Incompetent bastard! Morkui seethed, coursing through the sea-fort’s wide passageways and ignoring the ocean’s little invasions. The Ulmish here had their own mages, many in unbroken lines from the Age of Splendors. Powerful enough for most things–but soft people forged by soft life. Morkui was a weapon of the Ruined Age, and only he could hope to finish what he’d started. He tore gouts of water behind him, feet hammering the passageways under a ten-fold Quickening.
Ulmish soldiers and civilians alike became slow-twisting islands in his path. Morkui passed several of their mages in the midst of casting, but they had no Quickenings of their own. So little time and they do nothing to add to it? And my mother always claimed the Age of Splendors was the height of wisdom. Ha! Does it take such great initiative to open a single door? Regulations, they say, always they follow the regulations–even if it means an innocent woman drowns!
“You!” Morkui barked in Ulmish, halting his Quickening briefly.
“Yessir!” the blue-armored sergeant froze in place, and his squad with him. Another legacy of the Age of Splendors: Anseth once ruled the world, and a tall dark man with a strong voice could get unreasonably good results from they who remembered.
“There is a young Firascan chained to the wall in the outer margin, storage room L1-C32,” Morkui yelled. “You will take your squad and free him. He has been of use to me.”
“Very good, Sir!” the Sergeant nodded.
Morkui took the Quickening back up and fed further power into it. He began to feel the drain, but there was no helping that. Physics, scream as you wanted, remained physics. He tapped into the sea-fort’s power grid, making it an extension of himself. He used it to spread his perceptions while he ran, a disconcerting feeling which he’d needed years to account for. There were plenty of the cold-anvil sensations he felt from the presence of other mages, but–
Deeper in the Sea-fort, heading toward its belly, he felt something else: a hole in the Current itself. The creature felt like nothing so much as flushed cheeks and and bitter glares–like jealousy, in fact.
Always the slow one, Saijun, he thought. He knew Ensyl had been here from the trace he’d placed on Filare, and the diatribe he’d heard. The Arch-Lich might disguise himself well, but his high-minded philosophy was the worst of tells. Quite aside from that, Ensyl was the only one clever enough to guess an Inquisitor might be able to use the Sea-fort’s runes to extend a Seeking, and plan for it by stowing Filare off the grid. Unfortunately, Ensyl, alone of the Five, could teleport. Morkui knew he was gone already.
Which, he hated to admit, was for the best. With ten other Inquisitors, he might defeat Ensyl–and maybes made poor keystones.
Morkui plunged down stairwells, hurled himself down ladderless shafts with his spear held vertical, and held blast-doors open to reach his goal. The Sea-fort came from an earlier age of warfare, when magic was everywhere and anything upon the oceans was built to survive taking on water. A cursory Seeking made the Sea-fort’s wounds appear as frigid tugs on Morkui’s conscious. There were hundreds; Ensyl must have had his cronies running about for months placing all the spell-mines needed.
Likely the Ulmish expected the Sea-fort to keep them safe from flooding, and it would do this in the direct sense. But Morkui felt the precise intervals between the breaches, and just how many of them had wrecked internal bulkheads or blast-doors. The Sea-fort wouldn’t drown entirely–but it would sink, unable to surface again, and be trapped beneath the surface until repaired, the water forced out a room at a time. Most of its people would starve by then.
Except that once again, Ensyl does not reckon on the Vigil. Morkui directed his consciousness at a small diamond pin fastening his spear’s blade to its shaft.
“Central, this is Inquisitor-Adept Bano,” he shouted while he ran. “I have made contact with members of the Five infiltrating the Sea-fort at Grid South 2, West 19, Subgrid 3, Codename ‘Mottlehide!’ I confirm Ensyl and Saijun were present; Ensyl has likely exfiltrated but cannot confirm at this time.” He drove a kinetic burst into an oncoming ocean-torrent and pushed through, chasing that emptiness down red-light halls past blaring klaxons. “Sea-fort is non-fatally compromised; I believe Ensyl is trying to sink it permanently. Requesting immediate reinforcement, preferably Aeromancers and metallurgical specialists!” He didn’t wait for the response.
Morkui flickered past a sign reading, “Ironfish Bays” and grimaced. Saijun was still a hundred yards ahead, and moving much faster now. Morkui literally redoubled his Quickening, and felt the early tingles of Caster’s Drain. He ignored them. A human or lesser mage would be trying to steal an Ulmish submersible and flee in it; he’d easily catch them while they brought it online or flailed uselessly at controls they didn’t understand.
Saijun was a Lich, and by extension didn’t need to breath. If he didn’t catch her now, she’d open the bay doors and dive out the bottom of the Sea-fort. A mangled heap of steel, circuitry and shattered blue-diamond panels loomed before him. Morkui pulled hard on the Current and thrust his spear forward three times, blasting white-hot force through the panels. A kinetic shove exploded the barricade, and another hurled him at a right-angle through Bay A-4’s open door. A tall figure in ornate Ton robes turned slowly, then suddenly much faster to meet him.
Morkui’s spear fell onto center line, shoved Saijun’s own spear aside before she could bring it to bear, and bore deep into her skinless neck. His momentum carried them both to the bay’s far wall, where they impacted with a slam. Immediately, Saijun slammed her free palm against his spear’s wings, and Morkui hurtled backwards. He halted himself on the platform and, with a smirk, exploded the Ironfish Bay’s control room.
“Binusi gave me a message for you,” Morkui said conversationally.
“And what’s that?” Saijun sneered, leveling her own spear.
Morkui twitched his fingers. Three Ulmish Ironfish yanked loose from their moorings and hurtled at Saijun, each a hundred tons of rust-proofed steel and mage-forged glass powered by their own blue-diamond matrices. When they clashed against her in a typhoon of screaming steel, Morkui twitched his fingers again and detonated their power supplies. Morkui shrugged.
“Perhaps it is allegory?”