A wall of fire tore down the hallway, straining the defenses of the mages therein. Fortunately, it seemed that the wards could only provide wide area attacks, but defending against those while also watching for the Mage-King’s own spells seemed quite problematic.
At the front of the group was Faron, who had momentarily grasped the Mage-King with her magic resistant armor. She managed to complete one of her silent spells, a dispelling magic drawing upon the bloodline relation with the Mage-King. She was flung away shortly after she completed her spell and the single remaining armored prince placed himself between her and the Mage-King- the other had not managed to expel all of the water from his lungs and was comatose. She made a move with her sword as if to strike at the left side of the prince, but when he raised his shield to block she transitioned into a tackle. The magic resistant armor would not react with its own kind, or it could hardly be stored anywhere- but as the prince stumbled backwards and brushed past the Mage-King, the armor and his wards once more reacted to each other.
For a long series of moments that seemed to stretch out forever, the battle had been mainly in silence originating from the Mage-King. Without knowing silent magic themselves, everyone would have been practically useless- instead, at least half their number were able to continue to use magic, which kept them at least able to respond with their own magic. They hadn’t yet broken through the Mage-King’s defenses, but they were chipping away at them.
Relief came when the silence fell away. In the chaotic battle, Peat had snuck around behind the Mage-King and found that the silence did not extend all the way to him. With the quickest speech he could muster, he reached out to the Mage-King’s connection with the various wards, severing them as quickly as he could. Of course, as one of the few sounds he was quickly noticed even with combat in front distracting the Mage-King. A kick sent him staggering back- it was difficult to overcome being merely half the size of a human. A moment later, a bolt of magic struck towards him, piercing deep into his shoulder.
But his efforts had caused more than just a necessary distraction. The Mage-King’s defenses were slowly being unraveled, and with everyone once more able to make full use of their magic, the Mage-King was barely able to defend himself against the barrage of attacks. He somehow found time to launch a few counterattacks, wounding some of the surrounding mages, but he was just one man. The fact that he kept up with almost a dozen mages for so long- even with a couple allies- showed how powerful he was. And while he was slightly faltering, the sound of boots echoed from down the hallway. More guards would be arriving imminently.
Now that he was able to use magic once more, Celtus completed a spell designed for the very moment they were in. Using the bloodline connection with the Mage-King, he launched a simple bolt of lightning. As it struck the Mage-King’s shields, most of it was deflected away- but a small portion of it wormed its way through, not being recognized as a foreign magic. It struck the Mage-King in the chest, singing his armor in the first significant damage they had accomplished.
In response, the Mage-King waved his arms. He pulled magic from himself, the wards, and the four surrounding members of his bloodline. A bolt of lighting shot out from him, striking Faron and sending her crashing into a wall. The bolt deflected slightly off of her armor but continued in the same direction, shattering Cletus’ defenses and worming its way into him, creating streaks like burned veins from his neck up into his face. Emerich and one of the sisters were also repelled by the attack, their defenses destroyed and the remainder of the damage being absorbed by their bodies.
Magical runes swirled around Douglas, a spell that Lucy had seen the after effects of once. She knew Douglas had modified the magic devouring spell to be less wantonly destructive, but even if he hadn’t the wards in the imperial palace were sturdy enough to not unravel in a chain reaction. If such a weakness had been exploitable, they wouldn’t have bothered with the attack at all.
Lucy cast spells as quickly as she could, whatever she had- anything to distract and weaken the Mage-King’s defenses further. A bolt of fire, lightning, and even a simple light spell to attempt to blind him. Others contributed their own spells, of course, and the previously indomitable feeling of the Mage-King lessened somewhat.
Douglas’ spell surged forward, though the Mage-King countered with a spell of his own, disrupting some of the runes as they surged towards him. The Mage-King’s spell was cohesive enough to not simply feed Douglas’ magic, but it couldn’t completely disrupt it either. Magical runes latched onto the defensive spells and connections to the wards around the Mage-King, tearing them apart and using their unraveling to power further damage. The spells began to crack unstably, throwing chaotic magic in all directions.
Both sides struggled against each other, the area’s natural mana completely gone and the individual stores of each mage nearly depleted. Some of the remaining magic was used to slow the approach of the guards.
Cletus and Faron were completely out of magic, having their remaining stores torn out by the Mage-King. However, Faron struggled to her feet. Her armor was cracked and falling apart, her bones hardly doing much better- but she forced herself forward. She had no more magic, and her sword had fallen. But she struggled forward, picking up one of the prince’s blades.
As she swung her sword at the Mage-King, he glanced over at her, a smug grin on his face. But her swing cut through his remaining pitiful defenses, striking his neck. The enchanted blade’s sharpness allowed it to cut deep into the Mage-King’s neck, slicing from the front almost to his spine.
An explosion of unraveling magic shot in all directions from the Mage-King as he died. Faron was flung to the ground while the others staggered back. The entire palace creaked and groaned in response, the wards straining.
Seeing the Mage-King nearly decapitated, the first to act was Cletus. He managed to charge forward, making sure the job was complete. His sword swung down into the spine of his father, finishing the severing of the head. He had no idea what sort of magic the Mage-King might have his disposal, but he followed up by stabbing his sword into his skull.
The Mage-King was dead. Everyone took a moment to absorb that, but the approaching guards weren’t going to give them time to revel in their accomplishment. Everyone was nearly exhausted of magic, even if they had additional memorized spells they wouldn’t have the power to use more than a few simple ones.
“We did it! Let’s go!” Cletus picked up the head under his arm. He was going to throw it into a sewer somewhere. With his other arm he lifted a dazed Faron to her feet. “Come on!”
Everyone began to rush towards the hidden tunnels, as they were able. They knew the main hallways were full of guards rushing towards them, and they could hope the passageways were at least somewhat clear.
Many of them were simply staggering, as along with Cletus and Faron, Emerich was helping Peat along. Xavier himself barely staggered through, and the two Sisters were basically carrying the other.
As they moved into the tunnels, they found the freed women were likewise fleeing. Though they did not know the full extent of their saviors, the Sisters with them helped assure they were allies- and they recognized what was left of the head Cletus was carrying. There were yells of joy all around- but people had to keep moving.
When one of the women offered Xavier an arm, he pushed her away. He gestured towards the tunnel behind them, and signed towards Lucy and Douglas. “I’m staying here to hold them off.”
“What?” Lucy’s eyes went wide. “No, you can’t! I don’t care if you have magic left-”
He clapped his hands to cut her off, pointing to his tongue- or lack of it. “My revenge for myself is accomplished. Now I just need my children to live.”
Douglas grit his teeth, but he grabbed Lucy’s arm and pulled her along. If they stayed to argue, they would all end up dying and make his efforts pointless.
Seeing that he was staying behind, several of the Sisters joined him. “We will hold them off here. We should at least give some people a chance. The rest of you, spread the news to the Sisters, and the world!”
Cletus allowed two of the former concubines to help support Faron, the remnants of her armor being pulled off to ease the job. He was so exhausted he could barely keep himself on his feet, let alone his sister.
Sounds of fighting rang out behind them, but everyone continued on as they could. Since the beginning of their assault it had been less than a quarter of an hour- battles between mages did not stretch on for a long time. By the time word could travel around the palace about people using the servant’s passages, they made it outside. They ran through the early morning streets of Aysgarth as alarms rang in the palace and throughout the city. While there were some squads of guards heading for the palace, they hadn’t been looking for a side-entrance.
They made it back into the library. A few mundane guards along the way were unable to stop them- the more able-bodied women were equipped with weapons from any fallen guards. While they weren’t necessarily skilled with their use, their numbers were enough to overwhelm those they met along with whatever magic people had left. Then they were in the true Endless Library- where bodies still lay at the foot of the stairs.
Somehow, they’d been swift enough. If they could just make it off the Scoubarran path, they could take their secret exit… and from there they could try to flee to safety. Yet it was unlikely that Kheles would be safe either. But… they had won. Now they just had to manage to celebrate their victory.