Rumana spat a mouthful of blood into the dirt. Her white wings sparked, flashed a bright, furious orange then died. She looked up at the god pacing in front of her. Nordath’s sword was drawn, but he would not kill her. Nordath knew her as his greatest threat to dominion over the realm.

He held a power no one in the three realms[1] could explain. Nordath’s power was unprecedented and his hunger for triumph was unmatched.

Killing Rumana would not only remove a formidable enemy, would also create a new god of Fire. Whoever killed her would gain her power. No one could survive wielding opposing god powers. In theory, this rule held true for Nordath as well, but there was a chance he was strong enough to survive it. His god power was unfamiliar and unmatched. Either way, the risk was great. If Rumana forced him to take Fire and he lived, it would be a devastating blow to the Alliance. If he killed her and died, his revolution would die with him.

Rumana grit her teeth, she clutched the still bleeding wound on her side and struggled to her feet. Fire was still pulsing through her, but she was too weak to wield it. Her last cast had been wild and aimless. She glances around the battlefield. Her soldiers lay dead or dying around her. Those strong enough to stand had already been captured. They watched her; wide-eyed, knowing they were witnessing the turning point of the Great War.

She met the gaze of each of prisoner. Nordath’s army surrounded them. One by one, her warriors nodded and closed their eyes. Rumana’s next attack would kill them all and they all seemed to know it.

She let the rage consume her and surrendered to the greed of victory. She felt Fire like a muscle, strong and pulsing beneath her skin. Her wings burst into flame and flare to life one last time.

* * *

Garnet flew as fast as he could. He cursed himself for not learning a Chaos or Order cast. Teleporting[2] would be much faster and he was running out of time. For all he knew he is already too late.

Rumana betrayed him last night. They’d planned to attack and destroy two of Nordath’s battalions, then meet and fight Nordath himself at the fortress. Garnet had no idea that a third battalion was heading to The Keep, and he never suspected Rumana to hide that information from him.

His wife and children were hidden along with Alliance families. The Keep was protected, but it was not prepared for battle. Life without his family was not a life he could imagine. He had miles left to travel before he reached them.

* * *

Vivienne’s army waded through a dense, sticky bog. The area was drowning in a power-canceling element called Deshtue. They couldn’t cast as long as they were in the muck. The bog was most likely created by Aggustmein, the God of Deshtue, to protect the fortress. It was a good sign. It meant they were nearing Nordath’s stronghold.

A figure appeared in the distance. Vivienne held up her fist and the signal rippled through her followers. They came to a halt behind her. She unsheathed her sword and her lieutenant grabbed her arm.

Vivienne raised an eyebrow at the woman holding her back, but Joan wasn’t looking at her.

“I’ll go,” whispered Joan. “We can’t afford to lose you.”

The figure crept closer.

Morgaine stood at the far end of the line. She saw Vivienne and Joan huddled together. She broke rank and made her way to them, hushing the other warriors as she went. She recognized the approaching person. She’d spent a good amount of time watching Nordath’s family. She made a point to memorize his daughters when she last saw them on the battlefield.

She hurried toward Vivienne and Joan and made a space for herself. “It’s Sosona,” she said, not bothering to keep her voice down.

Vivienne hushed her.

“Are you certain?” asked Joan.

“Yes,” answered Morgaine. “She’s wearing Nordath’s family crest and she’s too tall to be Gilrain or Morgeth.”

Vivienne squinted. Morgaine was right. “If she’s being that obvious, it’s probably a trap,” said Vivienne.

“I’ll go,” said Joan.

“Right,” said Morgaine, rolling her eyes, “because that’s not predictable.”

“I’ll go,” said Vivienne. “If I don’t make it back, the rest of you will follow Joan to the sanctuary.”

“We won’t make it,” said Morgaine. “If it’s a trap, we’re probably already surrounded.”

Vivienne shook herself free from Joan’s grip. “Stay here. That’s an order.”

Joan held out an arm to block Morgaine.

“She can’t go alone,” hissed Morgaine.

“Trust her,” whispered Joan.

They watched, hundreds of eyes on Vivienne as she approached the invader. Vivienne held her sword high. “Identify yourself,” she said.

The invader raised her hands and dropped to her knees. “I am Sosona,” she said, her voice sounding through the trees. “Eldest child of Nordath and heir to his power. I’m here to surrender.”

Vivienne scowled down at the woman. “Remove your armor.”

Sosona slowly brought her hands to her helmet and lifted it from her head. Her dark red hair was pulled back in a thick braid. She looked up at Vivienne. “I’ve abdicated my throne,” she said. She removed her gloves and began undoing the leather straps on her arms. “I still have magic. Some of it is specialized with Strength. I’m a certified doctor.” She unhooked her chest plate.

Vivienne planted her feet, eyeing the other woman’s every move.

“I am willing to give you my magic,” continued Sosona. She watched the general as she spoke. She was well aware these could be her last words. “If you will allow it, I can heal your people. I can also offer you classified information about the Titans[3].” She shifted her weight to one knee to undo the armor on her leg. “My father is north, fighting Rumana. He sent a battalion south to destroy the Keep. He knows where you are hiding your families. He ordered them to take no prisoners.”

The air was tense but Vivienne’s army held strong.

“Your people are in danger,” said Sosona. “You have to go to the Keep. I can show you a safe route.”

“Why should I believe you?” asked Vivienne.

“People will die if you don’t,” answered Sosona.

* * *

The field burned from the explosion. The fire spread quickly and killed without discrimination. The burst was quick. Nordath cast just after Rumana unleashed her final attack. The field was neutralized. No one could cast.

This was how Nordath won his battles and how his soldiers were winning the war. He had the power to disable all magic. Nothing worked after he used his power. Enchantments, spells, god powers, everything was negated.

The only reason he didn’t cast a spell sooner was because he still needed his soldiers to fight and they were much better with magic than other forms of combat.

Nordath and Rumana both surveyed the field. Those closest to the explosion died quickly. Nordath was only able to shield himself. Many people scattered in an attempt to escape the fire and their screams hung heavy in the air.

A dangerous rage surged through Nordath. His power was most effective when he was calm and felt nothing. The power was still new to him and he was still learning how to control it. He was lucky in that his attacks were devastating, even if he didn’t understand them yet.

Rumana suspected the power was more than Nordath could manage, but she had no way to prove it. She forced herself to take a breath. Her knees buckled and she collapsed.

Nordath raised his hand and dismissed his spell. It was almost as if he was daring the Angel of the Golden Strand to defy him again.

She locked eyes with the god standing before her.

He sneered and scanned the field for any of his soldiers who were still standing. Movement caught his eye. “D’ror,” he bellowed.

A dragon with inky black skin and small, sharp eyes raised his head. Shaking, he pushed himself to his feet and limped past the fallen warriors. He sunk to his knees when he reached his commander.

“Get up,” growled Nordath.

“Yes, sir,” said D’ror.

He was too weak to do much, but Rumana was too weak to defend herself.

D’ror was summoned to kill her. This was the end. She was going to die.

She closed here eyes and focused her mind. There was one last hope for the Alliance.

* * *

Tucked away in the back of a dark cavern, a small dragon stirred. He looked over the other children and elders huddled together. They clung to each other, different races and species with different languages and customs. Their parents and loved ones were dead or fighting.

The Keep was supposed to be safe. It wasn’t anymore. Nordath’s forces were at the door and every able-bodied adult had moved to the front of the cavern to defend the next generation. There weren’t enough of them. When the attack was over a wall of bodies would be all that separated the children from the enemy.

The small dragon clung to an egg in the shadows. He was alone, choosing not to seek comfort with the others. His mother was defending the Keep, he didn’t know where his father was and he couldn’t remember the last time his family was safe. The child and the egg were all that was left of the Gemmatose dragon clan. They were Garnet’s children. A powerful blast rocked the keep and the dragon lost his grip on the egg. It tumbled from his arms and hit the hard rock below. It cracked.

Miles away Rumana took her last breaths and collapsed at D’ror’s feet. She extended her hand and gave the power of Fire to Nordath.

He screamed in pain, clutched his chest and fell to his knees. His death was not quick. His body seized and trembled on the ground. Rumana knew the same thing would happen to her in a few moments. Nordath raised a hand and cast one last spell on the storm brewing overhead.

“Retreat,” shouted D’ror. What was left of the army followed his orders.

At last Nordath stopped moving. Rumana closed her eyes and braced herself. Fire returned to her one last time and so did Nordath’s power. Gods cannot hold opposing powers and the working theory was that Nordath’s power was the opposite of all known powers.

It killed her slowly. It gave her time to think about the pain rising in her chest. At last, she died.

Meanwhile something hit Whirlpool and soaked into his body. His knees buckled and gasped. The weight of the power was overwhelming. Fire pulsed through him and in that moment he knew what must have happened. Rumana must have died.

He rushed to the front of the Keep, clutching the egg to his chest. He needed to find his mother. He needed to deliver the power to the front. He needed to save his sibling.

He followed the sounds of battle. Light was pouring into the cave. The enemy had broken in. Whirlpool smelled blood. He burst from the shadows, blinking against the bright sun.

It was a massacre. The Keep never stood a chance. It was not a battle anymore; it was an execution. The enemy was picking off survivors one by one.

Whirlpool caught a glimpse of pale blue scales on the ground. They were dull and they didn’t glisten the way he remembered. His eyes followed the blood leading away from them. His mother was stretched out on the ground at an unnatural angle. She didn’t move when he called her name.

The egg trembled in his grasp. It was the last sensation that registered before Fire consumed him.

Garnet felt heat from the blast five miles away. He landed at the Keep, panting and terrified. The trees were burning with bright red and orange flames. The ground was black and smoking. Death was everywhere but the bodies were scorched beyond recognition.

Desperate, he searched for movement. Something caught his eye near the mouth of the Keep. He exhaled. It would break him if he couldn’t find them. They were all he had. They were his reason to keep fighting.

Whispers turned to cheers turned to mournful cries. He took a step and forced himself to join the survivors. He heard people call his name, heard them thanking him for coming. Then he heard hushed, reverent whispers about an angel.

“She saved us,” said a child. “I saw her wings.”

An elder felt to her knees, her hands clasped together in prayer. “You died for us. May your soul be at peace.”

“She flew away,” said another survivor. “I saw her.”

Garnet didn’t recognize any of these people, but he knew the crowd emerging from the cave was only half as big as it should be and most of the survivors were children. He searched the field until his eyes fell on a small silver dragon.

The dragon was hunched over a blackened mass and he was cradling his newly hatched baby brother.

“Whirlpool,” shouted Garnet, rushing to him.

The dragon’s ears perked up and he whipped around. “Dad,” he cried. He stepped over scattered pieces of eggshell and threw himself into his father’s arms.

Garnet hugged them tight. Tears spilled from his eyes because part of his family was spared, because his children were alive, because he knew the black mass on the ground was all that remained of their mother.

“She’s dead,” whispered Whirlpool. “She’s dead.” He couldn’t seem to stop himself from saying the words. It was bizarre. It seemed that any moment she could interrupt him. She’d touch his shoulder and he’d turn to see her smiling down at him. She’d be wounded and scarred, but alive and her scales would glitter with that beautiful blue color that was so rare in dragons.

Garnet rocked Whirlpool and the newest member of their family in his arms. Whirlpool needed to tell him about the god power. Garnet needed to know that battle-ending blast came from Whirlpool. He needed to know that after the blast, Whirlpool gave the power of Fire to his brother, hoping it would give him enough energy to survive despite his fractured egg. He needed to know his new son is a God.

Whirlpool didn’t tell him any of that. Instead he cried and tried not to look at the people he’d just killed.

* * *

In the damp, murky darkness of a forgotten tomb, a soldier stood. He tilted his head back and stared at the opening above him. Thane was supposed to die here. This was his grave. He didn’t know how long he’d been there. He was taken at the Battle of Boad Bridge. His captors kept him just shy of the edge of death, strong enough to grieve but too weak to avenge. He was the last survivor of his battalion. He was the last surviving member of the Seventh Legion.

Gilrain was in charge of the soldier. He was her special project. When his unit was captured she took great care culling the survivors. She took interest in Thane. She executed his comrades in front of him. Thane watched them die, one by one, until he was all she had left to torture.

She told him stories during her visits. She talked about the people her father killed that day, the new world order, the death of the Gods.

As he stared up at the mouth of his tomb, he wasn’t sure he wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. He didn’t want to rebuild the world he loved. He wasn’t strong enough. He has spent too much time hoping for death. He was filthy, exhausted and broken. The man standing bloody and bent in the bottom of this pit was not the same man who went in so long ago. The man Thane used to be was a memory, a shadow that haunted him and looked away in shame at the man he’d become.

Thane searched the opening. There was something different about it. There was something different about the air around him. He’d heard the rumors, heard that Nordath has the power to stop magic and bend the fabric of the world to his will. Gilrain had been eager to confirm these rumors and Thane had no reason to hope they were lies. He never thought he’d have a reason to hope the rumors were true.

If they were true, then what he was feeling was the absence of magic. It meant he couldn’t gain power, but it also meant the Deshtue shield that usually covered his prison was gone. It meant if he could summon the strength to climb out of the tomb, he’d be free. He had no magic. He’d been tortured to the point of surrendering it to Gilrain, but he still had his strength.

The tomb was situated at the lowest level of Nordath’s fortress. Beyond the tomb, beyond the gray stone walls, a storm had begun. Rain fell heavy on the battlefield and thunder pierced the sudden silence. The battle had come to a head.

As Thane stared up at the opening above him, Nordath’s youngest daughter, Gilrain, looked over the battlefield. Morgeth and Gilrain had enough power together to equal their own battalion. The problem was, while Gilrain was more than willing to fight, Morgeth was somewhat apathetic.

On the battlefield, Sosona was the first to react. The Alliance didn’t trust her yet and she was little more than a prisoner, but nonetheless she’d been positioned close to Vivienne’s side.

“Attack,” hissed Sossona.

Vivienne glanced at her. There was no more trust in her eyes than there was when they first met in the Deshtue bog, despite the fact that Sosona was right about the attack on the Keep. Sosona’s warning came too late.

“Attack,” Sosona repeated. “We outnumber them this time.” She had seconds to make her case.

Vivienne knew she had to make her decision quickly. She gave the signal to attack and it spread like wildfire through the Alliance armies. Garnet saw his fellow general signal and echoed her command. With Rumana gone, Vivienne was the only person he trusted. He’d helped bury the dead then made his way to Nordath’s fortress. Neither general knew he was already dead.

Whirlpool finally managed to get the words out. He’d told his father what happened, that Rumana must have sacrificed herself.

Joan was near the front of the attack. Her priority was defending Vivienne. She heard her name and hurried to her commander’s side.

“Go with Sosona,” said Vivienne. “Find Nordath and kill him.”

“I don’t know wher—,” began Sossona.

“That’s an order,” said Vivienne.

Joan and Sossona didn’t argue. They broke from the rush and backtracked their way to the fortress. Joan raised her sword to take down an enemy, but her blade was not the first to strike. Morgaine was at her side.

“You can’t be here,” said Joan.

“Too late,” said Morgaine.

“Vivienne only sent us,” said Joan. “You have to go back.”

“She’s already here,” snapped Sosona. “Shut up and stop drawing attention to us.”

Sosona led them through the chaos. They didn’t go unnoticed, but there wasn’t much anyone could do to stop them. By the time they got to the fortress, their presence wasn’t a secret and they were sure Nordath knew they were coming. It was three against an unknown number of enemy soldiers. It was a suicide mission.

They were beyond the stone wall but not inside the main building when Sosona held up her hand. “Gilrain,” she said.

A woman rushed out into the storm, weapon drawn and murder in her eyes. She held multiple god powers and could strike when her father couldn’t. More often than not, she was by his side acting as sword and shield. She was the only one on the battlefield at the moment who knew the truth. She knew her father was dead. She’d heard word from D’ror.

Joan glanced at her companions. “Keep going,” she said. “I’ll catch up.”

Morgaine’s eyes follow Gilrain. “If you engage, you need to kill her,” she said. “We need her god powers.”

Sosona wasn’t making eye contact with either of them and she wasn’t watching Gilrain. Her face didn’t betray her thoughts but it wasn’t hard to guess where her mind had gone. Gilrain was her youngest sister. She clenched her jaw. “She leaves her left side vulnerable in fights,” Sosona said quietly.

Joan nodded. “I’ll make it quick if I can.” She left the other two and stalked after the woman.

“You have another sister, right?” asked Morgaine.

“I do,” answered Sossona. “Morgeth. She’s got a lot of magic and zero loyalty. She’s not good with a sword and she’ll surrender quickly if you get her cornered.”

Morgaine nodded. They navigated the maze-like halls until they found a large empty room. It was elaborately decorated and filled with weapons. At the center of the room was a massive table. It was a map of the three realms and it was covered with markers to show Nordath’s next plans for attack.

They were prepared to fight. They were prepared to die. They were not prepared to find a fellow Alliance fighter.

The man was shirtless and barefoot, but his pants looked like part of an Alliance uniform.

“Morgaine?” he asked.

She nodded. It wasn’t strange for other soldiers to know her. She was Vivienne’s protégé and was well known on both sides of the fight. She lowered he sword.

“My name is Thane,” said the man. “I fought with the Seventh Legion.”

The Seventh Legion was one of nine highly skilled forces who joined the Alliance. The soldiers were strong and brutal and many of them fought with Athena, god of Wisdom and Strength.

They heard a scuffle echo down the hall and into the room. Voices approached. Morgaine raised her sword and Thane clenched his fists.

Joan entered, dragging a woman behind her. Morgeth. She was handcuffed and Joan held the lead. “He’s dead,” said Joan.

“Who?” asked Morgaine.

“Nordath.” She nudged Morgeth. “Tell them.”

Morgeth huffed. “He’s dead. Your hero Rumana killed him.”

“We have to tell Vivienne,” said Morgaine.

“We have to tell everyone,” said Sosona.

A new era had begun. Keelta, Olympus and Neera would never be the same.

[1]. There are three realms linked together by portals. Zeus rules over Olympus and Zena rules over Neera. Nordath intended to rule over Keelta.

[2] The cast for Chaos and Order is teleportation. Some people make a living as teleporters for people who haven’t learned the cast.

[3] The Titans are Nordath’s main army. They are everywhere and they are merciless.