As the shrill sounds of alarms going off sounded within the Four Winds alliance, Dee kept staring alternatively at the sky and towards the north. She could see the forms of several flying beasts in the clouds, but weirdly the beasts were from multiple races mixed together. Some of those races were usually hostile to one another but none of them seemed to be attacking the others at the moment. They also didn’t seem to be attacking the city. They were simply flying past, hidden by the clouds.
“Dee?!” Moirai asked in shock as Dee suddenly materialized her wings and flew up into the sky. Moirai had also noticed the beasts, now that Dee had already warned her to their presence. Normally Moirai would’ve noticed this many enemies with her mindscape, but the feral beasts had a very faint presence in the mindscape due to their lacking intelligence. Dee flying to the sky was rather strange though, as the sky seemed to be very dangerous at the moment.
The other two guardians soon followed Dee and Moirai to the sky. Moirai could use her telekinetic ability to fly, while the other two guardians had their magic. “What is it?” Moirai asked worried, noticing that Dee was now ignoring the flying beasts around them, who strangely seemed all too happy to return the favor.
Dee pointed silently at the northern horizon, which was covered in various beasts rapidly approaching the city. The flying beasts were simply the first to get here.
“A stampede?” Xiaolian, the Jun guardian asked with worry. There could be several reasons for a wave of beasts to go out of control and either run away or attack in a frenzy. Usually the process was called a stampede no matter the reason.
“The flying beasts seem to be avoiding us.” The Anshar guardian said. “They are simply running past us. Running away from something.”
“What are the chances that the rest of them will just avoid us as well?” Moirai asked, her voice tinged with worry.
“I’d say there’s a good chance they won’t try to attack us directly. A better question though, is whether they will bother going around the city, or will they simply try going through.” The Anshar guardian replied.
“I think there’s a much more important question still left unsaid.” Xiaolian pointed out. “What are they running away from?”
“Dee?” Moirai asked suddenly, noticing that Dee was still staring at the horizon, seemingly ignoring the beasts, trying to look past them. “What do you see?”
Dee was quiet for a moment as the other two guardians now also paid attention. “I’m not sure. Saying that I see something might be wrong. It’s more like I’m feeling something. It’s like there are pulsing waves of mana coming from the north. It’s very faint, and I can’t make out any details from this distance.”
“Pulsing waves of mana? What would a psion know about…” Xiaolian, the mage of the group started to say rather angrily. If she as a mage couldn’t feel the mana, how could some juvenile psion do so?
“Quiet.” The Anshar guardian said, now also focusing on trying to send his senses north.
Xiaolian sputtered indignantly, before Moirai waved her to give the two a bit of time to make sense of what they were feeling. The Anshar guardian was the one to break the silence. “Xiaolian, have everyone start evacuating through the teleportation gate. Have them pick up only what they can carry and leave the rest.”
“What…?” The Jun mage was about to start asking for more information, before getting interrupted again.
“NOW!” The Anshar guardian raised his voice in command. Xiaolian complied.
“What can you feel?” Moirai asked Dee, knowing that Dee’s senses were sharper than her in things like this.
“It’s like…there’s a wound in space. And vast amounts of mana are flowing from that wound.” Dee tried to explain her feelings. “Mana from somewhere very different from here. It feels…raw.”
“It’s a planar rift.” The Anshar guardian supplied more detail. “I can feel the presence of the elemental planes.” The Anshar race was descended from a race of fire elementals, so their connection to the elemental planes was much stronger, allowing him to feel their presence.
“A rift to the elemental planes? Do you know how big and which plane?” Moirai asked suddenly much more worried.
The Pantheon was a world filled with magic and the power of various deities and high ranking beings, so sudden rifts opening to other planes were not strange. They were far from common, but they happened often enough that the phenomenon was widely known. Some rifts were small and temporary, while others were huge and much more permanent. And invariably, those rifts brought along trouble. Not just because what could come out of those rifts, but also because various powerful factions trying to take control of such rifts for their own reasons. And a city like theirs would be a hindrance when immortal level beings started to arrive to take control.
“A big one for me to feel it from this far. It hasn’t stabilized yet I think. I can feel the presence of the elemental plane of fire, but only intermittently. I think the various elements are still fighting for control. That said, the area where the rift seems to have appeared in in rich in both earth and wind mana. I’m pretty sure the mana pulses are bringing in waves of crazed elementals from those planes in particular, which is causing the stampede.” The Anshar guardian replied thoughtfully.
Elemental spirits could vary widely. Some were just as intelligent as the smartest members of other races. Some were at the level of animals, showing cunning and sharp instincts. Some were just barely functioning bundles of wild elemental energy that attacks anything close-by. Much of their intelligence was dependent on their age and a rift like this would invariably spawn hordes of newly born and crazed elementals.
The two guardians quickly went down to prepare for the evacuation, while Dee stayed in the air to monitor the situation. Luckily for the Four Winds they had already prepared for the possibility of an evacuation and they had already gathered the things they wanted to bring along. Unluckily, as soon as clumps of Four Winds people started moving towards the gate in large numbers, the other communities in the city started to react.
Dee wasn’t the only one to have noticed the flying beasts, and many more had noticed the approaching stampede of beasts. When they noticed members of the strongest community in the area evacuating, they started to put two and two together. If the Four Winds were running away, what chance did they have if they stayed? This caused a general panic as the other communities and visiting people grabbed whatever they could and ran for the gates.
Originally Moirai and the others had wanted to evacuate their people back into the main community in the third circle, but the other panicked people made that plan unfeasible. It was impossible to have a proper evacuation when the gate had to change destinations with every new clump of people. And that assumed the panicking people would be able to rationally wait for their turn, which was a complete impossibility.
Luckily there were measures in place for such situations. The Radiant Sun and the Holy Orders had set aside a specific destination designed for such emergencies. It was a centralized and safe place capable of taking in large amounts of people, and providing massive amounts of fast healing and first aid. They had food and other essentials stored in case it was necessary, and there was temporary housing in the vicinity in case the evacuated people needed a short term place to stay and gather their wits. This also allowed the two groups to quickly get word of any such impending disasters and problem areas in case reinforcements were suitable and necessary.
The meager Radiant Sun and Holy Orders presence in the city tried their best to arrange the evacuation and to keep the order to the best of their ability, though with limited success.
‘Moirai, the beasts are showing no sign of going around the city. I’m pretty sure they will break in and take the straight route through the city instead.’ Dee sent a mental message.
“Shit. When it rains it pours. Of course they would. They have neither the intelligence to know how far they would have to go to get around the city nor the rationality to consider such detour to actually be faster.” Moirai cursed.
“What is it?” Xiaolian asked, as she heard Moirai.
“We’ll have to go and delay the beasts, and most likely whatever is chasing them.” Moirai replied simply.
Xiaolian nodded in understanding, and signaled the Anshar guardian to also come along. The trio once again joined Dee in the sky. “I’ll take the ones directly in front. You two handle those that get past me on the sides.” Moirai said grimly. “Dee, you stay back and try to take care of any that slip past us.”
“Roger.” The two other guardians complied, while Dee just nodded, as they spread around to their respective positions.
Dee watched from the back as the three started their attacks. “I’ve never seen master go all out.” Dee said almost eagerly.
“I’m curious as well.” Croestia replied just as eager.
The two were not disappointed, as Moirai gathered her power into a single point in front of her, before unleashing a stream of energies at the approaching wave of enemies. At the center of the stream of power was something that looked like a beam of pure energy that twisted the space around it. That space was filled with a storm or psionic lightning and what looked like arcs of gleaming power that tore at the space around them. Just the little arcs were enough to cleave most beasts in two, while the lighting fried what was left of the others. The beam tore a clear path right through the approaching wave, annihilating everything in its way. Then Moirai turned her hands, swinging the beam around wiping away anything unfortunate enough to stand in its way.
Dee’s eye twitched a little. “Remind me not to piss her off too badly in the future.”
“That seems like a good plan.” Croestia replied in a deadpan voice.
The other two were much less flashy, but only somewhat less effective. The left side of the field had turned into a frozen hell, filled with the icy statues that used to be the enemies. Several long lances of ice struck at the beasts that were impolite enough to not die in the first wave of freezing power. On the right side the Anshar guardian was much slower with his pace, as warriors were slightly less effective at wide spread annihilation, but the waves of fire and his indomitable sword strikes made short work of the enemies.
“So we’re not really needed here, are we?” Croestia asked rhetorically.
Dee considered for a moment. “For now, no. I mean, what would you expect with the difference in levels? The important part is how long they can keep this up. I know the attack Moirai used at least in very taxing on power. I don’t think she can keep that for too long.” Dee replied.
Four hours later Dee crushed the head of another insectoid enemy with her front claws, while two others had their life drained away by her holy power. The beetle looking enemies had an annoyingly high defense with their strong carapace, something that was common among the enemies that slipped thought the net of the three guardians.
At first it had been only one or two enemies fast enough to avoid the deadly attacks, but now the power of the large area attacks had gone down enough for the defensively strong enemies to slip through. Surprisingly the Anshar guardian was the best at keeping his area clean, although he had also been the first one to let some through. Dee suspected that was on purpose, just so the man could pace himself instead of running after each and every low-fry enemy. He most likely had some faith in Dee’s abilities.
Now though, the number of enemies she had killed already numbered in the hundreds, and she was forced to stay in her fox-form, flying between the groups of enemies to keep up. Luckily the life draining spells kept her stamina up. It was simply a case of whether she was fast enough to dash between the staggered enemies before they could reach the evacuating people near the portal station.
Several times she’d been forced into taking a rather hopeful shot with her flying weapons to eliminate a distant enemy. Luckily her accuracy with single weapons had somewhat improved, so she only missed once. Hopefully the house that was destroyed by the miss had been empty already.
Suddenly she became aware of the silence outside the city. As she rose into the air, she noticed the other three slowly floating back towards her. “What’s going on?” She asked.
“The stampede part is over, though whether or not that’s a good thing is a harder to say.” Moirai replied.
“Now the elementals that were chasing the beasts are closing in.” Xiaolian supplied an additional explanation.
“I think we have few minutes to catch our breaths.” The Anshar guardian said. He looked the freshest of the three, though it was hard to tell with his features. “How’s the evacuation?”
“It seems about 70% done.” Moirai replied. “It takes quite a bit of time to move that many people through the gates.”
“How about our people?” The Anshar guardian asked grimly.
“They are all through. Ngaire is at the gate doing a headcount, and he just informed me. He also just left himself.” Moirai replied wearily. The battle had taken its toll on her. This was a perfect display of the differences between the three. Moirai had been the most destructive, but also wasted the most power, while the Anshar guardian was the most efficient, but also the least destructive.
“The perhaps it’s time for us to go too. We’ve done our duty.” Xiaolian pointed out the obvious. The other communities were not their responsibility. Their own people had already gone through the gate, and they might still need protection. Not from the beasts or the Radiant Sun and Holy Orders, but the other communities might not take it lightly that the Four Winds were the first to start leaving, and probably the first to get all their people out. The fact that the four of them stalled for time might not mean anything to people already acting irrationally and who had just lost their homes.
They all looked at each other. None of them raised objections. Dee because she honestly didn’t care about the other communities, and the other three because their experience had given them enough pragmatism to put their own interests first. Why would they bother risking their lives and wasting their energy to save people who were rivals when they weren’t enemies?
Moirai gave a small sigh. “Let’s give a token last burst of resistance around the gate to make sure the first elementals to get inside the city won’t go straight for the evacuees, while Dee goes through the gate first to make sure our people are ok. She and Ngaire should be able to stave off most trouble.”
Dee was just about to agree, when she felt a burst of power from the direction the enemies were coming from. Normally she wouldn’t have cared, except for the possible threat that burst of power might represent, but the burst of power moved something within her. Similar to the dark feelings she had felt due to Mina earlier, she felt a strong desire towards that power. This time the feeling was significantly stronger. Not just a faint feeling of greed, but a overbearing feeling of HUNGER! Not a hunger for sustenance but a hunger for power. Moirai had long ago mentioned that psions ‘ate’ the power of others, and now that aptly described her current desire.
Before the three guardians could react, the shadows surrounded Dee and she disappeared.