- Pangaea -

Arc 01 - To Try the Spirit of Men

Act III – A Turn for the Worst

Chapter 23

…The King's Palace…

…The White Legion…

…The Mercenary's Union…

…Rugosa Medical Center…

…Midori Park…

These are but a few of the most notable areas of Albus City.

The City's key location in Laurasia has caused it to grow into the thriving capital of the continent. It is rich with diversity and opportunity, making it the political centre of the land.

Its most historical landmark is the Ocarina River which flows through the middle of the city. A tiny island sits in the river at the heart of Albus and this is where the Royal Keep was built.

But Albus is not without its history. Starting off as two warring tribes sat on either side of the river, a union was forged and a marriage was born to the first known King. The tribes were brought together in order to prosper and after many hard years they succeeded.

'A Custodian's Guide to Pangaea: Places – Volume IV: Albus City' by Jeiden the Scribe

Marcus and Crescentia exchanged flurries of physical attacks whilst perfectly timing dodges and deflections. When was she ever this strong? He thought to himself and felt frustrated that she wasn't going down as quickly as he expected.

Elsewhere on the battlefield Nathan's shield, and his magic combined with Ayla's, proved a surprising match against the giant's power.

Louka had seen Kyros on the ground and struggling to continue with their mission, so he took a break from providing backup to the White Scouts and ran across to the Custodian's position.

He reached Kyros and kept his eyes on everyone else as he motioned for him to stand.

"Come on, it's clear." Louka ordered.

"I…I can't do this…" Kyros muttered, having lost his confidence.

"Seriously?" Louka disbelieved and looked down at the Custodian. "You see all this? I don't know what religious views your people have, but I can assure you we're all here from a higher power."

Kyros looked up at Louka with a confused but interested look on his face. "What do you mean?" He asked.

"Well, that girl giving Marcus a hiding? She grew up with us."

"Hey!" Marcus yelled as he kicked Cressy away, "I heard that!" He looked back and spoke with a disagreeing tone. He then took another thump to the side of the head, "Shit!"

"Yeah, although I'm not sure where she's got this strength from." Louka added.

"The rift…I think it's corrupted her." Kyros looked back into the tower.

"That explains it. Adding to that, those twins over there? Somehow our missions have been intertwining with theirs over the last few weeks and we've all fought beside each other for common causes. So the fact that your mission, our mission, and their mission has brought us all together here? I believe it was no accident." Louka finished and Kyros looked up at him with a new strength in his eyes; hope.

Louka extended a hand out to the Custodian and his reach was accepted. He pulled Kyros back onto his feet and nodded at him, to which Kyros returned the gesture. They turned to the tower and made a move into it, keeping an eye out for any more surprises.

Inside the tower wasn't as dark as outside perception had them assume, there were faint purple lines glowing in the air that wavered vertically and faintly lit up the largely empty room, as well as some of the staircases that ran up the wall.

"Is that it?" Louka queried.

"Yes." Kyros confirmed.

"Is it an eye?"

"It's a tear in the very fabric of space." Kyros clarified.

"So this is what's corrupting the area?"

"Not exactly, but if I close it the abnormalities will end." Kyros stepped towards the rift and the room went cold with a soft wind emanating with incredible energy from the tear. Kyros lifted his arms up, facing his palms toward the demon gate and, without taking his eyes off the rift, turned his head slightly to Louka's direction.

"Remember, I cannot be disturbed in the process. You must protect me." Kyros was stern. If his concentration would break at all then it would cost his life and the lives of those nearby, as well as the future risk on any that would have the misfortune of venturing nearby.

"Got it." Louka acknowledged and re-readied for combat.

Kyros closed his eyes and begun, instantly small cracks of some kind of dark electricity cracked about the air.

"No!" Crescentia yelled and dropped her guard for a moment to turn to the tower. Marcus grabbed her shoulder but her guard instantly returned and she gripped his arm before throwing him over her. He landed a few feet in front of her and rolled along the ground. He stopped on his front and leaned up on one arm as he gave a frustrated groan. He looked up to see her running at him so he quickly pushed himself up onto one knee as she jumped up to deliver a pair of kicks in the air. He blocked both and used the momentum to push himself back onto both feet where he continued to slowly back up as he blocked and dodged more of her attacks. She began to fight erratically as the stress of the closing rift distracted her, and Marcus noticed this. She threw a punch and he turned his body to watch her fist fly through the air in front of him. As her weight pushed her more forward than intended, he rode his own momentum to carry on turning and struck her from behind.

In the other nearby battle, it seemed a stalemate had been born. Nathan and Ayla's combined magic might have been enough to hold back the giant's repetitive attacks but in doing so they had no means to counter him offensively. Bob's natural immunity to magic stopped any damage from going through to him. The only way Marcus had been able to beat him before was via brute strength and the current situation in no way mirrored the circumstances of before, making it virtually impossible for the White Scouts to win and move on. The only hope they had at defeating the giant was by waiting it out and hoping he grew exhausted before either of them depleted their mana force.

Inside the tower Kyros was drawing closer to the completion of a task he had trained for his entire life, and outside Crescentia could feel it. Stress was getting to her and after Marcus' successful blow she tumbled helplessly along the ground. But midstream desperation kicked in and another boost of adrenaline reawakened her senses, which allowed her to use the motion to roll back up onto her feet. She continued to run in the opposite direction of Marcus. He was confused at how quickly she was able to recover from the fall but then watched her with an accomplished smirk. Must've cracked her so hard it confused her! He thought to himself before looking ahead of her to see where she was headed.

"Shit, the tower!" He exclaimed and erupted into a full sprint after her.

Cressy had a head start and knew she was faster than Marcus, so she continued to barrel across the clearing without looking back. She couldn't see inside the tower but could feel the energy being drained from the main room, which, in turn, began to drain her more exponentially than predicted.

Behind her; Marcus knew he wasn't going to catch up with her in time, so as he chased her he cast off one of his shadow spells and flung it in her direction. She approached the tower's entrance but was too late to do anything and watched curiously as an arrow took flight from within the tower's darkness and pierced into the ground before her. When it landed it released an enchantment that borrowed from the wind element and propelled her back off of the ground. As she sailed through the air she was hit with Marcus' shadow spell which didn't knock her around but wrapped a brief shadow around her abdomen. In this short moment he was able to catch up with her and punched his hand into her where the shadow lingered and then he turned, as his hand seemingly phased through her body, and threw her forcefully into the ground. There she lay winded and stared up at the trees as she felt her power deplete with the Custodians spell.

Bob looked back in time to see his new friend get knocked down. "Cressy!" He yelled out to her.

Nathan seized the opportunity and raised his sword into the air. An offensive enchantment shone up the blade and he prepared to strike the seemingly unaware giant. The attack landed but to no visible effect; the giant resisted the magic and his skin was tough enough to withstand the Legionnaire's blade itself. Although Bob did notice and was subsequently annoyed enough to turn promptly whilst swinging his arm out to knock Nathan far enough that he collided with his sister. Bob then ran towards his friend's side.

The rift flickered with a number of various-sized chains of purple lightning as Kyros' spell finally resolved.

Louka stood guard at the tower's doorway with loaded bow ready in hand. He looked back at the rift to watch it glow brightly before it dispersed in the air, and with it a powerful feeling seemed to fall away from the world around them.

Marcus stood next to Crescentia's body and looked curiously at the ground as the purple 'earth-veins' faded away, along with the drained colouring on the nearby flora.

A roar demanded and pulled everyone's attention. It was an enraged and, quite possibly, unstoppable giant that hammered in the tower's direction.

Marcus and Louka silently broke out in an internal sweat as anxiety covered adrenaline began to fill their bodies once more. But before Bob reached them, a weak Crescentia sat up and lifted an arm to halt his advance. "Cressy." He repeated her name as he stood by her.

"It's okay, Bob." She rubbed her head, as though awaking from a dream. "I remember…everything." She proclaimed and switched awkward eye contact between her childhood friends that also stood over her.

After an unexpected clash, Nathan and Ayla regained their regular breathing patterns and helped each other up. They saw their comrades in a much calmer situation and made their way over at a relaxed pace.

Kyros emerged from the tower, a little worn out but glowing with a sense of real achievement. "It is done." He proclaimed as the White Scouts reached the group. "The spell is complete and this demon gate of your time is now closed." He said with an accomplished smile.

"Is there a chance it could reopen?" Louka queried.

"No, it won't reopen. But that's not to say a different one won't materialise."

"Isn't that kinda the same thing?" Marcus speculated.

"Not at all, the foundation on which my role here is formed is to sever any weaknesses between coexisting timelines. Therefore the connection will be from a different dimension completely." Kyros explained as if it were simple.

"Oh, of course…" Marcus rolled his eyes, not daring to question any further.

"I'm…I'm so sorry…" Cressy's guilty voice spoke up.

"Don't burden yourself with remorse. Your actions were not of your own influence." Kyros assured.

"But…I did terrible things…I led those animals to their deaths…" Tears welled up in her eyes.

"It wasn't your fault." Louka supported, "In fact it's probably a good thing you were here. If whatever was on the other side of that rift had possessed Marcus, we'd probably all be dead."

"Why were you here, anyway?" Marcus asked with a tone of annoyance, completely ignoring the offhand complement from Louka.

"I…I was looking for a way to get to Effodere…" She answered.

"Effodere? That's the complete opposite direction from Albus City." Nathan pointed out.

"Were you lost due to the forest's magic?" Ayla asked.

"She's a Wilderkin and it's Wilderkin magic. I assume she's immune to its effects." Louka inferred.

Crescentia nodded before responding; "I was told this tower once housed a wizard whose magic allowed them to travel to any place they desired, and they left behind artifacts that did the same thing."

"Does that magic really exist?" Nathan looked at the others.

"I don't know." Marcus shrugged.

"Kyros?" Louka posed, thinking the Custodian would have a deeper base of knowledge than they.

"It's possible." Kyros replied. "It's not required in my work to be educated in magic types beyond the common ones taught in your schools. But we should search the tower for any remaining darkness that may have lingered, we can look for these artifacts at the same time." Kyros recommended.

Louka nodded and he, along with Marcus, followed the Custodian back into the tower while the others waited outside.

Author's Notes:

I love to hear from my readers and encourage constructive feedback.

Thank you for taking the time to read.