynamically -- had fallen once they became the centerpiece of the continuing deific struggle.
That had been years ago. No matter the ideological and moral differences, the war had made such matters minor. However, the question of command had been one that was important to Lanford. He would be the sole voice of dissent, for Tritoch and Balder were clearly in Godfrey's camp and Dante could not be counted on. Yet Lanford was the sole ruler of his people now, and perhaps more once the Confederacy of Gondwana gave up their futile defense of a dying homeland. While his followers had dwindled to a small fraction of their original strength, his pride did not diminish so easily.
Lanford nodded his head respectfully, to the surprise of all. "Excalibur and the Caledfwlch Fleet are at your command, Godfrey," he managed crisp inflection despite his country's thick accent.
Godfrey breathed a sigh of relief. Lanford commanded the most significant portion of their combined fleet, for his people were the latest to be destroyed by the will of the Gods and his fleet was not yet depleted from years of extended combat. Had Lanford refused to commit, the entire mission might have been jeopardized.
"Very well Admirals, then the Grand Fleet is committed. Operation Götterdämmerung has begun."
Each Admiral nodded, saluting in their own fashion and signing off the communication link. The blue globes flickered out of existence until only the birdlike-face of Tritoch remained. "We're finally going to do it," the Esper remarked.
Godfrey nodded. "We have waited long enough, have we not?"
The Esper's face twisted in what was the equivalence of a frown, Godfrey had grown up around Espers and would have known that even if the two had not been friends since their teenaged years. "The suffering of all peoples in this world will end, and if the price we have to pay is the destruction of the Primordium, then so be it. This stupid war has lasted long enough," he growled.
The communication globe faded away and left Godfrey in his own thoughts. His necklace seemed to grow heavier with every second that passed.
Godfrey sighed, hoping one last time that their scientists were correct and that the Espers would not vanish once magic was gone. Everyone now knew that the Espers were just as human as they were. The Gods had shown they could twist entire armies of men into Espers and use them as war machines. Those who started life as human but reduced to magicite upon death... the destruction of magic would not destroy Esperkind, but release them from the shackles of the Mad Gods.
"Transport signature! A massive amount of energy!"
Godfrey's eyes snapped towards the holographic plot. An unsightly blob of red haze had appeared over the icons representing the mainstays of the Pax Eternus fleet. Directly centered on the Libertas, the red haze begin to shift visibly as the plot updated with the latest information. In the background, Captain Natalia screamed orders.
They had company -- A battlecruiser in size, at this time! -- and it was directly above them.
Valkyrie-class Battlecruiser Brisingamen
Somewhere in the Void
Within the darkness of the Void, a white rift appeared in space. It expanded and grew, a shimmering circular shape that continuously undulated as waves of energy poured out of the transdimensional zone. Between white light was darkness, but speckled with an uncountable number of brightly glowing stars. Against that backdrop a sleek silver eagle appeared, encountering the defenses of the Pax Eternus fleet almost immediately.
Upon the bridge of the Brisingamen, sensors screamed as radiation and energy blinded the entire ship. An officer in the signals pit doubled over in pain at the sudden influx of magical auras, overwhelmed by the amount of sudden information fed into his mind from his many scanning spells.
"Unknown fleet composition! We're surrounded, unable to confirm IFF data!"
It was in moments like this that the lives of the entire crew depended on the instincts and decision-making skills of their Captain. They had barely escaped with their lives; a desperate zone-shift into another dimension. Their weapons were still hot, indeed most of the elemental cannons aboard the ship had barely the time to cool before capacitors recharged and the Captain had ordered a shift to a new location. Now they had been plunged into a potential enemy horde, alone and blind.
"Hold weapon fire!" their fair-haired Captain gave the order. She had risen from her chair with a fearless gaze, a beacon of authority and bastion of confidence. "I want visuals!" she shouted.
The entire crew tensed upon hearing the order. While some lucky officers worked to get the images their Captain wanted, the rest sat still and awaited the shaking of the ship as it buckled from elemental weaponry or worse.
Even when all remained peaceful, save that of the engines rumbling the deckplates, it was still no relief. At last, images were successfully rendered and the Captain of the Brisingamen stared at the holographic representation of eight ships within pointblank range.
In the center was the Sword of Socius: the Libertas.
Captain Freya of the Brisingamen mentally sighed with relief; she could not let her men know how unsure she had been. She sat back down into her chair and nodded to herself when the plots finally updated. They had cut through the heavy jamming and resolved the IFF signals in front of them: there were many a friendly ship but most were unrecognized.
"Contact the Libertas," Freya ordered. She exchanged a look with her XO. Adils had a knowing smile that told her it was a well-played gamble.
The familiar face of Godfrey resolved before her, his features slightly discolored due to the slight transparency of the hologram. "Captain, you were almost annihilated before you finished your zone-shift. To what do we owe the pleasure?" his bust waved from side to side, interference from the Void distorting the charismatic Socian's gruff countenance.
"Godfrey, it's good to see you again," Freya offered. The moment of happiness at being surrounded by friends quickly faded away. "I am afraid that I'm the bearer of bad news," she began. Her heart was heavy and the decision she had made still felt wrong.
"So my officers tell me. Scans of your vessel show spell depletion and heavy internal damage. For now, your navigators will be directed into formation and given coordinates for the fleet-wide shift. I will have my technicians accompany me and we shall speak in person." Without another word from the fair-haired Captain, Godfrey's image disappeared.
Freya disliked Godfrey's attitude, but contacted the chief engineer nonetheless. After alerting them to the Socian's arrival, she stood and headed towards the warp. So lost in her own thoughts, she almost walked straight into her XO.
"Captain," the officer's sea-legs had easily maintained balance. With a soft sigh and pleasant smile, he set her straight and handed a clipboard to her.
"Thank you Adils," Freya gestured and the two traveled down the length of the airship together. "We have just joined a fleet whose task is as hopeless as the one we escaped."
Commander Adils brushed at his curly red hair as the two paced. "The crew is well aware of that, and I more than the rest. Fortunately, engineering reports that around 80% of all spells should be restored within the hour. The damages to the generators are more difficult to predict, and we have lost many of our knights claiming back that area. In terms of battle capability, the Brisingamen will not let you down. However," the Asgardian paused. He licked his lips as he mulled over the phrasing.
"Together before the Fall of Olympia and yet you still fear speaking your mind," Freya said in a slightly teasing tone. Her deep blue eyes gleamed as the two shared a private moment between the closest comrades.
"Asgard is known for her civilization. To say nothing of your own lineage..." Adils paused as Freya cast a spell over the two. Green light shimmered from her fingers and settled near their skin, where it thickened noticeably into an aura. Freya kept whispering under her breath until she felt they were well-protected, and then the aura faded away. "I was just concerned for your health," the man of Enlightened faith explained.
"I worry for the crew," Freya explained off-handedly.
"You have not slept for four days," Adils pointed out. "Even for an Esper of your power, surely you require rest."
Freya's lips formed a thin smile before she gestured forward. The doors to the outer decks slid open, revealing the gleaming silver hull and the endless expanse of the Void. Outside, beyond the glow of the warp zone, over a hundred technicians were busy repairing the spellforms that had broken down on the hull. It had been the only thing they could not repair because of the shift. Three Enlightened silver-armored knights greeted the two, as well as the Golden Knight himself. A second man, clearly not of Asgardian descent due to his dark hair and grey eyes, had accompanied the famed Socian while at least three dozen more waited for orders behind them.
"Godfrey," Freya greeted her old friend with a forced smile. He had arrived in full battle armor but more telling, wore a necklace of familiar crystals that could easily be sensed even beneath layers of dragon scales. The aura about him was chilling; so much power was concentrated in one man!
"This is my chief engineer," Godfrey ignored the pleasantries. "The Grand Fleet will be fully ready to commit within the half-hour, so time is short."
"Adils, if you would see to the details," Freya nodded her thanks as the red-haired man took the clipboard back from her. The two ranking officers watched as their subordinates debated how to best repair the battleship with the limited time at hand. Their task would not be envious, repairing the armor with limited materials in the suffocating darkness of the Void, weakly protected from the relentless chill that had gripped the entire world.
So it was that Freya found herself alone with Godfrey of Antigonus, a Socian of renown and one of the most powerful men in the world.
"I haven't seen you since the Battle of the Crimson Dale," Freya said quietly. Her hands rested on cold metal guardrails and she stared off into the Void. "How long has that been... six years?"
Godfrey's eyes could not be seen behind the golden helmet he wore, indeed his face was a mask of shadow. His arms were crossed, the bulk of the Golden Knight reminding Freya that there was a time she had looked to him for protection. The comforting crest of the Socian Royal Knights was nowhere to be seen though.
"I have been busy," Godfrey stated plainly. "There was a lot to learn after that defeat."
"So I have heard," Freya whispered.
"Odin spoke with you." A statement, not a question.
Freya shook her head. Her clear blue eyes looked up at him and discerned a clouded visage hidden beneath the mask. "He does not often speak of his work."
It was not explicit, but the intended meaning was clear. The two childhood friends were no more, or at least the rift between the two had grown so great that Godfrey was nothing more than another supplicant. But there was something more. "You don't agree with what I am doing?" Godfrey seemed perturbed.
"If I didn't, I wouldn't be here," Freya whispered. Before her, the bulk of the Libertas was slowly coming into view as the Valkyrie maneuvered into formation. The many floodlights used by the technicians gave off a weak ambiance, one that barely managed to illuminate the dark blue rock-like armor of Sword of Socius. Memories resurfaced of that vessel almost being shorn in half, her hull aflame as she crashed into the ocean amidst a sea of steam. Names she had forgotten, friends and peers from Socian Navy, resurfaced from the storm of suppressed memories. It was accompanied by a numb sensation when one was overwhelmed by the number of friends dead. "You have changed," Freya offered as she tried to restart their conversation.
"As have you, ever since you left for Asgard so many years ago," Godfrey replied. "A Captain now, well-respected by your crew and commanding one of the most powerful airships in the world. So authoritative, nothing like the child that sparred with me beneath the Vale."
The Libertas was now to the port, but no more ships could be seen by the naked eye. Freya could feel the presence of many more ships though. She could always tell when a Gladius was near. "You know I could not stay as a mere Sentry officer, especially when the King was unwilling to move. I merely followed Odin."
Silence drifted between the two after that. Freya knew discussing the past was always a difficult thing for Godfrey, and especially because of the Fall of Socius. She found herself annoyed at the human. The sacrifices she had made to come to his aid, their common history, and still the distance between them grew. "Isabella was always your better side," she said under her breath.
That caught his attention, though not in the expected manner. "She was better than I deserved," Godfrey simply said as he turned to the glow of the warp.
"Do you not even wish to know what Asgard faces?" Freya tired of bandying about the real issue at hand.
"No," his response was immediate and strong. Even if she could not read his face, his body language told him that he was not lying. Freya did not care though. Godfrey had to know what was at stake.
"Pegasus is no longer! The continent has been set aflame by the damned Gods and will be reduced to a desert for all time. I was part of the Shieldmadien Line, an attempt to defend too much with too little. We were spread thin and easily divided from the rest of the main fleet. Our division was crushed by the weight of numbers and the line broke."
Godfrey had turned back to her, respectfully listening to her tale. "Go on," he said.
He didn't care, Freya realized. All the peoples of Asgard and Pegasus, the billions that still could be saved, the remnants of civilization itself... and he no longer cared. The only reason why he listened was she, the teller of the tale.
The Golden Knight, defender of Socius, Prince of Antigonus, friend to all Esperkind... Freya bowed her head. Her mouth was dry. No longer was she willing to speak of what the prophets had shown her... the General Fleet Signal that had heralded the end of the Asgardian Fleet. She fought back tears as she remembered the images of Idavoll and Gladsheim, entire floating landmasses, falling down towards the burning fields of Pegasus. The center of Asgard smashed deep into the ground where the mindless hordes descended upon her like carrion beetles.
And amidst the apocalypse, the sight of all three Gods -- the entire Trinity -- converging upon one another for one last battle...
Freya looked up, and Godfrey stared back without emotion.
"My ship retreated in the chaos. We were badly positioned and the damage was great. Invaders had boarded so I gave the order for a blind zone-shift. After repulsing the enemy, we came here."
Perhaps if this were the real Golden Knight, he would have noted that the conviction in her voice had faltered. Instead, Godfrey's mailed fist gripped the necklace about his neck. Power flowed from him, an aura that was undetectable to any save those like her. Freya knew the touch of the Gods, she had once felt the warmth of faith and this was very different. It was worst than an antithesis, removed so far from the light of religion that it had become something else.
"We will end this war today, Freya," Godfrey's voice strengthened as he spoke of what was to come. "I will make the Gods understand."
Freya could see his eyes now. Power flowed through his veins and dark orbs blazed with energy unimaginable. She swallowed back the bile that had risen in her throat. Odin had been right. With the forces he had gathered and the powers he commanded, Godfrey of Antigonus might be able to end the war. With the Gods' greatest creation destroyed as a backdrop, a single Golden-armored Human with the power of Esperkind would stand firm in the face of Trinity and force an understanding between Deity and Mortal.
The War of the Magi would finally end.
The Grand Fleet Flagship
Gladius-class Battlecruiser Libertas
Somewhere in the Void
Godfrey watched the holographic plot. To the starboard was the Brisingamen, finally in position for the shift. She was still heavily damaged, her armor had been patched in so many places that her sleek silver finish was no longer a matter of pride. Yet what was important was intact: the defensive and offensive magi-technology that made Asgard such a feared foe.
"Freya, I had thought she was dead," Natalia whispered at his side. Her fiery red hair had been pulled back into a ponytail and hidden underneath the three stars of a Captain's hat. A rapier could be seen peeking out from beneath her black jacket. "Reports placed her near Gondwana when Loki betrayed the Confederacy."
Godfrey shook his head. "None of Odin's kin are so easily defeated. They're all too headstrong to die." He ignored her quiet chuckling; the acorn had not fallen far from the tree.
An officer handed a clipboard to Natalia, who scanned the report. She glanced into the hooded eyes of their Admiral. "All fleet elements are prepared. We're ready to make the shift."
Godfrey's eyes did not leave the plot. "Very good. Fleet Signals: All weapons free. Initiate Zone-Shift Primordium."
Natalia flashed a look of surprise in his direction. Many of the battleships in the fleet, at the behest of their circle of leaders, had adopted controls on the magnitude of firepower allowed to be fired in any battle. It was necessary. Even a few stray shots from heavy elemental cannons could easily vaporize a city. What point was there in saving the world if their own ships destroyed all of civilization?
"Do you expect company on arrival?" the Captain of the Libertas asked.
Godfrey's pupils dilated as he thought of the battle to come. What had approached Asgard were nearly all of the Gods and their followers. With the Trinity moving upon Idavoll, that left very few capable of stopping them. However, there were a few Avatars still alive. Few were of a concern for him, most had lost their resolve and those remaining did not have the power to stop them. Only one...
"Fate," Godfrey explained calmly. "She will move against us."
"We spent the last two years on a quest to counterbalance that witch," Natalia narrowed her eyes. "Did you lie to us?"
Each year that passed since the Fall of Socius had left their mark on the survivors of that nation. Battle without end, fighting without reprieve, and not once had the world gotten better. Stress and grief, bloodshed and betrayal... Natalia was merely a product of the times; paranoid even of her father's friend, a man that had tutored her in her childhood, sheltered her when disaster struck her family, and now offered her the only hope she had felt in a dozen years.
"No, Fate cannot stop me once I am within the Origin," Godfrey manipulated the terminal controls until the holograms showed five rotating landmasses somewhere in the heavens. He gestured at the center. "Alexander guaranteed me that once the four Pillars fall, we will be able to approach the Origin."
"Until then we are vulnerable," Natalia completed his thoughts with a frown. "I'm not sure if I'm comfortable with following the prophecy of that Esper. He's not even with us."
Godfrey folded his arms, muscles bulging through the naval uniform. "I trust him."
"Very well Admiral. Fleet Signals: Weapons free, Zone-Shift Primordium. Transmitting immediately."
Within the hidden pocket of space that had shielded the Grand Fleet from the eyes of the three Gods and their servants, inert vessels began to move. Combined, their numbers would total nearly twenty-five hundred airships and some two million men and women, Esper and Human. They were the remnants of the nations of the world, many hailing from defunct governments, many more without even the lands in which they were born. Most had been enemies, but now Humans and Espers alike ignored common differences, forgot century-old hatreds, and suppressed xenocidal tendencies.
It was a concentration of ships that the Gods had forgotten, ignored as they were legacy of dead faiths. So many nations had fallen in the course of the war that a fleet of this magnitude could have been gathered from the corpses of nations. Even Socius at its height of power had only a thousand ships, and that had been spread across the world. Their strength was the result of nearly a hundred nations co-operating under a common banner; a testament to the righteousness of their cause.
The Grand Fleet began the zone-shift out of existence. Engines began to grind as energy unimaginable was generated. Their aggregate power output was capable of slagging an entire continent within a day, mass destructive capabilities concentrated in kilometer-long battlecruisers. Just under a hundred in number, the Socian Gladius' and an Asgardian Valkyrie were the most eye-drawing of the ships of the line, fifteen blue rocky hulks with menacing turrets surrounding a single silver eagle. Second to those were two dozen dagger-hulled League battlecruisers -- distinguishable from the rest only by size -- the curved lines of twenty Olympian First Rates, and six swept-wing Ascendants painted a pure white.
Twenty-five hundred airships shifted out of existence, their numbers so large that they could not perform a simultaneous transit. Squadron-by-squadron, division-by-division, and fleet-after-fleet of frigates, destroyers, cruisers, and battleships undulated out of reality. The time to bring the war to the home of the Gods had come. Their destination: Primordium.
Operation Götterdämmerung had begun.
Strategic Airspace K2C
In the beginning, the three Gods were of like mind. They worked tirelessly and built around them the seeds to a world beautiful and majestic. Their children dedicated many monuments to them, and during the dawn of the Golden Age, all three Deities had gathered to create something new... something that would end all disbelievers but also sooth their growing egos.
The mountainous base stretched far above the clouds and into the heavens, where the air became thin and warmth non-existent. It could not have been held by the star-shaped mountain range below, for it was shaped like an hourglass and where the twin cones converged were a collection of crystals that floated serenely in the sky. The inverted mountain continued to stretch upwards, flattened at the top where many a temple was built: the Sanctus.
Above that was Primordium.
Pulsing with magical energy, it floated in the heavens as a collection of floating crystals. Four great clusters rotated around a central point, each made up of uncountable numbers of tetrahedral shapes... magic given physical form. Energy crackled from the four diametrically opposed points, the Pillars that supported the Origin. The crystals radiated the four auras: lightning, wind, fire and ice. Each element lashed out at its opposer with tendrils of force, illuminating the dark sky with their eternal struggle.
In the center, the Origin, the elements did not fight. The presence of holy power, of Justia, spread serenity throughout that great cluster of Magicite. Energy radiated outward in expanding rings, so pure and pristine that even mortals could stand upon it without fear.
This was Primordium, a continental landmass that floated in the heavens. It helped usher in the Golden Age of Civilization, a monument that had gathered nearly all magic and focused it into a symbolic second sun. For thousands of years, pilgrimages from all faiths had been welcomed here. Those that had been blessed were even allowed to travel from the Sanctus to the Origin.
A castle of enormous proportions awaited supplicants to the Origin. Contained within the continental cluster of magical essence, only spiraling white towers were visible to the naked eye. An immense gate wrought of elemental force guarded entrance to all but the most faithful. Those that passed would find a blessed place, isolated from the hurts of the world. The Room of Equality: where the Trinity of Gods had met and formed the first alliance.
It was as close to the Deities as any mortal could ever be.
In time, as the faiths come to oppose each other, Primordium was closed off to both Espers and Humans. War was not to be waged upon Holy Ground.
Even the Gods did not do battle here.
White light shimmered and expanded, the rift it represented grew so that the darkness of the void was given physical form. In the center, thousands of shapes undulated from side to side into existence. They came in waves, frigates defending the larger cruisers and battleships as they shifted back into existence. Two million sailors of the world's combined Navies had their eyes set on the symbol of all Magic.
Mortals had returned to Primordium.
Florentine Fleet Flagship
Ascendant-class Battlecruiser Avenger
The blizzard that had engulfed the world continued to fall relentlessly even here, high above the clouds around the holiest of holy relics. The Sanctus was completely covered; it was no more than a glacier now. The Pillars and the Origin remained clear of the storm though, each pulse of magic vaporized the flakes it touched. Much of the Grand Fleet was covered in snow, their armored hulls tainted by the unnatural frost and only their engine plumes remained clear due to the heat.
Dante Quemadura paced aboard the flagship of the Florentine Alliance, the Avenger. He was the one who had gathered the remnants of twenty national fleets and forged a treaty between enemies. He was the progenitor of an allegiance that would preserve the many cultures of Virego so that when the war was over, the world would remember their continent not as the harbinger of war but as a victim of madness. A defender of many different cultures that the Gods had seen fit to stamp out.
"It would appear there is substantial resistance ahead," Godfrey of Antigonus was saying. It had taken time for the Grand Fleet to cut through the interference of the storm and finish scanning their targets.
Dante Quemadura set his hands back onto the terminals in front of him. Spell forms swirled around his arms and the magicite shard around his neck went deadly cold. "Four Pillars and the Origin; five fleets," Dante focused on the thousands of islands -- most averaging five kilometers in diameter according to his chief of staff -- that surrounded each cluster of magical essence. It had appeared that the Gods had reinforced their so-called monument; those were clearly fortresses that defended the Pillars and the Origin. "The Pax Eternus fleet should remain in reserve, poised to strike once the spells protecting the Origin are down. Each of the remaining fleets will be responsible for a Pillar."
Tritoch voiced his agreement. "It would appear strange that she has not yet arrived, nor have the Gods responded to our blasphemy. We should be grateful."
"The Deities are embroiled in a battle between each other, they will not feel the sting of our unified forces until we are finished with our task here," Balder gestured towards the Primordium. "As for Fate, not even she can stop us now. Godfrey is by our side."
"Dante, engage the northernmost Pillar. Balder, you have the south, Lanford the west. Tritoch the east, and my fleet will take position near the Origin," Godfrey began to dictate directions for the Grand Fleet.
Dante would have rolled his eyes had it been physically possible. It was beyond ludicrous to direct such a mass of vessels using real-time transmissions. The Socians relied too much on their magi-technology. Still, he kept quiet and once the Fleet Signals were verified, he directed the entire Florentine Fleet into formation.
Some five-hundred airships -- the majority of them frigates for ships-of-the-line had been rare and were even rarer due to attrition of the past years -- accelerated. It was not the best evolution Dante had ever directed, the Florentine Alliance was a tenuous agreement between enemies that had only stopped shooting at each other because of a greater threat. Indeed the fleet had little cohesion and did not work as a unit, but Dante had anticipated this and gathered the individual nations into their own divisions. Some of the weaker fleets could not even serve in that capacity, forming squadrons or filling in the ranks around Dante's personal task force.
Behind the Florentine Fleet, their multitude of shapes and colors contrasted with the nigh-homogenous dagger-hulled Caledfwlch Fleet. Yet Dante was not jealous, his personal squadron was made up of three battlecruisers that had each stood up to Socius' finest. The Avenger and her sister ship, the Defender, had actually faced one of the Asgardian super-battlecruisers and survived. The Nagato was a superb replacement for their most recent casualty. Two other squadrons completed the battlecruiser division, the Santa Ana and Achillie holding senior positions in the remaining trios.
Dante smiled proudly as his fleet completed their englobement, with his division in the honor position at the head of the fleet. The Florentine Alliance would be the first of the Grand Fleet to strike back at the Gods.
"Commander," Dante said with a smile as he watched the fleet's orderly formation around the northernmost Pillar. "All Battlecruiser Division Signals: Commence upon the enemy."
The nine battlecruisers of which the Avenger was lead, over a thousand elemental cannons of the finest quality, thundered with an opening salvo. This awesome mass of energy, consisting of elements of every kind, was joined by over two dozen more broadsides from the remaining heavy ships of the englobement. The torrents of magical plasma crashed upon the floating physical essence of magic and the results were unbelievable. Crystals shattered and released lightning strikes that reverberated throughout the Pillar, a chain-reaction that stripped away the outer layer of floating energy in a shockwave of unparalleled force.
The decks of the Avenger shuddered as its shield spells strained to handle all the magical energy, wave after wave of multi-colored plasma splattering against a thin yellow layer that served as the battlecruiser's main defense. The sheer kinetic impact drove the englobement back several ship-lengths and blinded all sensors. Only visuals were possible and that was hampered by the immense smoke and debris generated by the explosions.
And then the Nagato to their larboard exploded as a boulder the size of a castle tore through its hull.
As a storm of flame enveloped the battlecruiser division, Dante looked up from the holographic plot. His face was a mask of rage that immediately attracted the attention of his chief of staff.
"Elementals and Titans, as expected," the officer reported. "The island entrenchments have also begun hampering our spellforms; we're experiencing a loss in power generation, sensors and communications."
"How did the Nagato fall so quickly?" Dante growled. His chief of staff shook his head and quickly barked orders to find out.
"Hostile to starboard!"
One of the immobile floating mountains suddenly moved, drawing the attention of the yet-untested starboard side of the Avenger. A living glacier seemed to grow out of the floating landmass, itself hundreds of times the size of a man but dwarfed by the kilometer-long battlecruiser it faced. The winter storm seemed to deepen as the creature awakened; the emanated bitter chill froze the moisture out of the very air and produced a wall of snow. Without warning, the white sheen gave way as pillars of frost smashed against the yellow protective cocoon of the airship, directed by the man-shaped monstrosity.
A great thrumming sound reverberated throughout the hull of the Avenger as elemental batteries fired away at the latest enemy. A combination of fire and lightning smashed against the moving mountain, itself seemly unhampered by the magical cascade. Yet no matter what defensive measures the Gods had granted this abomination, its unimaginable resistance to sorcery allowing it to stand firm in the face of a hundred guns of the massive battlecruiser, the impact alone stripped the glacier apart. Its defiance of superior magi-technology lasted only two broadsides before the creature was torn asunder by kinetic energy alone, and then the gunners of the Avenger vaporized the multi-kilometer floating island with another salvo to ensure no more surprises.
Admiral Dante Quemadura had not noticed the struggle, but was giving orders to the chief of staff. "General Fleet Signals: All ships engage the Pillar as range is reached," he waited until the officer had finished transmission before keying commands on his own terminal. Almost immediately, the Admirals of the Santa Ana and the Achillie were connected to the Avenger.
"What is it, Dante?" the Admiral of the Achillie seemed annoyed at the interruption.
"We'll push forward and draw the brunt of the defenses. I will not tolerate anymore unnecessary losses," Dante dismissed the insubordination off-hand and began issuing the orders necessary.
The battlecruiser division advanced deep into the fray, even as signals were received and countless volleys of elemental cannonade lanced forth towards the defenders of Primordium. The spirits of the elements themselves vanished as massed salvos of energy, each capable of leveling a mountainside, exploded upon the floating islands that fancied themselves as fortifications. The blizzard thickened and thinned almost at random as primal storms of air, their dark churning clouds seeming to form an enraged visage, dissipated as mere collateral damage from massed beams of energy.
Islands of rock, most dozens of kilometers wide, vaporized along with the Titans upon them as the entire Florentine Fleet commenced bombardment. The dark sky in the heavens was lit up by the power that the Gods had given their mortal children except this time, the gift was turned towards the symbol of the Deities: the source of magic.
Even as the Dante's fleet spat out torrents of plasma and energy, their missiles swarming through the skies and leaving trails of compressed gases, the defenders of Primordium responded in kind. Elemental cannonade met the power of the primal elements. The Titans cast spell upon spell, hurled mountains at the blasphemous mortal airships, and even took to the skies and fought with their magically-enhanced swords and spears. Frigates that had withstood fire elementals slamming against their broadsides collapsed as javelins tore through their hulls. Warhammers ignored the shield-spells of airships and pounded through layers of metal armor. The giants dove through the battlefield, many turned to burning hulks as cannon-fire vaporized their meager armor and fleshy bodies, and fought the mortal fleet with all that they had.
They found the white hulls of the Ascendant-class ships, far in advance of the rest of the fleet and devoid of screen. But they were uncoordinated, too weak to individually threaten humanity's best but too few to swarm. They fell before massed fire, corpses plunging out of the sky in a trail of smoke and blood.
As time passed, casualties accumulated exponentially for both sides but the mortals had seen this and more during the War of the Magi. They ignored the mounting death-toll and the dying cries of their fellow countrymen and continued to lay down rapid-fire elemental warfare. To this, even zealous Titans were driven back by the ferocity with which the mortals fought.
With a cheer upon the bridge of the Avenger, the northernmost Pillar collapsed inward and exploded in a shockwave to rival the first. The shield spells of even the Ascendant-class flagship almost collapsed, but the forcefulness of Dante Quemadura had protected the rest of the fleet. The battlecruisers, more than half of their tonnage devoted to massive generators, interposed an invulnerable wall of force that shook off the devastating wake of magical energy. The rest of the fleet put distance between them and the shockwave. Only a few frigates fell, and the Achillie behind the Avenger as well. But the defenders of Primordium suffered horrendously, for hundreds of Titans and thousands more elementals vanished in a burst of solar-energy.
Primordium seemed to shudder in pain, the winter storms around the monument growing stronger as a dreadful darkness seemed to emanate from the towers of ivory that ringed the central cluster of magical energy. The foundation of magic had been wounded and its call for help went unanswered by all save one.
The Avatar's mind reached out, her fury unequalled when she discerned the magnitude of sacrilege. She would personally punish the heathens.
The Grand Fleet Flagship
Gladius-class Battlecruiser Libertas
The Libertas shuddered and dipped sickeningly for a moment before her engines regained power. Alarms were blaring on the bridge as the mighty Sword of Socius shook off what should have been a deathblow: a mountain traveling at great velocity had smashed into its aft and broke through the shield spells, sending the airship spinning through the air and out of formation. Her engines glowed brighter than the sun and vaporized an elder air elemental. The whirlwind that had been twirling the airship died immediately after that.
Degenerate armor was already rebuilding itself, hyper-dense matter shrugging off a flying mountain as if it had been nothing more than a current of air. Living flames surrounded the battlecruiser, but were held at bay by the point-defense cannon-fire. Blue beams of frost drew infernal screams and in response, a thundering blast of lightning hammered against the yellow spell aura that covered the immense battlecruiser. The blue hull was no longer, what was not darkened from intense heat was just as black: newly regenerated armor.
A dark shadow hovered over the Libertas, its form sucking the very light from its surroundings. A hideous smile revealed dozens of sharp teeth and without warning, a dagger the size of a frigate appeared to the battlecruisers portside.
The shade screamed in pain, scattering as searing blasts of white energy exploded against its colossal form. The eagle-shaped Brisingamen blasted the evil creature with holy energy, carving a path through suffocating shadow, living flame and unnatural storm with her blinding broadsides of sorcerous salvos.
"Admiral," the voice of Freya rang clear on the bridge of the Libertas. "The storm is thickening! We'll escort you back into position."
Tarnished silver and rough-hewn stone fought off the storm together. Their broadside batteries directed towards the citadel, where an approaching dark swarm screamed in pain as elemental artillery exploded within their mass. Stray shots vanished from both sight and scans as they approached the Origin. Its defenses simply absorbed nuclear firepower without any noticeable reaction.
Despite the blinding blizzard, point-defense cannons accurately blasted off the arms of a trio of Titans that flew too close before trying to throw their javelins, and the two massive airships sailed in strength back to the rest of the Pax Eternus Fleet. They rejoined the head of the fleet, where hundreds of ships coordinated their cannonade into waves of multi-colored elemental energy that broke upon innumerable living mountains.
"The Florentine Fleet has destroyed its Pillar!" reported an officer as communication was restored. A cheer went up on the bridge of the Gladius-battlecruiser.
Godfrey almost smiled, but his mood darkened as he knew what lay ahead. He looked for Natalia, the fiery-haired Captain working tirelessly with her engineering crew in order to ascertain the damage caused by the latest Titan-hurled boulder. Lights flickered on and off as power was steadily restored to critical systems aboard the mighty battlecruiser.
The holographic plot was slow to update. Though the Grand Fleet had eliminated hundreds of the floating islands, still many more remained and destroying the entrenchments were time-consuming. Moving mountains of stone, iron, and ice made those landmasses into fortresses, their abominable existence seemingly invulnerable to offensive sorcery. The exchange of spellforms en masse tested the coordination capacity of the world's combined navies. The flag facilities aboard the Libertas were overcome with an abundance of data, dozens of officers working their hardest to provide relevant information to the man in charge of two million sailors.
The Grand Fleet was suffering; estimates placed around five-hundred ships lost in the past half-hour. Though those had mostly been lighter vessels, the death rate was stupefying. Yet the fleet as a whole was getting the better of the defenders, the ships of the line alone were killing hundreds of lives every second. It was a scale of combat that had become all too common during the recent years.
"She's here," Godfrey whispered suddenly. The feeling of dread had returned and he had no doubts. "Ensign!" he addressed one of the many men working in the communication pit. Towering over them from the main deck of the bridge, he grasped the rails painfully and gave the order to scan the location he had felt in his mind.
"Yggdrasil Fleet reporting their Pillar is gone!" came an excited cry from the officers coordinating the Fleet.
Godfrey turned to the windows, if the thick wall overlaid with a transparency spell could be called such a thing, and saw the southern cluster of magicite stop pulsating. A storm of energy had been released with its destruction and its wake was a terrifying field of smoldering, falling corpses both monster and airship. Yet the crystals and the floating islands around it also fell from the sky, trails of thick black smoke marking their descent from the heavens. Below, hundreds of vessels accelerated out of the path of a collapsing continent.
"Godfrey!" Natalia was staring at the updated holographic plot with a dark frown. When they made eye contact, she shook her head. "Lanford cannot break through the fortifications at this rate. He's keeping his fleet back, eliminating everything with massed salvos but there's simply too many of the monstrous constructs."
Each holographic plot showed similar situations: fleets of airships tightly packed in defense formations trying to stave off death while diverting extra cannonfire towards the Pillars. The difference was that the Paracelsus Fleet had overextended themselves. Entire divisions had been cut off and their line of Olympian battlecruisers split in two. Still, despite their horrific casualties, they continued to pound the Eastern Pillar with every available vessel.
"That fleet is on the verge of collapse," Natalia noted. "Perhaps we should reinforce?"
Godfrey remained silent on that note. Tritoch was doing his job; they had theirs to do.
Alarms suddenly blared upon the bridge of the Libertas, drawing the attention of both ranking officers.
"Admiral!" the voice of a familiar flag lieutenant shouted from the communications pit. "Many contacts! Northwest thirty degrees, airspace K3D!"
The Pax Eternus fleet had been positioned in the center of the Grand Fleet but there was no doubt that between the Socian vessels and that Asgardian Battlecruiser firing off their port, they commanded the most advanced detection systems in the world. With their superior magi-technology as well as Godfrey's premonition, the Libertas had cut through innumerable spellform auras and centered on the danger approaching their eastern flank.
"Identify," Godfrey's voice was calm and collected. Certainly, he could not show fear.
The growing dread in the man's voice grew darker. "We're identifying dragons of every known species, unable to confirm numbers. I think they're... jamming us?" the officer was clearly confused. No monster had understood the idea of flooding an area with so much magical energy that nothing could be detected by sorcery or science. Vanish spells had been the best they could do, but now the scanners of a Gladius-class Battlecruiser were having difficulty resolving a horde of dragons. "No firm numbers," his voice was now quaking with fear. "Estimating in excess of ten thousa-"
Godfrey's hand slapped onto the terminal controls. His eyes blazed with anger as he realized what had come to pass. The communication globes appeared, though the representations of each Admiral undulated from the interference.
"Gentlemen, we have a problem," Godfrey growled.
"She's arrived Godfrey!" Tritoch shouted so loudly that not even the augmentation-spells stopped each Admiral from mentally wincing in pain. "They're coming to punish us! We must pull back! This stupid war will see all of us dead!"
Godfrey's mouth twisted in disgust at such cowardice. "I will not authorize a retreat! Destroy that Pillar, Paracelsus Fleet!"
It was obvious now, for even the naked eye could make out the threat to the east. In the midst of a field of white snow, the sky was blotted out with darkness. It was a mass of twisting aberrant muscle, thousands upon thousands of the most dreadful monsters known to man, flying towards them and propelled by the will of an Avatar.
Fate had arrived.
Western Pillar, Primordium
Three-hundred dagger-hulled airships were firing massed salvos at the continent of crystal beneath them, their formation protecting the ships of the line in the center. There, a wall of battleships and cruisers focused their artillery fire and sheets of elemental energy rained down upon the defenders of Primordium. Angry crimson beams tore into the living mountains and poured over sorcery-immune abominations, liquid flame covering chiseled granite and cascading down the sides like waterfalls. Hundreds of these monsters, some stone, others metal, and a couple carved from living flesh returned the cannonade with their own: mountains of stone, iron, and darker metals hurled at incredible speeds.
The Caledfwlch Fleet was properly the Second Home Fleet, but the League was gone and now Admiral Lanford was effectively his own sovereign. His personal ambitions were unclear, but the entirety of his command was of a single mind: avenge their fallen nation. It was to this that the remnants of the League dedicated their lives to, and they did this professionally with fanaticism unmatched by any of the Grand Fleet.
They would win because they believed. That was all that was needed, even against Gods.
"Admiral," his chief of staff approached, balancing a variety of floating globes in his hands. One floated into Lanford's lap, and the report opened up in a flash of blue light. "Quemadura has uncovered a hidden enemy about the citadel," he stated plainly.
The flag facilities aboard the Excalibur were the most advanced in the world, but Lanford did not use that as a crutch. Not even technology designed to defeat the Socian airships could replace human instinct. The Admiral simply let his chief of staff continue speaking, knowing that his officers would report only on critical matters.
"It appears that it is attacking by mental projection, using brief lapses in shields in order to overwhelm the minds aboard."
Lanford nodded as he finally glanced at the details of the report. Their formation was already defensive, and the suggested countermeasures would only serve to slow their progress. The dragon horde was fast approaching, and even now there was a significant chance that they could not destroy the Pillar in time to redeploy against such a powerful enemy.
"Sir, the Paracelsus Fleet is breaking ranks."
That brought a smile to his face, mirrored as well by the reporting Lieutenant. The plots were slow, but there was no doubt that the Espers were about to suffer greatly. The dragons were relentless; they simply flew through waves of elemental cannonfire until they were close enough to swarm. It was graceless, but reducing the Espers at an admirable rate.
Lanford would not allow the same to happen to his men. Despite being furthest from Fate, they still did not have enough time unless...
"Alert the Caladbolg, the Redoubtable..." Lanford quickly trailed off a list of battleships that had only one common trait. "I want the rest of the fleet to avoid the firing arcs along these trajectories," with a tap of a button, numerous regions were highlighted in yellow on their holographic plot. "And a General Signal: Operation Falling Star."
To that, even the most well-trained of flag officers blanched. "Sir? Isn't that premature?"
Lanford raised an eyebrow. "I will not have us disintegrate into a general melee against Fate's dragons. That would leave everything to chance, and the men deserve far better after suffering through so much. You have your orders, Commander."
"Yes sir," and with that, flag signals were sent. Within a minute, the Caledfwlch fleet had subtly cleared ten firing solutions upon the Western Pillar. The League's greatest secret was about to be revealed. Similar to when Socius spies revealed their nation's method of draining magical essence, no one was prepared for it; not the sailors of the Grand Fleet, nor the defenders of Primordium, not even Fate herself.
Pax Eternus Fleet
The Citadel was covered with dark shadow and the unnatural blizzards, but there was no mistaking the tendrils of white energy that snaked around it. The Origin's defenses were only strengthening, and in such a manner that was wholly disheartening for those that dared dream of deicide. Even though its monster defenders were all but eliminated, the Origin struck back. A single string of magic had shorn a Gladius in half, and a dozen more frigates had fallen before the fleet safely positioned itself eastward of the central cluster of magicite.
There, ten-thousand dragons awaited them.
Ignorant of tactics or strategy, millions of tons of monstrous muscle and metallic scales withstood gouts of energy from the combined Pax Eternus Fleet. Central to this were Gladius battlecruisers, their glorious broadsides swatting from the sky hundreds of the most deadly abominations. To this masterpiece, a single Asgardian Valkyrie sang her siren song, holy fire in massed salvos adding to each crescendo.
But these dragons were unlike those that lived upon the world. These were driven by a single will to the defense of the Gods' greatest creation, and they threw themselves into wave after wave of elemental artillery. They had already overwhelmed one such group of blasphemers and though those still fought behind them, their survival was very much in doubt. This group of humans and Espers would fall to the righteousness of their cause.
Only the smallest of dragons broke through at first, a multitude of colored scales that could barely defend against a single blast of nuclear energy. Yet they smashed upon the frigates and cruisers of the Pax Eternus Fleet, hampering their coordination and preparing the way for their older siblings. Within moments, the five-hundred ships under Godfrey's command were surrounded by monster flesh. Their breath melted away the armor of airships, their claws raking through the hulls, their tails snapped the vessels in half. Another Gladius fell in the melee, surrounded by a dozen dragons and her shields depleted from the hour of fighting. In its last moments, a dark snake had coiled itself around the equally dark-hulled battlecruiser and squeezed the life out of the ship and the two-thousand sailors within.
Even the Libertas was having trouble, though the wall of battlecruisers was certainly getting the better of their enemies. Ancient dragons from time immemorial, many larger that even the Valkyrie, exchanged great gusts of fire, ice and lightning that buffeted against the shields of the Socian Navy. The Sword of Socius had been at the head of the line, and now her shields were dangerously low. The yellow aura was steadily fading away as a smaller yellow dragon slammed headfirst into the starboard side, successfully denting the armored hull before being caught between two fires.
Aboard the Asgardian Valkyrie, the crew of the Brisingamen was testing the limits of the greatest vessel in the world. One of the great dragons, considerable as a battlecruiser-analogue, finally fell to combined blasts of holy and ice magic. The officers did not cheer, but proceeded to engage another of equal size that had the smaller Vindico between its claws.
Freya watched the scene with a heavy heart, but could do little to avail the crew of the Vindico. The frigate collapsed under several hundred tons of dragon muscle, its engines catching fire as the mighty monster tossed the airship aside as a child did with his toys. At last the guns of the Brisingamen had gained its attention, and too late for the ancient beast. Several more broadsides of white energy cascaded through layers of silver metallic scales before flesh bubbled and blood boiled. A trail of smoke marked yet another thousand years of life callously eliminated.
"Captain," Adils reported. "As you requested, our latest projection places the Paracelsus Fleet formation within minutes of collapse."
Freya turned to the holographic plots and saw the most recent update, probably ten minutes old by now. The situation with Tritoch's fleet had been tenuous at best; Esper-built airships had never the same innate strength as their human counterparts. Freya had grudgingly accepted that inferiority; her kind simply never felt the need to delve into constructing magical tools as deeply and unethically as the humans. What few vessels Tritoch had cobbled together depended too much on the abilities of their crew and as casualties mounted, it was proving to be a breaking point.
"We need to reinforce them," Freya mumbled. "Can we contact Balder?" She sighed when Adils shook his head. It had been wishful thinking even without considering the number of dragons that surrounded them.
"Surely the Socian Admiral is well aware of the situation," Adils pointed out calmly.
That might have been true and Freya knew she was breaking protocol by contacting her cousin directly. Her confidence in the Golden Knight had waned though... and it was her kind that was dying out there! With so little of Esperkind remaining, how could she stand aside passively?
"Captain! We're detecting ten energy sources westward, almost off the scale!"
Blue hawk-like eyes darted to the plot, where despite the horrific amount of magical energy being exchanged, ten dots were pinpointed with unparalleled accuracy. Considering the sheer magnitude of power output, it was not unexpected that their spells had picked up the oddities. Freya stood, still wearing her blue armor as a tribute to her fallen brothers, and tried to discern the situation in the west.
And then Fate screamed.
Freya nearly fell to the ground. She regained her balance just in time, stunned at the sound that had reverberated through her outstretched mind. The Esper glanced out the windows of the Brisingamen and turned white.
Fate's armada of dragonkind had heard her cry of pain, and it was incredible to see what the will of the God's Avatar could do. Her mental facilities had been removed from the monster horde around them, and those dragons that still had the capability of thought scrambled away from the onslaught of elemental firepower. Yet thousands more had simply fell from the sky, those not killed by point-defenses of the Pax Eternus ships regained flight some long moments later.
It was not this that caught Freya's attention, but that of the Caledfwlch Fleet. Even the storm had seemed to clear, and in the dark heavens above the sky, ten dagger-hulled battlecruisers bombarded the Western Pillar of Primordium. It was a spell that Freya had seen only once, thought to have been commanded by only one of their kind who was now reduced to magicite around the neck of a human. To see vessels of the xenophobic League command such a weapon was the stuff of nightmares.
Meteors appeared from the maw of ten battlecruisers, accelerating almost to the speed of light and smashing against one of the Pillars of magic. Dark energy swirled about those ships, the vessels emitting such magnitudes of waste heat that it could be seen from this distance. Each astronomic blast crashed against the western cluster of magicite, thousands upon thousands at relativistic speeds, and drew a horrific scream of pain from the Avatar of the Gods. The damage was unbelievable. What the Florentine and Yggdrasil fleets had done in half an hour, ten battleships did in half a minute.
An immense shockwave expanded from the Western Pillar and almost immediately after that, the blizzard resumed and all was covered in white snow. Freya could even feel the furious presence of Fate, so powerful was her anger, and the battlecruiser shook as a massive dragon covered with shimmering scales grappled their starboard wing. Elemental cannonade bounced off its armor-like skin, impossibly refracting into the colors of the rainbow just as light did. The monster was no threat to the mighty Valkyrie, but it would cause them trouble.
The Captain of the Brisingamen opened a communication channel with Godfrey of Antigonus. There was no time to waste now, Tritoch's fleet was dying and Esperkind's greatest enemy had command of a weapon greater than anything in the Asgardian arsenal.
The Valkyrie shuddered and a roar of pain could be heard even through the thick armor plating. Freya growled at the blinking red lights on her terminal. "What's the damage on the communications ne-" before she could finish her question, the answer interrupted her.
"The Libertas! Her shields have collapsed!"
The Grand Fleet Flagship
Gladius-class Battlecruiser Libertas
The Sword of Socius shuddered like a stricken beast, overwhelmed by a dozen dragons that had kept pounding at the battlecruiser even in the midst of Fate's madness. Armor was rent apart; even degenerate matter could not stand against the monster claws piercing the vessel.
Upon the bridge of the Libertas, lights gave out as claws appeared through the hull. It was unlikely that the monsters had known where the commanding officers lain in the prize beneath, but perhaps they were attracted by a certain aura. The air rushed out of the ship as the armor was breached, an inverse gust pulling a few bridge officers off their feet. The rest stayed seated and continued to man the sinking ship without hesitation.
Godfrey of Antigonus, former-Knight of the Socian Royal Order and reluctant-Admiral, charged towards the rift in an Admiral's regalia. It was growing now as the might of hundreds of tons of muscle pulled the hull apart, and the moment it was of sufficient size, unholy fire slammed through the hole and flooded into the heart of the battlecruiser.
Except golden armor held it back without pause, ancient scales forming over the uniformed Godfrey as he jumped through the breach in the hull. His hands shot out and reversed the deadly breath, gouts of fire pouring across the armor of the Battlecruiser even as Godfrey crossed the distance and reached the cavernous maw. A crimson inferno engulfed the two creatures in the heavens above the world, and a massive shockwave tore the dragon off the Gladius without its limbs.
Even as the monster was reduced to ash and scattered by the winds of Fimbulvetr, those that had surrounded the Libertas turned to the real prize before them. Fate drove them on, and ten dragons easily as large as the battlecruiser stopped exchanging spellfire and attacked Godfrey. Behind the Golden Knight were two more, knights that had also been on the bridge of the Libertas in case invaders teleported aboard. The three stood against the backdrop of regenerating dark matter as elements unknown -- capable of bringing down the shield spells of a Gladius -- crashed against a thick yellow barrier.
Then crimson flames crashed against the dragons, wave after wave of scorching heat holding the monsters back and engulfing even the knights themselves. Godfrey did not feel the fires that burned around him, but was well aware of the ice-cold necklace he wore.
Fate could not harm him, but these dragons would try. Two fell to the unstoppable force of Godfrey's magic, many others scattered, but one closed with fanatical zeal. Its claw caught the Golden Knight across the chest, live dragon flesh pitted against the ancient dead, and the breastplate tore in two. The chill of winter and the searing heat of magic could suddenly be felt against his skin before a sudden white sheen overtook his vision.
"Have you forgotten?"
Godfrey spun around, his mouth wide open at the beauty that was in front of him. The swaying long grasses, the proud peaks, the clean blue water, he knew this place. He had grown up here, in the basket of civilization. It was Socius and more accurately, the meadows of Formosus.
The warmth of the sun was a welcome feeling, too long had it been since Fimbulvetr began. It shone down upon a lady in a simple azure dress that swayed in the soft breeze. Her hair was a luxurious red that shimmered under the midday sun and her eyes a sparkling blue.
"I could never forget you, Isabella," Godfrey whispered. The very sight of her brought a smile to his face, yet the gold ring upon his finger seemed heavier. "Not even after a thousand years."
"Why does it not seem that way?" she gestured her flawless hand. "Why have you abandoned all those you loved, repressed those memories and live for nothing more than vengeance? Have all-"
Godfrey strode in front of his wife, ignoring the words emanating from her mouth. His smile had vanished. It had been a fleeting thing, there only because it was a pleasant reminder of happier times. Instead, his hand strayed to his left hip where an even more familiar weight was sheathed.
"Enough of these games," he growled. His sword swung out and passed through the image of his wife without resistance, the spell scattering into a thousand fading pieces. "Fate!" Godfrey cried out. "Show yourself!"
The sky darkened at a rapid pace but it was not nightfall. Red streaks that accompanied the expanse above him revealed the true nature of the illusion. Godfrey relaxed in the suddenly desolate and cold landscape, his sword held in a lowered but still defensive position.
"You will not continue this little... attack of yours," her voice was spread throughout the land and sky. It was distinctly feminine, not rumbling but rolling its way across the vast expanse of the illusionary world. "Since you listen neither to reason nor emotional appeal, I have no choice but to threaten you. Your barbaric ways will be punished for your transgressions are unforgivable!"
Godfrey remained silent, merely waiting for his chance.
"Did you think you could escape the wrath of the Gods? You have been lucky that for now they are busy, but the moment they turn their wills in this direction, the moment they see what you have done to Primordium... their wrath will be-"
Godfrey struck out. Though Fate had tried to contain him psychically and physically, she had not the power for such a thing. He lashed out with his immense stores of magical energy, fighting an Avatar equally due to the sacrifices of greater Espers that had foreseen the future. Fate recoiled at the sudden counterattack and as world shook from the pain of mental backlash, Godfrey screamed at her.
"You cannot harm me, Fate!"
Abruptly the world reverted. Godfrey's eyes shot from side to side. He was standing on the hull of the Libertas, the two knights defending him while he had been prone.
A dragon fell out of the sky in front of him.
Dozens more were falling again and even without magic-enhanced vision, Godfrey knew that the last Pillar had been destroyed. The storm had paused again as the foundations of reality weakened and in the distance, the weakened fleet under Tritoch's command could be seen through a curtain of dying monster flesh.
The three Socian Knights warped themselves back onto the bridge of the Libertas. They were greeted with the sight of several dead officers at their stations and three more knights in full battle armor. Smoke filled the room, flag facilities smashed by the combination of magic and physical brute force.
"Sir," one of the knights approached Godfrey. "The Captain has gone below to the secondary-bridge while we clean up the mess here." Like most, the golden armor had been rebuffed for the operation so that years of war would no longer show. Thus, the combination blood splatter and fresh gouges spoke volumes.
There were few of the Socian Royal Knights remaining, so Godfrey knew most by name. Their helmets may have kept them faceless, but markings on the shoulder were all that was necessary. "Cadus, what happened here?"
"Mental attack took over a few of the men once the hull had been breached. We didn't notice until they tried to sabotage the ship," the golden armored knight pointed to smoking equipment. "A couple tried to fight back too, but we took care of them until the hull repaired itself." His nonchalant manner hid the immense difficulty of the task they had accomplished.
Godfrey cursed. So he had not been singled out. "Have the rest of the knights alerted throughout the fleet, full battle armor from now on regardless of orders. Even mine!" He would not let Fate stop him, not now.
Godfrey stormed onto the secondary bridge, located much deeper within the armored battlecruiser than the main bridge. It was much smaller and lacking flag facilities, but the crew had done their best while repairs were being made. Natalia sat in the Captain's chair, her eyes closed and the shapes of the Admirals of the fleet surrounding her. She gave him a tight-lipped smile and gestured for him to join via an open terminal.
One look at the fleet-wide situation and Godfrey knew why. The Paracelsus Fleet was collapsing as Fate's dragons regained their consciousness. Combined with the fortress-like abominations and several hundred Titans, what was once the strongest combined fleet of Espers was reduced to barely two-hundred ships. Their ships of the line held firm though, forming a sphere that blasted back the inevitable.
"Tritoch?" he barked as spellforms swirled around his arms.
The familiar bird-like visage of his friend wavered and disappeared.
"We have been hard-pressed to establish a solid link, Admiral," it was Dante speaking.
Godfrey looked over the plot data. His own fleet was struggling to maintain cohesion and their location near the Origin, the dragons were hitting them the hardest. Of the fifteen Gladius battlecruisers, only eleven were still functioning and most were heavily damaged. Their formation was now extremely tight, the dragons fought right above their hulls and a new strategy had been adopted. Mutually supportive cannonade was now possible, sniping at the enemy with minimal friendly incidents. Balder's fleet had suffered equally, over a third of his forces had been wiped out. However, the Caledfwlch Fleet and Florentine Fleet had both managed maintained cohesion.
"Dante, have the Florentine-"
"That's not happening, Godfrey," Dante interrupted.
At last, Godfrey noticed that Natalia and Balder were agitated by more than the stress of battle.
"As I was saying, the situation is tenuous for the Alliance. I will not risk the loss of any more ships than necessary," Dante said off-hand. "The path to Origin is open. You will take your Socian supermen to the centerpiece of Primordium before it's too late."
He was right, but callously ignored one crucial point. "Those vessels!" Godfrey almost shouted. Paracelsus Fleet had already lost a good fraction of its number. Waiting any longer meant the additional weakening of their forces, and Godfrey needed every bit of strength once the Gods arrived.
"That is not a concern of mine," Dante said, his demeanor infuriatingly calm. "This fleet represents thousands of years of history and culture. These things are irreplaceable. I will not toss it away just so you would maintain a few more ships of the line as a mere backdrop. We have done our part, Godfrey. Your success will be independent of their strength."
Godfrey turned to the leader of the strongest faction.
Lanford had a smug expression on his face. "Our side of the bargain has been upheld. It's time for you to finish this, Godfrey of Antigonus." There was no help forthcoming from the Caledfwlch Fleet. Lanford's facial expression said it all: they're just Espers.
"You'll doom us all," he growled.
In response, Lanford's image faded away. Dante followed suit only seconds later.
"Treacherous human scum," Balder growled. "Godfrey, I am moving my fleet into position to assist Tritoch. We will go to their succor, now!"
Silence from the Socian Admiral.
"I cannot do that Balder," Godfrey gritted his teeth. "I need every ship in my fleet intact, we've taken too many casualties already. My forces will attack the Origin now, while the option is still available." He looked up and saw the surprise in Natalia's eyes. "Signal the fleet," he ordered.
The red-haired Captain stood with a reluctant look on her face. "As you wish, Admiral."
"Have you lost your mind? Lanford has with him the ability to annihilate Esperkind! You saw the power of the weapons in his fleet! Even if you succeed in ending the war, my brethren and I will be destroyed by that bastard!"
Son of Odin indeed, Godfrey thought as he directed his mental attention back to the communication link. The two Espers let their emotions command their judgment. "I can't take the risk! I need every ship of the line at the Origin, there are defenses there from the dawn of the Golden Age. We have no idea what we're facing and I'll be damned if I fail now because of these political issues!"
"Politics? We're talking about the survival of Esperkind as a whole!" Balder shouted back. "Have you gone insane? My forces cannot hope to rescue Tritoch alone!"
Godfrey pounded his fists against the metallic terminals. "Enough! The Gods are my priority! Deal with it yourself!"
Balder cut of the communication link angrily, leaving Godfrey to glance up. The officers of the Socian Navy and the Libertas in particular were well-trained, but even they had not expected the physical outburst from their Admiral. They returned to work quickly, but the looks on their surprised faces were burned into his memory.
Natalia stood in the midst of navigation. The secondary bridge had no flag facilities; it was barely even large enough for the number of the sailors working at their stations. So it was that in the dim lighting of the bridge, a fuzzy blue holographic plot displayed the positions of the Pax Eternus fleet.
Red-hair spun and saluted when Godfrey arrived at that station. He glanced down at the plot, a cluster of barely fifty-ships of significant size moving in formation towards the birthplace of the Golden Age.
"Five minutes is the estimate," Natalia said coldly.
Godfrey ignored her attitude -- the stress of battle had worn everyone down -- and stared at the hologram. He frowned. "What the hell is going on?"
Breaking from the group was some three dozen ships, easily visible and even labeled on the small plot. Six Gladius battlecruisers, several third-rates and the Brisingamen leading the pack. They cut through a curtain of some thousand dragons that were harassing the fleet at its rear, their heading betraying their intentions.
"The Captain of the Iurisdictio had not responded to the fleet signals, nor did the Captain of the Brisingamen," a Lieutenant noted.
The Iurisdictio was eldest amongst the Gladius vessels. The Admiral that flew his flag aboard that ship was a hero amongst much of the fleet. To see that ship break ranks and follow the Asgardian battleship was an action that gave Natalia pause.
Godfrey almost ran to the closest communication terminal, screaming at communication to hail the departing ships. His face was red with anger, hidden behind the golden helmet of Socian Royal Knights.
Freya greeted him without a smile. Her blue eyes lacked anything resembling friendliness.
"What are you doing?" Godfrey shouted.
"Exactly what you should be doing," Freya replied coldly. She gave a nod of respect as the Admiral of the Iurisdictio joined the communication. "We will aid Tritoch, now."
"You will turn your vessels around and form up alongside my ship, now!"
"Who the hell do you think you are?" Freya snapped. The Esper woman glared at him. "You have no authority over me. If you do not have the moral fiber in you to go to the succor of the Paracelsus Fleet, then I will not follow your command."
"Admiral!" Godfrey turned to his fellow Socian, his face completely red from anger and frustration.
"You can go to hell, you glorified sword-swinging maniac," the Admiral of the Iurisdictio replied. "Your charisma may keep you the bulk of your fleet, but I will not ignore the dying pleas of our allies." His image disappeared almost immediately, leaving him one last chance to speak with Freya.
"If we do not strike the Origin now, then-"
"You're not thinking of our allies or the tide of battle. You're not even thinking of childhood friends," Freya snapped. "End the damn war yourself Godfrey, I'm going to help my people." Her image disappeared.
Natalia was waiting for him as he looked up from the terminal of electronics. "Records show that the Iurisdictio only contacted a select few Captains, all of which have formed up alongside of that taskforce," she stated as she tapped the controls. "The rest of the fleet has not broken ranks, but several -- including the Patrocinor -- have contacted me requesting the situation. I have taken the liberty of announcing your intention to deploy a taskforce to aid Tritoch." She held a clipboard towards him.
"You don't agree either," Godfrey whispered.
"No, but that's the burden of command," Natalia replied immediately. She set down the clipboard. "Father always trusted you, so will I."
The reminder of Everett and the billions of others lost in the War of the Magi hardened his heart. "Thank you, Natalia." He turned towards the displays at the head of the bridge. "We're not powerful enough to engage those ancient defenses," he mumbled. "Not with the loss of so many first-rates."
Natalia frowned at his premonition. "Your magic can tell this?"
"Instinct and prophecy," Godfrey replied. There were few paths left open and only one was acceptable. "Signal to the fleet. We will hold the line here." His finger pointed at the holographic plot, near a cluster of colossal ivory towers and suspiciously far away from the gates of the Citadel.
"It shall be with extreme vigour, Admiral."
Pax Eternus Fleet
Towers hewn from magic given physical form rose from the Origin. The holiest of relics, a single continental citadel that had been built around and within pulsating magicite, had been built during an age of darkness. So far back into the mists of time that even the legends had passed on, the monument had stood as a testament that the Gods could agree. That they could cooperate, find common ground, and lead their mortal children to command the fabric of reality.
It had been unthinkable, almost inconceivable, that these spiraling towers could be under attack. And even as the rain of rainbow-colored elemental energy fell towards the citadels, ancient defenders continued their age-long slumber. Nuclear fire ravished magical essence, a combined thunderous cannonade that vaporized timeless architecture. Ageless stone, ivory, walls of force and elemental spells all vanished in an instant. One tower, two towers, a third disappeared before the defenders awoke.
Spells of such archaic nature -- so obscure that the number of wizards throughout existence capable of identifying a single one numbered less than the fingers on a human hand -- lanced forth from the immortal entities around the Origin. Tendrils of white energy accompanied the nameless onslaught and struck back against the insolent children that had dared attack the heart of all magic.
Five Gladius battlecruisers were all that remained of the once immense Royal Socian Navy. They formed a single V-shape that alone weathered the storm of chaos. Certainly, they were fewer than intended, aggregate firepower easily halved with the loss of the Brisingamen, the Iurisdictio and her escorts. However, the good men and women of the Pax Eternus Fleet held firm despite such a reduction in their ships of the line. Just shy of a two-hundred ships maintained formation -- squadrons blasting back a tide of spellcraft not seen since the Golden Age began -- while those blue rocky-hewn symbols of human might bore down upon the Origin.
Their willpower manifested in the disproportionate damage exchanged with the Citadel's defenders. The great castle below them was collapsing under the wrath of the mortal fleets and nothing that still followed the Gods, not their mountainous abominations, not the horde of monster flesh, not even an Avatar's psychic will had been able to stop them. Professionalism was maintained even as nameless spells and tendrils of energy tore and carved their vessels apart. Even those line ships not outright destroyed were steadily retreating from battle, replaced by smaller and more delicate frigates. The Gladius' did not fall back though, but instead pressed the assault.
The storm of winter could no longer be seen from the mortal vessels, rather only the dark shapes of beasts; most lacking physical form and yet their presence twisted reality. It was an englobement of monster flesh to the extent that gunners no longer had to aim accurately. Even stray shots found a target. The holoplots were completely filled with enemy signatures and it was apparent that everything was concentrated upon the diminishing Pax Eternus Fleet.
Retreat was not an easy option -- though certainly none of the commanders in this navy entertained such cowardice! -- as their engines were now devoted to defense and then the counterbattery of their elemental cannons. Had they five minutes to charge, perhaps the fleet could have shifted out of battle with minimal casualties. Yet it was now apparent to any flag officer that things were disintegrating quickly.
Aboard the secondary bridge of the Libertas, officers continued their efforts to direct the battle. Godfrey, like most commanders of note, found himself with little to do but to wait. Their formation was collapsing and battle-worthy ships few. Several frigates on the outskirts had even stopped firing, their concentrations of energy devoted to powering shield spells while other vessels behind blasted back the horde. The mighty Sword of Socius shuddered as her shields were briefly overwhelmed, the degenerate hull being shorn apart reverberated throughout the deckplates. Godfrey sighed, knowing that if five Gladius' were all in such dire straits, that the fleet could not possibly succeed. They could not deliver him to the Gate before the Room of Equality.
It was fortunate that his plan had accounted for this possibility.
Natalia gave a grim nod when she saw the expression on his face. Intensity answered the voiceless order equally so. General Fleet Signals propagated quickly throughout the tattered formation. A successful retreat under intense enemy fire was very much in doubt, but more so as the Libertas did not follow her sisters. Her cannons rested for a moment, the sudden lapse as over two-hundred elemental cannons paused stunned the immortals that defended the Origin, and then the ship's Captain gave insane orders.
The Libertas surged forward, her massive generators now devoted purely to shields and engine thrust. The blue-hulk accelerated through the dark swarm -- ramming many of the monsters and even killing a few of the weakened Titans that were still alive -- and broke through the blockade of flesh and magic inelegantly. Her exhaust trailed behind like the fine plumage of a bird of prey, cutting through the curtain of darkness and unnatural blizzard with superheated gases. Some tried to follow, most formless but there were a few of Fate's dragons still left, miraculously having avoided total extinction. Cannons had been repositioned towards the bow though, and from those firing arcs came energy to annihilate a mountainside. The few dragons remaining became fewer as they vanished in a storm of plasma marked by clouds of ugly red vapor.
Energy tendrils and storms of bolts -- as if lightning yet impossibly pitch black -- met the Libertas as she sailed around the Citadel. The Libertas was a big target, but her speed was such that the strain on the engines was threatening to tear the vessel apart. She avoided the snaking vines of white magic through sheer velocity but smashed into a wall of dark energy. The blue-hulk emerged from the cascade of lightning relatively unscathed, the entire vessel covered by yellow hues as shield spells bled off the excess heat.
They approached the Gate and elemental forces that protected the sanctum of the Gods at ramming speed, far too fast for the task. It would be described as a beautiful thing had any other mortal vessel seen it. Broadsides of repeated cannonfire brought the ship into a spin as its engines shut off for a short moment. The ship groaned as internal forces threatened to tear it apart -- indeed a crumple zone along the starboard side killed over a hundred sailors -- but the vessel was whole and facing the opposite direction. Engines blasted again, slowing down the huge vessel and incinerating the gardens about the Gate.
Twenty-one Golden Armored Knights of Socius undulated into existence in the midst of that inferno, standing firm in wake of the monstrous vessel that had just delivered them onto the Origin. At their head was the Golden Knight himself. The Pax Eternus Fleet Admiral offered a silent salute to the vessel, her captain, and her crew -- that they had risked a vessel of that size and power in order to deliver a paltry squadron of Knights should have been lunacy in any other circumstance -- and then the Libertas was off. She would rejoin the rest of the fleet or fall.
Godfrey of Antigonus marched forward, the necklace about his neck pulsating with power as he strode through a pool of molten marble that once led to the Gate. It was easily visible, towering into the heavens with waves of elemental force rippling towards them. Beyond a cavern led deep into the continental landmass, where the Room of Equality laid. He drew his sword nonchalantly when he noticed the statues still around them, the only items that had managed to avoid incineration from the Libertas' engine backwash.
The Colossi moved like men despite their towering size and the molten ground. Without needing orders, the Knights of Socius split into six squads and engaged each construct. They were veterans that had faced far worse, men that were fanatically devoted to the commander that was ahead of them, and soldiers that had been raised to destroy monsters. The combination of sword and sorcery pushed the six Colossi back and allowed their Captain to continue forward.
Godfrey did not stop as a seventh Colossus -- its size easily twenty times his height and built from prismatic stones -- stood before him. Instead, the crystals at his neck shimmered with unimaginable power. Crimson fire engulfed them both, distracting the monster so that a second blast toppled the beast into the Gate. The primal forces that guarded the inner sanctum latched onto the living force of the guardian and erased it from existence with a shockwave of heat.
The Golden Knight strode through the Gate without pause, easily ignoring the elemental forces that tried to stop the passage of the King of Blasphemers. Spellforms recoiled from the intensity of will that their target possessed. The Gate collapsed upon itself in a storm of twisting plasma coils. So it was that a mortal had entered the sanctuary of the Gods: the Room of Equality.
He strode through a grand hallway, without decoration but cleanly cut into the continental landmass. The hallway alone could have easily fit the floating island of Idavoll, so it was without surprise that the Room of Equality itself was a chamber of gargantuan proportions. In the center was a single floating object set upon a great dais that was ringed by an octagonal set of pillars. The artifact was set in the midst of an ancient symbol, the meaning known only to the Gods. Each stone column glowed, a combining into a pleasant blue-white light that illuminated the entire room.
Above the artifact, a woman in a plain white dress woven with the pentagram symbols of her order floated serenely. Her long black and crimson hair framed the face of a Goddess. But this was merely one of their servants, an Avatar. She greeted him with a tight-lipped smile, at last in the flesh and bereft of her immense armies of obedient servants. The last of her kind with the power and will to move against her master's enemies.
The Combined Allied Fleet
Strategic Airspace J7D
The Pax Eternus Fleet had barely retreated from the slaughter that had been their assault on the Origin. Crippled and sickly, just shy of a hundred and fifty ships had managed to extricate themselves from an englobement of monster flesh. Uniform were the rifts in degenerate armor, shield spells long since collapsed to leave dark matter standing firm in the face of arcane magic. The men and women aboard were strained beyond all limits. The wounded had been coldly triaged while the rest worked to repair their dying ships. It had been a short battle by any standard -- barely two hours in length! -- yet the losses had been insane.
But the War of the Magi was mad, and these fine sailors of Socius and their allies a perfect match.
Four beaten and nigh-broken Gladius' sheathed themselves deep into the outer wall of elementals and Titans that surrounded Tritoch's Paracelsus Fleet. Artillery in the form of flak elemental bursts showered the monster curtain, timed so that their spells would detonate in the midst of delicate flesh and vaporous gases. Eight hundred cannons thrummed every second, their steady beat releasing wave after wave of superheated plasma. Incredibly enough, a fifth measure emanated from an unexpected direction: the Sword of Socius.
Upon the opposite side of the wall, six more Gladius' under the command of the Iurisdictio added to the inferno. Tremendous energy in the form of elemental beams cleared a path through stubborn living mountains -- indeed, it had even give the storm pause -- and the weakened Paracelsus and Yggdrasil fleets met the remnants of the Pax Eternus fleet. Losses had been unimaginable throughout the allies, with nearly half of their frigate screen lost and the rest heavily damaged. But the real power within the fleet, second-rate cruisers and the enormous battleships, remained largely intact.
They rearranged their formations in order to defend the cripples, but not for a moment did the ships of the line slacken their rate of fire. Fate's dragon horde, the half that had attempted to destroy Tritoch's Paracelsus fleet, had been blasted into extinction. Long-range scanners told a different story for the treacherous human fleets, dragons still aplenty over the corpse of the Northern Pillar, but that was not a concern for friends of Esperkind.
Aboard the Libertas, Captain Natalia of Tacitus contacted Tritoch, Balder, Freya and the Admiral of the Iurisdictio. Her right arm was broken and in a sling, their shields had faltered a number of times during the escape from the Origin and monsters had warped in during the lapses. While their compliment of knights still numbered fifty, the loss of the most experienced and battle-hardened men had nearly concluded in the loss of the battlecruiser. Natalia had personally slain one of liquid flesh, its putrid smell still rank upon her fine uniform. It had nearly taken her life, an ugly gash across her cheek that had been hastily bandaged still pulsed to remind the fiery-haired officer of the price paid.
"Natalia," Tritoch's image came over the communication link weakly, but the scars on his birdlike visage could not be mistaken. His expression was unreadable though, Natalia could not tell whether the mighty Esper was pleased to see Socians at all. Certainly, Balder would not have hidden the truth of Godfrey's callous disregard. "Is it done?"
Natalia nodded grimly. The deckplates of her ship shuddered again, fires had broken out throughout the engineering sections and everything was being done to contain the spreading damage. The secondary bridge was now running with a skeleton crew, fortunate that they were no longer a flagship. "We will form up beside the Hildisvín," she announced with one eye on the plot.
"You will withdraw and continue repairs to your vessel," Balder's authoritative voice cut through the static interference that was filtering into their minds. "The monsters cannot break the shields of our line and we will need everything the Libertas has in a few moments. Freya will coordinate the remnants of the Pax Eternus Fleet into formation as necessary."
At that moment, the Libertas shuddered again and not from an internal explosion. "Report!" Natalia snapped as she brushed aside her blood-slicked hair.
"Dragons!" surprise there, for those monsters had been prioritized and destroyed first. "A dozen just passed us at nearly twice our maximum speed. It looks like they're retreating!"
The Libertas had just joined the combined fleet, and her position was rearmost. "Weaps, can we track them?" the Captain asked.
"Forty cannons ma'am!" announced the eager officer. Natalia had not been alone in her bloodthirst. This was, after all, her ship.
"Show them the real masters of the sky!" she ordered. The familiar thrum of cannonade rocked the Libertas before Natalia turned her attention back to the meeting of ranking officers.
"Natalia, we need to know fleet-wide estimates for a shift," Freya said the moment the red-haired Captain rejoined the conversation. "As well, battle readiness reports and preparations begun to evacuate ships that cannot make the necessary speed; they will need to be scuttled."
"We're not retreating!" Natalia snarled at even the possibility of cowardice.
"No, quite the opposite," Freya's azure eyes blazed internecine intent. "We're going to catch Lanford and the League between two fires!"
The Room of Equality
"Fate," Godfrey said with a measure of surprise. His sword was still out but it was an unnecessary threat. She could not harm him, they both knew this fact.
"Godfrey," her voice was still pleasant to hear, even despite the vitriol that Godfrey held towards her. Magic permeated every part of her soul, even in such mundane things as speaking. "Turn back now and perhaps they will forgive this transgression," she spoke to him like a mother to her child, but the threat was clear.
"They are coming, aren't they?" Godfrey grinned beneath his helmet. He knew Fate could see his expression. "You're afraid!"
The woman lowered herself until she was just an inch above the ground. She stood between him and the mysterious artifact in the center of the Room of Equality. A teasing grin was the only answer she gave.
His finger pointed at her. "Your tricks have failed you and your armies are slaughtered! You've allowed me to enter this room, and even now your powers are impotent against me!" Godfrey allowed the magicite about his neck to punctuate the strength of his words. Pure energy swirled around him, the fabric of reality bending to his will as he stood in defiance of the three Gods. "Leave, slave!" His sword pointed towards her, but it liquefied into base elements and began to swirl about the Golden Knight.
Fate gestured about them and mists began to swirl around the immense room. They took the form of ships and monsters, the relentless blizzard that had swirled about them, the island fortresses and living mountains. It was as if the walls had become transparent and they stood in the center of Primordium, capable of seeing all that was around them.
Godfrey did not need her assistance to know of the situation. The pillars had all been destroyed, their collapsing landmasses long since gone and nothing to mark their passing. Titans, elementals, the dark hordes of the Origin were swarming over the allied fleets. Fate's dragons were few in number, they had been pulverized and her will now was broken. Only the most ancient and powerful monsters remained, trading fires with the vessels of his friends. In short, Fate was alone with Godfrey and nothing she could do would stop him.
"I give you only one chance, Godfrey," Fate said in an entrancing tone. She frowned as he strode towards her though. "What you have done today will mark the world forever," he continued to advance towards her and the tornado of magic that protected him loomed menacingly over her. "You cannot expect mercy from the Gods if you dare-"
Godfrey gestured and Fate found herself without a voice. She gripped her throat vainly.
"I will not deal with slaves," Godfrey said as he threw Fate aside with a thought. He climbed the hundred steps that led to the dais, the artifact now close enough to distinguish detail. He passed the pillars without a second thought, their glow concentrated especially in the center of the Room of Equality. "I intend to speak with your masters, and it seems that the battle over Asgard has kept their attentions for so long that I have no choice. I had not intended on going this far, but I will not fail in my task. This world is mad and the Gods with it. Billions of lives have already been lost and billions more will cease to exist once Odin falls," Godfrey stood before the artifact, a simple triangle of elemental crystals that symbolized the pact between the deities. He directed his wrath to the only woman in the Room of Equality.
The Avatar of the Gods crumpled to the ground outside the dais.
Godfrey crushed the symbol with his hands, the crystal shards hitting the ground with little ceremony. There had been no magic involved, nor magic contained within the artifact. It had been nothing more than a fine work of art, but valued by the deities. He spread his arms, energy flowing through his veins as he stood in the midst of desecration in the holiest of places. He seemed to grow larger, his aura stronger, and he shouted to the heavens in a thundering voice.
"Hear me, Gods of this world! I am Godfrey of Antigonus, champion of humanity and Esperkind!" Energy swirled around him as the Espers that had given their lives for this moment empowered the Golden Knight. Wave after wave of energy emanated from him, shockwaves that scattered the crystal shards into the distance and annihilated the shapes of the outside word.
"I stand at the Origin and I demand your presence!"
The world seemed to groan as they finally noticed the struggle over their prized monument, a neutral ground that had never been defiled in the long ages since the darkness receded. A low rumbling shook the world as they heard his words, and lo, they were angry!
Fate stood though, against the ripples of force that threatened to slam her back into ground. Her hand stretched forth, but Godfrey did not falter nor even twitch. He did not even give her his attention, but rather immersed himself into the fabric of reality and in the center of the attention of three warring deities.
A tear traced its way down the Avatar's perfect face. Her hair lost its color and turned a pale and sickly grey. Her entire body began to glow with white light.
Then the pillars around Godfrey lost their glow.
That got his attention, and Godfrey glowered at Fate. "You cannot stop me!" he shouted the prophecy once more. His hand waved at her and she was thrown back against ground with such force that the smooth rock cracked and imploded.
The Avatar laid to rest, crumpled, body broken and insides bleeding. Her eyes, ageless, looked to him in sadness. "I cannot stop you, but I can delay your mission against the Gods. You will not enrage them anymore, the world cannot survive it," she whispered.
Eight pillars suddenly drove themselves into the dais with a booming explosion that echoed in the vast cavern. They smoothly disappeared into the marbled slate that had once held a trio of Gods. Force rippled out of each side of the octagon, each a different color and each a different radiance. The Golden Knight, splendid in his armor and commanding power unimaginable, stood in the center of the attention of the deities. He had not felt it until now, but when he tore his own influence from those great beings and instead to that which was near him, he felt the Eight Dragons that had managed to survive flight through the Pax Eternus Fleet and arrive to succor their dying master.
"Goodbye, Godfrey," Fate's last words were punctuated by blood within her lungs. "Your crusade will be delayed forever!"
The rumbling about the Origin could not be mistaken for anything else, even had Godfrey not wielded power to discern the spells that were being unwoven and woven about them. The continental landmass of magic given form fell out of the heavens, propelled onward by the life-force of an Avatar. It shook the entire world as it impacted against the ground, driven deeper and deeper until even the Gods protested at the deadly wound.
And at the center, deep within in the Room of Equality, and surrounded by the power of eight ancient and powerful dragons, Godfrey of Antigonus was imprisoned for eternity.
All That Glitters Is Cold 3 Fanfic Competition
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