8.74 DR

It was a silly thing, but she preferred being called ‘Dioname’. Her full name was Dionamella, but she wanted the last three letters left off.

Dee-oh-nah-mei. That was how you’d say it. As opposed to dee-oh-nah-mell-ah. 

Did this matter?…No. Not at all.

But it made her feel rather in-tune with the modern parlances of the day. A bit like she was keeping up with the times. That was important. For the Great General of the Ages had mastered time to an extent that few had ever reached, in this era or any other.

However, she could still not prevent her own end.

She was not immortal.

The half-Elf felt it in her bones. Her death, her likely death, would not be by sword or spell. It might be, but what would always catch her was…time.

Her age fueled her power. A sacrifice, and one she willingly made. Everything had a price, and the ability to move an army faster than they should—not just physically, but stealing seconds away from the world?

That it only demanded her time—and a half-Elf’s time at that—was not just unfair, but cheating. She raised a hand on the first day and spoke.

Advance, soldiers of Ailendamus. Show this Dawn Concordat why we bear Ailendamus’ will.

Even her voice and inflection were old. Hence her wanting a different name. The modern [Generals], she had learned once Rhisveri summoned her, were very quick. She had studied Niers Astoragon, who had not existed when she had made her name.

“Forwards the left! [Snipe Charge]—”

And so on. Efficient, but not very graceful. She wondered if it would change how Skills developed. Skills, classes reflected the modern world. Why, there was a time when Skills were nigh on paragraphs of words.

She watched as Ailendamus’ [Soldiers] met the Dawn Concordat. And she twisted the world, just a second. But one second…

For a thousand soldiers. 

The front rank of Ailendamus’ charging swords was poised to meet a line of spears. A bad matchup—the spears would hit first, even as the experienced swordbearers angled their blades for a quick thrust to the helm. Of course, individual skill and lives…

Each one of those [Soldiers] had their hopes and dreams. They had names she might never learn. 

Dioname could not account for that. However, she could give them one thing. Just…one second.

One second, in the heat of battle, to charge another step. To swing. The entire wave of soldiers blurred, and one second?

It only took that long to bury a blade in a throat. To dodge an incoming jab. To erase hundreds of lives.

One second across one thousand souls. 

1000 seconds, then. Spent. She felt it, a change in herself. Not immediate aging, but a loss.

1000 seconds equated to 16 minutes and 40 seconds. Not bad. Or it would have been, if that were all she spent.

Even a Human would have considered that a fine expenditure of time to do that kind of damage.

If it were only seventeen minutes. Alas, Dioname could not trade time that equally. But she counted.

It was an obsession. Few people could know the time they spent. So as she gave orders, the tally still added to itself.

“Archers, fire once and again, there and there!”

Three hundred and twenty archers needed four seconds to speed up their volley. Add into it a [Relentless Reloading] Skill and an [Instantaneous Reload] among her officers.

Three volleys of arrows in quick succession.

320 multiplied 4 times is 1280 seconds. 21 minutes, 20 seconds.

It might be a year. She suspected less, but it was weeks or months, not minutes. How long did half-Elves live? She was barely over a century—but her biological age, the true chronological time she had paid for, was well over a thousand years.

However, the Great General of Ages still fought. She could have not. She could have refused Rhisveri when he asked her to make an example of the Dawn Concordat—and perhaps even the Wyrm of Ailendamus would have acceded for the deeds she had done, the wars she had paid for.

Yes, she, a mortal, knew the secret of Ailendamus. She knew them all, and if there was any one mortal the immortals respected—perhaps it was her.

Perhaps, because she wasn’t sure. However, it was true that Rhisveri had personally taught her the magic she used. That Visophecin, Fithea, had given her their knowledge, the Agelum taught her self-defense.

They were still greater. A Wyrm in his full fury or Visophecin, first among House Shoel? They could slay her. However—she was not a single being. She had Skills. And she was a [General].

Alone, she might well be the third-most powerful being in Ailendamus behind those two. With an army at her back…only Rhisveri. And even the two of them would not guess on that outcome.

When the Dawn Concordat came against her, then. When the Archmage of Memory, this new lad, and House Veltras, the Griffin Prince, and Lightherald joined forces—well. The half-Elf was put-upon. Dioname felt that so many boys teaming up to kill her was slightly biased.

But Rhisveri sent her no backup. The Wyrm had faith in one mortal alone. That was his Great General, whom he had created.

Dioname, [Timekeeper General, Wyrmsworn Champion].

There was a time when classes used to have commas.

 

——

 

On the first day, she took the scope of her enemies. The Archmage of Memory descended from the heavens with magic and thunder, like some kind of storied [Archmage] of old. He had bested the young Lucifen, and the immortals of Ailendamus feared to fight him directly, lest he reveal all.

Lord Veltras and the Five Families galloped into the fray, banners shining, and an ancient Golem rained death down as the banner of House Veltras shone. A [Lord] who flew like an arrow, straight and true, the fastest man on the battlefield atop his steed, lance in hand.

Then came the Lightherald, shining, proclaiming the glories of Calanfer as he led the Dawn Concordat against Ailendamus, nearly equal in number—and in his aegis of light, fearless and resolute to their end.

Lastly, the Griffin Prince, the cursed child who darted into certain death, sacrificing body and limb without fear, woven and constantly remade by the Stitch Witch’s curse.

Dioname looked at them all and thought—now there would be a true foe.

The Stitch Witch, the immortal spider whom even Rhisveri could not match for age, or Fithea. Though the Dryad had met her when the Stitch Witch walked her forests.

She would be a foe to which Dioname would ask every aid, use every Skill, and struggle with. A foe to count your levels against—yet fight because the victor would be the stronger in level. To kill Belavierr forever would be a battle Dioname was not certain she could win.

These four—like Rabbiteater, she counted four threats—

These four were not fully her match.

Oh, they each had something. She watched Tyrion Veltras dodge her first greeting, the spell missing him with contemptible ease. His own aura meant that she could not slow him directly—just speed up the rest of the world. Perhaps if they were close enough to hear each other’s voices spoken, she could influence him.

He was too quick. He slew an officer, riding through the battle, lance ramming home through a breastplate before she could reposition.

A seasoned warrior. The Griffin Prince was truly immortal; she tried to sever the Stitch Witch’s bindings, but again, could not unless she was up close. She was no expert in whatever curse or hex had been woven; her time-sped soldiers impaled his companions, and he fled, but survived even [Disintegration].

The Lightherald’s armor took her spells too, and the brave champion of Calanfer was better than the Thronebearers who fell to their counterparts in her army. Dioname would have tackled any threat alone in that first hour, but together, all three were thorns. But yes—thorns she could pluck and crush in the first battle.

Save for him…she looked up and saw a half-Elf with burning wings pointing down at her. Dioname threw up her hands.

“[Spell-Aegis of the Wyrm Queen]!”

“[Pillar of Flame, Unbounded].”

Her spell covered her position, and the searing blast of fire did not consume her flesh. The Great General’s return spell and her archers’ arrows criss-crossed the skies, and the Archmage of Memory retreated, cursing as his barrier-spells waned.

However, he was being linked to every [Mage] in his faction, hundreds. Worse? Far worse?

She could not stop all his spells.

Ailendamus’ [Soldiers] looked up in confusion and saw the pillar of light for just a second before it fell and turned all to ash. Dioname looked up. When she saw the magic coalescing, before the spear of ice split the earth and shook the world, she threw a hand out.

Tarry not! Flee or die, and feet take wing!

Ancient orders and wording—or at least, a hundred years old—but the [Soldiers] understood. They ran, and the spell, which took three seconds to unleash itself, missed them completely.

Four hundred souls given thirty-one seconds. 12,400 seconds. 

Too many minutes. Too much time, but time stopped for them to move. She could have let them die, but they fell upon the Dawn Concordat, shouting her name. Dioname looked up and saw her false kin’s look of unease. She twitched a finger at him, beckoning him downwards.

He took the bait, and the Archmage of Memory descended. He had a sword-spell of Drath, [Disintegration] spells aiming for her heart, and a type of magic that mixed with alchemy, trying to ensnare her very nature.

She wondered if he’d earned his strength. Dioname faced him down and sensed no Skills. So perhaps he was like Rhisveri’s kind. In which case, he was arrogant. They always were.

“[剑圣 – 心火之刃]!”

Time slowed for Dioname, the most economical use of it. His magic was blazing so bright, she couldn’t slow him—but so what? The Archmage’s eyes went round as she cast two spells—and used a Skill befitting her level.

“[Thorns of the World Tree: Bneiisrye].”

She called upon a dead name that Fithea had bequeathed to her. Yet even in death—the greatest magic of druids and Dryads shattered his barriers. Still, he swung the sword, and she reached out.

“[Summon Armament: Lawkeeper of the Agelum].”

Both of them suffered for that. She felt the crawl of pure lightning eating away at her. He recoiled from a searing radiance that even the Lightherald winced to behold. He backed up as she pointed a finger at him.

“[Vortex Into Nowhere].”

She missed. The Archmage of Memory retreated and did not try that again.

By the end of the first day, Dioname understood her foes, and not even the Archmage of Memory was her equal.

That did not mean she underestimated them. She just saw them for who they were:

Incomplete.

All four. But the two most dangerous, Tyrion Veltras and Eldavin, realized the same thing as they fought.

Tyrion Veltras looked at Dioname, the Great General of Ages, and realized he was facing a foe far above him in levels. A [Lord] who realized that the bar was higher, that he was not fast enough. Chasing, racing to improve. Faster.

Cursing his wasted time spent in complacency.

To Eldavin, the issue was far different. He had dodged Dioname’s magic and outmaneuvered the other fliers and attacks coming his way because he flew. Even the Griffin Riders of Kaliv were like stones falling through the air compared to his grace. Aspects of Eldavin were so refined that Dioname was convinced he had walked more battlefields than she could dream of.

Peerless flight…combined with a strange lack of understanding in other areas. Gaps in his knowledge of how to conduct a war. 

To anyone else, it wasn’t obvious, but Dioname saw his uncertainty when facing someone like her. He didn’t know…how to beat her. How to use his magic most effectively. So his battle tactics? To anyone watching, and people did see it, beyond even her…

He was copying the Death of Magic. Extreme range, summoned warriors, and massive, contemptuous area-of-attack spells. He fought like Silvenia, another great foe Dioname knew might one day be hers—

Because he didn’t know how to fight himself.

Incomplete, incomplete! She might not have more high-level magics than Eldavin, and she certainly didn’t have Tyrion’s speed, but Dioname did have the surety they lacked. Still, she failed to end the battle on the first day. The Great General of Ages tried, but both sides surprised each other, taking a measure.

And she…was slightly distracted. And did not know why. The Great General of the Ages turned her head left and right, looked up the pass, at the Archmage in the sky, back towards Kaliv where the Griffin Prince harried them, past the fortress under siege…around, towards Calanfer.

Dioname frowned uneasily.

 

——

 

On the second day, she realized there was something else. The others were more cautious now, trying to save the Dawn Concordat as they bled lives.

The Lightherald rallied them. Dioname focused her wrath upon him, but his armor took spells meant to kill him. He battled against her champions, and all three, Griffin Prince, Tyrion, and Eldavin, took up the mantle of protecting him.

And someone else.

“Dionamella, report.

Only one person would bother her, even during the lull in fighting. Rhisveri. Dioname responded as she signaled her forces. She would happily have ignored him if need be, but she needed to communicate this.

“Rhisveri. Complications. I…am sensing something off. Two matters, but one is distant. Do you feel either?”

No.

His voice was terse. She wondered if that girl, the Wind Runner, was giving him trouble. The Wyrm did not like to be fallible, so he snapped.

What are the two things? Why are you—off?

He was quite familiar with how adept she was, and Dioname had lost some of her edge. That—she understood. If he didn’t sense the other thing…the half-Elf bared her teeth.

“Two guesses. Your hint? Scrying and this television.”

She heard nothing for a while, then he began cursing.

They’re using Skills on you? Who? I’ll kill them all! Cancel all the scrying spells!

She interrupted him.

“It won’t work. They can still scry me from afar, even if you turn off Wistram’s orbs. And now they know how…over a hundred are trying to debilitate me or the army in some way.”

A hundred?

“It’s worldwide. I’ll manage.”

The problem with technology was that it changed how even wars were fought. The King of Destruction, among others, had shown every [King], [Commander], and Skill-user that you could, with great effort, toss your Skill across the world and change the course of a battle. Of course, it was exceptionally difficult, and only the highest-levelled people could do it—or someone with a genuine connection to this battlefield or who was close enough.

She suspected Avel, Desonis, even Nadel, Pheislant—those were definitely nations who wanted her to lose. But perhaps even Chandrarians, Balerosians, Izrilians, and more considered that it would be best if Ailendamus lost this pivotal battle.

Over a hundred? Oh yes. But they had one huge problem: her aura. Their Skills against her or on her were far reduced by her own presence.

Still—it kept the Dawn Concordat in the battle the second day. As for the other thing, which even Rhisveri didn’t sense?

Perhaps it was her class. He had no class. In some ways, Dioname was stronger than Rhisveri simply because of her levels. She had risen close to his power in her short time alive.

Was that fair? Of course not. When they had first met, the Wyrm had told her he was going to be extremely unfair. If nothing else—this entire road and her life she had chosen? Dioname had known from the start what it would be. Rhisveri was honest about that.

 

——

 

“You are worthless.”

The Wyrm was, at that time, a half-Elf. He hated looking like that, and so in thirty years he would change his assumed form and begin pretending to be the [King]’s brother or other family member. He also preferred to appear older, at least middle-aged.

At the time, she had naively thought it meant he would hate her more. But the cold disdain of the man had swept over all the children he had gathered.

Over a hundred years ago, Rhisveri had addressed a group of children like this.

“You are all worthless. The children no one wants. You have no future. Each nation and city and town has no place for you. [Beggars] and [Outcasts] and [Street Urchins].”

A strange project. He had gathered them all up and placed them in this room. The half-Elf looked at the terrified half-Elf girl, as wary of him as some of the others around her. A few children were contemplating his death or looking for things to steal.

Effortlessly, he stopped a [Rogue] in mid-escape. Let the dangling child hang there in the air as he continued.

“I am giving you one chance, you worthless lot. Make something of yourselves. You will have the finest education and training; squander it and I will let you go and waste the only opportunity you have. Serve me and I will reward that. This is more than you deserve. You are worth nothing, but you have one chance.”

He looked at Dioname, passing over her and all the others. What caught her, what she saw, even back then, was the slightest catch in Rhisveri’s voice. The way he looked back at them as he spoke.

“…I was like you. Rise or fall. There is never any other option.”

 

——

 

Over a hundred years ago, she had begun her studies. True to his word, he’d let the children make of themselves what they wanted. Some had taken jobs as artisans; some had run off, and she never knew what became of them.

Some, like her, rose. 

At first, the Wyrm left it all to teachers. Even later, when there were only a handful of the best, he didn’t reveal to them who he was.

Only two ever learned his identity, and Dioname was the one he taught time magic. She remembered the first time he realized she had surpassed everyone but him—and later the Lucifen—the look of exasperated pride he’d tried to cover.

“It seems you are the best. One gem among all the others. Which means I have to teach you. Very well. Time magic. You’re already familiar with it? It’s tricky, even for me. Time is so difficult to harness that the only way that [Mages] have found is to use tricks to use it effectively. Sacrifice and oaths. Let’s begin with the basics. I need you around, so one of the Oaths of Time will do…”

She had learned to sacrifice her own time later. He had not stopped her and even helped her refine that aspect.

Later on—it would lead to one of the most famous events in Ailendamus’ two-century history. Which was the destruction of the old palace.

This was all old history, when the Lucifen and Agelum had sought Rhisveri out to make a pact. One of the many clauses in their deal was something both families stood for, albeit for different reasons. One, moral, ethical—the other more practical.

No child soldiers. Rhisveri, the Wyrm, had agreed to it and neglected, in his arrogant way, to mention the existence of Dionamella and the others. The Wyrm had tried to argue his way out when Visophecin found out—it was already in progress, they were already children, and you only specified—

Well, that was what happened to the first palace. It had only ended when Dioname herself got involved on Rhisveri’s side.

Ever after, Rhisveri was more cautious of the Lucifen and his allies. Yet even when they asked and offered her a way out, Dioname continued. She sacrificed her time and won the respect of Ailendamus’ immortals, and they wondered why.

Why, for them? Why? 

Because Rhisveri gave her what she wanted. For loyalty, for pride, and because he was right. She had always believed that, from the start.

Rise or fall. Rise or fall. You had only one chance. She wanted to see how high she could go.

 

——

 

By the third day, Dioname knew the true danger, and it was this: winning was something you needed to know how to do.

Winning was an art. Especially because it was so easy to fail at.

She had the upper hand, so the Great General of the Ages realized that the danger would come when she was most overconfident. She could not lose focus. She had seen it before; it was when the opponent’s back was against the wall, when they were on the ropes, that they counter-levelled. In the moment before your sword struck them, they could turn that tide around. The overdog had to watch out for the underdog because they always leapt.

With another army, Eldavin might have won or stalemated her. He was a devious foe, and his mana supply exceeded hers! However—the Dawn Concordat were taking too many losses. Lose the army and they lost.

Lose Tyrion, Eldavin, the Lightherald, or the Griffin Prince and they lost.

Take the [Princesses]? Dioname was now exploring other options, but the battle was quite literally revolving around a single moment. And not for her to lose.

Tyrion Veltras rode out of the fog of acid, burning, skin searing. Another second and he was dead. The Lightherald’s shield barely caught the ray that would have disintegrated his face through the visor, a needle.

They were dancing on life-and-death. The Skills from afar trying to harry Dioname were actually growing stronger. People…were getting worried.

Even the Blighted Kingdom. Probably because they looked at Dioname, and then looked at one of their greatest [Mages]. Nereshal, another [Chronomancer]. Nereshal, greatest in his continent—at least in the Blighted Kingdom—could slow, perhaps even reverse time’s effects upon himself, the Blighted King, and a handful of others.

By his power and magic and talent, and with time stolen from others, he could arrest age itself. That was how he could manipulate time.

Dioname? She could make time dance and roll over.

Even so, they nearly killed her on the third day.

 

——

 

House Veltras went for her. They had danced around the periphery of the battlefield before, refusing to be caught and surrounded, but Lord Tyrion Veltras must have seen that the Great General of Ages was the most pivotal element in Ailendamus’ army.

More than any other [General]—if she died, Ailendamus lost. So he went for her.

The first sign of it was the Aegis of the Bow, the Golem of Terland, turning and unleashing a hurricane of fury onto the command center of Ailendamus’ army. The Golem was well-protected; the Archmage of Memory had personally warded it to prevent Dioname from destroying it.

The deadly arrows raining down did less than Tyrion wanted. Sturdy shields and barrier Skills mitigated the damage—the arrows slowed, and some just plinked onto the ground. One struck someone on the head as he passed by, galloping with his vanguard, and he heard the voice.

“Ow.”

It was a helmetless head. Tyrion turned back—just once—and saw someone rubbing at a cut. How?

The arrows which flickered through the air with a longbow’s force suddenly dropped like stones. Yet even if you froze them in time, they kept their momentum.

Ah, but what if you froze the air around them in time? Then the volley of arrows lost all momentum, dropped to the ground with no force. A [Time Mage]’s tricks on a battlefield scale.

“Who is she?”

Pellmia, the [Lord of Love and Wine], breathed. His armor was scorched, and Tyrion had lost more people in these three days of fighting than the rest of the entire war. Tyrion surged across the battlefield, cutting left.

“Griffin Prince and Archmage are diving.”

They went for one of the lesser [Generals]. Just as planned, as Tyrion cut towards another one. The Great General reacted, guarding her commanders.

It was a good feint. Tyrion saw Jericha baring her teeth and checked his group.

He rode with Swey and Pellmia; Buscrei was climbing with her [Archers] to a position on the cliffs. Literally; the Archmage of Memory had provided invisible [Light Bridges], and they were relying on stealth Skills to avoid magical detection.

The other [Lords] and [Ladies] didn’t have applicable Skills for this encounter. And…well, Tyrion glanced sideways. In the decoy-force, one of El’s [Ladies] was leading her [Mercenaries], who would benefit from her Skills. Tyrion made a split-second decision as he saw Ailendamus rotating to face him.

Time again. They were set and ready even as he galloped at a speed beyond any regular [Lancer]. Tyrion looked right and spoke.

“Pellmia. Lead the distraction force.”

What? I’m bound with you, Tyrion!”

“Your Skills aren’t necessary. Distract her and peel off.”

It wasn’t entirely true. Lord Pellmia could definitely aid their advance. However…the [Lord of Love and Wine] was an experienced campaigner. He didn’t argue.

Besides. Tyrion wanted, needed him to return to House Quellae and share his class with his family. Tyrion shifted, and his forces broke right, splitting from the diversionary force like a bolt of lightning unleashed.

Jericha, raise the Banner of House Veltras!

Tyrion! Luck!

Pellmia’s voice followed Tyrion as the [Lord] lowered his lance and rode. The Great General was focused away from him, but she saw him coming. He couldn’t get there fast enough.

Who is she? Why have I never heard her name?

Half-Elves. How many more were like this, hidden away? Tyrion didn’t know. For once, he didn’t think of Ryoka Griffin. He couldn’t, not even of Sammial or all of what he had seen and feared.

He had to focus. 

The Great General had a personal bodyguard of only two dozen figures. He had never seen them fight; Eldavin had sieged her camp once, but the magical battle had been too fast. Tyrion had never gotten this close, and he saw the forces trying to halt him being swept out of the way by one of Eldavin’s spells.

Dimensional magic to counter time. Tyrion just rode, his people behind him bearing down in a lance-charge on the Great General of Ages.

“[Knight’s Challenge]. Lord Veltras—

He met a [Knight] and ran them through. Tyrion let go of the lance, and someone slowed to retrieve it.

“Lance!”

“[My Lord, Ever Armed]!”

Jericha had one in his hands. Onwards! The Great General was waiting, now. Buscrei in the shadows, Swey at his side.

“Let’s get them, Tyrion—”

They needed an opening. A [Bodyguard] could literally sacrifice their lives for the Great General. Tyrion could bypass that Skill—perhaps. He had saved every Skill for this moment.

[Might of Four]. [Piercing Thrust]. [Thirty-Foot Thrust]—

A lance flickered through the air before they were even close. It went for Dionamella’s heart, or seemed to. In truth, it was aimed at the figure just to her left. She was no warrior, and the Great General had a moment of hesitation.

The weakness of [Mages]. Tyrion’s lance shot towards a leather-armored chest. Wyvern? Something else? In that flicker of time between time, not Dioname’s but Tyrion’s, a warrior’s reaction—

He saw pointed ears. A hood.

The half-Elf deflected the lance-strike with his sword. Tyrion Veltras felt his strike go wide and reset himself. He locked eyes and saw a mere twenty bodyguards, half the size of his force, waiting for them.

Each one a half-Elf. Each one…old. Tyrion Veltras had learned to fear old people.

They tended to have high-level classes.

“[My Sword Sings Twice].”

“[Lancing Hydrastrike]—”

The [Blademaster] and [Lord] switched to swords as his second lance-strike was deflected by a [Bastion Shieldbearer]. House Veltras’ finest met the half-Elves and bled.

[Grand Fireball]! Dead—

A knife went through one of the [Riders] next to Jericha. Her own magic fizzled as a half-Elf calmly canceled her magic. Another veteran of House Veltras whirled down a halberd and exchanged five blows with a half-Elf on the ground. Jericha saw the woman fall as the [Hydrabane Assassin] resheathed her blades, preparing for another instantaneous draw from the poisonous sheaths.

“They’re all over Level 30! Advance—

The Great General had a bodyguard worthy of her. House Veltras on the charge met them—and one died.

Tyrion Veltras’ duel with the [Blademaster] ended in him peeling away. As two more [Soldiers] engaged a half-Elf blocking their swords with his hands, he struck down and slashed through a neck. As the half-Elf fell, a palm-blow struck Tyrion in the side, and Jericha thought she heard his ribs pop.

One. The Great General of Ages cast a spell, and dark magic slew eight warriors. Jericha saw Swey abandon his mace, trying to grapple with the [Blademaster].

“Swey!”

The [Climbing Lord] lunged, and his hand closed around the half-Elf’s throat. They had to win! The half-Elf’s greatsword was askew, not suited for the close-ranged combat of the [Lord] who had climbed mountains.

The other, gauntleted hand came up.

“—[My Hands Were a Second Blade].”

The [Blademaster] cut Swey’s gauntleted hand off, even as the fingers tried to tighten. Swey recoiled, staring at the stump of his hand.

Fall back! Fall back! Reform the charge!

Tyrion was circling, pulling them back for a second pass. They would get no third one.

All of this was seconds. Five seconds of fighting and the Great General’s bodyguard and she herself had left over a fourth of their number dead. She was preparing a spell for Tyrion that he couldn’t block. But he had to ride at her; if he ran, he died.

There was no opening, though. The half-Elves closed ranks, and the [Blademaster] tugged at Swey’s hand as the [Lord] stumbled back. What would he do? If he even lived…

In that gap, as they circled, as Dionamella waited, over the fighting, in the din of battle—everyone heard the faintest…

Crunching sound. The Great General glanced sideways. The [Blademaster]’s hand was locked around the severed digits clinging to his throat. He had a knife—he’d dropped the greatsword and was trying to cut the fingers away.

Yet the hand kept gripping. Another half-Elf wavered and tried to remove the fingers, but they dug deeper, deeper, bending the mithril gorget, a grip that not even the [Blademaster] could remove. He severed bone and flesh, but the fingers kept tightening—

Once, Lord Swey, a young man, had lost a friend while climbing. It was an old story. His grip had slipped.

Everyone had suffered loss and tragedy. Their experiences made up their levels, classes, and Skills. Swey, drinking a potion, slowed and watched as the [Blademaster] fell, choking.

[I Will Never Let You Go].

They rode. Tyrion Veltras charged into that moment of distraction, into a hand traded for a life. The half-Elves raised their weapons, and the Great General of Ages pointed at him.

Buscrei’s arrow, enchanted by Archmage Eldavin, loosed from behind with three dozen others, flickering through the air. They hit Dioname’s barrier. Buscrei’s arrow vanished out of existence, reappeared, and struck the Great General of Ages through the back.

Not a killing blow, but it went through the base of her spine, and the magic on her fingertips failed. Falling to her hands, the Great General looked up as Tyrion Veltras rode at her. She whispered as that lance dipped down.

 

——

 

Dioname twisted as the arrow flew, and it passed under one arm. She pointed.

“[Law of the Lucifen: Punish Arrows]!”

“Wh—”

Buscrei’s bow erupted into flames, and her squad screamed as dark fire engulfed them. Tyrion Veltras broke off his charge as Dioname turned to him.

Retreat!

Her spell was still off. The Great General cursed as House Veltras retreated. Panicked. Not knowing how she had done that.

It was the perfect attack! How…? The wide-eyed [Mage] knew. Jericha looked at Dioname and received it.

Just…a simple spell, blasted publicly, no encryption. Nothing great. A Tier 3 spell.

[Message].

 

ARROW BEHIND. DODGE.

 

But how had she…?

The [Timekeeper General] exhaled. She felt…drained beyond belief. The amount of mana it took to cast a [Message] spell was miniscule. Some Skills even removed the cost altogether.

However. Casting even that spell through time?

[15 Second Message].

And…a Skill for her level.

“[Fate, I Take the Other Path]. Don’t let them escape. I must rest.”

On the third day, House Veltras’ desperate gambit failed. A close call.

Do not lose focus. Dioname realized she was distracted. Not just by the Archmage, nor the Skills. Her head turned left and right as she drank a mana potion that Fithea had personally brewed, and Rhisveri demanded to know if she was alright.

…What am I sensing?

 

——

 

On the fourth day, Archmage Eldavin unleashed everything he had against her. He cast spells for six hours straight, trying to consume her, her army, roaring his fury, incredulous as he failed to defeat a mortal.

For he was…she could see it on him. Pride. An inability to admit that he was lesser. Someone—the Wind Runner—had poisoned him with more than just betrayal. He knew he was better than her. So he lost.

On the fifth day, the Dame of the Hills slew the Lightherald.

The Great General watched. His armor did not break, but his body did. She had seen brave champions like this before, and if he had left or yielded, she would have simply used a Skill to prevent him from re-entering the battle.

But there was a chance he could have won. So he fought and died. Afterwards, Dioname ordered Dame Merila to the rear, to the fortress where honor had meant the [Knights] failed to take the keep.

“Do what you will, Dame Merila. I will end this.”

The morale of the Dawn Concordat and Calanfer was breaking. She looked at the Archmage, Griffin Prince, and Tyrion Veltras.

Three, not four. They would come for her again. A final, last-gambit strike on her, she knew.

Do not lose focus.

She could have ordered Merila to fight, and it would have made Dioname’s life easier. However, Merila would almost-certainly fall to Eldavin or Tyrion. She was too large a target.

So Dioname raised her staff and began the final battle. Still distracted. In the first hour, as she aimed for Tyrion Veltras, a nigh-invisible spell from Eldavin pierced every magical protection, and she tilted her head out of the way. She still had a bead on Tyrion Veltras, and his death…

Missed again. Finally, Dioname saw it. Two things.

Again, two. The first was most obvious. The second was creeping up on her, and she was trying to anticipate it. But the first…

The first was a huge woman, wearing familiar armor, squatting next to Dionamella. A mane of brown hair on her head, and scars from countless battles. Not just her; a panoply of other people stood about, and the Great General whispered.

“Who…are you?”

Queen Marquin the Radiant, First Queen of Calanfer, saw Dioname standing there as the Great General breached into the realm few could ever see in life. Dragons, ghosts, all stirred as the Great General whirled and looked at them. Yet still her gaze roved, looking for something far, far worse.

Marquin pondered her answer only a moment as a battle raged in the mortal realms. Then she smiled at the Great General.

“Probably, a distraction.”

 

——

 

Today was a terrible day to die.

Most days were. Rabbiteater had known days when everything felt like glory. When the sun shone down, and you somehow blazed brighter. When his blood rushed in his veins, and he was filled with a passion that eclipsed all others, to fight and lay down his life for a reason—

That was a bad day to die. Who would think that was a good time to end it all? On those days, you lived, and dying would end all of that.

A day when you died was a dark day. When an [Innkeeper] was shot for no good reason. Those days…yes, those days were fitting.

He knew that thinking of such things was a bad sign. The [Knight] slowly raised his head as he lay abed, reluctant to get up.

He felt it in his bones.

It was not just seeing the Lightherald die. The Redfang felt it. This was the last day for the Dawn Concordat. They had lost their morale, and the Great General would crush them or they would slay her.

But his foe waited for him. So large they could see her, sitting, even as she slept. There was surely no blanket in the world large enough for the Dame of the Hills, Merila, but somehow she still had one. Ailendamus had convened countless [Seamstresses] and denuded so many sheep of their wool just to make it.

“You do not have to fight her, Rabbiteater. It’s a ridiculous thing. The Lightherald must have been forced to attack or quit the battle due to a Skill. Do not…don’t.”

That was all Talia said. Meisa had argued far longer, and Markus, Ilm, and the others nodded.

Rabbiteater just walked onto the battlements without a word. He saw her rising and looking towards him.

It had been a battle for stories, the Lightherald’s last stand. Terrible at the end—a man dying. Held up only by his spirit as he literally bled out of his armor. Bones crushed to jelly.

That was not why Rabbiteater feared Merila. He did not know her. Seraphel did. They had a history such that the Hill-Knight greeted the [Princess].

“Your Highness. We meet again on other sides of the battlefield. Fate has put us in each other’s way it seems.”

“Dame Merila.”

Seraphel said only that. Her face was pale, and she looked at Rabbiteater. He remembered her warning. As he met the half-Giant [Knight], Rabbiteater took her measure again.

No, he did not fear her for the reasons the others did. They saw something blatantly unfair. A half-Giant, just enough of her Human side to have classes and Skills, but as large as you could get before her other nature invalidated that artificial boon. A deliberate, perhaps, champion engineered by Ailendamus.

Rabbiteater didn’t hold that against Merila. Nor did the fact that she had killed the Lightherald—at least not in itself—make him fear her.

He feared Merila because he had seen how she fought the Lightherald. She had dueled Greysten again and again, and both had been unable to end the battle because the Summer’s Champion was higher-level than the Lightherald. And his fiery aura had kept Merila at bay.

Perhaps, neither had wanted to kill each other. But in the Great General’s pivotal battle, the Lightherald and Merila had fought to the death.

She had bled. The others looked at her size and strength and saw it was unfair, and maybe this was so. Rabbiteater had seen her bleeding, cut to the bone, struggling to slay a man armed with relics compared to the plain steel she had. He looked at her and saw…

A monster. As close to it as any [Knight] he could ever dream of. Someone who would be mocked or derided by her peers. Who was a target for arrows in every battle.

Someone who knew exactly what it was like to stand alone. Rabbiteater feared no regular [Knights]. But her?

She greeted him with a smile beneath her helm, watchful for an arrow from the battlements. Because they’d taken shots at her before, he was sure. An arrow to blind a giant.

Ser Solstice. Or the eater of rabbits! You and I have unsettled business, Ser. You are welcome to remain here, and I doubt not a single soul will scorn you for it. But I? I challenge you, should you stand in the gates. I have dishonored my Order once, letting you escape and win your battle. No longer. If you should leave, by honor, I challenge you.”

Her smile was bright. Rabbiteater couldn’t help but grin at her. For the irony of it. She and he were the only ones who saw clearly. How the Order of Seasons bristled!

“Unfair, I say, Dame Knight! Unfair!”

Markus raised a hand, and Rabbiteater nearly kicked him over the battlements. Merila just raised her eyebrows.

“I have heard Ser Solstice dueled my kin at the gates, Ser Knight of the Order of Seasons. Why not me? Am I no less a [Knight]? I tell you what—let’s settle this with our hands, eh?”

She raised one fist, and Rabbiteater started laughing. Nothing she said was wrong! Again, he saluted her. He liked her.

“Of every [Knight] I meet. You. Merila?”

She eyed him, and her eyes lit up as Rabbiteater bowed slightly.

You are a [Knight]. I accept.

“Rabbit!”

Meisa tried to stop him, but the Goblin just picked up his axe as Merila raised her blade to the sky.

So be it! Clear a space! Take mount or whatever you wish, Ser Solstice! I am the Dame of the Hills, and by the Kingdom of Glass and Glory, I will bring you down!”

“You can’t win this. Don’t—even if you best her, it won’t change the battle. And you can’t. You and I and a dozen other [Knights] might have a chance. No more.”

Talia caught Rabbiteater as he descended the battlements. Merila was striding back as the true war was fought in the distance. He knew that was true, and all Talia said was probably right. That Great General was beyond him.

Even so, Rabbiteater patted her hand and then removed it from his shoulder.

“Silly Talia. She challenged me. I am [Knight]. So I go. That’s how it works.”

He had just insulted and made fools of all of Ailendamus’ [Knights]. Merila had splendidly, in true Goblin fashion, thrown it back in his face. As Erin would put it…

She just reverse-unoed you, Rabbiteater. Oh, that’s a great game. Forget chess!

He grinned as he strode out the gates and faced Merila just outside of the keep. The Dame had a sword longer than he was and a shield to match his axe.

“Are you resolved, Ser? I will not hold neither blow nor my strength. Some call me unchivalrous, but I cannot help that I was born. For my kingdom, I will dishonor myself.”

Her smile had gone, and she looked down at him. Twenty-eight feet tall.

What a beautiful warrior. If only she had been raised by Garen Redfang, she would not look so ashamed. These stupid Terandrians…Rabbiteater shook his head.

“You dishonor someone…never.”

She smiled sadly. Like the [Princesses]. Merila stood back and saluted him. Behind her stood [Knights] of Ailendamus. They, who had scorned him before for using their honor against them…

This day, the Orders of the Hydra, the Thirsting Veil, and Drell drew their blades and saluted the [Knight]. No less for a warrior who faced down the Dame of the Hills. He could have run.

He did not. Rabbiteater activated Headscratcher’s axe, and a glowing blade of energy grew.

A gigantic edge of magic. A bit of an equalizer. Merila grinned to see it. Rabbiteater’s cloak swirled around him as he nodded. The Dame of the Hill’s voice was filled with regret.

“I wish that we had met in another time. We might have been the greatest of friends.”

“Yes, of course.”

Then Rabbiteater leapt forwards, and the sword came down.

[Flash Strike]. Like lightning. The impact made the ground shake, and those watching from the walls of the keep shuddered. But the [Champion] was gone, rolling to his feet. Fast.

[Aspect of the Champion: Greater Speed]. Rabbiteater’s axe slashed at her foot, but she was already stepping back.

[Longstep], [Extended Reach]—

It was not fair to give a half-Giant these Skills! But lower-level Skills. She struggled to level and had to fight people with ten or more levels above her to find fair fights.

Rabbiteater—threw his shield up.

“[Giant’s Parry].”

A new Skill won from yesterday. Merila staggered, and her eyes went wide.

So it is a match after all! Engarde!

 

——

 

Their duel was being broadcast in tandem with the battle with the Great General. Predictably, the final battle of this great war took back seat to a simple duel between two [Knights].

That was television for you. But even Niers Astoragon, among the many watchers around the world, had to admit it was fascinating.

He hadn’t bothered throwing Skills at that Great General of Ages after the first time. He had no idea who she was, but he added her to his list of the most dangerous beings.

Rabbiteater’s battle was familiar to Niers, though, in a purely personal way. The [Knight] was fighting like a Fraerling.

A Fraerling versus the Tallfolk.

Like the people of Paeth on the Coast, it was small versus large. If not exactly the same ratio, the same problems.

Merila could crush Rabbiteater with a single blow. He could parry or survive one or two at most, but one good hit and he was out.

His advantages were speed and his small size. He could hit her, but he had to keep moving, attack from places she could not easily reach. If he found such a spot, he could literally take her apart from the inside.

But the [Knight] was a Goblin. Not a Fraerling. Numbtongue watched, head in his hands as his brother fought.

He doesn’t know how. He’s learning, but he’s not a Tallguard.

The Tallguard’s enchanted grappling hooks and their tactics were designed to fight Tallfolk and other monsters. Rabbiteater needed a ranged weapon. He needed to be able to fly or leap into the air at least.

Ironically, a Fraerling might have an easier time against Merila. Niers could have just crawled into her ear and looked for her brain.

That wouldn’t have been fair. And this was a fair fight. Niers watched as the Goblin struck the Dame of the Hills across the ankle.

That’s right, fell her. She staggered, blood gushing from the cut, but not deep enough. Steel armor—not enchanted. She drew a potion the size of a barrel with her shield-hand, and Niers cursed.

They should have forbidden potions.

Rabbiteater’s friends were all watching. From Drassi to Lyonette to Rags and the others. Dame Merila was exposed as she staggered back, sword slicing in a defensive move to give her time to drink.

Into that gap, Rabbiteater dove, dropping his shield. He vanished under her in a blur, and Merila tried to back up, but he had two hands on his axe.

He was going to try and hamstring her! His axe went for her legs.

Go!

He fought like a Fraerling, for all he was a [Knight]! Niers clenched his fist. He saw Rabbiteater swing the enchanted axe with a roar.

Merila spun and kicked him.

 

——

 

Seraphel du Marquin couldn’t watch. But she had to. When she saw Rabbiteater go flying, she covered her eyes.

Yet he got up.

Could you imagine the force it took to hurl an armored body like a ragdoll? He landed in a heap and rolled—not to mitigate the impact, but from the sheer force of it.

“No.”

He was drinking a healing potion as he stood. Dame Merila checked herself, panting. It had been close.

“Your axe, Ser Solstice.”

She pointed, and the [Knight] saw it lying there. Merila let him pick up his shield. Was it condescension?

If only she fought with a hint of arrogance. But no. Just like with Dalius…

The half-Giant fought with everything she had.

So did Rabbiteater. Now, Seraphel felt it. His aura rose around him. Untrained and unbidden. Not bravery—but something as hard and strange as she had ever seen.

Not like the aura of steel, but…walls? She could almost see them. The walls of an inn on his armor and body. He charged Merila, and she brought her sword down.

The walls broke. The strength of an inn…

Was not enough against the strength of the Dame of the Hills. He tried to block her, and her blow caved in the earth. The [Knight] ran, arm limp.

Rabbiteater! Dodge!

Meisa was shouting, hands cupped to her mouth. The Order of Seasons howled at Rabbiteater as he brought his axe down and chopped into Merila’s big toe. Howling, the [Knight] grabbed him with a gauntleted hand.

No—

She threw him into the broken archway over the gates so hard he cracked the sooty stone and fell down. He did not rise.

Everyone waited, including Merila, who poured a potion on her severed toe, wincing as it joined. They waited for Ser Solstice to get up, his Aura of Bravery blazing, counter-levelling…

A minute passed. Then another ten seconds, and everyone realized—

He was downed.

Forwards! Take the keep! Dame Merila has won!

A [Knight] of Ailendamus shouted. The Order of Seasons and defenders jerked upright.

He’d lost? Before a charge could begin, someone roared.

Challenge! I challenge you!

The [Knights] slowed and cursed as Dame Talia surged down the battlements. She leapt onto a horse and rode out. Grimly, Merila turned, but a Drell [Knight] lifted his hand.

“I am Ser Yonst of the Order of Drell! I accept your challenge!”

The delaying tactic was working again! Right up until another [Knight] rode forwards.

I am of the Order of the Thirsting Veil, Dame Fewq! I challenge you, madam!

She pointed at Meisa. Seraphel saw the [Spring Knight] hesitate, look at Rabbiteater, then grimly don her helm.

“Markus, get—”

I challenge you!

Seraphel saw more [Knights] approaching. This time Markus jerked, and she realized…Rabbiteater’s ploy had failed.

Hidebound and traditionalists the [Knights] may be, but they still adapted. Every [Knight] of the Order of Seasons on the walls saw a counterpart ride up from Ailendamus’ army. The Dame of the Hills stood back as over a hundred duels began. The winners would face another foe…and another…

They were not Rabbiteater. Markus tried to fight with his fists.

He beat two [Knights]. Then he was taken prisoner.

All the while, Rabbiteater just lay there. Within less than thirty minutes, every Order of Seasons [Knight] was defeated, having lost to their opponents.

Dame Talia was last to yield, a blade at her throat. No less than four opponents she’d bested with her sword, but summer was over. And fall…Ser Ilm was knocked unconscious as he tried to cast a spell against a Hydra Knight.

“We offer you a chance to surrender! If not—we will regretfully attack, Your Highnesses.”

The [General] of Ailendamus rode forwards as the Order of Seasons was dragged from the field. The [Fortress Keeper] turned to Aielef, but after no response came, he shouted back.

We will not surrender! Do your worst!

The [General of the Line] exhaled grimly.

“Very well.”

The Greatbows opened up less than a minute later. Seraphel saw a [Soldier] vanish in an anguished cry. The [Princesses] looked up and realized the attack was coming.

Archers! Take the keep!

Suddenly, the [Knights] were charging! They peeled off as arrows and the spears held them off, and Ailendamus’ crossbows and bows were volleying the walls.

Get to safety! [Princesses]—

It’s over!

Aielef wailed as the genteel battle of [Knights] turned into sudden, harrowing bloodshed. Seraphel just stared down at Rabbiteater.

Was he dead? The [General] had clearly forgotten about him, and the fighting had begun, so neither his side nor Ailendamus had recovered him. Ailendamus wanted the keep now.

“Aielef! Shut up and get t—”

Vernoue was dragging her older sister away when Seraphel saw a shape blur past her. A Lance-Arrow, loosed at the walls, hit Vernoue in the side.

Vern?

The [Princess] vanished. Aielef screamed, and Seraphel turned. She saw a limp body, a fallen spellbook, as everyone looked around in horror. And…

A glowing tiara.

Vernoue’s personal tiara had saved her. The [Princess] was coughing, wide-eyed. Without a word, Aielef ran. Without a word, but with a scream as the [Fortress Keeper] and Marshal Huges dragged Vernoue to safety.

The royal tiaras were high-grade artifacts. Vernoue’s might not have saved her from a second Lance-Arrow, though.

More than Ser Solstice had. Seraphel could have given him her tiara, she realized. She…remembered his fiery words. How he’d accused her of wasting her chances.

The [Princess] looked across the battlefield and saw the end. Then she ran down the stairs.

Away from the keep.

 

——

 

Princess! What are you doing?

Marshal Huges saw Seraphel running through the battlefield. So did the scrying spells still watching the battle. Skirts were really not the way to move around in the mud and fighting in the courtyard. Oesca, watching from her bed and eating gelato, definitely noticed that.

Protect the [Princess]!

Calanfer’s [Soldiers] surged around the 4th Princess, desperately fighting to save her life. Not that she was actually in much danger.

Tiara aside, an unarmed woman, let alone a [Princess], was not a target. Ailendamus’ [Soldiers] avoided her or just blinked in surprise when they saw Seraphel run past them. But what was she doing?

Everyone got their answer as they saw her run past a [Knight] at the gates who jerked in surprise, then reached for her. In reply, Seraphel offered the [Knight] of the Thirsting Veil a [Royal Slap].

A fun fact; it was armor-piercing. But only a slap.

Seraphel didn’t waste time as enraged Calanferian [Soldiers] engaged the [Knight]. She bent down…

And hauled up Ser Solstice. She was trying to rescue the [Knight]! Drag him back to be healed! Seraphel was rescuing him!

Or…trying. Her face contorted halfway up, and she realized she had a problem.

Namely, that Seraphel had tried to do that thing where you slung an arm around someone’s shoulders and bear the limp body to safety. That trick only worked if you were supporting the weight of someone still conscious.

Rabbiteater was out, and, like a floppy baby or someone who wouldn’t stay rigid, it was more like hauling a sack of grain up. Seraphel was known as ‘Seraphel the Dutiful’, not ‘Seraphel the Even Moderately Physically Fit’.

Plus, Rabbiteater was a Hobgoblin wearing armor.

“My back! My—”

Seraphel threw out her back as she picked up Rabbiteater and felt an explosion of sudden agony. Half-hobbling, she dragged him into the courtyard via pure panic more than anything.

She managed to get him halfway to the keep as people fought around her. No one wanted to kill the [Princess]—and when she got there, Marshal Huges led a charge and helped carry Rabbiteater in.

You’re insane.

Aielef shouted at Seraphel, but the [Princess] just collapsed as everyone tried to heal Ser Solstice.

By removing his helmet.

Fortunately, they failed. Marshal Huges gave up after half a minute.

“It’s locked into place! Damn—someone pour a potion through his visor!”

They did, and Seraphel waited. They were trying to check his armor, and someone nearly had his cuirass off to check whether he was injured when the [Knight] stirred. Rabbiteater sat up, kicked someone in the chest, and looked around.

“Ow.”

 

——

 

He woke up and felt his torn muscles and cracked bones mending. And he knew a few other things.

He’d lost.

The keep was falling.

And the Dame of the Hills was too strong.

Rabbiteater had tried, in their short duel, to do the only thing that would work. Namely, climb her, or bring her down via the legs, and do some critical damage to her head or at least remove one of her arms from the equation.

He couldn’t. She was too tough. If she were some lumbering brute, he would have had a chance, but she moved and reacted as fast as he did without Skills.

He couldn’t beat her.

“You saved me.”

Rabbiteater looked into Seraphel’s eyes, and the [Princess], still clutching at her back, dirty and panting, nodded.

“It seemed like the thing to do. You were being trampled.”

“Can you fight? Princesses…the keep will fall soon.”

Marshal Huges turned to Aielef, Vernoue, and Seraphel. He was asking them for an answer, and Aielef looked ready to grant it. But it was the Goblin who interrupted her.

Not yet. I will clear the courtyard.”

He rose, and Huges hesitated. But Rabbiteater just stepped for the door. Seraphel had even managed to find his axe—but not his shield.

She had decent priorities. The Goblin stepped through the door.

Today—was a truly terrible day to—

He stepped into the courtyard and into a sudden hush. The advent of Ser Solstice, returned and willing to fight, the [Indomitable Champion]…

Did not cause the hush. What caused the silence, what had halted both sides from fighting, was the shadow over the keep and the world.

The Dame of the Hills.

No more blood need be spilt. Princesses of Calanfer! I will have your surrender. Or I will drag you out myself.

Dame Merila boomed as Rabbiteater looked up.

“…Fuck.”

She saw him, and the Hill-Knight smiled wider. But it was grimly.

“Ser Solstice. Enough is enough. The Dawn Concordat has lost this day. Please, persuade them to save just one more life.”

Rabbiteater stared up at that bright smile. The face of a true [Knight] of Ailendamus. Behind him, he knew, the [Princesses], the [Soldiers] were all looking at Merila and seeing the inescapable death.

The sky would fall on them if they fought. It was over.

The Goblin had seen the sky falling once before. Slowly, he hefted the enchanted axe onto his shoulder and stepped into the courtyard.

That bright flash of teeth faded. The Dame of the Hills looked down as Seraphel cried out in disbelief.

“Ser Solstice. You must surely jest. I am relieved you survived our first duel. I pray you do not force me to kill you. I cannot, will not hold back my blade.”

For the first time since they had met, she insulted him. The Goblin’s head rose. He pointed up at Merila with his free hand.

“Sister. How could you?”

Whaaat?

Aielef’s muffled shout from inside was in chorus with the rest of the world. Sister? What a twist!

However, Rabbiteater just meant it in the broader sense, like how Garen was his father. Merila’s own eyes widened as the [Knight] shouted up at her.

“You and I. We understand. How can you ask?”

“Ask?”

Rabbiteater’s heart beat painfully. He spread his arms, holding Headscratcher’s axe in one hand. He saw a waving white flag. Perhaps he was still delirious from the fighting.

Once, they had known exactly what she was asking them to do. But they followed it. And his great brother, the [Berserker], emotional, prone to laughter and tears…

“You and I stand here and there. But you…Sister. Do you believe your cause is just?”

The Dame of the Hills looked tired as she rested her hands on her sword. The cross of it was planted, the massive blade driven into the stone before her.

“Yes.”

The [Knight] of Solstice, Rabbiteater, the [Indomitable Champion] and [Aura Knight]. The Goblin nodded.

“Then. Would you ever stop?

A sigh like the prelude to a hurricane ran from the Hill-Knight’s mouth. As weary as could be.

The stones in the courtyard cracked as the steel blade rose. Shining terribly under that bright sun. She saluted Rabbiteater with it. Her eyes implored him, but her voice was steady.

“Well said.”

He nodded and lifted his axe. Rabbiteater charged, and the 4th Princess shouted at him with all the others. She should have left him there.

Until the last Goblin at Liscor fell, Rabbiteater would fight.

 

——

 

The tenacity of a Goblin until death shocked the world that watched.

Some called it foolishness. Bravado, emblematic of the worst elements of Terandria’s warrior-culture.

Others, who understood Rabbiteater, saw the battle he had never left. Some raised their blades for a true warrior meeting his end.

Goblins, his kind, looked at the [Knight] as a blade crushed him down and he rose, spitting blood through a damaged visor.

“There goes one who would be a Goblin Lord. Or even more. But not yet.”

Anazurhe looked at Rags, and her eyes flashed. Yet the Goblin Witch’s magic twisted uselessly. As did Rags’ Skills, bouncing off an aura stronger than anything she had ever seen.

He had left her tribe, and Anazurhe had never known him. Helplessly, the two Goblins watched. There was no one to help him. The Order of Seasons was captive; they had to hold some of the struggling [Knights] down, but Ailendamus kept them from interfering.

The others, from Greysten to the Winter’s Watcher, were too far. The other combatants on the battlefield were too far and fighting for their lives, unable to interfere. Even the Griffin Prince saw his people dying by the hundred with each second as the Dawn Concordat began to break and run.

One life, however valorous, was not enough.

One last person tried. Princess Seraphel tried to run forwards and stop the duel, but her own people held her back. The [Princess] didn’t care about the honor of either [Knight]. She would have sullied that.

Honor mattered less. Perhaps even the Goblin would have agreed, but he fought alone. No foreign Skill from afar to help him.

No miracle against the Dame of the Hills. No outsiders, just this one. 

Right?

Neither ghost nor immortal was watching him. They had never known Rabbiteater, shyly helping Erin cook food. Rescuing his own kind in Liscor’s dungeon. Taking the first steps to becoming someone who inspired even his own kind.

[Champion].

They had no right to intervene. Nor did the supercilious leaders abroad, who wanted to put their fingers on the scales for their own selfish entertainment or reasons. They did not know who lay behind his helm.

Not Goblins, who watched a timeless story. Not fellow [Knights], bound by honor. No outsiders would interfere with this moment.

There was someone, though. Someone who had every right to this moment. Who knew Rabbiteater. Who had fed him and known him.

No matter how far you went, no matter who you became…she was still bound to her home.

The last [Princess] who knew Rabbiteater had seen it all. His lowest moment. His glory! Helpless, stranded a continent away, and chasing after her daughter…

“I have to go after her. I will not go home. If I could have even gotten there and helped.”

Lyonette du Marquin gazed at the wounded [Knight] as he rose. The silent Thronebearers watched. Yet Ser Dalimont, seeing Princess Seraphel held back, saw something.

A glimmer of light. A tiny spark of…magic. Aura?

Or just hope. The [Princess] lifted a trembling finger. She had never tried this.

It felt like she was trying to lift a mountain with a single finger. The vast distance, a hostile battlefield—it weighed against her.

She pushed at it. If Erin Solstice could defy a Wall Lord of Salazsar, if Rabbiteater could challenge a half-Giant—why not her?

She was the 6th Princess of Calanfer. Lyonette the Fiery! Lyonette the disgrace! She had not deserved her class. She had been low-level, and few [Princesses] ever gained high levels.

But she had risen. The [Worldly Princess]’ voice shook as badly as her hand. Forcing the words out.

“[B—B—]”

“Princess?”

One of the Thronebearers thought she was having a panic attack! Ser Sest tried to touch her, and Dalimont shoved him backwards.

A light was growing. A flickering…Lyonette’s nose started bleeding. Even so, she pushed back.

I have to go to Mrsha. But you—you! My kingdom. My people. Even my sisters! Rabbiteater!”

She shouted his name. You, who went so far from home! She wrestled with the power of the Great General of Ailendamus. Even though it was her nation and he fought for her people—it was so hard!

Then Lyonette remembered something. She was not the first. An [Innkeeper] had stood there and given him her blessing. He had been at her inn.

So Lyonette traced the path across the world. Just like Erin Solstice, she sent her will across this world. The only thing she could give.

To Rabbiteater, her friend, her guest. That brave [Knight].

Come back home safely.

Someday, we will meet again.

A sigil traced itself in the air. A glowing crest. It looked like a radiant throne. The symbol of House Marquin. The royal seal of Calanfer. It flashed, and Lyonette screamed the words.

“[Boon of the Princess]!”

At first—it seemed like nothing happened. Lyonette, shaking, looked despairingly at the scrying orb. Nothing happened. Rabbiteater struggled, with only blood on his armor. Then she remembered something Drassi had told her:

The scrying orbs were on a five-minute delay.

A light began to shine from Rabbiteater’s armor.

 

——

 

He felt something. Something…

Even as the sword crushed him down to the ground. Even as he fought on, against a foe he knew he couldn’t defeat.

He heard no levels. No class consolidation because he was doing what was really impossible. Not valorous or brave, or even pivotal. Just stupid.

Yet he felt as if someone did have his back. Why…why did he think of blue eyes? Red hair? Someone chasing after a little furball and laughing?

A kindly smile?

It was bright. Rabbiteater did not see the first glimmers of light. He did not hear the gasps—only saw Merila’s face as it grew uncertain.

What is—

She threw up a hand as the first golden ray of light appeared. It was tracing something in the air. On Rabbiteater’s armor. All those who knew their heraldry—even the basic flags—realized what it was.

The seal of Calanfer. Seraphel’s eyes went wide.

“Father? He can’t…”

There was no other explanation for it, though. Rabbiteater felt as if the world were growing brighter. He felt…

Stronger. His wounds were healing? Or maybe he just felt better. But if it was just brighter for him—

“My eyes!”

Merila shaded her gaze, trying to see. She had taken precautions against the Lightherald, but the unexpected searing light blinded her! And the Hobgoblin—

 

[Temporary Skill – Radiance of the Dawn obtained!]

[Temporary Skill – Might of the Homeland obtained!]

 

He leapt. One of the Hobgoblin’s hands carried him up the Dame of the Hill’s armor as she swiped at the ground, lashing out, unable to see. He climbed, and she twisted.

[Omnidirectional Slash]—

She missed. He threw himself up, springing off her knee as the panicked Hill-Knight slashed. Her blind eyes looked up as the [Knight] raised his axe.

Rabbiteater landed on Merila’s shoulder, and his brother’s axe rose. To terrible purpose.

A howl rose from Merila’s [Squire], and the [Knights] of Ailendamus looked up as Ser Solstice raised his battleaxe. Rabbiteater swung, as Merila looked at him. A moment of resignation, and he struck—

Merila’s head didn’t go flying. The enchanted edge of the axe drew no blood.

Rabbiteater held the blade there, kissing her throat. The Dame recoiled, the expectation of death fading.

“You—”

“You are bested. Can’t fight.”

The Goblin looked Merila in the eyes, and she thought she saw a toothy grin behind the helmet.

“[Knight]-logic.”

Then he leapt. The half-Giant was so stunned she saw him land, charge for the gates, and he was halfway out before she turned.

Wait! This is not ended, Solstice! Fight me!

She roared, outraged. She had fought every other foe to the death! How dare he spare her? Was it contempt?

Or…a Goblin unwilling to kill the only other non-Human [Knight] he had met. He was running, racing down the hill at the surprised [Knights]. Merila reached out to slash at him and hesitated. Honor.

SOLSTICE!

Her furious bellow followed him down the hill. Rabbiteater laughed as he ran.

And still, he shone. The blinding light came down the hill as he ran, brandishing his battleaxe. With one target.

Only you, sister. The Goblin looked up, and his eyes fixed on a confused face, half-shielded by a hand. Not a bad face. A warrior who knew something of honor.

Yet he still raised Headscratcher’s axe and threw it.

The enchanted edge of the gold-jade axe whirled through the air, a scything blade so huge it cut through space. It killed the poor warhorse. One of the [Strategists]. The [General of the Line] lowered his hand and the axe lodged itself in his chest. He was a valorous leader, a good warrior. But all it took was a moment.

The fourth [General] of Ailendamus fell as the Goblin grabbed a horse and swung himself onto it. He yanked the axe free and galloped away from the still-blind, stunned soldiers and [Knights].

 

——

 

Great General Dionamella was struggling only slightly.

They came for her, the Archmage raining fire down, Lord Tyrion Veltras tilting at her, clashing with her bodyguard, and the Griffin Prince. At last, she caught him.

“Kaliv—”

He tried to cut at her, but the spell lifted him up. Dioname twisted, and a gigantic firestorm vanished into a point of darkness in her hand. She tossed the vortex back at Eldavin, and he flew away, cursing.

Even that would not kill him. So Dioname simply whispered.

“[Teleport].”

The Griffin Prince vanished. His Royal Griffin screamed, and the Wing of Shame circled, searching for him. Even if they found him, he was thirty miles away. And two hundred feet below the ground.

Dioname turned. The lance came at her, a [Lord], his aim impeccable. Very well.

“[Lance of the Bone Giant]—”

A giant, spectral warrior raised a deadly weapon, and Tyrion turned to avoid even as he struck at Dioname. The Great General…

Flinched. She ducked, and Tyrion dodged away. But he hadn’t struck at her! Her spell went wild. What had—

[Blade of Calanfer]!

Queen Marquin swung a sword at Dioname’s head, but it had no weight or substance—and she’d made up the Skill, too. The dead had no Skills or levels.

But the Great General had flinched. She was suffering from her abilities. Rhisveri had taught her too much. The [Eyes of the Wyrm] were letting her see the ghosts. And they were—

Distracting.

Dioname cursed and turned, ignoring the [Princess] trying to slap her to no avail. At first, she thought that the light was her imagination too.

The Lightherald was dead, after all. The Dawn Concordat was breaking before the Five Families. Calanferian [Soldiers] surrendered, and the half-Elves and people of Kaliv were beginning to follow suit. Then they looked up as they saw a familiar light.

Did you believe in miracles? A figure rode towards Ailendamus’ lines from the rear. He was unstoppable—his axe swung left and right, an enchanted edge cutting down foes with all the reach of a lance. Even Tyrion Veltras stopped when he noticed—but took advantage of the moment.

The encircling army around the keep where the three [Princesses] lay trapped had abandoned the siege and were chasing after him, but too slowly. All except the Dame of the Hills, who was pounding the ground in helpless frustration, bested.

He looked far different than the Lightherald. For one thing, he was smaller. Perhaps he did not glow so brightly, and he carried an axe and cloak of red liquid, not the sword and shield.

Even so. To the despairing men and women, the sight of that figure charging an army alone was enough. Their officers screamed, and the Thronebearers cried out.

The Lightherald of Calanfer! To the light! For Calanfer—charge!

Who is that?

Dioname squinted against the radiance. Then she saw House Veltras and Eldavin charging. She turned her head as Marquin shouted in her ears.

Diplomacy!

All distractions. But all it took was a single charge. One moment of weakness—

What is it? It’s coming—

The new Lightherald’s charge upon Ailendamus was the break Tyrion Veltras sought. He rode at her as Eldavin descended.

—an end to this. [Valmira’s Falling Starry Sky].

He crashed down with the greatest spell of Archmage Valmira. Veltras pierced the lines of her soldiers, riding for her. The Lightherald was moving Calanfer to overrun!

The victor must watch for this moment. Great General Dioname’s lips moved.

“[Out of Time, Kept]/[They Waited, For My Hour of Need]/[We Unleashed Our Truest Potential].”

A rift in the battlefield opened. The charging Dawn Concordat’s forces, the ‘Lightherald’…saw shapes moving.

Riding out of time itself. Only a thousand.

They bore Ailendamus’ crest, but an older version. Their armor came from older times, and they looked upon a far different battlefield. Yet they had sacrificed as much as she.

The Great General of Ages calls us hence! Charge! Charge in the name of Dionamella of Ailendamus!

The thousand warriors held in stasis surged forwards in the silence of despair. Dioname looked at them and bowed, just slightly.

“It’s Dioname, actually…”

There was always the last stand. The final comeback. She was the one who had to crush the last ember of hope. It was not easy. Never falter, never relax.

Not even till the end.

So why do I still feel dread creeping over me? Dioname exhaled, and the Lightherald, Ser Solstice, slowed.

 

——

 

So this was it. They surrounded him, and the foreign thousand were aimed straight at him. Unfair to the end.

But I got this far. Thanks, Lyonette. Rabbiteater looked at the Great General and saw the futility of his death. So he raised his gauntlets.

“I y—”

Someone blew a horn at his back. Rabbiteater jerked as his yield was cut off. There was someone wailing on a battlehorn. Not just blowing one sonorous call, but a piping blast of music. Triumphal. Desperate?

The [Knight] looked over his shoulder and saw the gates of the keep open. The flag that flew Calanfer’s colors over the top was gone. He thought, at first, that they had surrendered or something.

Then he saw the stream of bodies charging out of the gates. [Soldiers], running downhill. Men and women on horseback, racing forwards in a flash of colors.

Kaliv, Gaiil-Drome, Pheislant, led by the brave Marshal Huges, but most of all, running or riding with every scrap of energy they had left—Calanfer’s people.

Including the [Fortress Keeper]. Every hand had abandoned the fortress. Do or die.

The most outrageously insane move that Rabbiteater had ever seen. Even the Goblin was taken aback. But as the twice-despairing [Soldiers] of the Dawn Concordat looked up, fingers pointed.

Calanfer’s [Soldiers] lifted their heads. Some rubbed at their eyes, and the Thronebearers, the much-maligned [Knights], abandoned their positions and possibly their minds. They raced forwards, heedless of the danger, charging the surprised Ailendamus [Soldiers]. There was a cry on their lips.

Beyond the Lightherald. The mysterious warrior whose name no one knew—more than even his presence, the people of Calanfer pointed to the flag waving as it was carried down the hill. The shining tiara, and the terrified woman holding it.

The [Princess] of Calanfer!

The 4th Princess of Calanfer, Seraphel du Marquin, rode towards Rabbiteater as he watched. Her face was as white as a sheet, and she was in danger of being thrown from the equally-terrified mare. Yet the entire force of the keep followed her. Rabbiteater heard the Thronebearers shouting.

To the [Princess]! To the [Princess] and the Lightherald! The Eternal Throne rot your cowardice—charge!”

There was no logic to it—Calanfer just charged. [Archers] in the back, Thronebearers—the chaos of every hand and body rushing Ailendamus from every angle took even the Great General of Ailendamus back. Calanfer’s people threw themselves forwards.

And Ailendamus’ officers—began to worry. They hesitated. Not just because of the surprise. Because they had studied Calanfer.

Calanfer and the Thronebearers, who preferred words over swords. No [Princess] of Calanfer had ever died in battle. What did they know? Where were the reinforcements?

They looked for something that didn’t exist, and as they did—Rabbiteater just watched Seraphel. Their eyes met—and then he was galloping next to her.

Wear armor, stupid!

She just gaped at him. Then Rabbiteater was swinging his axe as they plunged into the fighting.

 

——

 

Kill that [Princess].

Dioname gave the order quietly. Her bodyguard took aim. Live or die—she’d thrown the army into chaos, but the Great General couldn’t risk it. No matter what—

The arrow flew, and the [Knight] blocked it with one of his arms! Dioname cursed.

Archers! Volley!

Regular [Archers] spun and loosed a shower into the air. The [Soldiers] charged into the chaos. Even if she had charged, the keep’s defenders were few, and most were still running on foot. There was no actual force there, just one elite [Knight].

And the undead.

“Huh?”

Dioname’s head snapped back. She saw a pale face, turned blue from lack of oxygen, still swollen around the place where a blade had chopped halfway through a neck, rising. A zombie wearing Calanfer’s colors rose, and a terrified [Soldier] stabbed it down. But the ghoul that leapt on the [Soldier] was one of…hundreds.

“The dead are rising! It’s her! The Cursed Princess of Calanfer!”

People were shouting in confusion. Someone else roared.

The disaster of Ovela has come to haunt us! To arms!

A small army of the dead was rising, fighting around the [Princess]—and empowered by one of Seraphel’s Skills. General Dioname’s head twisted. She held up a hand.

“It is just low-level undead. Surround and cut them off! It’s not her raising them. I hear…”

She cupped a hand to her ear. The origin was far distant, but Dioname still heard it.

Someone was singing.

“Rhisveri. Music? I hear a female voice. Feren, the [Necromancer] we thought turned traitor—it’s not him.”

Elsewhere, the Wyrm stirred. A few pieces from last year began to fall into place. Yet they had no time to puzzle it out.

They had no context. Not for the 4th Princess of Calanfer. Not for the Singer of Afiele. Dioname’s eyes lingered on Seraphel and Rabbiteater a moment too long.

Eldavin descended on her. Lord Tyrion Veltras galloped through her bodyguard as they fought House Veltras, and the Great General saw it.

“[Time Slows For All But Me].”

She didn’t know how much she spent? A year for each second?

The galloping [Lord] and Archmage slowed. Eldavin’s eyes were wide with incredulity as Dioname raised a slow finger. Even she was caught in her Skill, but she moved far faster.

She put three holes in his chest. One straight through his heart. The Lucifen’s own magic seared a hole through him, and the Archmage staggered.

But he refused to die. He tried to fall back, and Dioname saw her hands…

Fading.

The skin grew grey and withered. Yet—and yet—she saw someone coming for her. The Archmage of Memory was helpless, slowed to a crawl. A tenth of regular speed?

He was still so fast. Lord Tyrion Veltras had a lance and sword in hand. His arm struck at her with a Skill, straining to reach her—she dodged the strikes, physically avoiding them.

So quick! That lance turned, and she increased the magnitude.

Slower still. Eldavin’s eyes were locked on her, and yet his magic kept fighting hers. She murmured, teeth bared.

“What are you?”

Dioname saw the ghosts trying to block her way as Tyrion Veltras turned, the lance raised. She looked at him, her hands brimming with magic. Her gaze rose. And rose.

The Great General of Ages looked up. Past Tyrion Veltras, and her eyes grew wide with horror. She stood there, despite the battle, despite it all, transfixed. She could not help it.

Some things mortals were not meant to see. In all her ages, in the company of immortals…

She had never seen something like this.

“What is that?”

The [Timekeeper General] beheld her very end as it struck her. She staggered—Eldavin recoiled, choking on his own blood, yet preserved by the magic that gave him life—

Lord Tyrion’s lance struck Dioname through the heart.

 

——

 

The Great General of Ages’ aura collapsed. Her Skills winked out, and everyone came to a standstill. Those who had known her, the thousand warriors, her bodyguard, realized it instantly.

She had died. It was beyond a mortal wound; the enchanted lance of House Veltras had gone through her chest, and Dioname possessed no magic to turn back fate that far.

In that moment, the half-Elf heard a shriek from a Wyrm calling her name. She almost rejoiced, because she had not known there was emotion left to give in Rhisveri.

She was dead, struck, and yet she lived. Tyrion was trying to pull the lance back, Eldavin, to destroy Dionamella completely, when the hand grabbed Tyrion’s arm. He froze, unable to pull back, and Eldavin was caught by the throat as the Great General rasped, blood bubbling from her mouth.

“You have been my end. But I—I am the Great General of Ailendamus. And I will only rest when I have said my piece.”

They struggled, but she had no life left to kill. Her heart had stopped, but like those of her level—

She refused to die. Just for a moment. Dioname threw back her head, and her voice echoed.

“Bear witness!”

Her [Soldiers] and the Dawn Concordat’s looked up at her as she shouted, blood running down her face.

“This day, Ailendamus has lost. This day—a Great General is slain. But remember this: this day, a common-born half-Elf girl who has never known the shade of the eternal trees held down a [Lord] with blood as old as the Hundred Families from which monarchs are struck and an Archmage from the halls of magic itself. Wistram and Veltras alone could not slay me.”

The Archmage was trying to break free, but she had a deathgrip on his throat. Dioname struggled for words. She was fading—but she had to say it.

“My kin. Do not waste your lives in our ageless villages. Each second must be treasured. For my life I have given…my promise will endure as long as Ailendamus. The Kingdom of Glass and Glory…will never persecute our kind.”

A wish. Rhisveri had offered her one wish. Just like all the others. It was done. Dionamella’s voice and magic were fading, but she shouted. A desperate warning.

“It was not House Veltras who slew me! Something is coming! They are coming up—up, but you cannot see it! Guard the gates! Make ready, or all will be l—”

Eldavin tore himself free, and a hundred lances of fire struck through her. Dionamella staggered.

Damn you.

The Archmage was fleeing, to his victory. But it would not be that easy. She caught him, and he turned, face grey with fear. Well he should be.

The last power in Dionamella was still the full might of her class. And she had no fear of death, now.

Time slowed. Then stopped. Eldavin stood with her hand on his shoulder in a world that had no continuation. She focused the very nature of her magic on him and realized the truth.

“You have no end. Only a beginning.”

He was immune, like the rest of them, to the heart of her magic. What a terrible irony.

He was beginning to break even time itself. Bitterly, she realized she couldn’t kill him.

“At least—then—you imposter to my kind. At least feel the weight of your years!

She struck him once, and he recoiled. Eldavin staggered backwards—and suddenly his breath caught. He wheezed and looked down at the first true wrinkles on his skin. His perfect form, aged in a breath.

He fled. Now, the darkness was closing, and Dioname felt someone trying to break her grip. She looked at Tyrion Veltras.

“My lord. My friend. This lance comes for you. This terrible lance, my friend, which has slain me. To you, my mentor who gave me might and chance.”

She was whispering now, to Rhisveri alone. Dioname drifted, but she clung to it—her last duty.

“You—can yet be a good ruler—because you have forever to learn. You will never forget me.”

Her other hand touched Tyrion’s face, now. Dispassionately, Dioname looked into his face as he struggled.

“So this lance I cannot remove from my heart. It aims at you. I cannot kill it.”

Fading away.

“The most precious gift I can, I give—”

She focused, and the [Lord] fought her, aura against hers. Pride and strength. As if he were the only one who had ever known struggle. Dionamella threw him as she declared her last gift.

To the immortals of Ailendamus, the most precious thing:

Time.

Lord Tyrion Veltras stumbled, and she counted.

Thirty?

No…the power was slipping away far too fast.

Twenty?

She tried. Ah, but now she felt something tugging her. Sixteen, then. 

Dionamella looked up, and Tyrion Veltras, howling as something engulfed him, the last wrath of the Great General of Ages, saw Dionamella suddenly jerk.

Something snatched her up. He saw a fighting, screaming half-Elf blasting a horror he had only seen once, washed up on Izril’s shores—

And then she died.

 

——

 

What happened? No one, not even Tyrion and Eldavin or Rhisveri could answer that.

The Great General of Ages died…but to what? What had she meant?

And what had she done?

In the aftermath of battle, Ailendamus’ forces were surrendering or retreating. They left. Their Great General had fallen, and none had the will after that.

A Wyrm lost his mind. The one mortal he had ever respected died there, and he vowed a vengeance unlike any that had ever come before or would ever come after.

Men and women levelled, and a [Princess] stood with a [Knight] amid cheering Calanfer. Yet Ailendamus’ wrath would come.

At least…at least an Archmage stood against them. And the [Lord] of House Veltras. Even someone to replace the Lightherald, and the Griffin Prince, who could not die?

Yet Eldavin ached with time, which would not leave him. The second-to-last deed of the Great General of Ailendamus. She could not use time to slay someone who was immortal, even this copy.

But what had she done to Tyrion Veltras? He stood there, looking at his hands. For a moment, he had known such agony that he had screamed and begged for it to stop.

Now the pain was gone. Yet he was…puzzled. In the moments when he reappeared, when Jericha turned and the [Bodyguards] still living put down their blades and surrendered, weeping for their comrade, Jericha approached.

“Tyrion? Lord Tyrion? Are you…?”

Are you alright? She stopped, as if run through herself. He turned to her, and she heard a stranger’s voice.

“Jericha? Am I wounded?”

He didn’t…feel wounded. With the last vestiges of her power, Dioname had cursed him? Or…why did he feel better?

Better, suddenly. A spring in his step that he didn’t know he’d ever lost. It had faded and he’d made do, but now it was back, he felt it. A feeling as though he could run and jump and do everything—and wanted to.

And his hands! They looked…the same? Same size, but as Tyrion tugged off a gauntlet, he realized what it was.

They were less weathered. Veins less pronounced maybe? As if—

Then he put his hands to his face, and the younger [Lord] realized what had been done.

Sixteen years. Dioname had used the last of her strength to throw him…sixteen years into the past.

Some basic math occurred to Tyrion, though he was so shocked he might have gotten it wrong.

44 – 16 = 28.

Twenty-eight. That was…young. But why? Why not throw him into his sixties? That would do far more. Tyrion thought it was almost a blessing until something occurred to him.

Slowly, he raised his hand.

“[Lancing Hydrastrike].”

The Skill that he had long-ago gained and mastered, a superlative eight blows with a sword or lance…did not activate. Tyrion saw Jericha grow pale and then realize it herself.

She’d taken him back in time. Not his memories or personality…

She’d taken his levels.

On the fifth day of battle, Great General Dioname of Ailendamus perished. The loss of the greatest army of Ailendamus marked a turning point in the war, as its armies withdrew to the homeland and the Dawn Concordat advanced for the first time.

Dioname, as the Duke Rhisveri would later inscribe upon the many statues and tributes to her, had single-handedly held off every foe against her. He would write this on one of her statues:

‘If lesser men had not gathered to bring her down, she would have never fallen. If worms had not let her die alone, she would still be here. Mark me. She will be avenged.’

 

 

 

 

Author’s Note: Day 6. Still on progress.

Hope you enjoyed. One more day…and perhaps it will be a shorter chapter since I know I haven’t much energy left. I hope this one was done well enough. It should be…but I am willing to try, even though I should have all the energy and revisions in the world to write Dioname’s end.

But I don’t, and the nature of writing this so quickly, day-by-day, is fitting. It’s a way to write. It can’t go forever and it has plenty of flaws, but it is immediate and a style. I just hope it’s good enough. See you tomorrow for the end of this.

 

High Passes and Goblin by painterinthesky!

 

Crab Mrsha by Plushie!

 

Ryoka and Fierre by VulpyDoodlesStudios, commissioned by Spanner!

 


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134 thoughts on “8.74 DR

  1. Leave a typo for the Great General of Ages! Or, if you were on the other side, Tyrion Veltras? Eldavin? The 4th Princess of Calanfer? Marshal Huges?

    (Side readers: Gorexn, Quynin, Litwickee, MrWiggles, pjoe7, Kaitiaki, hougi123, dp4rker, Maladal)

    • “You are welcome to remain here, and I doubt not a single soul will scorn you for it.”

      She seems to be saying that exactly one person will scorn him. Or possibly that she does not believe “not a single soul will scorn you for it”. I assume you meant it without the “not”: “and I doubt a single soul”

      “alright” -> “all right”
      “Engarde” -> “En garde”

      • what was the context for “alright”/”all right”? is it ~”everything is alright” or ~”is all right with the world”?
        it seems to me that “alright” is more often the correct term over “all right”.

        • “Alright” is technically never correct grammatically. However, it is a common colloquialism and so shouldn’t necessarily be corrected as part of dialogue, if the character is of the type to use slang. Outside of dialogue though, it should always be “all right” if you’re going for pure correctness.

          But realistically, linguistic shift is going to catch up to that one real soon, so both are alright.

    • Lol right. I find that a little too convenient. They should have had to deal sith the age difference rather thsn some dues ex machina making it less weird.

      • It’s not deux ex machina. He fought a chronomancer. She was trying to turn him into a baby or remove him from existence.

        • I think she knew she had not enough left to end him one way or another. So she chose the method that weaken him the more for the fight to come. As Rhis will seek revenges.

      • If you look at it outside of the ryoka angle it makes perfect sense tho, the 2nd greatest lord in his prime, chucked back 16 years means hes now just an adverage challenge against her kingdom. But also add the curse/boon of slaying her.

        • Even more so, had she succeeded in taking her initial estimates.
          Imagine a 14 year old Tyrion attempting to to the field. He would be only slightly more useful than Seraphel.

    • Doesn’t youthen-ing Tyrion to remove his levels contradict with Nereshal youthen-ing the Plagued King, who is also the highest leveled king in the living world? At least at a glance. Could we get some clarification.

      • Not a contradiction, at least from what I understood of how time magic works.

        The Time General uses time magic based on sacrifice, usually through sacrificing her own time. Although in this case she has no time left to sacrifice, so she instead sacrificed Tyrion’s levels/magic to de-age him.

        The Blighted Kingdom’s time magic also works off of sacrifice, but that time mage takes time from others to spend on himself, the Blighted King, and a few others. Also off topic but I wonder if this guy is that [Time Mage] that was married to War Mage Thresk.

        • Looking at it again, it seem the Time General spends her own time rather than Tyrion’s levels. The difference here I take it is that her magic was meant to take levels/power away unlike de-aging the Blighted King. Also Tyrion’s aura was likely what protected him from losing his memories.

    • it already been proven with a certain fire starter lady and drake this isn’t even oddest fix that could of happened!

    • You say that, as if Ryoka hasn’t shown a significant interest in older men. Another 16 years added on might have pushed her over the edge.

  2. Too sleepy to write a proper comment but this was a great chapter! I’m glad that neither Rabbiteater nor Dame Merila died. I hope they become friends.

    Dioname phasing into the underworld as she used up more and more of her lifespan was really cool, and being snatched up by a god or horror from beyond the tide while still in real life was really REALLY cool. Some fuckin SCP shit

  3. And thus Rhisveri learns his lesson, that if you try and kill people they will also try and kill you. Turns out this person who you like this much would still be alive if you hadn’t, y’know, sent her to fight a bunch of powerful people for no reason.

    (Obviously he will not even slightly learn this lesson)

  4. Her soul should to be intact so far into Terradria and they will probably return the body so Ailendamus could raise her as a Revenent. It comes with the added benefit of finding out what her warning was about.

    • Wait was snatched by a horror? How does that geography work? Did they actually view her as some kind of threat? Or did they just go after her because she was making a ruckus in the realm of the dead that attracted their attention?

      • Yeah, I’m pretty sure she was killed by one of the creatures from beyond the edge of the world which Norechel brought (“They are coming up—up, but you cannot see it!”) and I’m guessing they must be overrunning Terandria in the Deadlands (iirc they were coming up from all sides.) Because she wasn’t actually dead yet her spirit probably stood out like Erin’s does to those in the Deadlands, so I’m guessing that’s why they noticed her.

        • I think it being a dead god or one of the things from the end is a fakeout because remember we just saw marquin and she wasn’t being eaten. I think this its the same person who tried to blow up ryoka and that this whole arc is really about introducing a new villain.

          • Speaking of fake outs, what ever happened to the things the Ashfire bees were fighting? It was mentioned recently, rather offhandedly, that the hive lost and perished.

          • It could be that the horror are existing in the dead lands and in reality at the same time but time is screwed up so they are appearing faster in the dead lands. Earlier there was that ruler of Drath sending a panicking message to Eldavin. So the thing are coming up.

  5. On a topic I am less likely to embarrass myself with: why didn’t they made Potions of Reverse Aging for her? Surely one of the immortals knows how to make them and you can train a half elf to be a specialized alchemist focused just on that.

    • My guess is those would only remove a few years at a time, sending her back a century or more might well bankrupt the kingdom, or use up all available resources.

    • Potions of reverse aging were absurdly expensive (hundreds of thousands of gp) and good for a few years. That doesn’t scale well with someone who burns through decades per combat.

      Also, the immortals may know a recipe, but they don’t have Skills. Skills let you cheat a lot, and that price includes them.

      • Also why bother?

        She is old, but not as old as the elves bound by wheel chairs. Why waste resources to fix something now when you could fix it in four hundred years through various potions and magical cures? To us it sounds odd, but elves live long and if crafting a potion to remove ten years every year… Isn’t that bad in cost or years if you have the long live span to do so.

        • As long as she is sane, rational and able to do her job why bother to fix it? Also unlike her counterpart up in Rheir she isn’t stealing somebody’s age to make herself younger… So part of it could be due to her own ethics or code.

          Sort of like Rabbit Eater still trying to fight a half-giant when he could (or should have) surrendered.

          Maybe her age is by choice or they have no need to try to make her younger.

    • It might require Skills to make, something the immortals don’t have, and they might just not know how to. Saliss is a once in a lifetime genius, powerlevlled in a war agains the Antinium and he’s only just able to make them.

      It’s not something so easily created.

    • I doubt they know the recipe, after all why would an immortal try and learn how to make a Potion of Reverse Aging? Even if they did know the recipe, it doesn’t help most powerful [Alchemist] recipes require rare/extinct magical ingredients like wyrm heart. That is the last thing Immortals would want to teach mortals.

      • Sallis is making them with no super exceptional ingredients (which is probably part of why they are so weak) (also the sage’s grass sage knew a recipe win which the main ingredient was the heart (or maybe it was bones I don’t remember?) of anything that has lived more then a century (so start hunting/raising turtles). Fithia not knowing a good recipe for this would really surprise me. (Also I suspect that the potions remove a certain amount of biological aging not a specific number of years (then again half elves magic resistance might make the potions less effective on them))

    • Nothing will happen to them? Why would you be “concerned”, when Ryouka is like a friends with the wyrm and Sammy is a child. I would be more worried about more of Ailenmandus’s characters dying.

      • Because now Rhisiveri is beyond rage. Beyond fury.
        Also Ryoka’s friends with the group of immortals in general but out of anyone in the group who likes her least, its Rhisiveri. She tried to take one of his things. His most precious item. An unforgivable sin. Its hard for him to have anything but contempt for most mortals anyway. He has more respect for her now and speaks with her but she still has more of a friendship with the others than with him. Certainly nothing compared to what he had with the Great General of Time who he respected and taught himself. A longtime friend who he’s clearly going to deeply grieve. From his perspective, its Ryoka’s fault this whole war happened. Dionamella would still be alive Tyrion and Eldavin weren’t in the war.
        Also Tyrion is Sammial’s father. Rhisiveri now hates Tyrion with a blinding passion. The end of the chapter talked about his desire for revenge. He’ll be less inclined to treat Ryoka as guests and more as prisoners. Even if the other immortals get him to rein his temper eventually, it won’t help the initial outburst of outrage. I doubt Sammial will feel safe anymore. Poor kid might start to get a little jumpy after this…

        • You do understand what fiction you are reading right? Nothing will happen to Ryouka or the brat. He may be angry he’ll just direct his anger to the war efforts. Sammy is not gonna get jump if he didn’t get jumpy from almost dying in the explosion anyways. Just wish tyrion or eldavin died fighting Dionamella. Now there would be drama and real consequenses

        • I’m honestly surprised more immortals aren’t blaming 𝘙𝘩𝘪𝘴𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘪. I mean, technically he’s the reason this whole thing has become a clusterf*ck.
          Sure, Ryoka did try to steal from him, and she has appropriately been punished and fined.

          But Ryoka still being held captive, and Sammial being there in the first place is pretty much all on him.

            • She was already turning them against him in this war before any of this. His comments about wanting the Dragonthrone for himself? They did not go down well. The others are seeing that he might have manipulated them a bit for his own benefit and I doubt they will like that at all. With the doubt already sewn in their minds before this, and now the war turning they will very much consider dropping the war.
              Except now Ryoka isn’t trying to convince them to do that, she is asking them to kill Eldavin. Who who know what will happen.

          • More like, Goliath hiding in a cave in a world populated by Davids. He could go outside and kill a bunch, but all it takes is a lucky shot to the head, and David is very lucky indeed.

          • Umm… No. It’s literally David and Goliath vs Lucifer and Michael or Lucifer and Smaug lol. Immortals, at this point in the story, control the largest human nation (I think, maybe after Rhir?) Wistram, and two walled cities are grooming dragons to be their rulers. Hardly Davids in my opinion. Also in the lore all of the super empires were bad so maybe the Lucifen running things was terrible. (Selphids, Vampires, Half Elves, Dragons, etc..) Also hasn’t it been implied that Lucifen and Agelum (sp?) aren’t even of Innworld? Who would even know the stitch witch?

            • They are the davids in the sense of what they can lose. Mortals are the dominant life form and they are waaay more secure in their position compared to the immortals. These immortals have 1 nation vs the entire world essentially rn. Where do you see immortals ruling things? Its just mortals ruling and immortals hiding behind mortal visage. They may be stong compared to invidisual mortals but they are weak in area that matters which is numbers.

  6. I knew she would die but still dissapionted that it happened. Really wish she killed Veltras or Eldravin so that her death wasn’t so small and incosequensial. Ailendamus army felt so small on this chapter also, just felt like a battle of 1 time mage vs 4 and not “Great general” vs 2 armies

  7. Gotta say, this bit was incredible, just the casual loredrop about how badass her class is.

    Dioname, [Timekeeper General, Wyrmsworn Champion].

    There was a time when classes used to have commas.

    • Nah. That’s not how goblins think. They don’t care what someone else would do. They care about doing what they wanna do. He would have killed her if he needed to, but he didn’t, and he could keep both their honor intact while sparing her.

      It’s a privilege he gets that she kind of doesn’t due to their natures. Her attacks will always severely injure or kill him, but his attacks really don’t need to. He can get her in a position where every witness KNOWS he would have killed her, ending the fight. She kind of can’t. She’ll either crush him into minced meat or shatter his body.

  8. Rhisveri’s arrogance cost him plus maybe he actually had too much faith in the one mortal he respected. If they had just sent a few immortals with her as guards maybe Dioname wouldn’t have died.
    Not sure how the story would continue then though. She was just too powerful. Maybe time magic should have more constraints.
    Thank you Pirate!

    • Arrogance is a common failing of theirs, after all it’s unlikely any of them would’ve ever risked their own lives. Immortals (and Ryoka) simply view them as too important and precious to risk compared to mortals, as they know that even they can die. Rhisveri killed his own brother after all. Still, pride goeth before the fall and she died to a war Rhisveri started, if you roll the dice you better be willing to cover the bet. Whatever he might believe, Rhisveri sent her to her death in war fought solely for the greed and entitlement of the immortal cabal.

      • That and to be fair… He didn’t expect all of these high level players to all come out at once.

        If he gave back the kid they would have won because it would have removed the five families.

        Because he is still keeping the kid more out of pride and arrogance that gave them the people needed to close the gap. Even then Rabbit Eater and the “missing 6th princess” was the other unexpected part.

        They killed the fancy [Knight] and broke the army moral. They didn’t expect Rabbit Eater to even attempt a round two fight because [Knights] do not do that. They didn’t expect [Princess Boon] to happen much less give them a replacement figure to rally behind because again… The [Princesses] do not do that.

        The 6th princess was viewed as a stone tied around their neck… Not expecting her to grow up, level, become a better person, and also know the [Aura Knight] enough to grant a Boon to him.

        Last but not least… Nobody knows about the problems happening in the realm of the dead as those problems seem to be cold getting ready (or causing) A few minor side effects within the realm of the living.

        Remove any one of those problems and you would have her win. The only problem is that this is an out of context problem they are dealing with. It is also why we had the de-age effect happen… To prevent the person who killed her from leveling up!

        Or if he does level it will not be anywhere close to level 50.

    • Chronomancy is usually considered the strongest magic for a reason. It has lots of spells that are an instant win unless your enemy can also use time magic, even if you seem roughly equal on paper.

      An [Archmage of Time] would be terrifying to fight, especially since they might not have any of Dionamella’s drawbacks due to their greater mastery. The main weakness of time tends to be sheer difficulty in learning it and how unintutivie it is to understand.

  9. Yet Eldavin ached with time, which would not leave him.

    That doesn’t really make sense. If his body is immortal no amount of time will make him feel his age, because he doesn’t age.

    • She’d taken him back in time. Not his memories or personality…

      She’d taken his levels
      This also doesn’t make sense to me. Seems like it should take him back in time his 28 year old self in his entirety for this to work. Targeting specifically levels and body to rewind seems weird. Unless we’re saying that levels are somehow baked into the body itself. Those nodes Geneva found were more about physical enhancement than the classes themselves last I checked though.

      • Same here. Those nodes sounded more like the Dullahans abilities, not the classes. Also, the Plagued King is anti-aged by his own chronomancer without losing levels, or experience. If immortals don’t get levels or skills in part because they have an eternity to develop them, including longer lived species leveling more slowly, then halting his aging should hault his leveling.

        That said, classes might be like enchantments for living creatures, and enchantments are partially dependent on their substrates. So it might be necessary to prime the body to support the higher-level skills? Then removing his body’s development would deactivate the higher-level skills or require suppressing them in case they injure themselves? Like Klib lost his skills and had to *create* a skill even to emulate them for a short period? It could be a variation of mandatory-requirements for super-powers?

        Alternatively, maybe the class-system helped her AND Tyrion, since Tyrion was wondering about changing? I’m just trying to reconcile the bits and would welcome others perspectives.

        • Klb lost his levels from the Rite of Anastes, it’s a sacrifice in exchange for pulling him back out of the communal hivemind the Queens generate.

        • Looks like a death curse to me. The Book probably smites anybody trying to undo it’s work by stealing or erasing levels, BUT a “gift” of youth that also erases levels as its “price” seems passable. The king of Rhir only gets years by killing his subjects as a price, which weakens his class. There is a pattern of sacrifice when it comes to time magic in the story so far.

        • Could just be a side effect from how she does it. She isn’t giving him years, but so kuch as trying to reset his ability back to a certain point.

          Sort of like how simply making a child worth a few thousand Gold makes it easier for a [Thief] to carry ad transport a child across a vast distance rather than having the child not be sold… It is a cost or an exploit of the “system” to allow her magic to work.

    • His dragon body is immortal, as is his soul (or whatever). His constructed half-elf body isn’t. That’s what Dioname aged.

      This would not be a problem at all for Teriarch. It might be a big problem for Eldavin.

      • “She could not use time to slay someone who was immortal, even this copy.”

        If aging his body is possible, then killing that body through aging should also be possible. But she says she can’t. It’s contradictory.
        If you can age him you can kill him with it. If you can’t kill him by aging, then he can’t really age, so it wouldn’t matter how much time she presses onto him.

    • Ryoka is going to end up with one of the gods, merely because there’s no one more immortally rare than them lol she probably won’t even talk to Tyrion anymore in the story.

  10. Congrats to Rabbiteater, the new Lightherald of Calanfer! Hope the king doesn’t want to see your face or anything like that!

      • Ironically it could work out due to the Herald not being supposed to remove their armor.

        Still not going to happen until the 6th princess returns, but it is a nice thought… Even if it is a temporary buff.

      • Yeah but the boon stays until she uses that skill on someone else, right?

        And I don’t think she’ll take the boon from Rabbiteater, seeing how much it helped her nation’s army.

    • I really like the odd twist between the princesses and their champions. Seraphel’s champion is guarding her sister while Lyonette’s champion is guarding her sister.

      I know Rabbiteater isn’t explicitly Lyonette’s champion, but he’s probably the closest she’s got.

  11. Another great chapter! If u need another day to make next feel free to do so. As great as you are at high quantity and quality, your mental health takes priority! Thanks for the chappas this week tho!

    • If he survives that long. The idea seems to be that Tyrion as a 40+ [lord] is too powerful and stands an actual chance of being a danger to Rhisveri with his insane speed and power.

      Tyrion as a young man is not nearly as dangerous.

  12. The generals last act reminds me of the dresen files wizards death curse. Pull all of your power together for on last bit of revenge. (Just the first thing I thought of)

    • You’re not the only one. One chance to do the impossible as you die, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. It’s what pushed me over the edge into deciding I liked the scene.

    • A significant chunk of his army is higher level then tyrion now.

      on the bright side he didn’t lose his skills just his Skills so punching 15 levels at least above his current weight class as a war leader should power level him nicely if he doesn’t die.

      he is just going to be more focused as a general lord then a lancer champion lord since he would be squished like a bug trying to level back in that in this war with the target on his head.

      • Nah I meant Rabbiteater was actively cheering for Tyrion’s death and he never would’ve been strong enough to confront him seriously, but now? Also the army that was standing between them withdrew so I imagine there will be a little meetup of the heroes, could Rabbiteater kill Tyrion! I doubt it but that’d be wild.

        • My thougths as well. I was kind of thinking Rabbiteater would do a “Ryoka” and just walk up to Tyrion and “tsing … the golden jade axe extends and slices Tyrion’s head off his shoulders”. :D

  13. Honestly Dionamella’s death kind of reminded me of that joke in Deadpool 2 where he’s waiting to die but just keeps talking and talking. I mean, i get it, it’s a dramatic scene and she’s dying but… c’mon. If i have a lance protruding from my chest I think it’ll be hard to say a few words, much less ramble for 3 minutes about the state of elves and ailendamus, the eldritch horrors I’ve started to see, and say my goodbyes to my tyrannical tutor.

    • I was kind of wondering why no else mentioned this, I mean yeah Rhisveri finding out actions have consequences is immediately high up there when it comes to this arc’s moments, but I was taken out of it when Dionamella had a 3 minute dialogue with a lance through her chest. It’s like watching a fight scene when half the fight is monologuing. ‘you cursing Eldavin was cool, you still talking with a lance through your chest is less cool and more stop wasting my time and die already’.

        • I’m saying she can have all the time in the world and she still wouldn’t be able to talk with a lance going through her body. Even in the miraculous circumstance where the lance didn’t even graze her lungs, the way it was described Tyrion had her impaled and was lifting her off the ground possibly crushing her lungs. The only way I can see her being able to talk was if she was a martial artist with a moderately strong breathing skill, I can see Erin being able to talk despite crossbow bolts going through her and even then she was still coughing up blood. And if she had enough strength to cast a spell to allow her to talk she had enough strength to kill Tyrion, take a healing potion and survive. I mean, the King of Destruction had a healing potion and this Great General who was a student of a Wyrm didn’t even have something on the same level?

          I don’t mind her surviving long enough to fight for quite some time, or even survive other the circumstances despite facing both Tyrion and Eldavin. What I do mind is her having a monologue with a lance going through her chest and being able to talk. The only reason why I said “hurry up and die” was because the monologue was what put me off not the surviving for some time after.

            • omg, your absolutely right. Why don’t Selphids cure their mysterious disease! they have magic after all! Why are they taking so long bringing Erin back? They have magic! Why do nations still have slaves when they have magic! Why do they have health potions if they have MAGIC? Why do they need mana potions? Magic has no limitations!

              You’re absolutely right Brent. Magic is the answer to everything. pirateaba has left such a massive plothole, when they can solve everything with magic.

          • she was already dead. high level characters are described to linger in the body. think of it like a ghost possessing a corpse… corpses shouldnt be able to talk or walk, but ghost powers

          • While I agree that the it is a bit strange that she was “alright” compared to Flos, there are different factors at play here.

            For one, she was done fighting and all of her energy was on talking and cursing and you could say that the monologue was to keep them close to hand and to avoid they just chop off her head to make sure.

            Secondly, Flos was in the middle of a fight and he might’ve wanted to play it “safe”, as when one of the first wounds your enemy do to you is to pierce your heart you might want to make sure you’ll live through the fight.

            Thirdly, her actual class is something something [Wyrm champion] so it is conceivable that she got some of Rhisverri racial traits.

            Fourth, she was a general and battles are won and lost on their leader so it wouldn’t be strange for her to get something like [Mortally wounded, I can talk until the end of the battle], a bit like in the Practical guide to Evil, where if you are mortally wounded and start to monologue you will survive for however long it takes to get to your point. However if people start answering you and making it a dialogue you just die.

            .

            .

            Or, there could be a simpler explanation, in that, for as much as I admire Pirateaba’s skill in some areas, I feel that writing “peaceful” death scenes, where people can communicate, isn’t exactly their strength, I take for proof Erin’s death.

      • Nothing new about that.

        several volumes back the mountain goblin lord got a lance through the heart and kept fighting for several more minutes.

        at a high enough level if the body isn’t physicaly incapable of moving people sometime keep going until they die instead of falling and waiting for ineivtable death to occur.

        she isn’t a physical fighter so how long she can pull that is shorter but she is a time mage with nothing to lose by burning her remaining natural lifespan at whatever horrible exchange rate it takes to stretch the amount of time in which she can still act, what’s it going to do to her? Kill her?

        • Cool, she can survive a mortal wound but to be clear my suspension of disbelief was broken not because she survived a mortal wound, the inn world has proven you can do that. I’m incredulous with the long ass monologue with a lance going through her chest and crushing her lungs. If someone started strangling her, unless she was a martial artist or with an especially thick neck, she wouldn’t be able to talk. Same principle works for her lungs being crushed by the lance Tyrion was using to lift her off the ground.

      • It is well established that high-level individuals do not die right away from mortal wounds. Depending on their physical fortitude, some can even survive having their heart pierced if the damage isn’t too great. The King of Destruction literally survived a pierced heart long enough to apply a healing potion. Garen Redfang fought for awhile after he was ‘already dead.’ This kind of thing is well established for high-level individuals within Innworld, and doesn’t even require time magic to explain. We don’t know Dionamella’s level, but she was probably at or above level 70 (whereas most of the greatest individuals we’ve met, like Zell and Niers, seem to be slightly below 70, and immortal threats like Belavierr might be at the level 80 mark). Worth noting that if Tyrion’s levels had not been set back, he might have reached the level 50 capstone, which is a big deal.

        • I do get her surviving enough with a mortal wound, what I don’t get is her being able to talk with something actively impeding her ability to. A lance was going through her and those things are pretty thick added on to the fact that she was being lifted off the ground with her lungs being crushed. If someone had wrapped their hands around her throat and started squeezing for that moment, whilst the pressure is there she wouldn’t be able to talk at all. Her lungs being crushed would work on the same principle. I get people surviving without a heart, we do that today with heart replacements, destroying the heart is not instant death especially with outside assistance. Doesn’t remove the fact you need lungs to breathe and additionally to speak.

          To be clear on this post, I was incredulous with her monologue not her surviving.

          • As we learned from one of Geneva’s chapters, high level individuals are quite literally BUILT DIFFERENT. There’s no guarantee that the force of being lifted off the ground is enough to appreciably compress her lungs to the point she can’t speak.

            • Okay, this I can take as an answer but even then what level would you have to be to not have a lance lifting you up from the ground matter?

  14. Lots of interesting bits and writing so much in a week is a titanic act that has to praised, even though I, and many others I believe, would have been fine with a normal schedule. There’s no need to compromise your health for this or even simply risking burning out. Quality > quantity every time.
    I want to say that I’m finding battles in this story not to be very compelling lately and they always follow the same formula. Perhaps it’s the lack of real stakes for main characters and the “good” side.
    I just never feel they’re in any danger considering how they always come up on top. The only one that suffer real consequences are characters specifically introduced for that segment (Dioname and the Light Herald in this case) and the usual countless unnamed mooks. Even Tyron getting deaged and delevelled somehow works in his favour, since I believe he’s one of the main character which means he’s never going to die, certainly in Pellmia’s.

    • The last time we saw significant longish term character deaths in battle was during the Goblin Lord arc, I think (Zell, Reiss, Garen Redfang, Headscratcher, Shorthilt, Pyrite… many of them indeed introduced somewhere during that arc if not for any one specific battle). All of whose ghosts we’ve since seen, even if not all the ghosts themselves are still around. There definitely is a high degree of plot armour for named long term characters.

  15. Minus 16 years means he’s lost everything he gained during both Antinium wars, Necromancer’s invasion AND Goblin King rampage. It’s possible even Pellmia, a [Lord of Love and Wine], has more combat potential right now than him.

    Let me be the first to say it: being physically younger will do nothing for Ryoka. Judging by her fling with Relc and pathological boner for immortals, she’s definitely the type that would be more interested in a 44 year old literal dad with a dad bod than a twink. All the more because Tyrion can offer her nothing, as he has no personality, no drive and no moral compass. A human golem with only the most basic programming of a lord’s duties baked into his OS.

    The last paragraph, with the Wyrm commissioning statues of her, kinda spoils the ending: Ailendamus will survive, even if it is humbled. For me the epitaph “worms who left her to die alone” is an admission that her death was a stupid, preventable waste. What colossal arrogance to not reinforce her when they were perfectly aware she was being ganged up on by heavy-hitters, including at least one, by then, known immortal!

    Still, like the Crispy King there’s the inevitable oath of eternal, disproportionate vengeance. As if it’s a crime to defend one’s self from an unprovoked attack!

    I cannot wait anymore for Erin to come back and start beating some sense into people with a frying pan to the skull!

    • I actually think the “worms who left her to die alone” is foreshadowing some inner-immortal conflicts. Remember, before the battles started getting underway, Ryoka asked the immortals to help kill Eldavin. So, why aren’t they on the battlefield with Dionamella?
      I think we’ll see that Rhisveri asked some immortals to go fight but they refused. And i think that with Tyrion giving the killing blow to Dionammella, Rhis might attempt to hurt Sammial, causing more friction between immortals as they refuse to let him hurt an innocent child.
      Ailendamus now has it’s back against a wall and while Rhisveri is going to be more dangerous than ever with his revenge, other immortals might be looking to get out of harm’s way.

      • I’m not sure Ailendamus really has its back against the wall. You need significantly superior strength to win a war of aggression; defeating their best general stops the advance, but does not reverse it, especially with Tyrion severely weakened, the Lightherald dead, and the Griffon Prince buried (although Eldavin could scry his location and disinter him). It may just be that the two sides will have to come to terms now.

  16. Damn that was a good chapter !

    Wonder if Rabbiteater will get a change of class, like [Champion of the downtrodden] or a new skill like [Family is no foe] which gives him a bonus reputation to people that he sees in a similar situation to him and a cushion against lethal blows ?

    That said, Dioname’s last stand is great and I have just one thing to say to the worm: “Cheh ! How does it feels on the other side now, sucker ?”

  17. “She was barely over a century—but her biological age, the true chronological time she had paid for, was well over a thousand years” – wrong use of word. 100+ years she is… officially… alive is her chronological age. 1000+ years relates to her biological age.
    ‘Chronological’ should be used for world time.
    ‘Biological’ for her body’s time, her personal age.

  18. Seems like even the immortals don’t know about Specific Relativity or gravity’s effect on spacetime. A potential opportunity for any earther who knows.

    That said, the laws of physics may be fundamentally different in Inn-verse. That trick she pulled with the golem’s arrows shouldn’t work. Considering momentum is a conserved force, the arrows wouldn’t fall out of the sky or bounce. It would let you dodge, but the guy who let the thing hit him should have a huge hole in his head.

    • No, her trick works by my understanding. She slowed down the air around the arrows, not the arrows themselves. This makes the air “thicker”, akin to shooting underwater. Drag on the arrows is increased, slowing their speed, and thus power.

      • Unless the air turned into an immovable wall, conservation of momentum means no more energy is lost than otherwise. Imagine a Newton’s cradle with half of it in a pocket of slow time. You drop a ball on one side will still bounce the same height on the other, just faster or slower relative to each other. Friction losses are also relative to surface area. She didn’t actually cause the air to be denser or cause more air to rush into the arrow like a headwind.

        • Doesn’t slowing the particles down natively make the air denser? It doesn’t need to be an immovable wall, if it goes from being purely gaseous to having the density of ballistic gel, it’s going to slow down whatever hits it.

          • Not denser, but it could effect the viscosity I’ll give you that. Rough math says time would need to be slowed to 2% of normal to make air as viscous as water. It’s a neat thought exercise ether way.

    • Innworld is definitely running on weirdphysics:
      – literal edge of the world, where things fall off;
      – some arrogant Earthers tried to prove to the ignorant Innworlders that the world is a planet… except that the same tests that proved Earth a sphere showed Innworld has no curvature, it’s flat;
      – there’s been absolutely no indication of any time zones, despite intercontinental instantaneous messaging/scrying, so obviously sunlight does not propagate as we would expect;
      – winter/spring is literally a result of fairies manually changing the seasons.
      I like it. Instead of the boring “exactly like Earth except magic” the world is full-on crazy physics.

  19. There is always a Resurrection scroll, Tyron now lower level and a certain Archmage feeling his age, would put Ailendamus in a better spot for winner take all, should a certain Wrym overcome his Greed.

    • I’m not sure how well that would work with someone approaching death-by-old-age. It seems likely that she still wouldn’t have all that much time on the clock…

      • This is true, she is at deaths door already.

        But the Dawn Accord is on the ropes, she has overcome all the others, just needs the time, no pun intended. 😉

    • It’s super secret exclusive content not meant for the eyes of mere mortals. You’ve got to figure it out.

      Naturally, the audiobook fans are utterly screwed as they won’t even see the hints. Audiobook, doh. In my view, this and all the other secret content is very mean to people whose only “fault” is ignorance…

    • There has been one on the newest chapter since Interlude – Hectval (Pt. 2). There are no hyperlinks in the text. I think Pirateaba is just having fun with her mouse emojis.

  20. The worm has no real right to complain about the general being killed, especially since he was the one who twisted her into a weapon and sent her to war, a war he started because he was letting greed for a dragon throne he has no right to take over. I’m actually looking forward to seeing him get killed off or just broken by Teriarch.

  21. I’m a little confused ad to how the thing from beyond the tide managed to grab her, unless it was literally the moment her soul passed into the ghost realm?

    • i dont think the things from beyond the tide are meant to make sense

      but now they are awake

      a g*d mentioned how he was taking advantage of the veil between dimensions being thin during this confluence of fateful events that change the fabric of fate

      i bet a Th*ng from beyond the Last Tide could also take advantage

  22. It’s a shame. Totally fine if others like this. Personally I tire of what feels like deus ex machinas. It’s not entertaining when the good guys always overcome overwhelming odds at the last possible moment via means that don’t seem appropriate for whatever reason. Can’t put my finger on it. No build up? No hint to the solutions to these overwhelming odds from past chapters? Seems too far fetched and not a plausible progression of events? I’m not sure

    Too many “main” characters involved? Too many random high powered skills and commas as if trying to impress via that and not via tactics, strategy, the battle itself? I still fondly remember when the Horns of Hammerad encountered Eldavin and got thoroughly demolished by him through insanely effective use if spells that were only Tier 1-2. No fancy names, high powers or endless waves of participants needed. And holy shit was it an amazing battle scene, due to the sheer superiority Eldavin demonstarted that any reader could instantly see. Not from overwhelming power. From brains. It’s a lot easier to appreciate that, than to try and keep track of all these characters and skills being thrown around willy nilly. I had always hoped to see a similar battle scene in future chapters. I was sad it never happened again

    And it’s a genuine shame because I feel this story has amazing moments. But I feel unlike the early volumes, these amazing moments have slowly occurred less and less frequently. The wandering Inn no longer captures me like it used to.

    Again, totally fine if others like this. I ain’t gonna shit on anyone’s feelings. I just thought that similarly, I’ll illustrate my feelings on the novel, and hope people won’t shit on me for merely doing the same thing. I’ve been trying to hold back revealing my thoughts because I don’t want to discourage anyone and I think pirateaba has overall done quite an amazing feat. But given how these feelings have persisted despite me staying for volume after volume. I figured I should finally say something

    • I think the problem is the introduction of increasingly powerful beings. The buildup for the first like 7 volumes was that the Necromancer was the big baddie, then all of a sudden he’s on par magically with Lucifen teens. Id love to see an accurate ranking of strongest characters. How does the stitch witch matchup against Lucifen now? I never liked Ryoka and I feel the fairy stuff was where it started to go off the rails for me, but I get if people like that stuff more.

  23. I get that after 9,000,000 +/- words a story can get a bit sprawling, but I really miss some of the earlier cast.
    What are the Halfseekers up to? Rags popped her head up to kidnap the Healer of Tenbault and chilled at the Inn for a few pages, but we haven’t seen much else of her and her crew for what, a couple of hundred chapters? Laken and Durene have been missing in action for half of forever and my favorite goblin chef Pebblesnatch must surely be wondering what happened to Ulvama, who disappeared from Laken’s goblin colony what … 100+ chapters ago?
    And as another commentator mentioned above, what happened to Liscor’s Ashfire Bee hive?

    I find it very hard to give a darn about some insanely OP bit character invented out of whole cloth and killed off in a few chapters.
    Good grief, Dionamella was so stupidly overpowering and evidently had a huge backstory in Innworld history fighting Ailendamus’ previous wars that there should have been passing mentions of her several million words ago, even as a glancing footnote of Innworld’s recent history.

    Some of these newcomers are interesting – the cowardly, kin-killing, greedy wyrm who must surely die. The angels and devils who I actually hope to read much more of, as well as the other immortals.
    But I’ve felt for a while that Pirate lost track of the core cast, the ones we fell in love with that have kept us reading all this time. Killing off the #1 character (mostly-kinda-sorta) was an interesting gimmick, but I feel the series has been drifting a bit ever since.

    The Wandering Inn without the Inn is just … wandering.

    The heart has gone out of it and won’t return until the Inn is back open with all the “real” characters popping in and out and the classic chaos abounding, however much everyone’s been changed by all the recent events/traumas.

    Somehow, Erin’s initial struggles, trials-and-errors getting the Inn(s) going … Lyonette’s first desperate Ashfire honey harvest and early struggles to run the Inn while Erin played amateur alchemist with Octavia … half-feral Mrsha’s first weeks at the Inn … the goblin brother’s brief time of peace at the Inn … Numbtongue wanting nothing more than to just be able to visit a city, any city …
    Little Visma playing Erin, chasing all the other kids around with a tiny frying pan, apron and bottle of ketchup screaming, “I am the consequences! Raaaah!”
    I cared a heck of a lot more about those times than most of what’s been written recently, for all that they were not nearly so grand in scale.
    Or perhaps because they were not remotely so grand in scale …

    • Thank you for voicing out my thoughts and probably several others. I’m reading this a severeal chapters behind where Pirate’s updates are. Hopefully it gets better. Until then I’ll keep goung with reasonable optimism.

  24. *shrug* Tyron should level even if he was De-leveled. He hasn’t slept, so he should gain a LOT of his levels back. Perhaps even better ones.

    And I really want that Flesh Golem dead.

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