The King had assembled most of his Viziers, as well as his daughter. “Where is your brother?” He’d asked Estrea, whom the King had sat on the smaller throne beside him. She sat with all the primness of a proper lady.
“He is asleep. He has expended his Thaumaturgy.”
“Ah. I should…” His mouth trailed off as the Dean entered into the Throne room, following after the Commissioner. The man was tall, gaunt of face and features, and with that same shock of white hair and beard. As he entered, the King could feel the powerful potential Magick lingering within him. This was, indeed, the Dean.
The smoking Detective that had entered turned around to face the Dean. He didn’t stop smoking, and as he waited, his smoke had burned out. Instead of pausing, he picked up another smoke and replaced it.
Quinen inhaled and fought the urge to cough. This new body isn’t taking to my old habits well.
He watched as the Dean walked up the length of the — admittedly long — Throne room. When the Dean’s eyes found him, Quinen gathered up all the asshole within him and winked. The Dean scowled. Quinen had to force himself not to burst out laughing when he saw that.
“Shut it, Warlock,” said the Commissioner as they approached the Throne. The Warlock grinned at the both of them still. The Dean’s scowl scathed, seemingly bubblign with some sort of malevolent force.
“Dean of the Throne Collegium,” said the King, from atop his glistening obsidian throne. “I see that you have been found by Rune.”
“But Rune is not here.”
“She is not,” said the Dean. “I figure she felt a Transplanar entity within the borders of the Collegium.”
The Viziers all tried to speak together at the same time, but the King was quick to shush them with a loud voice. “What Transplanar entity, Dean?”
Quinen scowled now, turning to him. “Why don’t you ask the detective over here?”
The King, the Viziers, and the Commissioner, all turned to Quinen.
Quinen sighed. He opened his mouth, still not quite sure what to say — should I lie? What tale can I spin? It’s easy to bump off the Dean’s accusations — housing a Transplanar entity isn’t something you see everyday. Besides I’m here trying to help them prevent it, right? That’s leverage in my favor — but the doors opened once again.
The King looked up. “What is it, messenger?”
Quinen turned to look at the messenger as he ran up to them. He wore a usual mailman’s get up: leather boots and cowhide coat, with an extra backpack on his back that looks like it was about to burst. He was gasping for air as he reached the foot of the Throne.
“The Transplanar portal, sir,” said the messenger. “It’s been opened. The First Horde of Hobgoblins-”
“They’ve come,” said the Vizier of Commerce, wearing the green mantle.
“Rally the Sentinels!” The voice of the Vizier of War boomed across the entire Throne room, carrying his voice out of the open doors.
Quinen didn’t know if that worked or not. But what was for sure, though, was the sudden sound of rain.
That doesn’t sound like rain…
Something slammed against the high glass windows behind the King’s throne. But thanks to the nature of the glass, the thing wasn’t able to break through. Nevertheless, more and more heavy, fleshy things slammed against the window like boulders of sinew and bone.
The King stood. The Princess beside the King stood as well.
“The Sentinels are on their way,” said the Vizier of War — the man with the crimson cloak and tightly braided hair.
The King turned around, looking up at the things assailing the glass — which was given a frosted texture, so the ones behind the glass couldn’t exactly see what it was slamming against the window. Their silhouettes gave enough away.
“Hobgoblins,” said Quinen. “Adon’s spit!”
The Commissioner was moving. “The Naphli must be mobilized!”
“The Sentinels are coming, sir!”
“Estruviom! We have to check on Estruviom!”
More people rushed into the chamber.
“…the Dirah Ward is holding off hobgoblin attacks High King…”
“…the Collegium is assailed!…”
“…the media is not helping us keeping the people calm…”
“…sir, must we call upon the Fires of Adon…”
The King turned around, and his eyes were flaring white, with just the tiniest tinge of violet. The noise and the bickering and the shouts and the orders and the commands grew louder and louder and noisier and dissonance filled the entire chamber and seemed like it would fill the entire Throne until: “Silence.”
The High King’s normal voice echoed across the chamber, and swept over them like a hushing wave. All fell quiet in rows, until the entire chamber was silent.
And then, the High King gave out orders.
Quinen watched as the High King directed what to do with the media, where to station the Sentinels, told the Commissioner to make sure the Wards of the Collegium were strengthened. He saw the silver-haired Princess, from his periphery, run out of view, up an electric lift.
* * *
In his sleep, Estruviom dreamt.
It was not the first time, and this was not a new dream.
He dreamed he was floating within a sea of stars, except the darkness between the stars wasn’t a darkness, but rather, a glowing blue, as if he floated in the sea’s surface, that the Sun’s light could seep through. He would look about him, and he could see lines dotting and connecting the stars together in an intricate mosaic until they made various forms and shapes… some of them humanoid.
As the shape of a man with the head of a bull was formed, and that danced around and capered, twins stepped out of the sidereal gossamer and onto the field of stars, chasing after the bull. A woman carried a pitcher of water and poured it over a scorpion as a swan flew overhead. This amazing, full-of-life caricature of stars filled Estruviom with awe.
“Estruviom. Scion of the Royal Blood.”
Estruviom turned, toward the origin of the voice. He saw two flaring stars. This one wasn’t a form made from astral lines connecting stars together. Rather, two figures emerged from those enormous flaring stars.
The figure raised a hand, and Estruviom felt very small when he realized he was only the size of a fingernail on the being’s pinky. As the being emerged from the blazing star that resembled the Daystar, he raised a hand and said, “Worry not, Estruviom,” he said. His voice was that heavy, masculine baritone. “I am Apol-Sol, The Splendent Daystar.”
To his right emerged two beings — one of them was a softly glowing yellow-white, while the other was the blackest of black. They were intertwined together, every move having two hands, every action being repeated twice — first by the glowing one, and then the other by the abyssal one. “And we are Selethem and Themola. The Nightstar.”
“Apol-Sol and Selethemola,” whispered Estruviom.
“I see you’ve read of us.”
“You are the Sidereans.”
Apol-Sol’s star-figure moved in what Estruviom could only imagine as a nod. “Now, Estruviom, we need to tell the High King something. Something dire has happened.”
“Is it the thunderstorms.”
“Indeed. Something has cut through our barriers — the Siderean Border. The Ancient Accords. We have to know who, for a Siderean Border is not something lightly to be cut, and even harder to be mended back together.
“The thunderstorms are Transplanar?”
“Yes,” said Selethem and Themola, together. As Selethemola. “From the realm of Avalon.”
“Avalon…” He shuddered. “Siddivata?”
“Indeed. And the invasion has already begun.”
“What?” Estruviom blinked. “Already? Then we must tell Father!”
“Aye, we must,” said Apol-Sol. “But I must also speak with him personally.”
“But you’re Sidereans.”
Selethemola nodded. “That is true. You know that our forms will burn the world. It would be as if stars converge into the material plane. Thus we desire a conduit.”
“You wish to speak through me?”
They were silent for a moment. The soft tinkling of the stars can be heard from a distance.
“You are a smart one, Estruviom,” said Selethemola, in a voice so low it can almost be a whisper.
“Do it,” he said. “Do it. I will be your conduit. For the sake of Throne. For Shen.”
There was another pause. “We are to give you some more time to think about — although there is not much left,” said Apol-Sol. “If we are to speak through you, our very Essence will burn you from within. You…”
“…will die.” Much to all of their surprise, it was Estruviom who said this.
Once again, silence in this star realm.
“We will awake you,” said Selethemola. “And you may confer with your friends, or your father. When you next sleep, we will be with you once again.”
“May you think wisely.”
And then they exploded, and everything was an utter white silence.
* * *
Rune looked about the room that she followed the Transplanar residue to. Inside the room was a vast array of trash and junk food, as if some homestuck dreg had lived here. On the far side of the room, against the windows that seemed to have their curtains perpetually drawn, was a desknode set up.
She felt again with her Magickal Perceptions… but found none. Either the Transplanar entity had gone back to whatever plane she came in from… or a dataturge managed to hide her resonance.
“What a hassle,” she muttered as she looked into the screens of the datanode, although none of them operated at her command. She knew dataturges manipulated data and information, but she didn’t know it was to this level of proficiency, at hiding resonances.
“How did she do it?”
After a few minutes wasted trying to think of some way — could it have been through cloaking? But the dataturge need good knowledge of the plane from which that transplanar entity came from — she decided to return to the Cathedral. No doubt something important must be going down, especially with the Dean there as well.
She walked up the stairs, up to the roof of the building once again, and that’s when she saw the hobgoblins descending from the skies.
These hobgoblins she’d encountered before, especially in the forest where the plane of Mund and the plain of Avalon coincided the most. These tusked, four-feet tall goblinoids with large bulbous heads, thick steel armor, and swords on both hands, as well as insectoid wings descended upon them. Cursing, Rune gathered up her knowledge of Spells in the Field of Energies, and sent herself shooting up to meet them. With a wave of her hand, a whip of flame sundered the first line, and then with another spell from Energies she diverted her momentum, and sent her flying towards the Cathedral.
She had to dodge and weave, cutting back hobgoblins as they came down from the sky like a vicious, transplanar rain. A hobgoblin managed a lucky hit on her, gashing a slice across her back, and then another hobgoblin almost managed to skewer her. With a word of power, she blasted all of them back with an invisible force, and then spun, bringing with her a whipe of flame, and sundered those that attacked her once again.
She crashed into a glass tower, which already had various hobgoblins within them cutting through civilians. She skidded across the floor until she landed against another hobgoblin that was in the middle of hacking down a human woman.
More hobgoblins streamed in from outside. Ten, twenty, thirty.
The Vizier of Magick looked about her. With a quick spell, she let out a lingering Perceive spell that seeked out those that still had the semblance of life within the room.
Five hobgoblins lunged at her. She blocked one with an invisible shield, cut at the other with a reactive sword of ice, dodge the third as it slid below her, and then sent two lances of wind down the two other hobgoblins’ throats, which skewered them from within.
Her lingering Magickal Perceptions told her that there was still five people alive within this floor. Manageable, she thought. She landed on her feet, deflected one hobgoblin, froze the other, and then muttered in Ascendant Speech.
In the next second, she, and five other people, were gone. One of them had been saved from a hobgoblin’s savage attack.
* * *
Emperor and Priestess ran across the streets of Slum City, watching the skies become covered in the steel, insect like buzz of the hobgoblins as they descended. The corrugated steel and thatched roofs and wooden planks of the shantytowns of the Dirah Ward were destroyed and eaten away by tusked creatures wielding various amounts of weapons with much too many spikes. They attacked with rage and without discipline, seemingly without training. They swing swords with jagged edges, sometimes gashing wounds deep into other hobgoblins, despite those hobgoblins ignoring the attack and continuing to destroy roofs and pick mund people off from them.
“Quick! Defend!” A group of non-humans burst out from the various openings and alleyways of the Ward, bringing with them planks of wood with nails hammered into them and then crooked, poles that have been broken off so that they could be given a sharp edge, others had butcher knives, while others managed slugpieces.
The hobgoblins descended upon them. The humans didn’t stand a chance. They swung their poles — and some of them managed to ground the hobgoblins — but jagged blades burst out from chests and wickedly sharp flanged maces burst skulls open.
The non-humans stood better chances. A flock of anzu flew up and distracted a bunch of hobgoblins in midair with darting strikes from improvised weapons. Belgar flew into a seeming berserk fury, slicing and slashing with claws and weapons both at the hobgoblins. They realized the hobgoblins may not have armor, and cutting through their flesh was much similar to cutting through humans.
A few lakerto fought with three weapons — a butcher knife in one hand, a steel bat in another, and a jagged, shattered wine bottle held by their tails. Zaretrych joined the fight as well, although Aravin couldn’t find Jryzz’sk anywhere.
But there was much too many, despite the small copse of resistance they have managed to make. A hobgoblins skewered a belgar with a jaggaed, barbed, spear, and then pulled it out savagely. It moved again, preparing to attack, and Aravin saw that it was moving towards a woman and her son huddled against a short alley that only ended in a dead end.
Emperor cursed. He pulled upon that Knight Vigilant instinct. He roared as he ran forward — he knew Deloreia was following behind him — and he performed a throwing gesture with his hand. “By astral and umbral — we the Knights Vigilant protect! Kirahl guide us in our endeavor!” And a bright light burst in front of him, sending winds swirling about and a bunch of other hobgoblins near him hurtling away. Aravin jumped through the light…
…and Emperor appeared on the other side, sending the hobgoblin fell to the ground with such an impact that it made a crater.
The hobgoblin lay lifeless as Emperor rose to his full height. This six and a half foot tall thing, was Emperor. It was vaguely the shape of Aravin, but laid over his skin were white interlocking plates that moved swiftly like liquid steel. This white plates looked like they were made of the brightest of alloys, and then forged in the sun. The Emperor’s helmet was shaped similarly to a lion’s except the manner was a blazing corona of blue flame. The helmet was fully closed, and the eye sockets glowed and hissed and wafted with white energy.
“You’re safe,” Emperor stated. “Run behind us.”
They both nodded and ran past Emperor. He turned, red mantle flailing wildly at the wind, and saw that the resistance had all been defeated. Belgar with sharp jagged spears lay on their sides, others lay on the air, suspended by impossible fey chains that were hammered down into the air. Humans lay split apart, or with cruel jagged cuts across their body.
Emperor turned to Deloreia. “Do not expend your Regalia just yet,” he said.
“I don’t plan to,” Deloreia said, nodding. “I trust you will be able to carry me safely to HQ?”
Emperor nodded. “I must.”
And then the Emperor took a step forward, just as a new horde of around a hundred hobgoblins descended upon the street they were in.
The Emperor took another step forward, and there was a building tension on that step. Wind flurried from around his feet, rocks seemed to rise from around him. Deloreia took a few steps back, knowing what’s to come next.
…the hobgoblins skewered a few more anzu in the air, cut open a few more children…
…destroyed a few more shantytowns, burnt a few more of the people’s hard work…
…descended and rushed towards him and Deloreia…
…the Emperor moved.