Episode 8: The Nexus (Part Two)

“Welcome to the Nexus,” Donathan said as he stepped off his red dragon. “This is our biggest battleground.”

“Why is that?” Appoleon asked. “I thought Arthas was the main target.”

“He was…until this started.”

“So what’s going on in there?” I asked as I tightened my regalia. “What’s this rift I’m supposed to close?”

“It’s almost at the center of the nexus. It’s growing exponentially and we can’t find a way to seal it.”

“Then what are we going to do?”

“You’re going to stabilize it and prevent it from getting any worse.”

“Stabilize it? How are we supposed to do that?”

“I don’t know Sionis, that’s for you to figure out once you’re in there.”

“Of course it is,” I replied with a roll of my eyes. Typical Kirin Tor nonsense.

“Oh, and Sionis, there is a red dragon within the Nexus named Keristrasza. Evanor wanted to believe that the beast could be saved, but we haven’t heard anything in weeks. If you find the dragon in there, please release her from the torture she is no doubt being put through.”

I was quiet for a moment while I ran the color scheme in my head. The red dragons were good and blue were bad. So this red dragon would be a prisoner of the blue dragons. I couldn’t really imagine the kinds of torture dragons might perform on one another, but I knew it would be unpleasant no matter what.

I gave Donathan a firm nod and then turned toward the entrance.

Once we moved inside, we were greeted with an enormous ice wall that cut the structure into large jagged chambers. We moved down the largest hallway and then cut up a large frosty cliff before finally catching sight of what we’d been sent to fix. I nearly gasped at the sight of the enormous rift that was spinning just beyond the next doorway.

“Do you see this thing?” Appoleon asked as he pointed to the rift.

“Sure do.”

“Why isn’t there anyone in here?” Kekel asked from behind. “Shouldn’t they be trying to contain it or something?”

“Probably because they can’t contain it,” I guessed. “I can’t imagine they made that on purpose.”

“Do you have any idea how you’re going to stop it?”

“I’ve got an idea or two. I’m going to need everyone’s help though.”

Kekel and Thomas came over as if they had finally been summoned. I waited until they were within quiet earshot before I started to lay out the plan. I had a good handle on the use of Arcane containment fields and regularly called upon the famous “mana shield” to protect myself in times of extreme danger. My plan was rather simple. If I could formulate one of these shields around the rift, perhaps it would feed on itself instead of the Nexus. In a sense, it would be like clogging the intake of a gnome airship. The engine would no longer be able to function and eventually die.

“What does everyone think?” I asked once I finished my explanation.

“It’ll work,” Kekel replied. “I assume you’ll have to get close.”

“That’s where you come in,” I replied, pointing to the gnome. “You two are going to go stir up a storm with these evil blue dragons. I need them distracted until I can get this thing closed up. Once it’s shut, I doubt they’ll risk reopening it.”

Without resistance, Kekel and Thomas rushed off to start fighting with anyone and everyone that moved. I then turned to Appoleon and smiled. The paladin was the key part of the plan and I was going to need his help a lot on this one. In order to get close enough to the portal to use the mana shield, I would need Appoleon to put his own protective shield around me. I couldn’t risk using up all of my own power just to protect myself from the rift.

“So, I’m just protection for you?” Appoleon correctly guessed.

“That’s all you need to do.”

The paladin smiled. “Consider yourself protected.”

“Excellent,” I replied. “Let’s do this.”

We went to work, moving into the room that was literally being devoured by the rift that had been opened. As chunks of the floor and ceiling were pulled into the vortex, I took up a position where I could easily concentrate on the large rift. Just as I started to focus my power on the mana shield though, a large chunk of debris broke free from the wall nearby and came right at me.

It was about to take me out when Appoleon’s own protective shield surrounded me in glowing light. I glanced at the paladin, who only smiled back. With no time to waste, I turned all my attention to the mana shield. I placed it around the rift and as it sealed up I immediately felt a great pull from the rift as it tried to vacuum out the pressure. With nothing more to pull on inside the bubble, the rift started to shrink in size but as it did so the pressure within the shield started to intensify. I pressed on with all of my might as the rift grew smaller and smaller inside it’s containment. I could feel my power as it was sapped from me like a bathtub would be drained of water. I could feel my energy swirling into the vortex as it tugged and tore at the mana shield I was generating.

“It’s working Sionis!” Appoleon shouted in the distance. “You’re doing great!”

Then, as if the entire thing had waited for Appoleon to give some kind of encouragement, I heard a roar that echoed all throughout the room I was standing in. A moment later, Kekel and Thomas rushed into the half destroyed room where I was trying to concentrate. I tried my best to ignore them, but when the dragon burst through the doorway as well I knew we were in for some trouble.

The beast took a swing at Kekel, but the gnome dodged without harm. The two fighters looked quite worn and had no doubt been doing a lot of fighting since they had rushed off to cause a distraction. Obviously, they had caused enough of one to get some attention. I dared to glance over my shoulder and saw that the dragon fighting them was a red scaled dragon, though it also had blue growths shooting from its body in various places. It was no doubt the red dragon that Donathan had spoken about.

“Sionis, hurry up!” Kekel shouted as he rushed for some cover. “We can’t fight this thing long!”

“Appoleon, can you do something?” I asked. “Maybe contain it somehow?”

“No can do,” Appoleon replied. “I’m not as skilled as I should be.”

Our conversation must have pulled the dragon’s attention as it tried to take a sudden swipe at Appoleon. He was forced to remove the shield from me so that he could protect himself. When he did that, I felt an amazing pressure fall over me. Appoleon’s shield had been protecting what was left of my energy from harm, but now that it was gone, I felt like I too was getting pulled into the vortex. It was crippling and it pushed me to my knees as I tried to maintain my own shield around the vortex.

It was nearly closed now. I just had to hold out a little longer.

Meanwhile, the fight going on behind me was not in control. 
Appoleon had to abandon his post as protector, instead using his might to keep Kekel and Thomas safe from the beast. As the tortured red dragon slashed and attacked them, it became obvious it wasn’t going to go down quietly. I was trying my best to force the rift shut, but it was holding on with all its power. I was helpless and nothing was worse than feeling helpless.

Behind me, the dragon caught Kekel with a slash and sent the gnome flying at least thirty feet. A moment later Thomas was slammed by the dragon’s tail and he hit the wall so hard I could hear the crunch of bones against stone. Surprisingly, the dragon avoided Appoleon and set its eye on the real prize.

It was looking right at me.

It started a mad dash toward me and I knew I was done for unless Appoleon acted.

I simply couldn’t risk letting down my mana shield now. The rift would use the built up pressure to explode into an uncontainable size. Still, if I didn’t drop the shield, I was going to be eaten alive by the dragon that was charging at me.

Now, as death stared me in the face, I knew we had only one choice.

“Appoleon!” I shouted. “You have to kill it!”

The paladin’s face fell at the words, but he didn’t respond. I knew too well that Appoleon had made a promise not to fight any more. Killing a dragon, a creature so powerful that the world had never seen anything like it, was the ultimate kill. On top of that, the beast he was killing was nothing more than an ally pushed beyond the breaking point.
 It was asking the impossible, but either the dragon would die, or I would die and the rest of the world might follow.

The dragon continued its charge and I could see its large teeth coming right for me. 
Unwilling to let down the shield, I prepared for the terrible end, hoping that my magical energy would last long enough to close the rift completely.

Then, with a sudden jolt, the dragon let out a terrifying roar of pain.

Appoleon leapt into the air and lifted his powerful mace, practically dripping with holy light as he yielded the weapon he had once trained so hard to control. He fell on the dragon’s back and brought the hammer down so hard that the beast’s scaled protection shattered and its spine was broken in two. It fell to the ground with an enormous thud and it’s lifeless body stopped inches from where I was standing.

Feeling slightly relieved, I mustered my strength and forced the rift to shut completely.

It’s final glow of light faded and the nexus became eerily silent.

Finally letting my shield dissipate, I collapsed near the dragon.

“Are you okay?” Appoleon asked.

“I’ll live,” I replied between deep breaths. “Assuming we get out of here.”

Appoleon moved over and pulled up Thomas, who was broken and bruised. Kekel had limped over under his own power, but he too looked very injured. As they huddled together, we all heard several other roars off in the distance. By now the blue dragons were aware that the rift had been sealed. If they were as evil as I predicted, they would come to investigate and find the group here. We had to do something and we had to do it fast.

“Everyone, hold onto me,” I said. “I’m going to teleport us out of here.”

“How?” Appoleon asked. “You’re barely able to stand up.”

“I transport us out of this nexus or we die,” I answered. “I’ll risk it.”

Appoleon was hesitant, but he knew I was right. Unless we escaped fast, we wouldn’t live to see tomorrow. He grabbed onto me and pulled Thomas and Kekel close so they could hold on as well. Then, he gave me the signal. In an instant, we were all suddenly in a white flash of light that snapped back into a very cold and snow covered area.

“Well, we closed the rift,” I said aloud. “Now, what’s the plan for rescue?”

I passed out before they answered, but from what I heard later, it was Kekel that got us rescued by pulling out a gnome flare gun for downed pilots and shooting it into the air.

The next thing I remember was being shaken awake when we were rescued.

“You’re alive,” Evanor was shouting. “Thank the Light you’re alive.”

“We closed the rift too,” I mumbled.

“Amazing! Heroes of the Alliance, that’s what you all are. Now come on, hold on and we’ll teleport out of here.”

The last thing I remember from that day was the biting cold vanishing and the warmth of the Amber Ledge Mage Tower surrounding me. As I finally drifted into a deep slumber I couldn’t help but feel a bitter taste in my mouth. I had done it. The Kirin Tor would owe me now. I was one step closer to obtaining my goal, but Appoleon had done something he had promised never to do again. I had led him down that path.

I had scarred him.

I was no different than the other Kirin Tor.

I guess Donathan would have been proud.

That night, my dreams were filled with arcane nightmares.



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