Book I Chapter 1: DIVIDE
I should have known it was going to end up like this. Centuries of meticulous preparation, all leading up to one moment of ultimate failure.
It'd be merciful if it all ended here-- but I know better than that.
And I know there's a reason why Nigel split, too... did he really think I wouldn't notice?
It's hard to miss these things when you're the embodiment of mirajin, and we were practically swimming in it even before I opened the Veil.
On the other hand, I let him and Chira lead me along from the start.
Well done, Nef-- and where has that left you?
On the precipice of war.
Well... I suppose I've been asking for it all along.
Cathedral of a Thousand Roses
Laps-Du-Ment, The Veil
Nefirian felt the dragons swooping in through the thick air of the dream long before he saw them.
Screaming a song of hatred and war, their golden wings shone in the pale light of the stars, their long necks craning to see the pearly spires that marked the home of the Fatis Mirajin.
Farther in the distance, the Firestarters winged in on their griffins and the few Flarions who had not deserted them-- but the Renatus dragons were the more immediate threat.
Squeezing his scaly bulk out of the hole Kelan had left in the window, the Dreamwaker crawled onto the tower, his crystalline claws and his iron will the only things keeping him from tumbling to the ground far below. The dragons spotted him at once, smoke pouring from their mouths as they swarmed, diving in to engage.
Casarilinia was nowhere to be found; Nef was disappointed, but hardly surprised.
Twisting his neck backwards to watch them descend, he released his physical and mental hold on the wall, drifting effortlessly in space for a moment before launching skyward, speeding into the flock with monstrous force.
He slammed head-first into one of the Flarions, digging his claws into its belly as it whipped around, scrabbling to dislodge him. Dropping easily away, he landed upon the back of another, racing down its spine and tail to leap off into nothing.
The golden beasts swam furiously through the air around him like ravening fish, jaws snapping and talons snatching to little effect. As he fell, another dragon swept downwards after him, flames dancing in its open mouth.
He turned his head to gaze almost fondly into its eyes-- and in an instant, the Flarion whipped around to spew a blast of searing fire into the face of one of its comrades, which screamed and thrashed and fell as its scales melted and bubbled away.
As the Renatus dragons began to struggle and fight amongst themselves, Nefirian landed harmlessly on the road below, curling and lashing his tail as his three eyes surveyed the world around him.
He watched as the Firestarters suddenly turned in the air, swooping downwards and into the forests well away from the city walls.
Satisfied, he tore a hole through the paved stone road and slithered into the dark earth.
The Chimri Wilds
Chimre, The Veil
Kelan lay quietly in a great pile of fallen leaves and broken branches, the hard crystal edges of the mutant plants cutting into his skin and the gaps in his armor like tiny teeth. He sighed softly, wings twitching beneath him.
From far above, there was a shout; he opened his eyes to see a small group of griffins settle upon the canopy and in the grass nearby, their riders sliding off of their backs to approach him.
Dilndrou came last, his griffin accompanied by Ireliss, a grave expression upon her face.
"I'm unhurt," Kelan said softly.
"Nefirian is as well, it seems," Dilndrou replied, frowning. "By the looks of things, he's just singlehandedly eviscerated the better part of a raiding party of Renatus dragons."
"That's not surprising-- he Awoke just as I arrived at the Cathedral, and... well. I'm here, now," he said with a wry smile.
"I don't know what I expected, but... we can't face him here, and for the time being, I can't measure up to him alone. "
Kelan shifted forward onto his knees, picking the sharp leaves out of his flesh and tossing them away. "Do you understand what's happened?"
Ireliss sat beside him, curling her tail around herself. "This isn't Valenth anymore, is it? Not... not really."
"No, it isn't-- it's a facsimile of it, recreated within the Reverie.
This... veil Nefirian has torn open was meant to consume the entire planet, plunging the physical realm into dreams.
Had his plan succeeded, we would've been none the wiser; only skilled dreamers and psions can hold onto the strength of will to question the authenticity of a dream.
"They would've had the power to do anything they wished, literally-- reality is only as much of an obstacle as you believe it to be, in the Reverie. And naturally, the vast majority of the world's population would continue their lives-- or pretend to-- as they believed they should, unaware and ultimately powerless to revolt as long as they still subconsciously held themselves to the laws of the physical world."
"But the residual energies of the Eye of Elysia deflected the Fatis Mirajin's reach," Dilndrou mused. "The Veil expanded outward, but once it hit a substantial pocket of vital energy, it ground to a halt. That's why it only got as far as it did."
Kelan nodded. "It's more than far enough, though. Our one saving grace is that a sizable portion of Valenth is still intact, which was why we saw it happen and understood-- but the Reverie has begun to flow into the waking world, and the beasts that live within are free to pass between the realms as they wish.
"Worse, the amount of residual mirajin on Valenth has increased exponentially even outside of the Veil-- and worse still, several cities have been caught within the radius. Axl and Soril are just on the bubble's edge... and Jetersborough has been all but consumed.
"What this means for the people living there, I don't know, but the wildlife exposted to the veil have been mutating beyond recognition."
"To think that reality itself could become a precious commodity," Ireliss breathed. "What do we do now, Grandfather?
Between a dangerously-pronounced surplus of mirajin, mutants flooding into the physical realm, cities lost to the Veil, and a mad Chapter on the loose... how do we choose where to begin?"
"We take it one step at a time," he replied, finally rising to his feet.
"Nefirian is currently preoccupied with the Renatus Purifico-- that buys us some time to retreat. We need to learn what to expect now that Valenth has been so severely altered, and how to reclaim and restore as much as we possibly can to stabilize the planet and protect the people still on it.
"But the Veil will be a constant threat, likely in ways we can't yet imagine... and as long as Nefirian lives, he'll never allow us to seal it."
Next Chapter: Volume II - Book I Chapter II
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