Written by MonMarty It had taken a long time for the Maestro Arken to show his hand, but finally, he was willing to leave the tower in the Stronghold estate where he had been holed up, to meet with the group that was destined to assault to banish the Voidmark. He arrived a day before all the events would take place to discuss, and complete its plan near the Caelfall Estate, just outside in the forest. With him came Novellia Fristadvlom (who would later join the attack on Demetrius), to meet with Tullion Kearney, Maelstrom Keppkuula, Bae’an’ha, and Saren. The six of them worked together, the Maestro Arken just telling them to “do as they felt was right by instinct”, but subtly steering his Magics to funnel all of their artistic talents together into one piece. Some of them drew, some of them painted, some of them wrote poetry on it, and some of them simply offered artistic advice. In the end, the item had been completed, a vast painting stretching 12 feet by 12 feet of a somewhat dubious display. A large grassy field surrounded by colorful flowers and mushrooms and all manner of alien creatures, with a large red ball in the middle, that cast lights and shadows from seemingly nowhere in the shapes of what one would expect a Demon to look like. The whole thing looked both childishly sweet, yet eerily off-tune, like even gazing at the painting gave anyone the feeling something was off about it. The Arken remarked that to banish the Voidmark, all the group would have to do was step into the painting at the right time. Novellia left with the Arken to return to the camp, with the rest remaining behind. Sure enough, the next day came, and from a distance, those present could see the Airship begin its assault on Demetrius. The urgency of their own attack, as much as they had barely a clue of what to achieve and how to achieve it, would be more pressing. The Arken could show up at any moment, like they had the weeks before, and just interfered with the actions of those on the ground, thrown all of the plans into chaos, and undo the efforts of the resistance. Just as the Maestro Arken had predicted, however, the painting seemed to come alive. Instead of just being a painting with a few words of poetry underneath it on the canvas, it now looked like an open window into another world behind it, though one that appeared painterly, as if all colors were made of brush strokes. Indeed, familiar with the concept of pocket dimensions and alternate realms, Ashvarya Sylfina was the first to cross the canvas lining, and appear on the other side. Their movements were like stop-motion as brush strokes seemed to materialize in and out of existence to follow the flow, but they called out that everything was fine, and even stepped in and out of the painting a couple of times, signalling that it was safe to cross. As more and more of the assault group on the Voidmark poured into the painting, they were met with a world that was just as colorful as the painting had appeared, and all looked at each other in a distinct painterly style, lacking a certain depth as if they were all made of flat paper. Xaella Khor’enn theorized that they were not necessarily in a pocket dimension, but rather in an imagined manifestation of wherever the Voidmark was, or whatever it was, meaning that the Maestro had given shape to something those from Binral would likely not be able to interpret due to how incomprehensible it was. Xaella did however warn not to be complacent, as the threat of what would protect their invention, would likely be very real, and very deadly. The painting’s manifestation of the Demons started stirring, but the matter was complicated by the fact that they appeared more like shadows emanating from the light cast by the large red ball in the center. They seemed invisible, and their exact location was hard to pinpoint. Ashvarya offered the first move, casting a vast array of mirrors from the entrance of the painting that was still wide open, to the interior, and all over the grassy field in which they all stood. A direct line of moonlight from the outside reflected into the mirrors and bounced all over the area, channeled with Ashenvarya’s Exist Magic to force the Void entities to reveal themselves, using Exist to cancel out Void in them. Just as Ashenvarya predicted, the moonlight infused with Exist essence caused the Void creatures and stalkers to become visible, including the Greater Demons that accompanied them. Shrieking in their revealing, these stalkers that had intended to slowly fall upon their intruders, now charged for a great attack. Maelstrom Keppkuula charged forward, a running speed that quickly turned into an elemental slide as his entire body erupted into flame, every path he made through the grass caused a vast wall of flames to erupt to dictate the battlefield. His speed was so vast that the flaming ball was like a rocket blasting across the field, drawing lines and quartering the hostile creatures into locked off areas. These lines were made in such a manner that the creatures could be split up, funneled, and fought piecemeal by those who had come to fight. After completing his battlefield line-drawing, he leapt into one of the sectioned off areas, with bursts of fire and puffs of smoke following in his wake as he disappeared behind the licking flames. Xaella Khor’enn faced to turn an approaching horde of the creatures, funnel to her through the flaming corridors, aiming her hand up at a mirror above that Ashenvarya had positioned with a pocket dimension of its own, bridging the to the Hellvallt Temple. With a confident boredom and certainty of victory, she summoned her own horde to unleash, a cascade of bones and skeletons pouring out of the mirror above, crashing down onto the Demons and other vile creatures that crept and lumbered towards her. Some of the skeletons exploded on impact as they fell, others landed one by one on top of the larger Void creatures until they became so heavy with corpses and skeletons that they could no longer sustain their own weight and collapsed, the skeletons stabbing and biting at them all the while. Xaella herself unleashed the Malefica, becoming a monstrosity of twisted bone and steel, before a large cloud of pale green flame erupted, the Malefica unleashing its scythe into battle while the ghouls and skeletons continued to thin down the ranks for their master. Emboldened by the presence of such Ordial energy, Kelemvor leapt forth, longbow poised and leading shot after shot into the enemy waves to thin their ranks. Even when the numbers grew too great, and the melee began, they pulled out their fists and started punching wildly, interchanged with using the bow as a club, to such a degree that the bow and their hollow arm started denting from the furious impacts. Luey'nnaeli Kaemarith fought with similar ferocity, her shield and spear used in unison to block incoming claws and stab back at any exposed throats or faces that could be met. A larger Demon with a sword approached, bearing down its weapon on Luey’nnaeli, who blocked the weapon with such force of her shield that the sword bounced back and cleaved the Demon’s own face in half. Before her spear finished it off by impaling it in the heart. Rennyn Caranis appeared and reappeared elsewhere with each stab of his dagger or slash of his sword, the Crimson Witch using Odella’s gifts to rapidly move across the battlefield, a buff of black smoke heralding his arrival, and a death-scream of some demonic creature heralding his disappearance act once more. The exact opposite to this finesse would be Rafael Carano, surrendering his self control to the Demon within, showing that not all Demons have qualms about killing other Demons. While Rennyn was precise and stabbed only what was needed, Rafael bull-rushed all foes with reckless disregard while swinging with such ferocity that each swing cleaved a demon in half, either horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, it did not matter, the only thing that mattered was that at the end, there were more bodyparts than there had been enemies originally. Omaberos Wynn meanwhile was grinning and cackling while twiling their spear and stabbing and skewering left, right and center, causing any to wonder whether they were actually here for the purpose of saving Regalia from the Arken, or just to cause carnage and be part of a slaughter that was hungered for. Rue would once again prove that this battle, and its participants, was a showcase of contrast between the excessive and loud, and the quiet and self controlled. He remained unmoving, with the rustling of the painterly wind causing a flurry of leaves to pass on by as the battle raged all around him. Then, when he found his mark, he launched himself forward, spellblade stretched out to meet the first body it would hit. On impact it caused such an explosion that the creature erupted into a cloud of vapor, with Rue shooting through them, before turning and slicing off the head of another, then landing with a graceful flourish. Anathema fought elsewhere, though to call it a fight would not have been accurate. Anathema’s mass kept expanding and expanding, the more senseless Demons charged at Anathema and got caught in the randomly appearing spikes of bone on their body, the larger they grew as they absorbed more and more matter. They kneeled, and while they continued to grow, formed a staircase of bones on their back that was then used by Corathella Sireillan to gain a jump-off point. They ran up Anathema’s spine staircase, before leaping off their shoulders, barreling down at a group of demonlets like a meteor, crashing into them with such force that they were killed on impact. Others meanwhile climbed up the staircase to gain a vantage point over the battlefield, Anathema finally standing up and forming a mobile battle platform that marched across the battlefield, offering a safe position from which the casters and ranged warriors could fire. Anathema formed platforms on their shoulders and waist, allowing them to position themselves for easy pickings. Anya stood atop Anathema’s shoulder, summoning forth a blizzard that hailed down large shards of ice, impaling the monsters below before Anathema could even stomp on them. In between the ice-spikes that flew, Anya would blink to the ones that did not die immediately, sinking her fangs into them, and causing their whole body to freeze into ice and burst, before blinking back to Anathema’s shoulder. On Anathema’s hips, Imara al-Qahtani pieced together clockwork grenades, tossing them down around Anathema’s feet where the explosions destroyed any of the creatures that tried to climb up Anathema’s legs, the damage immediately being repaired on Anathema’s legs as the gibblets of the creatures were absorbed and used to repair. On the back, Fansho Burch stood, casting lights as a pacifist to blind any aerial monsters that tried to approach Anathema from behind, and also acting as a searchlight in the sky to make aerial monsters very obvious, where Bryanna used her light crossbow to pick them off one by one, using her grappling hook to reach up and down to other Anathema platforms to quickly transport herself across the multi tiered levels for the perfect shot. Aylin Solaveira meanwhile stood on top of the spire formed on Anathema’s head in the shape of a spiral made of bone, short bow poised to take hawk-eye accurate shots at the creatures below. An aerial Demon that descended on her had completely underestimated her, for when her bow was no longer in hand, she unleashed a scream of rage, claws poised and tearing into the creature to rend its limbs and wings in a matter of seconds. The Anathema battle platform continued to march across the battlefield, crushing monsters underneath, and their allies pelting their weapons at the unfortunate ones to get within range below. Finally, Bae’an’ha was suspended from a tendril extended from Anathema’s waist, as if a fleshy aerial silk artist. She swung between Anathema’s legs while Anathema slow-walked across the carnage, Bae’an’ha gracefully moving back and forth while steering her arms and hands like flowing water, her Weapon Sung sword following in unison as it sped through the ranks of creatures, following her directions. Her performance was as if she was entirely out of the moment, dancing while swinging in the air, out of reach of her enemies, but ending their existence all the same. The battle which the Demons had perhaps hoped to be a slaughter on the part of the attackers, had underestimated the potency of this many mages caught together, not quite facing anything but a horde of demons and smaller void creatures. Without the mirrors to reveal them and the fire to keep them from being able to overwhelm the attackers, the Demons might have stood a chance, but the reality dawned that there hadn’t been any Greater Demons, or Arken, which was thought to be strange by some who weren’t as absorbed into the battle. After all, the Voidmark was there to help the Arken interfere with the world more easily, why would they just protect it with so little actual defenses? Sure enough, Kayhdin Phaersalah who was not a combatant and mostly kept his cool during the fight to help anyone who needed healing, was one of the few ones actually looking up occasionally to see that the paint of the sky was looking like it was unraveling. Not quite sure what this meant, he tried to alert the others, but the sounds of battle were raging, magical spells and monster giant Anathema causing such loud thuds of footsteps that none paid attention until it was too late. The paint seemed to crack, before furling open, revealing the Greater Demon of Fire, Alamat, along with the Greater Demon of Sand, Zarak. Zarak crashed into the ground, summoning vast waves of sand that choked out the fires of Maelstrom’s battle lines, so abruptly that the sand and fire fused to glass, instead providing barriers behind which the creatures could move without being seen. Alamar descended and snatched Maelstrom in the middle of a fight, blowing some breath onto him, instantly extinguishing his fires before tossing him unconscious to the wayside, having met a flame that even he could not best. The two then burst forth, attacking the others who were still holding their ground. Li’xian Spieler, Lyraesel Zz’lissaav and Stray were the first to face the brunt of the renewed attack as the pace of the battle changed. Li’Xian slashed their sword with bright light back and forth in an attempt to push back the increasing number of demonic hounds that came at them, where the other two also seemed to be overwhelmed. Stray flashed forward each time a torrent of sparks to deliver rapid slashes, bright golden lights flashing from his eyes each time he destroyed a demonic creature, but the numbers just kept increasing. Lyraesel wrapped his tail around the legs of a large Demonic ogre, causing it to trip before he pounced on top of the foe, grabbing hold of its head and repeatedly slamming it into the ground until its own horns broke off and impaled its skull. Yet he too was outnumbered, more and more Demon Ogres appearing, and Lyraesel having only one tail. Li’Xian created some space by stabbing a particular nasty looking Demon in the throat, before dragging their sword upwards to cleave their face in half, the battle fatigue getting to all three of them. Further along the battlefield, the Alamat Greater Demon had toppled Anathema and was leaking its flaming bile all over Anathema’s body, the burning heat turning parts of Anathema’s body to ash before they could repair and reform, even attempts to incorporate Alamat into Anathema’s body failed as Alamat’s body reacted more violently than even an earlier attempt to incorporate Url blood, burning the insides of Anathema. Those who had been standing on Anathema’s platforms were forced to retreat, as Alamat was so much larger and probably capable of crushing them in a single attack. Anya stayed behind, desperately summoning blizzard and snow to try and cool Alamat down, but nothing seemed to help, the snow melted before it even reached beyond the heat barrier of his body, and all he did was cackle at Anya as she shrieked in tearful frustration at being helpless while continuing to funnel blizzards in its direction. A large wave of razor sharp sand sped its way to a group of allies, with Milo Sekiann arriving just in time. He slashed the ground with his sword, and as if making a rupture in the painting itself, a spout of water erupted, creating a localized wall of water that violently reached for the sky, then falling down like a gentle rain. The water blew with such force that it intercepted all the sand before it hit those bracing behind him, preventing their skin from being ripped off by the coarse winds. More and more Demons started pouring in from the hole, a fact that did not escape Elmyra. Elmyra had been using a battlegroup of their own spectral warriors that still held in formation around them, but the hole had to be closed otherwise the group would be utterly overwhelmed. Elmyra cast the grimoire up to the sky, using Ordial Time Magic to close the painting’s cracks that had formed, reverting the chipping and tearing, but it was obvious something even bigger than Alamat and Zarak was trying to break through, Elmyra could feel it bashing at the seams, each time weakening their Magic and demanding they put all their attention to keeping the hole shut, even their spectral warriors disappearing as they could no longer uphold the spell. Ailred Drulvaar and Cecil noticed, calling on Alban Koning and Arye Drulvaar to form a defensive line around Elmyra. Demonic hounds circled, looking for an opening to break through this line and attack Elmyra directly. With Ailred being the first to jump out to decide when the fight should be had, not content to let the enemy decide. He charged his axes covered in frost, hammering on whatever enemy he could get his hands on, each freezing over as he killed them. Cecil’s body transmuted to a cloud of starlight, unleashing waves upon waves of fanning starlight magic onto the creatures to keep them at bay. Alban Koning blinked through the enemy lines too, occasionally blinking back to Elmyra’s side as an enemy had broken through the other two. Arye Drulvaar meanwhile tried their best to keep Elmyra standing, using all their medical knowledge they had available to patch any wounds that appeared on Elmyra as the Magic started demanding more and more, and helping them stay upright by supporting them, so they could use all their energy to keep that crack closed. Further along, Amir Razavi had picked up the unconscious Maelstrom on the back of his clockwork horse that was galloping across the field, rapidly reconfiguring a set of Clocktik Clockwork spiders before throwing them at his allies. These Clocktik spiders then attached themselves to their faces, before reconfiguring their plating and internal parts in such a way they formed sand-storm masks as were common in the deserts of Farah’deen, robbing the Sand Demon of his ability to blind others with his waves of sand. This in turn emboldened Kamirah Naawi, Laiviane Himelophi, Gehrman Gahan, and Nightingale to charge forth as the Malefica Xaella had engaged the Sand Demon directly to distract it. Kamirah rend her claws across the ground, summoning forth a horde of Sewer Rats that swarmed at her command taking on the much larger Demonic hounds in highly superior numbers, biting them to death, though some of the rats also attacked each other on account of her magical inexperience. Nightingale meanwhile moved across the battle in the form of a shadow, avoiding direct physical attacks and re-forming where they saw an opening, slashing their axe at the backs of some Demonic legs before retreating again, letting the others clean up the wounded and crippled. Laiviane unfurled her whip, sending it forth to latch onto the Sand Demon’s arm, creating an opening for the Malefica to slash its scythe down onto the Demon’s shoulder and create a massive rift in its body that started leaking sand. Laiviane then yanked with all her might on the whip, causing the arm to rip off at the opening made by the Malefica, the large arm crashing down to the ground below, taking several Demons with it by crushing them. Gehrman Gahan then burst forth with his twin water cutlasses, slashing through Demonic gargoyles that had formed from the Sand Demon’s sandy innards, top prevent it from counter-attacking. Sophie Perrot, having changed into a Hellhound had mostly been unseen during the battle, but suddenly appeared when Anathema was still on the backfoot with Alamat. Even though Anathema had gotten back to a standing position, they were still on fire, and large parts of their body could not reform as whole chunks just fell off, burning on the ground to ash. The Demon felt self assured in this fight and did not pay attention to Sophie and her friends. Indeed, Sophie had spent most of her time apparently making friends with the Demonic Hounds in one of the pens that Maelstrom had made to separate them, and all of these Demonic Hounds decided to switch allegiance to Sophie, instead of the Demon Lords, thus becoming her pack. Sophie then unleashed the horde onto Alamat from behind, and even though Alamat’s head burned the first few to a crisp before they could even reach its body, the sheer number of them seemed to overwhelm Alamat as they started piling on top of each other dead, only creating more of a ramp to clamber up. Sophie created the opportunity for Anathema’s core body to eject from the half burnt and singed mess of flesh, returning to normal humanoid size, and sitting on top of Sophie to ride away from Alamat, a few of the Demon Hounds escorting them out. Bellamy Raphellia cleared a path through the Demonlets closer to the Red Sphere at the center of the painting, using Magical projectiles shot from her hands, knocking over whole hordes of them before finishing them off with her sword at close range. Kabili Drulvaar and Cieli Le’vija meanwhile barreled through the demonic lines while Xeniyah guarded their rear, Cieli cleared the way further beyond the opening that Bellamy had created with her Atraves, summoning a Sollerian Mist to guide their way, and strike with such speed that Kabili was not even required to lay a finger on anything. Xeniya behind them meanwhile ensured the way out remained open, splitting from her shadow puppet to fight back-to-back punching anyone who so much tried to close in and encircle Kabili who obviously had intent with the Red Sphere. Finally, when mere feet away from the red sphere, Kabili activated his Hulking Beast transformation, and bore down his claws and fists down on the Red Sphere with such might that the whole thing exploded, like a glass ball shattered and shards flying in all directions. Almost immediately, the demonic host shrieked. The Sand-Demon that had meanwhile lost another arm to Malefica dissolved into a cloud of dust, and whatever tried to beat down Elmyra’s spell ceased its actions, Elmyra finally collapsing in exhaustion. Alamat also burst into black flame, buried under many of the Demonic Hounds that had turned on their master as it was, before it too dissolved. The painting all around them started collapsing, paint flaking away and revealing only white canvas behind it, causing any and all to call for an immediate retreat. The whole 39 member group rushed out of the painting, Amir Razavi first on his clockwork steed, carrying Maelstrom out, and the others supporting each other following, Anya was last, turning just in time to see the painting collapse in on itself into just a pile of white canvas and wooden junk. Across the line of trees, the medics and healers quickly triaged those who had fallen in battle or been wounded, while Sophie the Hellhound dragged Anathema’s still wounded body up to the roof of Caelfall, as Sophie will do what Sophie was wantoned to do, just in time to put Anathema down against one of the spires, able to watch across the tree lines, as the city-line lit up with flares of victory, having played their part in ensuring the victory from afar.