Balance of Power
The adventurers arrayed themselves around the room in a practiced manner before one approached the center to trigger the ritual. Attacks upon the catacombs under the spectral fortress had been happening regularly since the Royal Knights uncovered the hatches and wards. The secrets of the defenses and the ritual had long since been documented and shared. As the lone adventurer approached the central ward, the Lady of Mysteries stood by, preparing the summons for her sisters.
With a touch, the black-clad warrior started the ritual, releasing the energies saved up from all of the trials that led up to this one. A moment later, the spectral form of Hoshino Kei began to materialize. The adventurer barely noticed the sigh that escaped the spectre before she said with an almost practiced anger, “Do you think me so easily trapped?” She faltered as she looked at the adventurer standing before her, in his recognizable black armor. Slowly, she smiled. “Ahh, my love. I wondered when you would finally come here yourself.” Around them, the room exploded into violence as the Wards rose to block the ritual and the spectral skeletons attacked the adventurers who moved to destroy them.
Borelean removed his helm, “You know I wouldn’t leave you like this, not when there had to be a way to get you back.”
The spectral princess burst into laughter, leaning against the warding pillar in the center of the room. “Even after all you’ve learned, you still think you can somehow free your lost love from me? She is ME, you arrogant little man. I am your love and the Avatar of the Book. We are not separate beings.” Her voice softened, “Why do you torture yourself so? We are bound together, you and I. Join me. Just let go, and we can be together for eternity.”
Borelean faltered, the weight of her words pushing down on his heart. He looked very sad, lost, and alone. Around him his knights and friends battled the waves of specters. One of the wards had fallen, and two of the adventurers stood guarding the Lady of Morning as she channeled her power into the ritual. A knot of spectres fought against them to reach the spirit and stop her. He looked up at her as the conflict raged on around them, “Come back to me, my love. Let go of all this. We can save you.”
The spectral princess exploded with fury, “Leave this?! Are you mad? I will break you, foolish mortal. No power can expunge my bond to you. You freely gave of yourself to resurrect your precious little princess. Willingly done, knowingly promised. You. Are. Mine!” She lashed out at him, but was still held strong by the ritual. She noticed then that all of the Wards had fallen, and the ritual that would force her into material form was near completion. She calmed considerably, and smiled, “Ahh, your little gambit is nearly complete. In a few moments, I’ll be forced into a physical form, and then I’ll teach you the error of your ways once and for all. I’m coming for you my love, and I will not be denied.”
Borelean stood tall then, shaking off the loss that had been bearing down on him. He recognized the magics of the Book, pushing him into despair so that he would fall. He replaced the helm upon his head and adjusted his shield on his arm. “No my love, I am the one who will not be denied today. Did you really think I would come here simply to disperse your form, as the others have? No, I’m here for a different purpose.”
The spectral Hoshino Kei looked a bit puzzled as the ritual completed, but she did not manifest into a body. She could feel the bonds of the ritual strengthen about her, but that was all. Very quickly, the assembled adventurers formed a circle about them, facing outward, and the spirits of the four sisters entered the ring of bodies. The Lady of Harvests floated in front of the spectral princess as the others formed a smaller circle about her. “Avatar of the Darkness, you have taken that which is not yours to take, and though you seem to think you can control it, the spirit you have long held is not bound to you.” A green light started to emanate from the four sisters as the Lady of Harvests continued, “You were a fool to take so ill-bound a host, and then allow the Book itself to fall.”
To her right, the Lady of Mornings said, “You cannot hold back the tide forever, Dark One.”
The Lady of Twilight then said, “And all things must come to an end.”
Behind her, the Lady of Mysteries added, “Even you.”
The spectral princess spun on the Lady of Mysteries, and then gasped as she saw that the Lady bore aloft a large silver mirror, carefully rebuilt from a multitude of shards. She screamed, as the image of herself in the mirror began to shift and clear. Around the circle, waves and waves of spectral skeletons began to pour into the room, clearly reacting to the distress of their mistress. The encircling adventurers were holding them at bay for the moment, but the numbers against them were increasing quickly.
Borelean stepped forward as the spectral Hoshino Kei stared in horror at the mirror. The image of the living Hoshino Kei reflected back at her perfectly. The image just smiled as the spectre screamed. “I told you he’d come for me,” she said as Borelean spun with his shield, knocking the spectral form into the mirror. All along the inside of the shield, runes and geomantic symbols flared to life, completing the ritual. At the same moment, the circle fell as the throng of spectral skeletons surged forward in a last ditch effort to save their Queen. Moments later, everything fell to darkness.
Borelean awoke at the Lifestone inside the castle, surrounded by guards and healers. He was still a bit dizzy from the sudden and violent death. He looked up at the closest healer and asked, “Did it work? Is she back?”
“We don’t know, Your Majesty. Lord Asheron sent us in to tend to you.”
Borelean scrambled to his feet, aggravation mixing with the fear in his expression, “Where is he?”
“He said he was heading to his tower, Your Majesty.”
With a well-practiced movement, Borelean flipped out a small orb and disappeared in a swirl of portal magic, leaving his guards and healer far behind. Once he appeared in the base of the tower, he went directly to Asheron’s lab. The room was full of Guardian Golems and Light Elementals. The spirits of all four of the Lost Sisters hovered around a table, where Asheron was casting a multitude of delicate spells over a small body. Now in the room, Borelean approached cautiously, lest he disturb the spellcastings. Lying on the table was Hoshino Kei, seemingly asleep. He nearly wept at the sight of her.
Asheron finished his spell and turned to face the prince, “I’m not entirely sure what you did to manage this, but you do indeed seem to have returned Hoshino Kei to life. She’ll need a good bit of time to heal, and I’d feel a whole lot safer if we ran a good many more tests, but you’ve done it.”
Borelean sank to the floor, clearly relieved. The Lady of Mornings floated over, and rested a ghostly hand on his head. “There is no sign of the Avatar of the Book in her. Her soul is weakened, but it will mend with time.”
The Lady of Twilight looked over to him and added, “As for the Avatar itself, we did not manage to contain it. Her forces broke the circle before we could bind it properly. Without the Book to return to, it will likely remain bound to the last form it held, but it will be weakened by the loss of the host soul.”
Borelean looked up at the spirit, “So one battle is won, but the war continues on?”
The Lady of Harvests looked at him and said in a matter-of-fact tone, “The war against the Darkness never ends, young one. The shape of the battle merely changes over time. Even had we bound the Avatar completely, the Matriarchs are still loose in the world. The powers of the Dark Falatacot won’t be fading from the world as long as those three remain.”
The Lady of Mornings shot her sister a disapproving look, “Do not be so quick to dismiss such a victory as this one managed today. Light triumphed over Darkness, and he saved his love from a fate worse than death. Let him savor his victory.”
“As you say, sister,” replied the spirit, “But it is good to remember that endings are also beginnings.”