A Single Act pt 1

June 10, 2018:

Years ago, while trying to secure an object for Darkseid,

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

The Planet Cortos.

Sixty-Three years ago.

The Kree fight bravely. Blue skinned and formidable combatants, they had been a species of conquerors until recently. At some point the galaxy itself seemed to align against those expansionist regimes, and forced the Kree to the negotiating table. But not everyone was happy about that. Certain worlds held power that could not be left to those who would be pacifists, and Darkseid had sent his Furies and Granny Goodness to the Kree Colony on Cortos to exact a measure of blood and to retrieve the Ouroboros Leystone.

Granny Goodness hangs back, lashing a whip at a Kree who gets to close, her chariot helping to drag the poor fool along as they charge the capitol city of Kolis. But Granny and the Furies are no the only beings looking for this object of power. Under the dark, starfilled sky of the pockmarked landscape of blue and violet stone, others move in secrecy. The Order of the Arcane Arts had sent it's expedition as soon as it had heard the Leystone was in danger of discovery, for unknown to Darkseid's forces, the Kree never did have it.

"Barda! My eyes see a glimmer of movement to the west! Find what seeks to outflank us, and once destroyed, seek us in the city. Granny will save the main course for her favorite fury!"

Barda's closest men, if they could be called that at all, are withered, husk like things with claws and axe-guns that they hold at the ready, dragonfly like wings giving them more mobility than most, a dozen or more staying close at her command.

There to the west is a crag of sorts, and certainly, there is light. Not far from the city's domed edge, maybe a few kilometers at most. The Kree begin to fire on the invaders, and Granny gives the order to attack.

Istriel tries not to draw attention to the crag, but light was needed to pierce the veil of the vault, magic that could not be summoned with any subtlety, for they had no time. Gwendyr, and Kaelunedir stood close by, and all three were apprenticed to an elf so old he even had a few wrinkles. Arcus Firewind stood guard over his apprentices as they worked to defeat the vault incantations, his gaze turning to the field of battle.

"Hurry. They know."

It's a pity about the dark. Big Barda always looks more impressive fighting under a bright yellow sun.

Granny's favorite Fury, the field leader of Darkseid's elite guard, had taken her troop of parademons ahead of the army to clear a path. As Granny Goodness rides into the pockmarked plane of blue and violet, she's greeted by the most beautiful panorama of violence. Parademons and Kree clash clumsily, sprays of blood arcing in the air and across the rocks. Between them, Big Barda dashes from one Kree to the next, swinging her ax with cries of good cheer and the crunch of metal brutalizing bone.

"Barda!"

Big Barda turns to look at Granny's approaching chariot, shoulder's heaving with her breath. She says nothing until the old woman has finished speaking.

"Yes Granny."

Barda's enormous ax, still dripping with the blood of her Kree enemies, transforms back into a mega rod.

"PARADEMONS, WITH ME!" The Fury's voice booms across the battlefield as she thrusts the mega rod into the air, pointing them toward the crag in the west.

Any husks that yet live take flight, and Big Barda follows, pulled aloft by mega rod. If the elves don't breach the vault momentarily, they're going to be interrupted by a bunch of angry parademons.

"It will not open!"

"It is as if our mana stores have been taken, and there are no leylines in this forsaken place!"

The other two apprentices complain as the vault fails to open, and as Arcus turns to summon his power, he feels the drain of it too.

But not Istriel.

Light springs into being, hard as forged crystal and a shocking, luminous blue-white that drips energy to the ground. It is desperation that brings her power to the forefront, amazement singing in the eyes of her Arcus and Gwendyr, but Kael has nothing but suspicion. But he has no time for words.

The vault opens, and the parademons are upon them. Even without magic, the Light Elves of Alfheim are not helpless. Kael has a rifle of sorts, while Gwen's throwing discs whip through the air to cleave wings and weapons alike. Arcus forges ahead, and Istriel whirls her hands before her in an intricate dance, forging magic that feeds from her power of hardlight generation, and with a single motion she pulls her fellow apprentices into the vault, while all at once ceiling it with a construct of light and enchantment, just as Barda arrives.

Parademons slam into it, the last of her cadre, splatting themselves but forming cracks. If those creatures can dent such a defense, could it possibly stand against the might of Big Barda and her MEGA ROD?!

"There it is."

The Ouroboros Leystone hovers above a pedestal, locked in place by its own hunger, feeding from some power nearby.

No.

Not some power.

Some thing.

"Archmage, must we really remove it? Surely these invaders cannot control it's power. And if they were to take it, they wou-"

Arcus cuts off Istriel, already summoning the last of his power to try and break it from it's hold on this place.

"We have no choice. We cannot leave this to chance. Belzenlok will have to be dealt with once this conflict here has subsided. While the Kree knew not of this place, these creatures did not invade them for their land. They already knew about the Leystone. We can take no such chance with it!"

The other elves reload. Gwen tends to a wound at her leg, delivered by a blast from a Parademon. Istriel looks behind her to see what danger comes, and since she is the only one remaining with any portion of their power, she begins working on the spell to take them from this place. And all the while? She looks past the glass-like ward, etched in eldritch runes that holds the door.

A small sliver of power, against a very, very Big Barda.

Big Barda lands just in time to see her Parademons splattering themselves against the vault's magical defense. "HAULT! Out of the way, fools!"

If sound carries through across the barrier, the elves will hear the New God before they see her, a voice that thrums through the rock itself. Heavy boots thud and crunch on little pebbles, a wet thwack as she kicks aside what's left of the Parademons that sacrificed themselves for Darkseid. Barda has no idea if they can hear her past the barrier, but she speaks to them anyway. Call it one last warning. "That Leystone belongs to Darkseid."

With that, Barda brushes her cloak aside and points her MEGA ROD at the barrier, discharging a single blast. She's braced for impact, but she's also mentally prepared for the possibility of an explosion.. and there's no bracing yourself against that.

Every word from Barda is a death sentence she is waiting to carry out, and as Arcus struggles behind her, the other apprentices help with what little power they have. Power that is overshadowed by the sudden —

FATOOOM!!!

As energy piles against the barrier Istriel has constructed. Energy fills up the magic that must draw from the construct itself, and soon the loop is exposed: It cannot pull power from this dead world. There is no leyline for her to tap. It is only as strong as the light she made with another power, one she does not fully understand.

It is power that begins to bleed.

Like ice set to flame, it drips energy to splash at Barda's feet, until finally the whole of it begins to crack. Istriel can do nothing but stare onward with her pale eyes, working furiously to construct the teleportation spell. One rune, with a wisp of Gwendyr's hair. Another, with a feather she stole from Kael just yesterday. An inkwell she borrowed from Arcus, consumed in the mixture as another mote joins the swirling power she frantically bridges.

A final mote, for her, but she hesitates. It is the power of the Leystone, pulling at her magic, and she knows it will not go unless she makes room for it. The Ouroboros Stone, black as midnight, a shard of nothingness, falls into the hands of the Archmage and burns him to touch it, but Istriel does not hesitate. In the very moment her barrier begins to shatter, she pulls the magic down around her and sends it backwards, washing over three elves and a stone to send them away, but leaving her in the aftermath of the explosion that will give Barda entry.

A desperate motion of hands brings more light to bear, hard as any shield, but it too cracks under the power Barda unleashes, sending pieces of her barrier scattering across the floor, and Istriel with it, until she comes to a thumping stop against the far wall.

Her gaze will rise with a familiar sight for Barda: Fear looks back at her.

Something unexpected happens: the shot doesn't break through the barrier, but neither does it explode and throw Big Barda backward. She takes one step back and then another, watching the energy condense against Istriel's barrier of light and slowly burrow inward. None will see it, but inside her gold and blue armor, Barda shivers. The barrier finally shatters, exploding inward, and all that the lone elf will see when she looks up is Barda's enormous frame looming in the doorway of the vault .

"You will die.. FOR DARKSEID."

Barda shoots again, aiming for Istriel this time.

"We must not, there is-"

But the attack comes before Istriel can give warning, or convince Barda that she is by far the least of her worries. Behind the New God, the mountain caves in as the whole structure begins to shake, and Istriel's shield of light comes up again, this time one not infused with magic at all. It shatters immediately, and barely spares her an immediate death, smashing her against the wall and to the floor

But the floor is no more.

It crumbles too, until a new space begins to form inside this chamber, a starfield showing in the debris that floats now above a central platform somewhere below them. Rock tumbles against rock, and Istriel grabs hold, throwing herself from it only when she can come to a stop on the platform somewhere below Barda.

A platform with a cage at the center.

It shimmers. Twists. Great black wings of a creature easily twelve feet in height, with great horns trailing smoke and feet cloven like a goat's. With an explosion outwards, great wings spread, and the smoke swirls away, revealing the reason why the Ouroboros Leystone was here at all. For a creature of immeasurable power to be contained, a stone with an immeasurable hunger was used. Now, that creature, Belzenlok, Lord of the Greyflame, is unleashed.

Grey skinned and beady eyed, he turns his red gaze upon Istriel, but sees only a morsel. No, he would have a greater meal, after being deprived of his power for so very long. There above him hangs a God, and his clawed hand summons a whip of smoking flame to turn on Barda, whirling and whipping it skyward to try and catch her ankle and draw her into his grasp.

TO BE CONTINUED

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