Those few hours were well spent, especially having the luck to find Alex in between missions and at court. I did not want to have to play politics for another enchanter to place the specified elemental abilities on the spear. Thankfully, when I explained the situation to Alex, they were happy to oblige, since it was one of their specialties. It sure was preferable to having to go to Chokoris to get something imbued with flame abilities.
Still, seeing Ami wield it against the black auto carriages with armed men inside and sending crashing bolts of white-hot electricity down like a judgment upon them warmed something a few degrees I thought frozen long ago. Damn it, now Chokoris is wont to not allow me to forget using a fire metaphor if he chances by me in my debriefing.
While Ami worked on the human element of the evil uprising in the city, bouncing from one patrol to the next (and nary a wound on her person) I went to work on the laser towers. There were too many to effectively shut down via destruction without wearing myself out and risking a greater warping of space-time because of my manifested status. Instead, I focused upon all those that barred our path to where the ley line was feeling at its weakest. I withdrew my Water Staff to refract any of their shots and began my aerial dance with danger.
Most of the towers were easy enough to knock their heads off with the water pressure of the geyser spell, but it was only the last few that smelled of the ley line’s spilled lifeblood when Ami and I hit a box on the side of the upper portion of the tower close to the Burger Duke nearly in tandem that I realized what was powering them.
Oh, their fucking nerve!
The ley line was not to be tapped like that, you agent of isfet. This planet had no permits and technology to safely harness such power, and a Dyson sphere would be more efficient at power generation than draining the planet’s ability to support life at all. I felt my forehead mark burn as I looked at the thickening number of humans pointing their guns at us as we got to the street that intersected the ley line. They would rather all follow someone who would wish them dead than leave the line in peace.
“Ami, jump now!” I said and floated my staff in front of me in the air, while my own servant’s bracelet deflected the few shots that these men deigned to aim at me.
“What, why?” Ami asked as she swept a man’s legs from under him in the middle of the fray.
“Just do it.”
She nodded and jumped straight up.
“Aquiaa mosh’te ian’tan foukosu! Water Staff, tsunami!” I chanted and did the motion to gather the water with the staff before plunging straight down and sending the powerful eight foot wave crashing out in a ring upon impact. It swept away the majority of the men that were barring our entry into the warehouse, with the rest barely holding on to a lamp or a fence. The water went as far as hitting the nearby apartment complex or the bayou behind the warehouse before it returned to the air.
“Whoa,” Ami said as she landed, “I wouldn’t want to be in a sparring match with you. I thought that it only had that one ability.”
“Generally, I do not have my magical weapons be one ability only,” I said. “Grandmaster Lazarus understood this upon commission, and his work does not disappoint.”
“So how many abilities do the weapons that I’ve seen have?” she asked as we strolled past a knocked out guard in front of the open door to the empty ground level warehouse.
I narrowed my eyes. Of course it would be underground, at the heart of where the ley line lay. There, a mortal person could touch it without being specialized in its care. Knowing what they had done would be another question entirely. I looked around for a set of stairs leading downward.
“Most of them have three modes,” I said, having been knocked out of my train of thought. “The Water Staff has five, not counting the times I’ve had to use it and the Ice Stars in rapid succession to block attacks.”
Ami scanned the echo chamber of a building, her silver cougar paw-print hair chime tinkling. “I guess it makes sense, seeing as water is fluid. Ah, here’s an elevator and some stairs.” She pushed the button for the service elevator, but almost immediately a short shut down whatever progress the car had made rising to us.
Even my ability to take water out of the air wouldn’t dry this circuitry fast enough. “I suggest we watch our step on the way down.”
“Yeah, the wave got everywhere.”
And down into the depths we went.
Ami was slightly in front of me as we took flight after flight down into the bowels of the earth. My wings touched the handrails ever so slightly as we descended. It was uncomfortable to keep them closed and impractical to glamour them away, as I would need them to dodge soon, I reasoned. We went down so far that the line’s pulse was palpable to my ears, in that low, rumbling way that could only be felt when on top of it. Ami was on edge throughout the cramped climb down.
Soon enough, the sound of whirring machinery met our ears and dampness our noses as the stairwell opened into a cavern hewn from the rock large enough to allow me to fly. A portion of my staff’s water had wet the ground around the landing, but a small pool off to the right of where we were and the elevator shaft held most of the cavern’s water. Clever. Before us at an incremental distance, upon a rise, was what I assumed to be a project table, with plans and such strewn about. Around the edges of this sizable cavern were machines like those that Ami used in the library, some heavy-looking metal equipment that stunk of steel and held illumination for the area, partitions between each machinery station, and several cylindrical tubes against the far wall that I could sense held the ley line’s lifeblood within it. Wires ran along the floor, snaking back from the way we came and towards the tanks and other places, but they all converged on one desk with a display on it.
There sat a man in his middle years, with dusky skin and a haggard beard, staring at the display from behind wide glasses with a look that beget anger and madness. He worked the input board furiously as we approached. A glance at Ami informed me that she knew this man.
A muffled yell off to our left pulled my attention to a young woman with bronze skin, in a long sleeve black shirt, blue jeans, and a navy blue hair covering that looked like the night sky. She was bound to one of the more interactive looking machines and had a dirty rag stuffed in her mouth.
“Medhi!” Ami said and made a move towards the machine.
“Not so fast,” the man said in an edged low voice and patted a pistol on his desk like the ones I’d seen on the guards outside. “Any sudden moves towards her or myself and she dies, and the whole area from here to Raleigh goes boom. You wouldn’t want that, would you?” He leered at me with a grin.
I met his gaze with a harder glare. These planetary threats had holding innocent lives hostage as a favored trick of theirs.
“Why are you doing this, Mr. Shamon? I thought you adored your niece, from how she would talk about you when we saw each other on campus. Hell, from what research I did on your company, the altruistic aim of some of the tech offered put several supers’ efforts to shame,” Ami said and glanced at me.
I understood and gave her the slightest of nods.
“You think it that simple, really, to build a company from a startup in the dot com crash era wreckage as a minority to a multi-million dollar corporation of today, do you? Sure, some tech will save lives, but much much more of that technology is used for warfare. I’ve had to take many more contracts of that ilk, some meant to be put to the proof against my own homeland, and still I made the deals. And as for her,” he made a darting look to Medhi, “the little piglet is more of annoyance that I’ve had to put up with for the past several years than any kin to me. Her graduation was supposed to be my release from her, so I grinned and bore it. It wasn’t until she started rooting around last year that I was driven to enact measures to keep her quiet.”
The look of betrayal on Medhi’s face stung as her emotion’s glamour filled the area. She yelled through the cloth.
“Silence!” Mr. Shamon said and his form leaked a black tendril in the Near Unseen.
I tightened my gaze on the man in a jumpsuit that would be at home on Opturi-12. “So you are killing Netjer’s children because of your own guilt?”
“No, this is purely for revenge upon the city and the government for revoking my last contract for ethical concerns. Bastards shouldn’t do that when I hold all the cards.”
“And you aren’t concerned that you are playing right into the stereotype of a Middle Eastern terrorist in the process? That it would hurt your cause and company more than help?” Ami asked.
“Pah, others can think what they like!” he said and stood up, throwing his arms in the air.
That was our cue.
In one fluid moment, I chanted the geyser chant for the Water Staff and struck him with the blast, knocking him back into a partition another man was slumped against.
From the corner of my eye, Ami jumped the several fences and removed Medhi’s gag, before starting to work on her bindings with the spearhead.
“Uncle Ahmad!” Medhi said, struggling against her bindings.
“Hold still, I don’t want to cut you too.”
“But the djinn is—”
“—Buying time for us. I know, but process later.”
I rushed forward as Ahmad was struggling against the water pressure, hoping that the enchantment would hold out before it started to draw the area dry.
He was able to press a button on his suit that I hadn’t seen before and a silvery metal spider-like arm popped up from his back and dragged him free from the stream.
I swore in my native language as he stood and three more of those infernal legs popped out from his jumpsuit and launched them at me. No time to switch weapons from the nearly tapped for the day staff as I dodged and parried them in flight.
“Your drawing upon the lifeblood of this planet ends here, Ahmad, or should I say, shade?”
“I have no idea what in creation you are talking about!” he said and hit another button on his glove to take flight after me.
“Of course you don’t,” I said and thrust in a gap between retracting arm and body, scoring a hit to his side. The melee attack didn’t faze him as much as I thought it would, and he counterattacked, slamming me into the wall with an arm. My bracelet’s force field absorbed most of the impact, but it still hurt.
I heard a thud and saw in a quick glance that Ami had gotten Medhi loose as I dodged a succession of stabs by Ahmad’s arms. “Shut it down!” I called to them before dropping the Water Staff into my dimensional pocket and starting a chant for ice needles out of my personal power reserves.
“Trying!” Ami yelled back. “The damn thing has a password on the kill switch for the whole operation.”
I was sending a second volley of needles at him (the first didn’t hit) when I heard a machine being powered down.
“I got the antennas shut down, Miss Djinn,” Medhi said.
Good, that meant Netjer’s children outside wouldn’t have as much danger upon their lives. “And the machinery that is taking the area’s lifeblood?”
“Working on it,” Ami said and pounded away at the machine that Medhi had been tied to.
I could see, in brief glimpses between casts of spells, that Medhi was going around to the other machinery, checking the crimson-splattered panels, and muttering something as they each grew dark. Soon enough, only the one that Ami was working on still whirred.
Once more, as I drew a down-burst to knock Ahmad out of his dance with the firmament, the air understood and poured the knowledge of language into my being. I could feel the pressure in the Near Unseen build as both my manifestation was starting to warp space-time and a doorway was gathering near the elevator.
Just then, the whirring of the machine stopped and the crash of thunder that was caused by a small explosion behind me informed me that Ami had decided to fry the machinery.
“Get out of here!” Ami said to Medhi as my down-burst overcame Ahmad’s flight pack and spiked him into the ground.
“No, I won’t leave him. There’s gotta be some explanation to all this,” Medhi said as I landed, sweaty from flight and how many spells I’d hard cast with my own glamour. The metaphorical chains on my power that I took when manifesting were starting to rub me raw.
“You heard him before.”
I saw a man in the Near Unseen appear by the wall that thrummed with the ley line’s sickened power. He was in an animal skin outfit fit for a warrior as he jogged towards Ami. He gave me a nod before saying something in her ear.
Ami nodded and looked to the recently returned to his feet Ahmad. Two of his mechanical arms were busted from the fall and an otherworldly hatred burned in his eyes for me.
I could hear the guttural sound that it made in the Near Unseen. It was not pleasant.
Ahmad sent one of the functioning arms flailing at me, but Ami parried it with her spear as I was trying to catch my breath.
“I have an idea, but you’ll need to be on the other side of the veil,” she said.
I nodded, trusting my liaison implicitly. “If it doesn’t work, I can’t manifest again for a little while.”
“I can handle myself. I’m not the woman you met at the stadium any more.”
I took a deep breath, and stepped sideways just as the warping of space was about to spill out into the material world, quelling the irritation of the dimension at its source. What was merely paused, however, was the forming of the doorway.
Taking in a bit of the bitter glamour of the battle to recover my energy, I waited as Ami threw herself at Ahmad, swirling his attacks away with empty hand and spear. She had to back away a couple of times, but with each successive defensive hit she got in, even if Ahmad got a blow through her collar’s shield, she got closer. Soon enough, she was in range to pierce him with the spear, but didn’t.
She was within arm’s reach when she spun to dodge an attack and countered while saying a word that the air around me didn’t have enough information to translate. It connected with his jaw, and the silver cougar paw print hair clip she had on shone with a holy light as it jingled, knocking the possessor out of Ahmad’s body and leaving him in a heap.
I could tell that this shade was a stronger one than what I had dealt with months prior. It sneered at me and I cracked my knuckles.
“Now you get to deal with me unshackled, and without your ride,” I said and traced the shield pattern on my red-green crystallium servant’s bracelet with a finger.
“He’s not breathing!” I heard Medhi say from the Seen.
“Quick, turn him on his back so I can start CPR,” Ami said.
“But you did this.”
“I only helped to free him. We need to get to work on him while he’s still got a chance.”
Medhi turned him over and Ami started resuscitative measures. I could hear her starting that prayer again to her god, and the doorway started to expand once again.
Finally, after what felt like ages dodging the infernal shade’s attacks, I felt my Lady pick up.
“Emergency code three four oh three. Designation, Binara Reshanuke of House Reshanuke of Danannia, planet of Tir. Requesting analysis of currently engaged enemy. Opinion is choice between Lake of Fire and dissolution. Please advise.”
“Request received Binara, lady of autumn’s dawn,” I heard Lady Nit say coolly from my bracelet.
I barely dodged a swing of its tendrils while my Lady debated.
“Agreement with Sed in our shared title of Wepwawet has been reached. Shade is a scale of isfet and not fit for the Lake of Fire. Dissolution with the Sword of Severity’s pillar advised and permission granted. Stay safe, Binara, and I’m looking forward to the debriefing.” I felt her hang up.
I took a cleansing breath and sighed. “Bad day for you,” I said and undid the bonding strap that kept the Sword in its dual scabbard with the Dimensional Daggers. I had commissioned the scabbard when I was promoted to my current role as caretaker of the multiversial hall and received the Sword from my Lady Nit, as a way to quickly access which options for these situations in battle.
I drew the Sword of Severity from its scabbard and heard a collective gasp of fear from all of the nearby spirits and the ley line. With its jet black blade no longer darkening it, its scabbard shone translucent opalescent as the option not taken stayed on its side. The Sword’s golden grip in my hand, I raised the double-edged blade of its hand and a half self into a low ready stance I had learned so long ago.
At the shade’s next attack, I parried it and my counter cut deep horizontally, but it still was standing. No wonder why Lady Nit had called it a scale. Before it could block me, I brought the sword down vertically, intersecting the first cut.
“Heh’ha na! Sword of Severity’s pillar, work your magic. Kheperu, nekhtet!” I said and snapped my fingers, releasing the stored enchantment in the cuts.
The shade screamed in the enhanced pain that the Sword brings and then existed no more.
I ran my hand above the blade, quietly chanting its cleaning spell to get rid of viscera before I replaced it in its scabbard and snapped its bond in place.
I heard a collective sigh of relief from the area, and the doorway—almost fully open—dissolved.
“Thank you,” Medhi said under her breath.
I turned to see that Ahmad was breathing again, but his khu was nearly gone. Ami had her fingers on his neck and her phone out.
“Will he be ok?” she asked me.
“Hard to say. From the way he was being ridden and how strong he was, it was likely that it’d been years. If he’s strong enough, he’ll be able to draw his original soul parts back into his body, but only after its binding heals enough. That’s a long way off, from what I see,” I said.
Ami relayed this information to Medhi.
Her eyes burned with hurt and hatred. “Still you both did it,” she said.
“Hey, we saved his life, yours, and nearly half the state,” Ami objected.
“Now now, Medhi, don’t be angry at your helpers,” a female ancestor dressed in traditional Persian garb said. “Ahmad’s soul has been staying with me since the year before you graduated high school and came here to the States. He’ll be happy to know that his weakness in judgment that allowed what happened has been cleansed, though he’ll have to answer for it when he’s healthy enough.”
“And don’t blame yourself for not figuring it out earlier, m’dearie,” an ancestor with long, curly red hair and an emerald green renaissance dress on said over Ami’s shoulder. “It’s not every day you have to deal with one of the fair folk of my lands—a powerful one to boot—and juggle everything else you’re going through. Though I see why now you’ve been avoiding my side of the family. I’ll give yer mum a talk in her dreams for ye.” She winked at me and stepped back to her afterlife.
“…I understand,” Medhi said, not hearing the ancestors. “But it still hurts that it happened.”
I walked off to check on the line. It was still sickly after being drained of so much of its lifeblood that it would be giving the farmers in the area a lean harvest for years to come if left untreated.
“You poor thing, let’s get that life flowing a bit better and speed your healing,” I said to it and placed my hand upon the part that was peeking out of the rock, by where the seam of wall and floor met. I chanted the spell that gave me its diagnostics, then closed my eyes. “No more occlusions except this one in this sector…a particularly healthy southern pole stream, let’s pull from there. Three more occlusions on other inhabited continents, but are managed properly, and signed off on by Geb, Gaea, and Amaterasu. Interesting, I’ll have to talk to the planetary next time I’m in the neighborhood.”
“What’re you up to?” I heard Ami say as other voices started to filter in from above.
“Ok, all set,” I said and opened my eyes, removing the foot from the diagnostic spell. “Just finishing my job.”
She glanced at the area where I stood and had an expression of mild awe. “So, what’s your next steps?”
“First, let’s get back out into open air, it is stifling down here,” I said and started moving towards the now dry elevator, leaving Medhi and Ahmad with the healers. “Second, I would like to jump back as soon as possible to debrief my Lady, but I don’t have the energy for it after that battle. I’ll have to rest and recoup a large amount of glamour before I can leave. We’ll get into next steps for your liaison work after that. I’m fairly sure that your exertions were as taxing as mine.”
Ami nodded. “Yeah, I could do with some dinner and downtime.”
The elevator opened its doors to us, and for the first time in what felt like years, we both stepped into the early evening light.