Anecdotes

Anecdote LXI. Fire on Kotherak

October 1, 2013

As the sun rose toward noon, the seven Luminari gathered in the tower of Del Sayronet. With them was Wyatt the Eldest, with Lask’s cloak around him, which would render him invisible to Dark eyes. They had divided themselves into two groups, and were a fearsome sight; Lask stood before one of the doors in the tower, gleaming in his golden armor and crimson cloak, sparks already swirling around his hands. With him was Valstion, who stood taller than the pointed feathers on Lask’s helmet. He was clad in deep purple plate armor, his long tail swinging behind him, belying his energy, though the rest of him was statuesque-still. Beside him was Borne, also tall, but instead of having ram horns like Valstion, two long horns sloped back from the top of head. He was in black armor, matching the hair that fell around his light blue face. The final member of their group was Meredith, who looked out of place among them. She was a tall, willowy woman with only a few plates of leather to guard her. When Lask glanced at her, she grinned (or perhaps bared her teeth) and dark green spikes shot out from her skin, three inches long and tough as nails, piercing through the leather plates and making her resemble a walking sea urchin.

The second group was waiting on the steps below them. Tathiana was in front of the door, in green and blue armor, accented with graceful feathers. Her green wings were folded behind her, waiting to flare open. She carried two swords strapped across her back, and on each hip she carried a large sack of light bombs. There was a blue cloak wrapped around her like the one Wyatt wore, which would hide her from the Dark’s sight. Behind her was Ripardi, the magnificent orange tiger, fire already beginning to crackle along his stripes. Next to him was Barniel, in a heavy dark blue coat, and a fireman-style helmet. He carried an axe in his right hand, and a knife strapped to his left leg. Wyatt was with them, waiting in ready silence.

“Noon is moments away,” growled Valstion.

“Let’s do this,” agreed Borne.

Lask looked down to the group below them and Tathiana nodded to him. She slipped her key into the door before her, as he did the same. Lask’s eyes drifted to Wyatt, holding the gunslinger’s gaze for a moment. Wyatt winked at him and drew his guns. There was the sound of metal as Lask drew his sword in unison with Borne and Valstion’s blades. Tathiana was already reaching for one of the bombs with her free hand.

“You know what to do,” Lask told them. “If you need shelter, you are welcome here, or flee to your own homes if you are able. Free as many as you can.” He looked to Tathiana’s group as he spoke, then looked to his own and said, “Kill as many as you can.”

Valstion growled approvingly and purple lightning crackled along his arms, sword, and spiral horns. Lask nodded to Tathiana and they turned their keys. Ripardi roared and the two groups burst through the doors.

*******

Tathiana was in the air before the others even made it through the door. Her large wings pushed her into the sky, and she gave the bomb in her hand a twist. As it turned, pointed scales opened on it like a pine cone, and she flung it. It burst over the second level of Kotherak, drawing a shriek from the Dark creatures working there. The bomb exploded in a blinding flash of light, the pointed scales flying in every direction, each blazing with the fire of Ripardi, who had helped build them. The shrapnel pierced into Dark flesh, and Kotherak erupted in a cacophony of high shrieks. The light had barely cleared before Tathiana hurled another.

Behind her ran Wyatt, Ripardi, and Barniel. In the chaos, Barniel ran to the nearest building, raised his axe, and drove it into the door. Fire roared along his arm into the axe blade, and the door shattered. There were gasps and screams from inside. Barniel leapt through the smoking ruins of the door, into the midst of the common spirits inside.

“Come on, you lot!” he roared. “Now or never! Move your asses!”

He drew a rectangular shape in the air with his axe, smoke holding its shape, and a door appeared. He wasted no time, flinging it open. Light poured through from the other side, and he barked,

“Get through! Now!”

The Commons needed no further urging and scrambled toward the door, darting through, fleeing the dark grime that had been their prison. When the last one was through, Barniel wrenched the door shut again and it vanished in a roll of white smoke. He left the now-empty building and went running for the next one as Tathiana’s explosions continued to rock Kotherak. Two warmongers leapt for him as he ran, but he swung his axe between one’s eyes and let his fire take care of the other.

As he hacked his way into the prison buildings, Wyatt and Ripardi were sprinting toward a small shack covered in black vines, laden with poisonous thorns. All around them, things were on fire, and Dark creatures screamed and writhed as the fiery shrapnel ate into their flesh, consuming them. As they ran, Wyatt holstered one gun to pull a phial from his bag.

They reached the shack and Wyatt pulled the stopper out of the phial. Ripardi roared, claws swiping at the two Runners shrieking at their heels. His claws ripped one’s throat clean out. The other was faster, dodging his strike, but not Wyatt’s guns. The gunslinger’s bullet exploded in its forehead in a shower of light. He did not look to see it fall, but rather ran a circle around the shack, pouring the contents of the phial into the ground around its perimeter. As the water seeped into the ground, the black vines seemed to shudder. They began to wither, but not as fast as the gunslinger had hoped.

He heard Ripardi roar, and looked to see the tiger standing between him and the grey Shadow Demon. The demon held a whip, braided with thorns, and it cracked faster than Wyatt could fire. Ripardi almost dodged, but the whip coiled around his front paw, the thorns sinking into him, anchoring the whip. The Demon yanked on the whip, sending Ripardi staggering. The tiger hissed and swatted with his free paw, but was too off balance to strike true. Wyatt fired, but the Demon ducked with inhuman speed. The gunslinger fired again and the bullet bit into the Demon’s hand.

The grey man screamed and dropped the whip. Ripardi tried to rip it off, but it was still lodged around his forearm. The Demon lunged for him, and the tiger snapped, teeth sinking into the grey man’s shoulder. The Demon shrieked and struggled, but Ripardi held him fast, and this time, he could not duck Wyatt’s shot. The bullet blew straight through his head, trailing light through his head. Ripardi blazed, setting the Demon on fire as he fell.

“Good riddance,” the tiger snarled, and tugged again at the whip, but still it did not pull free. He growled in frustration. Wyatt knelt in the chaos and tried to unwind it, but the whip would not budge. He placed the muzzle of one of his guns against the whip, as close to the tiger’s arm as he dared, pressing the wicked braid into the dirt and fired. The whip snapped under the bullet, shearing it off close to Ripardi’s arm, but still it did not unwrap from the tiger’s paw.

“Leave it, I’ll get it off later!” Ripardi snapped. He turned and lunged at the vines, tearing through them with his claws. Wyatt yanked on them as they came free, pulling them back from the door. There was a lock on the handle, one that Wyatt blew off with a single shot. When it was gone, Ripardi flung himself at the door, a roaring blur of orange fire, and the door splintered under his weight, falling inward.

Inside was a girl, who had pressed herself back against the far wall when the door exploded. She had her arms wrapped around her naked body and she gaped, amazed and terrified when the blazing tiger fell through the door.

“Come on!” called Wyatt from behind him. “Saori!”

She knew his voice and ran for the door as Ripardi picked himself up. She leapt at the gunslinger, who caught her.

“You came back!” she cried.

“I promised,” he told her.

“Make the door!” called Ripardi, pushing out of the shack and throwing himself out to meet the five Dark Runners who were closing in. There was the sound of exploding wood as Barniel burst into the building next door.

Wyatt knelt and used the barrel of his right gun to draw the shape of a door in the air. He shoved it open the moment it solidified, revealing the pristine forest of Avigdell.

“Go!” he told Saori. “Follow the road to the house. It’ll take care of ya until we return. Don’t listen to anything the wind has to say.”

She complied and he half-shoved her through. The young Luminara staggered into the woods beyond and Wyatt yanked the door shut. It dissipated in the air, and he shot two rounds through it into the Runner that had leapt onto Ripardi.

*******

Lask swept into the upper level of Kotherak, the other three close behind him. Outside, they could hear the explosions as Tathiana made her flight over the complex. There was a scream from nearby, the warning shriek of a Runner. The sound cut off suddenly as Meredith shot three spikes out from her hand and down its open throat.

The four fanned out, and in seconds, there was more screaming as the Runners gathered against them. Valstion’s scimitar cut through two in an explosion of purple electricity. Borne stabbed another and the two exchanged smiles, then took off down the hallway together. Lask went the opposite direction, with Meredith behind him. He was heading toward the room where Wyatt had seen Daleroth on his last infiltration mission, and the corridor where they were was deathly quiet. At the other end, there was screaming and howling where Valstion and Borne were massacring Runners, Serpents, and Warmongers, anything that came up from the second level.

Meredith crept behind him in the stillness, spikes rigid and ready. The floor under their feet shook with the force of the explosions rocking the complex outside. Lask continued up the hallway, peering into the rooms to either side, but they were all empty. The corridor ended at a set of doors, which opened onto a balcony beyond. Perched on rail was Daleroth, who seemed to be watching the chaos unfold below him, hunched like a gargoyle.

Lask quickened his pace, heading for the balcony. Meredith glanced behind them and yelped. Another Demon had appeared in total silence; the small oriental woman. The Demon lunged with a shriek, her long claws bared, but her hands were pierced on Meredith’s spikes. The Demon’s scream mingled with Meredith’s, and Daleroth’s ugly head whipped around at the sound. His orange eyes widened, and his jaws opened in a roar.

“Go!” Meredith yelped.

Lask ran for the balcony as Daleroth opened his wings. Meredith shot several spikes into the Demon’s belly, but the Demon kicked and those long raptor-like claws ripped down her leg, shearing off spikes and skin alike. Meredith gave the Demon a shove, sending her staggering. Before Meredith could shoot another spike, the Demon thrust her hands out and a cloud of green gas burst from her fingers. Meredith coughed and swung at the Demon but the small woman skittered to the side, claws clicking on the floor. Meredith coughed again, blood spattering out from her mouth. The Demon glanced toward the balcony, paused only a moment, then took off running, fleeing the Luminari.

Out on the balcony, Lask and Daleroth came together with a sound that cracked like thunder. Daleroth had the advantage of size and weight, but Lask’s sword was quick. He stabbed into the Demon’s side before Daleroth could even get a swing in. Daleroth roared, his huge head swinging, butting Lask back. Lask felt his teeth rattle, but his helmet took most of the blow. His sword wrenched out of the Demon’s side, and instead of blood, a searing molten substance flowed from the wound.

Daleroth lunged and Lask ducked, but the hulking Demon knocked him off balance nonetheless. Lask staggered, catching a glimpse of Meredith collapsed in the hallway behind him. Daleroth’s tail coiled around his leg, yanking his foot out from under him as he started to regain his balance. Lask fell backwards, and Daleroth leapt for him. Lask braced the pommel of his sword against his shoulder and it pierced into the Demon’s belly. Lask realized in the split second before Daleroth was impaled on the sword that molten blood would be raining onto him in an instant, and in a frantic hope, he set himself ablaze, scarlet and gold fire consuming him as the magma came pouring down.

The molten blood sizzled and smoked in his fire, much of it burning off before it could touch him. A few spatters made it through and they hissed into his armor. Lask scrambled out before more could fall onto him. Daleroth was roaring, recoiling on instinct from the Luminor’s fire. Lask rolled to his feet and went after him, sword swinging. There was a sicking rip as it tore through Daleroth’s left wing. Instead of recoiling, Daleroth pushed into the strike, clamping his wing down and wrenching the sword from Lask’s hands. The Demon swung back in the chaos, claws aimed at Lask’s chest. Instead of piercing through, they snagged in the plates and Lask found himself lifted from his feet.

Daleroth held him aloft with one arm. Lask kicked at him in futility as he found himself looking down into the ugly face of the Shadow Demon, whose lips pulled back from baboon-like fangs in something that may have been a smile. The demon took a step toward the edge of the balcony. Lask glanced behind him and flared in fire, his flames lapping down the Demon’s arm. Daleroth snarled in agony, but clung on, moving to the rail.

Lask looked down. The second level was far below, consumed in flames and chaos. He thought he saw a flash of red while Wyatt ran below in his cloak, and then there was a grate as Daleroth’s claws began to withdraw from his armor. Lask scrambled, struggling to grip the Demon’s arm, fire crackling off of him, but Daleroth clung on, roaring in the blaze, and then there was nothing to hold, and Lask felt the hot wind rise up around him.

*******

Light burst from the muzzle of his gun and as it cleared, Wyatt’s eyes looked up over its sight to see Daleroth holding Lask off the ground with one hand and all of a sudden, it happened. Lask was thrown from the balcony. His golden armor shone in the light of the fires below, his crimson cape whipped around him, and he fell like a star from the heavens. Wyatt couldn’t help it. The scream was wrenched out of his heart, echoing over the chaos, the thunder of explosions, the shrieks of the dying Dark,

“A——!”

His voice echoed over the complex and Ripardi and Barniel both turned to see what had provoked that heart-wrenching scream, and what would provoke him to shout the true name of a spirit in a place like this, and both looked up in horror as the Alcanoren fell from the dark balcony.

*******

The wind rushed by. Lask felt his cloak whipping around him, could feel the heat of the fires below. Time seemed to blur and hang still, and he whispered, like a prayer,

“Elanor… Save me, my love.”

*******

In the study, Elanor was hunched over the keyboard, fingers flying madly. She could see him falling, and her heart was in her throat, hammering a frantic, harried rhythm to match her hands beating on the keys. There came a light from her, pouring into her hands, into the words that spilled from them, and the Light saw them and was kind.

*******

Lask plunged into the fires below, flames flaring as he neared the ground. Then all at once, a wind came roaring into the Dark complex, a wind warm and bright with light from far off places. It wrapped around him and his armor seemed to vanish. He seemed to dissipate into his own fire, and all at once where he fell, there were only swirling rose petals. They brushed along the ground, and were borne up on the wind that came from the world of the vessels, the wind of love and light. The petals swirled in a scarlet tempest, rising from the ground and the wind swept them back up toward the balcony.

The petals swirled and stormed, whirling together into a single, perfect rose, crimson and bright behind Daleroth, who had turned away from the balcony. The rose opened further and the light of the wind was drawn into its center. That light flared, blinding, searing over Daleroth’s back, and there stood Lask, whole and very much alive behind him. He knelt, took up his fallen sword and as the Demon turned, he drove it straight up into his heart.

Daleroth’s shriek was one of both pain and shock. Lask’s fire raced along the blade, setting the demon ablaze from the inside out, and the last things Daleroth saw were the Luminor’s burning scarlet eyes. The Demon exploded in fire and smoke, a fiery hell impaled on Lask’s sword, and then he was gone. Lask turned and looked out over the complex and raised his sword to those below.

The entire fortress was ablaze, explosions shattering the stocks of Dark weapons, shrapnel killing every Dark thing in its path, and at this sight, Lask smiled.

*******

Tathiana threw the last light bomb into the silo at the end of the final weapons manufacturing building and was rewarded with an explosion that shattered the silo and consumed half of the building. She tucked her wings and dove for the ground, unbuckling the belt that had held the packs to her hips, letting the empty sacks fall away. She reached back and drew her swords, plunging into the burning ruins and cutting her way through, seeking the Demon she sensed was there.

She found him, the hunched Dark thing responsible for all the terrible experiments on her Light kin. He had been blown backwards as the explosion swept through. Tathiana opened her wings and leapt for him. Her green boot planted his chest, and her blades crossed under his chin before he could even get up. With a swift sweep of her arms, his head was sheared clean off.

*******

Ripardi, Wyatt, and Barniel had been fighting in a loose circle, but Wyatt had taken off running when Lask fell. The gunslinger had almost made it to the base of the third level when the wind had come, and the man of his heart had turned to a rose before his eyes. Seeing Lask was alive, Wyatt took stock of where he had run to, and found himself cut off from the Luminari, with the a purple-scaled Shadow Demon before him. She was a hulking creature, dark skinned, in twisted black plate armor. She carried a long, charred spear in her right hand, and around her were six Dark Runners.

Wyatt felled two with two shots as they began to charge. He ducked, turning in a tight circle, his guns thundering, his own roar ringing over their sound. His bullets cut down another two and grazed a third, which retreated, howling. His hands reloaded, and in that instant, it dawned on him that these Dark things could see him. That was when he realized the cloak had snagged on a piece of debris and fallen from his shoulders in his mad dash as Lask fell. He saw it lying not far behind the remaining Runner.

He leveled his reloaded gun to fire at it, when suddenly light exploded in his vision and he fell forward. He tasted blood and blackness swam in front of his eyes from where the Demon’s spear pole had connected with the back of his head. He had sense enough to roll onto his back and kick upward as the Runner charged for him. His boot in its chest sent it sprawling, and he scrambled as his head cleared. His fingers snagged in the cloak and he yanked it over himself like a blanket just as the Runner leapt for him again.

He rolled to the side and scrambled back to his feet, clutching the cloak around him, one gun held ready. The other had fallen from his hand and lay at the Shadow Demon’s feet. His feet moved quickly, carrying him back from the Runner while it couldn’t see him and with one good shot, it dropped dead.

The Demon was clever and had been watching for the flash of his gun. She sprang at him, free hand grabbing and yanking, and the cloak was wrenched off him again. Wyatt scrambled as she stabbed. The spear grazed his side, but missed stabbing into his belly. He cracked the butt of his gun into his temple and she staggered, hissing. Wyatt put a swift uppercut punch in her jaw with his empty hand and kicked at her. She staggered further, but did not fall, and her hand gripped his shoulder like a vise. She stabbed again and he managed to knock the spear aside with his knee.

As they came nearer to his second gun, Wyatt gave up struggling and let himself fall limp in the Demon’s grip. His unexpected weight pulled her off balance and they fell to the ground. The Demon fell forward on top of him, but Wyatt’s hand closed around his second gun. The two struggled, wrestling, kicking, snarling with the knowledge that one of them was near death. He succeeded in kicking the Demon’s spear from her hands. She lashed out, her claws swiping at his neck. He ducked, but her claws still tore jagged streaks of red down the left side of his face. He strained against her and managed to push the muzzle of one of his guns into her belly and pulled the trigger.

She screamed and he shoved her. She fell backward and he put another bullet in her head, the light trapped in it showering over her face as it hit. She screamed and sputtered, dying there before him. He took no moment to savor the victory, and instead pulled the cloak back on. He looked through the fires and chaos to Ripardi and Barniel, but instead of rejoining them, he turned and started up the stairs into the third level.

*******

Lask raced from the balcony and knelt at Meredith’s side. Her spikes had disappeared, and she was deathly pale. He put an arm around her, sitting her up a bit and determined that she was still breathing, though blood streamed from her mouth and nose. Lask fire coiled around his hand and he passed it over her, down her face, over her chest, belly, and down her legs. His fire took, swirling over her, not burning her, but as it danced, he could see something green rising in a sickly vapor out of her skin.

He pulled off one of his gloves and slit his forefinger on his sword blade. He drew a circle of his blood on her forehead, then guided her mouth open and let a few drops fall onto her tongue. When that was done, he flared in fire again and made another pass of it over her.

She sputtered and coughed, a green fog rushing out on her breath. It hung over her, turned from green to black, then seemed to evaporate in Lask’s fire. She panted, as if winded, and then flung her arms around his neck. He took a moment to embrace her tightly.

“You’re alright,” he told her.

“Thank you,” she said.

He nodded, then stood, pulling her back to her feet.

“The Demon, she got away.”

“If she makes it out of the complex alive, I’m sure we’ll find her again one day.”

Meredith took a breath, seeming to steel herself, then looked back down the corridor, to where Borne and Valstion were raging in bloody chaos at the far enough. As she watched, the spikes broke out of her again and Lask smiled.

“Come,” he said. “They could use a hand.”

The two ran the length of the corridor and plunged into the fray alongside the other two, spikes flying, sword swinging, while Warmongers and Serpents fell like chaff before them.

*******

Ripardi and Barniel raced alongside one another down through the first level of the complex, routing lesser demons, Warmongers, Deceivers, Serpents, anything in their path. Countless Dark creatures lay dead all around them, killed by the explosions, or poisoned to death by the light-laden shrapnel. The two Luminors ran like comets, blazing in fire, with claws and axe swinging, felling anything they caught up with. They chased the remaining lesser Dark from Kotherak, out onto the plain beyond, where Ripardi looked out over the flat ground with a toothy grin, then planted his feet and gave a deafening roar.

A shockwave of fire raced out on his breath, plowing over everything before him, setting everything fleeing ablaze. The shockwave rolled onward until it swept up in a blinding explosion, and the tiger looked over at Barniel who gave an approving nod.

Above them in the air, Tathiana circled the complex, rising to the top of the uppermost tower. She landed on the roof, nimble feet steady even on the sharp slope and ran to the very top. She clapped the pommels of her swords together and they seemed to fuse, melding into a long staff with a gleaming blade at one end. This she swung in a wide circle above her head, shining wind swirling in its wake, and she thrust the blade skyward, the light shooting up the length of the staff, piercing into the black clouds that hung over Kotherak. Her wind punched through the cloud cover and a ray of light shone down. There was a shriek of horror from below from the remaining Dark things in the fortress. She grit her teeth and loosed another bolt of shimmering blue light up the length of the staff into the dark sky, and the clouds parted even further. The wind that swirled up from her began to eat away at the clouds and the sky began to lighten, beams of sunlight streaming through.

*******

Wyatt’s guns flashed as he shot his way up the steps into the upper level of Kotherak. He could hear the bellowing of Valstion up above and had a passing fear of being hit with friendly fire. This passed when he heard the voice of Lask over the melee,

“Hark, gunsliner!”

Borne sliced down two Serpents and Wyatt came around the corner to find himself across from the four Luminari at the top of the stairs. Valstion felled another Warmonger, and they found themselves together, with nothing but dead Dark creatures around them. Wyatt holstered his guns and went to Lask. The Luminor leaned his sword against the wall and the gunslinger put his arms around him in an unashamed embrace.

“I saw you fall,” he whispered.

“I’m alright,” Lask told him, “My vessel looked after me, and the Light provides.”

“Aye, so it is.”

He stepped back and glanced to where Meredith was walking back to the balcony with Valstion and Borne. Lask and Wyatt joined them. The five emerged out onto the balcony and looked over Kotherak. The entire complex was destroyed, burned (and burning) to the ground, buildings leveled, the levels littered with their dead occupants. More still, it was bright. Sunlight streamed through the clouds onto the fortress below, disintegrating the bodies of all the Dark things it touched.

They caught sight of Ripardi and Barniel making their way back inside, and from the blue-sparking wind that swirled overhead, Lask guessed Tathiana must be on the roof. They stood together on the balcony for a time, until Ripardi and Barniel made it up to join them.

“Everything’s dead,” said the tiger. “There might have been a few to escape when the attack first began, but everything else…” He grinned.

“All the Shadow Demons?” asked Valstion.

“I killed Daleroth,” said Lask, “Though his small female associate seems to have escaped.”

“Ripardi and I got the grey bastard,” Wyatt replied, “And I got the purple-scaled bitch on my own.”

The Luminari looked at him with surprise that might have been admiration.

“And I got the hunchback,” Tathiana announced, landing on the railing nearby.

“Then Kotherak is ours,” said Borne.

“The prisoners?” Lask asked of Barniel.

“Freed, the lot of them,” Barniel grunted in reply. “Sent the Luminara to your place, most of the others to mine, Ripardi’s, and Tathiana’s. We’ll make sure they find their ways home.”

“Was our information correct?” Lask inquired, “Were there really that many here?”

Barniel nodded.

“Close to two hundred Commons, near a hundred Belarians, fifty-some Maculiens, and another two Viatrians they must have come by just recently. All freed.”

“Good.” Lask looked around at his associates. “Any grievous wounds?”

They shook their heads. They all had numerous cuts and bruises, and Borne looked like his shoulder might’ve been dislocated, but other than that, they were all intact.

“The Light provides,” said Lask.

“The Light provides,” his comrades echoed and they all bowed their heads a moment.

“We’re strong together,” said Valstion, “Stronger than I expected.”

“You should have seen the shockwave I made earlier,” crowed Ripardi, “Really something. Wasn’t it?” He nudged Barniel.

“Not bad,” grunted Barniel with a reluctant nod.

“What shall become of Kotherak now?” asked Meredith, spikes gone.

“I can hold it as one of my territories,” suggested Tathiana, “I have the resources for it these days, especially if I have a little help.” She looked to Lask.

“It would be my pleasure,” he said with a nod.

“This will be the first holding this size,” said Valstion, “This side of Cragarth. We’ve set a record, I think.”

“Aye.” Wyatt nodded. “And I reckon if ya took a fancy to go back and route what’s left in Mortherik’s old stronghold, ya could have two fine footholds in Dark territory.”

The Luminari nodded.

“It will take some work,” Meredith said, “For there are many evils yet to purge here.”

“It will take time,” Lask agreed, “But I think we can manage.”

“For now, let’s get out of here,” grunted Barniel. “That sunlight will hold for days yet. That’ll be enough to keep anything from crawling around here. We can come back and do some clean up later. Don’t know about you, but I’m ready to get home. There’s a bunch of guests waiting for me.”

The others nodded.

“Thank you, my friends,” said Lask.

“Always a pleasure, old friend,” replied Tathiana with a smile.

With that, she leapt off the balcony, raised her staff as she soared over Kotherak, a door opening before her, and then she was gone. Barniel opened his own door and disappeared through it with no further word. Valstion and Borne bid them goodbye and conjured their doors home.

“How are you feeling?” Lask asked Meredith.

“Better, thank you.” She smiled at him.

“Alright to get home?” he asked.

She nodded and drew a door for herself.

“I’ll be in touch,” she said, then disappeared through it.

Ripardi lingered with them on the balcony for a moment, then glanced over to Wyatt.

“We do good work,” said the tiger with an appreciative nod out at the destruction wreaked by their bombs.

“Aye,” the gunslinger agreed with a smile, “Damn fine.”

“We’ll have to do it again sometime.” The tiger winked at him, then bounded through his own door.

Lask and Wyatt were left alone on the balcony. The two stood in silence for a moment, and Wyatt put an arm around the Luminor beside him.

“Don’t make a habit of scaring me like that,” he told him, “Understand?”

“I understand very well,” Lask said with a fond smile.

“Thank you, El,” said the gunslinger, knowing the Writer would hear him.

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