Ayenden concluded his business in the Bazaar and strolled into the Nexus. The usual crowd of travelers was passing through, and Ayenden thought he might look around for some familiar faces with which to seek adventure. He caught sight of an old friend standing atop the platform. “Enkasha,” he called out. “I didn’t expect to see you here today.”
The tall, serene Erudite saw him and smiled slightly. Ayenden knew this was the extent of the emotion she was likely to show. She walked down the stairs and greeted him.
“You are correct, my friend. I am indeed overdue for the festival. I was exploring the planes with my guild mates, which took far longer than I had anticipated. I am certain to be chided for my tardiness.”
“It sounds like a glorious occasion for your people,” Ayenden said. “Are you sure I can’t convince you to take me along as a guest?”
Enkasha rolled her eyes and sighed, a gesture Ayenden knew to be playful rather than demeaning. “You know full well that the celebration of the anniversary of Erud’s birth is a sacred and private ritual for us. Outsiders are never allowed to attend.”
“Yes, you told me before,” Ayenden muttered. “I hope you will tell me the details later, at least. I’m sure this eighth centennial will be quite an occasion. Who knows, one of you might even tell a joke.”
Enkasha sighed again, but the faintest of grins betrayed her amusement. “It shall indeed be special, though not for the reason you posit. But enough of this chatter; I must see the scion about teleportation to Odus.”
Before he could respond, Ayenden’s attention was drawn to a commotion atop the Nexus platform. The air itself seemed to crackle and sputter as a vortex of energy began to swirl. “What in the name of Tunare is that?”
Enkasha turned and watched, her eyes narrow. “Something is teleporting into this chamber.”
Ayenden shook his head slowly. “That is no ordinary spell. Someone is opening a doorway to this place, and is expending a great amount of energy to do so.” He muttered the beginnings of an incantation, his eyes fixed upon the growing vortex. “I think perhaps you should be visiting that scion now, my friend.”
“Nonsense,” Enkasha protested. “Who else will defend a fragile old wizard like you?” She cast a spell to summon forth a fiery pet and commanded it to stand in front of her. The swirl of energy on the platform above them was expanding rapidly.
“You pick a curious time to develop a sense of humor, milady. Not that I’m ungrateful, but I really must insist that–” Ayenden gasped as the portal opened and dark, massive beings began to rush through it. “The Diaku!” he shouted in disbelief. “Get back, Enkasha!”
The huge, heavily armored soldiers poured through the opening with weapons drawn. They stormed down the stairway toward the crowds that had gathered and began to attack.
“What are they doing outside the Plane of Tactics?” Enkasha cried out. Instinctively she bolstered her pet and ordered it forward as a soldier charged her. The Nexus was now flooded with adventurers from the Bazaar and Shadowhaven, but more Diaku continued to charge out of the gateway. “There are so many!” she exclaimed. “We cannot stop them.”
“Let me translocate you away, Enkasha,” Ayenden pleaded. “Now is the time for neither jokes nor pride.”
“No, I will stand here and defend this place,” she countered, healing her pet as it fought against a Diaku swordsman. “But you must go and warn others. We need reinforcements.”
“I will not leave you!” Energy bolts flew from his fingertips as more planar invaders kept coming.
“Which of us is being prideful? You must go, and go now. I think something else is coming through the portal.”
From behind the Diaku came tall beings whose very heads seemed to be made of fire, their massive weapons burning with the arcane power of their master.
“By all the gods!” Ayenden hissed. “Those are the servants of Solusek Ro. And they seem to be carrying a massive gem of some sort with them.”
Enkasha was pouring all her strength into her pet, struggling against the assault of the Diaku. “There can be no more delay. We need help, Ayenden. Go now!”
He wanted desperately to stay by her side but knew that she was right. Ayenden cast his gate spell and waited for it to spirit him away. “I’ll be back soon. Stand fast, my friend.” As reality began to shimmer around him, he saw a Diaku archer take aim at Enkasha from atop the platform. He tried to call out to warn her, but before he could utter a sound he was gone.
The familiar scent of the Faydark filled his nostrils, instantly replacing the stench of burning air that had permeated the Nexus just moments before. Teleportation was always vaguely disconcerting, but no more so than this night. He turned and sprinted down the pathways he had learned so well in his youth.
At last he caught sight of the guards outside the grand city of Felwithe. “Sound the alarm!” he shouted. “The Nexus is being attacked!”
Ayenden charged past the various people milling around the open gate and ran inside. He had to tell the paladins to gather their forces. This invasion may take an entire legion of knights to repel.
The captain of the guard walked toward the wizard, flanked by his lieutenant. “What is this attack you speak of? Tell me quickly.”
Ayenden gulped for air as he told the captain what had transpired. The captain considered the wizard’s words for a moment, then turned to his lieutenant. “Send word to the king of what is transpiring. Tell him we may need additional reinforcements. I will bring a squadron with me to hold these beings back.”
The lieutenant saluted and marched quickly down the corridor. The captain pointed back toward the city gate. “Meet me outside. I must gather my forces, and then we will need you to take us to the Nexus.”
Ayenden nodded and ran back outside. After what seemed an eternity, the captain and his guard arrived, accompanied by additional wizards.
“Weave your magic and take us to the Nexus,” the captain ordered. Ayenden began to cast immediately, and as he chanted the spell he felt the familiar gathering of energy around him and his passengers. But suddenly the gate collapsed and the spell was broken.
Ayenden cursed to himself and began to cast again. This time his power seemed lessened, despite the fact that he had been meditating for the last several minutes. He looked at the captain and shook his head.
The captain turned to his wizards. “You take us there,” he ordered. They began to cast, but their spells fizzled as well.
“I cannot explain this,” one of them said aloud. The others were just as baffled.
“We must go to the spires. The scion can take us there,” Ayenden pleaded. The captain nodded and ordered his soldiers forward.
This run seemed far longer to Ayenden than the last one had, but finally they reached the gigantic forest spires. He knew something was wrong before they got there. The familiar hum was gone, and the scion stood alone at the center of the spires.
“What is it? What has happened?” Ayenden cried out. “Tell us!”
The scion looked around helplessly. “They’re dead,” he said softly. “The spires are silent.”
Ayenden stood, his mouth agape. He looked up at the sky, feeling more lost than he could ever remember. He thought of his friend so far away.
“I’m sorry, Enkasha,” he whispered to the clinging darkness of the night. “I’m so sorry.”