The Thinning Veil, Part Sixteen

Welcome! Thank you for taking the time to read the latest installment in our new book. If you’re just joining us, you may prefer to start at the beginning. The Introduction, which is beneficial to understanding the story, can be found here. If you would rather jump straight into the story, click here for Chapter 1.

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Chapter 45 | Chapter 46|

Chapter 45

chapter 45

For the briefest of moments, it felt as though the world jumped. Dasheng Sen’s screams had startled both Apa’ii and Belinda long enough that there was the smallest hiccup in their magic. Everyone felt it but no one knew what it was or what had caused it. Lights flickered. Computers blinked and reset, taking a large portion of the world offline. Automobile traffic shifted slightly, enough for everyone to notice but no accidents were caused. The cubes containing 4000 scientists swayed in the air like giant swings.

Apa’ii called Pockwatch and Fleau to the throne room. “Dasheng Sen is calling on the ancient power of Oceanus,” she told them. “How much of that she can handle is unknown but not a risk we dare take. I have no choice but to release the exiles.”

Both counselors took a step back as Apa’ii’s countenance turned a deep purpose. While neither considered questioning the gravity of the situation, the extreme nature of the solution caused them to feel frightened and anxious.

“I’m giving you both extra power to speed the journeys you’re about to take,” Apa’ii continued, aware of what the counselors were feeling. “And no, I cannot predict with any precision what might happen. I don’t want to put my trust in the Erlkönig nor the Daevas. Ulaf is a trickster and Inofar is a liar. The magic they possess is almost as strong as my own, though. If Dasheng Sen is going to use ancient magic then we have to counter with the same.” She paused before adding, “If either of you has a better solution, now would be the time to mention it.”

Pockwatch and Fleau looked at each other hoping one of them might have an alternative that didn’t put the power of the magic realm at risk. Moments like this were rare and no one could have foreseen a situation where desperation would have them backed into a corner. After a moment’s thought, Pockwatch asked, “I assume there are specific conditions to their release?”

Apa’ii shook her head. “Not much beyond their allegiance to the realm and, given who we’re talking about, I’m not putting any weight on them holding true to that oath, either. I’ve no doubt they’ll help us with the battles, but there are no assurances beyond that point.”

“I’m sorry, your majesty, but I’m not seeing the wisdom in taking such risks,” Fleau said. “We know them to be trouble makers, that’s why they’re exiled in the first place. They are who and what they are and no amount of passing time is going to change that.”

“Do we know who they are, or do we know who we want them to be?” Apa’ii asked. “I don’t think we’ve given them a chance to be anything other than what their mythologies expect them to be. We have for too long stripped them of their freedom while others likely deserved such separation. Perhaps they’ll attempt to retaliate, but if we don’t give them an opportunity to define what they are for themselves then there will always be conflict. I am more convinced now that justice does not happen when souls are not free. If we want them to fight then we have to give them to freedom to live, even if their lives don’t always agree with our own.”

“Inofar, though,” Pockwatch started. 

“Inofar needs the opportunity to mourn his beloved Persia. For all the pain and suffering he caused there, he and the Daevas always respected the culture and managed to help the humans there develop their science and arts. They have seen what all has been destroyed by the bastardization of religions. They feel anger now but once the anger passes, they will mourn and in mourning, they will find a purpose more suitable to the season.”

Fleau and Pockwatch looked at each other again. Apa’ii had made up her mind and justified her decisions with reason more lenient than either considered appropriate for a time of war. They each wanted a different, less volatile option. Such choices were not evident if they existed.

“Pockwatch, you inform the exiles, let them know where they are needed,” Apa’ii instructed. “Fleau, please speed to Belinda so she has time to prepare the Sylphids for the presence of Valkyries in their skies. We’ve not seen that sight for many, many seasons. We can expect many souls to respond with fear. Time is of the essence. Dasheng Sen is expecting us to respond and has her defenses ready. We must move quickly to surprise her and also to stop the troubled ones in the lakes region. They’ve killed thousands of souls. The humans are about to respond severely. Both have to be stopped before the damage they’re doing becomes irreversible. Go now. Godspeed to you both.”

The counselors bowed as they felt the power the queen promised fill their cores. A rush of confidence and determination came over them as they sped away to deliver their messages. No matter how the exiles might respond, the world was never going to be the same.

Chapter 46

chapter 46

Everything that could happen did, and it all happened at once, with such speed that there are no words sufficient to describe the brevity of the whole episode. No one on the ground and few in the air were prepared and their surprise hastened the conclusion of everything and heightened the astonishment of those gifted to watch events unfold.

General Almondale had bombers in the air as quickly as humanly possible given the amount of bureaucratic red tape required for anything involving international cooperation to happen. The 13th Bomb Squadron left Whiteman Air Force Base first, fully loaded with enough power to take out a small country. The 23rd left Minot Air Force Base next with the 11th and 20th leaving Barksdale at the same time. By the moment the 9th and the 28th left Dyers, speculation and conspiracy theories formed on the Internet as to what could have prompted such a strong military response. As the 24th and 37th left Ellsworth, coordination with the Canadians began to take place. Members of the RCAF’s 3rd and 4th Wings took lead positions with the American formations as they flew over the lakes region.

Their orders were clear: they were to search out and destroy all the “robots” they could find. None were to be left standing. No exceptions. The concern, of course, was for potential civilian casualties but so far the Nawa’ Diyo had managed to keep the troubled ones away from human populations on the ground. As the demons had begun to march eastward, though, that task was looking more difficult. The coastal areas were full of fishing villages and tourist traps that were busy this time of year.

Bockwimen knew the bombers were coming and had instructed all the Nawa’ Diyo to stay out of their way. He was trusting Apa’ii’s magic to protect the grounded communities and those around them when the bombs started falling. He had watched enough military testing to know what to expect. The humans’ bombs would devastate the ground and disrupt magnetic fields for a moment. Anything under the queen’s protection would be spared, though their appearance might change to match the surroundings. What mattered most at the moment was staying away from the inevitable debris the bombs would cause.

When a fast-moving, rolling darkness appeared on the Eastern horizon, the bomber pilots assumed it was a severe thunderstorm forming over the Atlantic Ocean and questioned why the weather wasn’t showing up on their radar. Unified command insisted that the skies should be clear and that the mission should be complete before any chance of weather interfering.

Bockwimen recognized the darkness and knew it wasn’t a weather event moving toward them. He sent word for everyone to take cover and protect themselves, except for the Aesirs. Lezard and his troops looked up and immediately cheered, taking to the skies to greet the exiles they had not seen since the death of Odin.

Nothing the humans had could respond quickly enough to warn the bomber pilots. Within seconds, the skies over the entire lake region were covered with dark-winged horses, massive, immortal beasts bearing the heavily armored Valkyries on their backs. With Eir leading in front, her vision both ferocious and distractingly beautiful, the pilots were overwhelmed as wings larger than their aircraft swooped down, forcing them to break formation.

Frantically, pilots confirmed that they were all seeing the same thing. Flying at speeds nearing Mach one, all the pilots saw at first were winged creatures they couldn’t identify. None were willing to believe there were horses in the air, let alone that they were flying faster and maneuvered more nimbly than the planes.

As squadron leaders attempted to explain to unified command what was happening, the first cluster of troubled ones came into sight. With no magic stopping the bombers, the targets were confirmed immediately and the planes began launching their cruise missiles.

The Valkyrie had been in exile long enough that they had yet to encounter these new human weapons. Eir allowed the first few to fly past her, letting them hit the troubled ones as intended. The troubled ones did not have souls and therefore the Valkyries did not feel obligated to interfere with their destruction. What mattered more was the death and damage the missiles caused when they missed their target or hit too low to the ground. The explosion of the first missile to miss its target was enough to convince all the Valkyrie that the planes could not be allowed to continue.

Recognizing Eir as she flew above him, Lezard leaped into the air to announce his presence. Eir waved her sword in acknowledgment and they quickly adapted to the methods of warfare they had used in the ancient wars. The Aesir would guide the weapons toward the troubled ones. The Valkyrie would eliminate those that missed their target.

Cameras on the aircraft were not fast enough to get clear pictures of what pilots were seeing around them. While all the pilots had heard of the Valkyries, all considered them nothing more than Nordic legend. To see them now, angry and on a mission, brought fear to the normally over-confident pilots and their crews. Questions regarding whether to fire on the creatures were met with orders to stay on mission, focus on eliminating the “robots” and get out.

The missiles had yet to significantly lower the number of troubled ones who were now reaching for the bombers. The aircraft remained too high to be caught but as the troubled ones were distracted by both the planes and the Valkyries, the Aesirs swept through their ranks, severing them at their middle joining points, and giving the pilots the impression they had destroyed more of the demons than the missiles had hit.

As planes circled to make a bombing run, however, they were met with Valkyrie who were eager to inflict some of their wrath on the flying machines taking up their airspace. Seeing the destructive power of the bombs, Eir led her sisters to strike against the planes, selecting those whose bombs had missed hitting the troubled ones, severing their planes in half. When the pilots and crew attempted to bail out of the damaged planes, the Valkyries flew in and disrupted the parachutes so that none of the pilots or crew survived the fall.

The bombs were more successful than the missiles at destroying the troubled ones. Entire groups fell by the hundreds, leaving large piles of rubble that would remain part of the Northern landscape for centuries. Fewer planes were flying in tighter formation as they prepared for another wave of bombs to drop. This time, the troubled ones were more scattered and without the help of the Aesir few of the bombs would have hit their targets. By the time the smoke cleared from the second wave of bombs, the horde had been reduced in number by half.

Carpinus realized that as a group the troubled ones were powerless against the new enemies in the air. Fighting in groups, which they did best, made them easier targets for the bombs they couldn’t stop. Attempting to swat the bombs from the air only resulted in them exploding sooner, inflicting more damage than they could otherwise. Reluctantly, he called for those remaining to retreat to the lake beds and return underground.

The Valkyries and Aesirs recognized what was happening and realized they had an opportunity to eliminate more of the beasts as they tried to escape. Only a third of the bombers remained in the air. The Valkyries herded them toward the lakebeds where the troubled ones were gathering, pushing, and shoving at each other as they attempted to get underground before the next wave of bombs hit.

The remaining pilots followed the Valkyrie even though they still didn’t understand how the mythological creatures could be real. They saw the troubled ones as they tried to escape and focused on the center of the groups. The Aesirs made sure the bombs hit their targets, blowing large craters into the lakebeds filled with the rubbled remains of the troubled ones. Only a few thousand managed to escape with Carpinus, heading for the safety of the mantle as quickly as they could.

Eir decided they had taken enough human lives and escorted the surviving planes Southward, away from the lakes region. As the bombers left Canadian airspace, the Valkyries swooped upward, giving the appearance they had disappeared. The pilots flew at top speeds back to their bases, frightened and anxious to describe what they had just experienced. 

For Alice Read, the ear-splitting scream of the water queen was the worst sound she had heard at any point in her life. The screeching of a death metal band, a sound she considered offensive to humanity, was not as painful as what she was experiencing now. She tried looking up but could only see a wall of blackness rising from the other side of the landmass. Desperately, she looked around for her team. They were all lying on the ground, their hands over their ears, as they tried to protect themselves from the piercing effects of the screams. The pressure kept the humans pinned to the ground where they were easy targets. A split-second later and Dasheng would have killed them all.

Dasheng Sen wasn’t expecting Ulaf and the full swarm of Erlkönig. She knew they had been exiled and thought that Apa’ii would never set them free. To see them now, suddenly appearing over the landmass, their forceful and deadly magic at the ready, caught her off guard and distracted her from the humans. She instinctively responded with a blast of pure magic, attempting to blow them out of the way. The magic fell like sparkles of glitter.

The Erlkönig responded with a concerted blast of their own, strong enough to cause Dasheng to stumble backward.

From the other side of the landmass, Merric saw what was happening and adjusted his forces to come to the queen’s aid. That was all the break the USS Neptune and Winslow needed to head toward the same cove where the Starfish was tied. The two ships raced toward the landmass with Marines ready to deploy as soon as the land was within reach.

Captain Grace was concerned that whatever was happening on the leeward side of the landmass might be some kind of trick. They needed troops on the ground and to reconnect with Dr. Read and her team before investigating the large object that suddenly appeared on their radar.

The Fenrir circled tightly around Alice and her team, not entirely sure how to respond to the sudden presence of the Erlkönig. Their protection spells were strong enough to protect the humans from most magic, but the Erlkönig controlled power that could rival Dashen Sen’s and the Fenrir knew that random pieces of magic could ricochet or fly off random spells leaving the humans caught in the crossfire. 

While the humans laid on the ground with their hand over their ears, the Fenrir quickly re-arranged the mounds of solidified sea trash to provide an effective wall between them and the battle that was about to take place.

Similarly, the Truanciles protected those humans still on or near the Starfish. The humans there couldn’t see Dasheng Sen but her screeching left them holding their ears just as it had Dr. Read and her team. The magicians reinforced the bubble of protection over the boat and extended it to those on the land nearby. None of the Truanciles had seen the Erlkönig before but their reputation was enough to warrant caution even if the exiles seemed in a position to help them.

As the Mer rushed to Dasheng Sen, the Nereids were left on their own. While they could keep waves going for a while, they were not as strong as the Mer and the human ships had no problem breaking through and moving forward. The Kamodeans attacked again, stronger than they had before, frustrating the Nereids through not causing any damage to the water spirits. Kamodean magic began to form a reef around the Northern side of the landmass, causing waves to break before they could do any harm. The Nereids, not wanting to be caught inside the growing reef, left for deeper waters. While they were not far away, they no longer could bother the landmass or anyone on it.

Pausnuck watched as Ulaf and the Erlkönig stared down Dasheng Sen and the Mer. Ulaf had ignored the counselor when they arrived and charged straight for the water queen. While Pausnuck knew that releasing the exiles was a possibility, he was still caught by surprise, unsure of exactly what their intentions were and whether to offer any help. He was excitedly thankful when Pockwatch soon arrived with some clarification. 

“I never thought Queen Apa’ii would release the exiles,” Pausnuck said as Pockwatch joined him. “I’ve always heard the stories of how ferocious they could be but now that they’re here I’m more frightened than I had imagined.”

Pockwatch nodded. “They’re the only ones fierce enough to stand up to Dasheng Sen without reinforcements. The only other option would be for the queens themselves to do battle and no one, not even Dasheng Sen, wants that. The amount of magic that would involve could leave all three realms weakened for several seasons. As frightening as they are in person, this is still the better alternative.”

“Where are the other exiles?” Pausnuck asked, looking around as though other magicians might drop from the sky at any moment. “The Valkyries are taking down the troubled ones and keeping the human flying machines from doing too much damage. Insofar and the Daevas are protecting the area around the home tree. Queen Apa’ii wants to keep Inofar close in case he attempts to betray her or go off on his own tangent against the humans.”

“What about the Oni?” Pausnuck asked. He had thought the giants would have been the natural choice to combat the troubled ones.

Pockwatch shook his head. “The seasons of exile have diminished their desire to fight, at least for now. They have returned to their mountains in Asia and Apa’ii has agreed to leave them in peace so long as they don’t resume their terroristic activities. I have seen them. They are no longer the silent monsters they once were.”

Pausnuck looked back toward Ulaf hovering in the air, a spear clenched in his fist as he growled at the water queen. “So, do we offer Ulaf our help or what?” he asked. “I’m still not sure who I’m supposed to be rooting for.”

“Stay out of their way,” Pockwatch advised. “The Erlkönig never have played well with anyone who isn’t part elvish. Should the magic start flying between them and Dasheng Sen, we don’t want to be caught in the middle and we don’t want the humans there, either. Remember, Apa’ii has use for these humans. Humans. We have to keep them safe so they can reveal the Mer to the human world.”

Dasheng Sen hissed at Ulaf. “Filthy exiles. You may have fooled Apa’ii into releasing you but you never were a match for me and you’re not going to stop me now. The humans have dared defile a Mer body and they will pay for that error!”

As she spoke, a dark wave rose behind her and began to break toward the landmass. Ulaf laughed loudly, his deep voice booming loud enough to shake the ground below him. With a small gesture, the wave fell back and licked calmly at the shore. “You have a bad memory, your majesty,” the Erlkönig leader snarled. “You have never been strong enough to defeat us and through all the seasons we’ve been deprived of our freedom we’ve grown stronger. Queen Apa’ii has given us this landmass to protect and the Hantu Air doesn’t possess enough magic in the whole realm to defeat us.”

With another gesture the Erlkönig sent an electrical charge spreading across the ground toward the water, a bright violet in color, crackling and sizzling with energy. Instinctively, the Mer who were closest to Dasheng Sen fell back.

“You talk big,” the water queen said, “but you are not the only one whose power has grown over the seasons. You cannot stop me. Apa’ii and Belinda together cannot stop me.” A wry grin crossed her face. “Ulaf, I cannot believe you would give your allegiance away so easily. So Apa’ii gave you this landmass. Did she tell you that she created it illegally, how many treaties she violated in raising it out of my ocean? Did she tell you what she plans to do with it after the humans leave? And yes, they’re going to leave and when they do I’m going to sink their little boats once and for all. You are serving the wrong queen, Ulaf. Apa’ii is a liar and a traitor to all the magic realms. She’s ready to reveal us to the humans but not the Nawa’ Diyo? How cruel is that? She cannot be trusted to keep her world, exile. When she’s done with you, she’s sending you right back to that prison you so detest. Join me and I will give you more than one puny landmass over which you can rule. I will give you the whole land realm. Kill Apa’ii and everything she has will be yours.”

“I do not need your assistance to take what I want,” Ulaf said. “I am not greedy like you are. I can be patient and take pieces of land, sea, and air as I have need of them. Imprisoned once, but never again.”

A blue ball of magic flew from Dasheng Sen’s mouth aimed at Ulaf. With a swish of his sword, he batted it away, the magic falling harmlessly to the ground. He immediately returned with a magical charge of his own, too low for the queen to quickly reach, lighting up the water and killing a couple of Mer warriors. Dasheng fired again, retaliating with a magic wave nearly as long as the entire landmass. Pausnuck and Pockwatch jumped, flying higher to avoid the crossfire. 

On the ground, Alice and her crew, not understanding the language or actions of the magicians around them, assumed there was some form of military action taking place. Dr. Read couldn’t help thinking that the navy escort would come in handy about now. 

Again, the Erlkönig, in unison, struck down the queen’s magic and fired back, forcing the Mer warriors to dive deep to avoid the charge. The Mer rose with their tridents ablaze, firing repeatedly at the Erlkönig as Dasheng Sen pounded them with her magic and sending a wall of water at the landmass. 

The Fenrir, who the Erlkönig had yet to notice, threw up a shield to knock back the water. Ulaf nodded his thanks before leading the Erlkönig in a charge against the Mer and Dasheng Sen.

Percussion from the magic explosions shook the landmass, reverberating out into the water, making it difficult for the Marines to get from the USS Neptune to shore. As the first platoons landed, the energy from the battle forced them into prone positions on the jagged ground. The troops secured the Starfish and those still with the boat while setting up a communications post. 

The Truanciles watched with a mixture of concern and amusement as the troops followed a regimented plan, rushing around, looking for an enemy they couldn’t see or understand. The magicians didn’t mind protecting the humans for the time being. They considered them inferior creatures who acted more on instinct and impulse than logic or reason. As more troops came ashore, unpacking assault vehicles and big guns, the Truanciles played games, making the humans’ tools disappear and reappear in different places, tipping over equipment, and interfering with anything generating an electric current.

For U.S. Marine Major Benjamin Weber, the landing was being more challenging than anything he’d ever encountered. The uneven landscape was not only unstable but as full of glass and protruding pieces of metal that slashed and tore at everything brought ashore. Constant percussion from the magic battle, which to them appeared only as powerful bursts of color, generated a constant wind, making standing difficult without support. The noise requires the use of hand signals, a regular part of their training, but with every explosion, the troops instinctively ducked, and in the process, signals were miscommunicated and misunderstood.

Major Weber grew increasingly frustrated as everything was taking two or three times longer than it had in training. His troops were young. Half had never seen any form of combat before. Their anxiety caused them to make mistakes, slowing the troops more. No amount of yelling moved the process any faster.

The captain of the Starfish, Yousef Akel, conferred with Major Weber, warning him about Dr. Read’s concern for poison gasses in addition to the physical dangers of the landmass. Major Weber made sure gas masks were deployed to both the troops and civilians. The Truanciles laughed harder as they thought the mask-wearing humans looked like odd two-legged bugs running over the rough ground.

As soon as communications were established, Major Weber spoke with Admiral Hodgkins. “I don’t know what kind of picture the satellite is giving you but these are the worst conditions I’ve ever landed in, Admiral. Moving equipment across this ground is dangerous. Hell, just trying to walk on this… whatever it is, is dangerous. The debris in the ground is slicing through boots. We’re going to need someone on the lee side if we’re going to secure the whole landmass, and that’s where the fighting is taking place.

”Fighting?” Admiral Hodgkins questioned. “We’re not showing anyone on the landmass but you and Dr. Read’s crew. I assume they’re all safe.”

“I cannot confirm that yet, sir,” Major Weber replied. “The boat’s crew and the team’s assistants are safe, but Dr. Read had taken a team out before we got here, before the fighting started. We assume they’re pinned down somewhere. A search and recover team is prepping now.”

“I’m still not seeing any hostiles on radar or satellite, Major,” the Admiral said. “What kind of fire are you seeing?”

“Form here, I’m guessing some kind of missile, though what I’m not sure,” Major Weber replied. “The percussions are heavy and keep knocking us down.”

“You’re taking direct fire?” Hodgkins asked.

“No sir, the explosions are coming from the other side of the landmass,” the Major said. “I don’t know that our presence here has been noticed yet. The explosions are so strong though that everything is unstable.”

“Can you get back to the Neptune safely?” Hodgkins asked.

“Aye, sir,” the Major replied. “We can bug out at any time and take the Starfish crew with us. We’re expecting company from the Russians and the EU soon enough. They were already on our radar. We’d prefer to be well-established and flying flags when they get here.”

“I would like that, too, Major,” Hodgkins said. “Do all you can to make that happen. And find Dr. Read. Losing well-known scientists doesn’t play well.”

“Aye, sir,” Major Weber replied. “The team is ready to leave now.”

“Good. Let me know when they’re safe and if you can identify the source of those missiles or whatever your seeing. That someone has a weapon we can’t pick up on satellite is deeply disturbing. I’ll check with Intelligence and see if they have any clues.”

Dr. Read used her digital tablet to send notes to her team. The explosions and noise around them was constant, making verbal communication impossible. “I’m not leaving here without that body,” she wrote to Dr. Ellen Spencer, a specialist in marine mammology.

“The whole thing?” Dr. Spencer asked. “Given the reaction to removing a scale, I’m not sure moving the whole thing is possible.”

“Maybe not for us,” Alice replied, “but once the Marines get here we’ll have more support and can get it back to the boat.”

“Do you think it will fit without dissecting it first?” Ellen asked. “That thing has to be at least thirty feet long.”

“I’d rather not dissect it until we get it somewhere safer,” Alice wrote. “We need to secure it quickly before someone else shows and tries to claim it.” 

“You think what’s what all this noise is?” Ellen asked.

“None of it started until I removed that scale,” Alice said. “I think it’s safe to assume that triggered some response from something or someone. I can’t see what, though.”

“Yeah, this is too much like a war game,” Ellen said. “I think we’re better off returning to the Starfish and letting the Marines grab the corpse for us. I don’t think field study is possible under these conditions.” 

Alice sighed. She hated leaving a prime specimen behind but she knew Ellen was right. The longer they stayed where they were, the more they were all in danger. “I’m going to try and grab a couple more samples,” she wrote. “Maybe with all the noise no one will notice.”

Had Pasunuck been paying attention to the scientists, he would have stopped Dr. Read. He was distracted by the Marines, though, and Pockwatch was trying to keep up with the battle between Dasheng Sen and the Erlkönig. Even the Fenrir wasn’t paying attention as they marveled at the skill of the Erlkönig. No one saw Alice inching closer, tweezers, and sample bags in hand.

Another scale went into a bag, then a third with no response. Alice felt confident that she could get away with taking whatever she wanted. Carefully, she uncapped a scalpel and began removing a piece of the merman’s flesh.

Dasheng Sen’s scream pushed the Erlkönig back and sent the humans tumbling to the ground, holding their ears in pain. The Fenrir barely deflected the wave that broke over them. The water queen was attempting to retrieve the merman’s corpse before the scientist could do any more damage. She threw a blast of magic at the Fenrir. Pausnuck watched in horror as half of them fell. The scientists were now vulnerable.

As Dasheng Sen drew back to unleash another bolt at the humans, Pausnuck did something he had never had reason to do before. Removing his sword from its sheath, he aimed it directly at Dasheng Sen and fired the strongest bolt of magic he could. For the next several minutes, the landmass and everything around it went dark and silent. No one could see and everyone was too stunned to speak.

When the light finally came back, Dasheng Sen and the Mer warriors were gone. Pockwatch looked at Pausnuck and asked, “What the hell was that?”

Pausnuck shrugged. “I don’t know. That’s a new sword. First time I’ve had to use it. One of Freyr’s creations.”

Ulaf looked over at the two counselors. “You might warn us before you do that,” he said. “You just disrupted the energy of the sun. Even queens don’t mess with that.”

Less than seven minutes had passed.

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