LEVEL 7: Intermission: Travel the Worlds
Princess Henrietta was not having a good day.
Today was the day of the Springtime Summoning Ritual at the Academy- and while the Princess wanted to send all her thoughts and prayers towards her childhood playmate’s successful summoning of a familiar, she was forced to do otherwise since last night- when dark storm clouds had rolled in over the floating kingdom of Albion.
The Viscount Wardes had been on assignment there, trying to dig up information on where the Prince Valiant- Her Beloved Wales- was hiding, if he were still alive after all the bloodshed of the civil war brought on by Reconquista. Today was the day he was scheduled to return.
The Viscount was late in reporting back in any shape, way, or form.
The wall of clouds continued to block all sight of Albion from land or from sea. It was thick- dark, malevolent, and evil feeling according to all who saw it. Whatever had happened on Albion in recent days was clearly a result of some magickal ritual, but whatever it was, none of her best Mage Advisors- nor any of the up and coming mages from the Institute- could tell her what was causing it.
It was a worrisome event- given that Albion’s normal meandering path was set to take it near the boarders of her kingdom- normally subject to concern just because of the shadow it cast… but this wall of clouds? It was much larger in radius than the floating isle had normally- and whatever after effects ITS shadow would cast upon the land was too terrifying to think about.
“Mi Lady!” A Servant ran into the room, “The Viscount returns! Wounded!”
“Get the Water Mages,” The Princess called out. “I’ll meet him in the infir-”
“PRINCESS!” The Viscount shoved his way into the room in that instant- bleeding heavily from a wound to the head and a large cut to his arm. “Albion…. Albion has fallen!”
“Fallen?” Princess Henrietta asked as she and several others ran over to meet him, even as he fell to his knees, not out of respect, but out of exhaustion. “What do you mean by fallen? Is it Reconquista?”
“No… they…” The Viscount gulped down a wet sounding breath. “The whole of Albion is simply… Unrecognizable. The very landscape changed beneath my feet. The docks were destroyed and the… the Rebels were put on display.”
“What?” The Cardinal- some young faced boy who had come in to replace the previous Cardinal after he had fallen ill several days ago, and so Henrietta had trouble remembering his name. Julian or something?- asked as he too stepped forwards, drawing his wand to perform some rudimentary healing spell. “What do you mean they were put on display? By Who?!”
“Monsters! Demons!” The Viscount breathed out, eyes darting about the room in a harried perimeter check even as he slipped down onto his butt, then further lied down onto his back with the aid of the Princess. “Beasts unlike any I’ve ever seen before. Constructs of flesh… rock and ice…. wind and…. lightning!” With every word he fought to breathe down more air, “…Burning flames that are chilling to the touch…!”
The Cardinal frowned as his healing spell did nothing. “By the Founder…!” A team of dedicated Water Mages came rushing in, and began doing their more complicated spells.
“What’s wrong?” Henrietta asked of the Cardinal.
“It’s like… my magic was being eaten…” He shook his head. “That should be impossible… Unless….?”
After a few critical moments, one of the Water Mages stood, and said, hurriedly, “We can’t explain it, but we’re losing him. If you need to talk to him, do so. Now.”
“Viscount!” Henrietta kneelled down to look the man in the eyes. “You have to tell me- these Demons- do they have a name? Some united front? A Summoner?? What is the most important thing about them that you know of them?”
The Viscount Wardes looked at the Princess with a look bordering on sympathy. “Daedra…. An army…. belongs to….” His eyes closed and his breathing all but slowed to a halt.
“Viscount! Wardes! What are Daedra? Who do they belong to?!” Neither Henrietta or the Cardinal were sure who was asking what- it all blurred together under a swirl of chaos.
And then the Viscount spoke the name that sent shivers of dread down everyone’s backs.
And so he breathed his last- his heart did stop, and his soul left his body for parts unknown.
The room fell dark as the sun outside was obscured by dark clouds.
Henrietta stood up and took a few steadying breaths. “Cardinal… who, or what, is Molag Bal?”
“I… I don’t know.” The fear was evident in the young Cardinal’s… James? Julian? Julius? What was his name?… voice as he spoke. “I’ve never heard of ‘Daedra,’ or anyone named Molag Bal before…”
“That…” A deep voice rumbled through the room. “Would be because I’ve yet to introduce myself.”
All eyes turned back towards the fallen corpse of the Viscount, whose mouth was twisted in a grin it had not been in before his death.
“By the founder…” The Princess swore as everyone took a step back from the body. “Necromancy??”
“No. No. Nothing so trivial.” The body of the Viscount said as it rose to its feet, eyes opening. “Think more along the lines of a ghost possessing a painting. Except, I am no ghost, and this is no painting.”
Agnes- Henrietta’s loyal bodyguard- fired off her flintlock at the deceased Wardes. The bullet struck true in the forehead- but did nothing to the one possessing the body… well, nothing except make him make a curious expression as he reached up with one hand and dug out the bullet from the wound to inspect it.
“Hah! I applaud your audacity, Mortal! A fine shot if ever there was one!” The bullet was dropped to the ground with a laugh. “Unfortunately for you, this puppet is already dead! Defiling it further will do you no good.”
“Who are you?!” The Cardinal asked- pointing his wand at the corpse of the Viscount as he took a gallant step in front of the Princess.
“Oh I go by many names,” the thing puppeteering the corpse said as it bowed. “The Daedric Prince of Rape. The Lord of Domination…. But you may call me Molag Bal.”
A shiver of dread filled the room, and distantly, lightning cracked in the distance.
“So… you’re the one whose transformed Albion- or were you puppeteering the Viscount to lie to us?” Henrietta asked.
“Oh no, this one-“ He laughed at some private joke. “-This one was completely honest in his legitimate flee of terror to warn you of what had happened on Albion- especially since his previous masters in Reconquista were brutally slain before his very eyes.” This admission made several gasp in dismay and surprise. “Oh, yes, he knew he was a dead man. I simply… let him live just long enough to deliver the news of my arrival in your world. Yes, it’s quite a lovely neighborhood, I would say. The Stars actually stay in place! How quaint! Sheogorath would throw a fit if he ever saw this world. Too… Mundane and Static for his liking.” The Demon began pacing back and forth as he talked, looking around the throne room with amusement in his eyes. “Oh! Is that a stained glass window? I haven’t seen one that disgustingly vibrant since I raided that church and I made the first Vampires!” He laughed, and it was a laugh that sounded much too… large, and powerful for the body it was coming out of.
“What do you want, Demon?” Henrietta asked.
“Me? Oh, nothing much,” he didn’t even stop to turn away from the stained glass window. “I’m simply here just to… ah, extend the formality of meeting the neighbors. You see, I met someone who gave me the insight that I shouldn’t limit myself to just ONE whole world to rule over! I should have a vacation home! My… contact in this world assures me that the summers are wonderful, and that the Elves are just as pathetically self-centered as they are back home.”
“Your contact?!” The Cardinal asked- surprised. “You mean someone summoned you here!”
“Summoned?” The beast had the audacity to sound offended. “No no no. I was not “summoned.” You see it was all sheer happenstance!” He turned to look at the Cardinal- Oh! Julio! That was it, Henrietta mentally slapped herself for the fact that his name came to her now of all times. “You see, I was testing out one of my little… Prototypes and instead of connecting to the place I wanted it to- it instead connected to a quaint little homestead here on this world!” A menacing tone overcame the room, even as the Daedric Prince of Domination continued to talk in an almost… jovial tone? No, it wasn’t quite that. Amused, perhaps? “There, I heard the prayers of a girl who wish so desperately to heal her younger sister of an incurable disease! Of course- even I could not do such a thing without first researching it.” A demonic grin spread across the face of the Viscount’s mouth. “So I prolonged her life- well beyond the years she would have lived otherwise. And in doing so, the girl told me about the troubles of this world. Such strife! Such… decadence.”
“And why are you telling us this?” Cardinal Julio asked. “A mere formality?”
“YES!” There was a delightful glee in the Daedric Prince’s voice as he clapped his stolen hands. “Exactly! Well, that… and I’m doing something incredibly simple that you should have been able to figure it out if I hadn’t been doing it!”
“….You’re a Distraction!?” Henrietta asked- well, it was less of an asking and more of a squealing, but the point remains.
“As I speak to you, my Beloved Contact in this world has finished the Spell that will interfere with the… ah, what was it called again? Oh, yes,” He held no actual pause to his words as he spoke. “The Spring Time Summoning Ritual.”
“You wouldn’t-!” Henrietta protested.
“As we speak, the target of that spell is just about to start casting… creating what I’ve lovingly named the- oh, and you’ll just love this-“ He stopped as a loud, crescendoing rumble echoed across the land- and the clouds outside darkened even further. Then, as green flashes of lightning began to occur outside- painting the room in an ominous green wash- Molag Bal spoke six simple words:
“The Gathering of the Void Fragments.”
That was when a crack of lightning occurred outside, and Cardinal Julio suddenly cried out in pain, reaching a hand to his heart even as the hidden Familiar Runes on his body flared into existence, and then shattered away.
Moments later, the Cardinal collapsed to the ground. He was dead- there was no doubt about that.
“W….What did you do to him?” Princess Henrietta asked.
“My agents just assassinated the one you call a ‘Pope’- and stole the fragment of the Void Element within his soul from him. As that man’s Familiar, your Cardinal there suffered a fatal error… a piece of his soul being brutally ripped out as part and parcel of that same assassination.” Molag Bal answered. “As we speak, the remaining Void Mages, hidden away in this world, are being gathered so that their Fragments of the Void can be taken from them.”
“You’re killing them all?!” Henrietta asked- gulping in fear. The Power of the Holy Void in the hands of a beast like this!?
“Oh! No! Don’t be so crass!” He laughed- as if he were enjoying this. “I’m only killing the ones who KNOW what they are and who have summoned their Familiars! The rest? Well…” The evil grin seemed to widen now- not that it had ever left his face, not really. “Let’s just say I’m in need of manual labor and leave it at tha-“
Another gunshot from Agnes’ gun barked out- and another bullet wedged itself into the desecrated Viscount’s body- this time in the heart.
The room went silent as the Daedric Prince turned to look at her and ‘tsk’d in dismay. “Oh, Agnes. I thought you were smarter than to try that again.”
And so the Daedric Prince of Domination made good on his name as a giant mace appeared in his puppet’s hand.
The Gallian mage known to her fellow classmates as “Tabitha” shuddered beneath the cover of her familiar’s wings as a massive surge of dark energy overwhelmed the entire summoning field.
One moment- the pink haired girl who could not cast magic had summoned something for the first time ever- her first successful usage of magic ever.
No explosion had occurred- that should have been the warning sign.
The beast that she’d summoned had looked fairly harmless- some kind of miniature female humanoid with bat wings for arms…
Then, as Louise had bent down to kiss it to complete the summoning, it had teleported behind her- and knocked her to the ground- and everyone else for that matter- with a massive stunning blast of magic.
Only the quick reflexes of her recently summoned dragon familiar had kept Tabitha from falling under its attack- but now she was stuck beneath her stunned familiar’s wings, and had been forced to watch as the creature opened a portal of its own- and out stepped several female warriors in strange armor.
Most had strange, greyish blue skin, and wore helmets to obscure their faces. The leader, however, had the pink skin that was common in humans native to this region- and wore no helmet, letting her long, flowing blonde hair to flow outwards in an unseen wind.
“Good job, Familiar,” the woman had said to the creature, who chirped in acceptance of the praise of her mistress. Then, she turned to look at the stunned, but still conscious Louise, and kicked her to roll her over onto her back. “Well now, Sister. I suppose you must be wondering what all this is about.”
Sister? Tabitha’s brain worked overtime to figure out what was going on. Sister… Yes, there was a familial resemblance to the woman’s face and Louise’s. This must be the eldest- Ela… Elea… Something? Truth be told, Tabitha had never paid much attention to the Zero, or her family. Even Kirchie’s rants through all of last year had barely sunk in just enough to be aware that Louise did have two elder sisters- one who shared her pink hair, but was constantly sick, and an eldest who had blonde hair.
So this was her.
…And she had already begun talking. What had Tabitha missed?? The other women in the strange armor had already encircled Louise and her Sister, and had cast some strange spell circle on the ground- in each corner, the women stood, facing inwards, and thrusting their arms out at timed intervals while chanting some arcane words that Tabitha couldn’t recognize.
“–She almost died that day, you know? The day you were born? You’d never know it, our parents didn’t want you to know! But I knew. I KNEW you’d stolen something from her, just by being BORN. And that left a mark on our dear Catt. She was sick before but now- oh, NOW she was actually in danger of dying!! So…”
The elder sister breathed out as she stroked at her youngest sister’s hair- pushing it out of her face. “I made a deal. His name is Molag Bal, and he’s… well… he’s going to cure her, in exchange for complete and total domination over this world. This world that saddled you with the Void. Oh! Yes. That’s why you can’t cast properly, by the way! Heh… the pity is that you’re not even going to remember me telling you this.”
As she spoke, the eldest took a knife, and cut down the front of Louise’s shirt until her chest was exposed. “Most who regain some form of consciousness after undergoing this ritual tend to suffer from memory loss of the last few hours of their mortal lives.” She took the knife, and pressed it up towards Louise’s right shoulder blade, then drew down at an angle towards the heart- “Something to do with…” She skipped a moment, then dug back down again- “Soul gems!”
Louise managed a whimper as the blade was drawn away.
“Neither me nor my partner found the reasons why interesting enough to investigate. Maybe I will- if you’re one of those unlucky few who regain awareness of themselves.” She pulled out a pitch black crystal from a bag hanging at her side, and held it up. “And… if by some chance that you do remember this moment…”
She whispered something to Louise, something which got a strangled “no!” in response, followed by tears flowing down the girl’s cheeks.
“Oh, Yes! He was a traitor… and now he’s dead. Being paraded around right this moment as a corpse puppet by my Beloved Partner.” A twisted smile formed on the eldest sister’s face, and then she said, “And on that note-” She then stabbed the knife straight down into Louise’s chest- completing an X over the heart and causing some explosive surge of energy to explode out of her body and flow straight into the black gemstone.
That was when the spell circle beneath their feet erupted into a massive torrent of dark energy- swirling upwards and engulfing everything in sight as it hit the sky and began to spread outwards- covering everything as green lightning began to shoot out and just the sound of it made Tabitha shiver–
And now she had gotten back to the present moment. Tabitha took a steeling breath as she watched the storm-like energy begin to pull in the stunned bodies of her fellow classmates, along with the varying forms of their familiars.
Any moment now- she would be next.
That was when there was a massive, droning sound from above her- followed by the dark vortex disappearing from sight, revealing that all who had been pulled into it were either destroyed, or taken away to somewhere else. And then with the rattling of metal and chains- giant anchor points fell from above, smashing into the ground where Louise had been killed.
That was when the stunning spell wore off- and her Familiar began to move.
Tabitha rolled out from under her familiar’s wing, and looked upwards.
Hanging over the Academy was a massive, metal ring with a bright blue vortex of energy suspended within it.
Tabitha narrowed her eyes and adjusted her glasses. Whatever this damned thing was… she would have to….
The surface rippled- and something Descended.
Tabitha quickly jumped onto her dragon familiar’s back, and kicked once into the side. Even the Dragon, though it clearly wanted to protest, understood this was not a fight they could win, and so they flew off as the first of many dark forces crashed into the Academy grounds, and began to make the holy place their own desecrated grounds.
As they ascended- Tabitha felt a brief tugging at her clothes from the portal above– a suction effect? Her familiar understood it as well, and adjusted her course to pull away from it.
They flew for several minutes before landing far away, deep in the forest.
That was when Tabitha’s familiar shifted from a dragon into a human girl.
“WHAT…!” The dragon-girl- or more properly, as Tabitha now recognized her, a Rhyme Dragon- cried out as she pointed at the massive ring in the heavens- supported by nothing but its own magic. “JUST WHAT IS THAT!?”
Tabitha huffed as she looked at the affront to all things sane and rational. “No idea.”
She had no idea what it was… but she would find out… and then she would destroy it, and anything else like it, and then….
Get revenge on the people who created it?
No, that would not be possible. Clearly something like this was well beyond Tabitha’s hands alone to deal with… Even if her Familiar had a second pair of hands to lend to the cause.
By God, this was all so messed up. Louise’s sister had killed her for… Void magic? Was that really what all of this was about? Certainly it explained a few things about Louise’s “Zero” status and inability to cast magic that wasn’t an explosion, but even so… How cruel was it to perform such an act?
Tabitha turned to her familiar… who she supposed she should ask the name of, rather than give one to her. Wasn’t this a surprise on top of everything else?
Well, regardless, like everything else in her life at this point, Tabitha resolved herself to face it all head on. She had survived this long, after all.
A.N.: Some insight into what exactly happened in that summoning ritual. I will admit that Molag Bal’s stage show was less him and more… that snarky Dunmer from the Dark Brotherhood DLC who you talk to upon completing a contract. Argh, I was trying so hard to make it sound like Molag Bal, but damn it, that smooth talking Dunmer’s voice just gets in your head!!
(I might do more stuff with Tabitha. I made a tag. Let’s see if that ever pans out. Shall we?)