Chapter Eleven: Force of Nature

ACT III
In which Gods battle,
the future of Silas is decided,
and our story comes to an end

The city of Maithum Falls was a fortress, built to withstand siege from even supernatural enemies. The city was originally founded before even the creation of the Veil, built to protect those within its walls from the extreme dangers of the Untamed Lands, and it had never truly forgotten its origins. Surrounded on two sides by the bluffs and rivers that that gave the city it’s name, the third side rose up into the mountains that were the source of the water, a nearly impassable obstacle to move even a single person though, much less an army. It left only a single direction to siege the city from… and the city’s designers had known it.

Tall, basalt-black walls rose high above the ground as Alassiel stepped out onto the denuded ground, worn and dug up from the marching feet of thousands that had passed by recently. The city had only be successfully breached once in its history, by Sanguinar’s force during the War of Ascension, and then it was only occupied by a skeleton force, the walls nearly unmanned. That was far from the case now.

Once, she had defended this city’s citadel from demons. Now, a crowd of demons manned the walls, sneering, fel faces snarling over the ramparts at the gathered army. The golden-eyed elf looked back at those who followed her, her appraising gaze falling over each and every element of the army. They were a ramshackle force, to be certain. An alliance of elf refugees, every element of the dwarven armies that were still fit to march, and every human man or woman they could find who could lift a sword and had the courage to stand against the mad god Lahk. Caer and Zegadu themselves stood alongside the army, their own presence nearly as large of an inspiration as her own, exhausted and weakened as they were from their own confrontation with Lahk. All in all, they numbered maybe three thousand. Compared to the walls of the fortress ahead of them, it wasn’t much… but it would have to be enough.

Lahk’s army had been nearly obliterated at Teheras. At half strength or less, it had fled into the desert in bad order after its defeat between Shevarn’s force and Alassiel’s, and perhaps a third of what remained had been captured. The rest were no longer an army, but a scattered, independent mob of deserters. Likely they would be the cause of bandit problems the region would have for a decade, but at the moment, his human followers had been reduced to what priests and soldiers he had waiting for him in Maithum Falls… likely less than a thousand. However, from somewhere, Lahk had found another army. Nearly five hundred demons manned the walls, and every report she had gotten was that Lahk was summoning more every day. With each passing hour, the odds against their assault grew worse, and it wouldn’t be long at this rate before there were simply too many to overcome. They had to attack, and attack now, or they would lose their chance. Lahk would grow strong every time, not weaker. It had to be now… but the fortress was nearly impossible to assault.

But only nearly. It had never been built to stop a goddess.

Alassiel focused on the walls that rose before her, some eight hundred feet off. She stood outside of easy bowshot range, where only a lucky barrage would threaten her, and fell to her knees on the ground, putting as much of eyrn eregdos in contact with the ground as she could, sighing in satisfaction as she felt the power of the earth flow through her in titanic waves. Ahead of her, the black walls loomed nearly forty feet tall, breeched only by the vast gates that opened into the city.

Those gates were nearly as strong as the walls that surrounded them, and were a marvel of human ingenuity and engineering as much as anything in the city was. They must have weighted nearly a hundred tons, but they were balanced so perfectly on the massive hinges that a single man could push them open when the locks were not engaged. Carved of the same volcanic rock as the wall, both were all but impervious to harm. Flame would not burn them. A steel ram could batter them for days with no effect, even with the arms of her entire army put to work against them. The finest bolts of force that Shevarn could summon would do naught by scar the black surface, and they were built with foundations so deep in the earth that Alassiel doubted she could even shake them down if she persuaded the earth to tremble and heave.

There was, however, one thing that could bring them down, and that was time. Over a few centuries, perhaps a millennium, the walls would crumble and fall apart if not maintained carefully. For most people, that would be no help… but the Goddess of Growth was not your average person.

Once, her mind had been far more direct. The Lissa who had gone to war nearly 30 years ago, strong of a druid though she was, would not have had the power to what Alassiel now had in mind… but more to the point, she would never had thought of it. She had a come a long, long way from being the druid trainee beneath her mother in the gentle, protected caldera of Caladwen. In that time, she had known peace and war, civilization and savagery, calm study and desperate application. She had known saints and sinners, rapists and victims, murders who lived too long and good men who died too young. She had been a slave, and now she was as free as she had ever been.

How often had she cried as men took her against her will, silent of loud tears of sorrow, despair, humiliation, or pain? No longer was she that woman. Lissa had died beneath Lahk’s attention… but Athuum, that unhappy creature that had replaced her, had been mercifully killed by her own hand, only to be replaced by an unhappier woman still. Now she was dead as well… leaving Alassiel Le’lorinel behind.

And she would be lying if she said some part of her wasn’t practically quivering with excitement. No matter how much danger she knew she was in, how bad things were going to get in the next few hours, there was a part of her that wanted simply to throw back her head and scream in defiant triumph and joy at the world. She wanted to dance in place, to sing, to finally face down her enemy, her brother, and see regain herself in the process.

And so it was with tension, but complete euphoria that that she spread her power out into the world before her, magic flowing out through eyrn eregdos as Alassiel prepared the finest working of her life. She could feel the power in the walls, rising like the bones of the earth from the ground. They screamed like a cliff in her senses, more like a part of the earth itself than a construction of man. She could no more persuade them not to be than she could persuade time to flow backward.

Instead, she send her power out further, into the rivers, into the eddies of water that flowed beneath the tower in dozens of underground rivers like where she had recovered, after her attempted suicide from the balcony to escape Lahk’s grip on her. She felt the flowing water that sank into the rocks beneath the city, that had seeped through them year after slow, steady year, and pooled into a vast reservoirs of water far below. The Goddess focused her will upon that long-forgotten water and called out to it. Around the fortress walls, mist began to form as Alassiel called the water into the air, drop by drop joining the glowing cloud around the city. At the same time, she reached out to the earth beneath her feet, to the soil and before the cities walls, trampled flat but still with seeds laying dormant, but ready to grow, ready for the right conditions.

Alassiel reached out to all of them, one by one, finding them all with her mind and sorting them in her thoughts. Then she focused her will, and whispered a single word. “Cuio,” she commanded, elvish slipping effortlessly from her tongue. Grow, she instructed those seeds… and they did.

If if the earth were letting out a long, deep breath, grass began to grow upward from the dead earth, to surge with green life. Blades lengthened, and were suddenly outstripped by the quick-growing weeds and flowers. They opened in a mute riot, sudden color flushing along the surface of the earth, and within a few seconds more, grass and flowers alike burst into seed, the cycle of life accelerated by the vast power of the earth. Such growth could not happen without plenty of water to nourish it, and as the sudden growth began to leach all the water from the ground, the water from the deep wells began to arrive, rising through the layers of earth and stone. Rapidly, those quick growing plants began to climb the nearby wall, the only source of support nearby. At Alassiel’s will, the wind rose then, and the seeds those plants had produced were carried against the walls, against the towers, the gates, filling them.

She could sense every one of them. In her mind’s eye, she could flawlessly see each tiny seeds, most of them little larger than motes of dust, sticking to the film of water on the walls that had begun to condense from the mist. To the elf goddess, it didn’t matter that the next step would be far harder without further nourishment from the soil… It had to be done, she could not fail, so once again she called up a heavy wave of power from the earth. “Cuio!”

Before Alassiel, weeds and small trees began to rise above the grass and climb the walls of the city even as the new seeds bloomed, the black walls of the great city beginning to flush a healthy shade of green. Grass began to grow in cracks in the wall so tiny they could barely be seen. Moss and lichen spread over the surface as quickly as if they had been spread by raindrops in a steady shower. Alassiel was beginning to breath hard now, but this time her voice was nearly a shout. “Grow!” she cried. Trees as tall as a man arose before the wall. Even as far away as Alassiel knelt from the city, the air grew heavier and heavier with a damp coolness. Her hot skin was covered with droplets of water from the cold mist and her own sweat of exertion, but green completely consumed the walls now. Ivy wound up over the walls as rapidly as a snake could slither up a branch. Even from here, she could hear the chorus of snaps, cracks, and snarls of tearing stone as roots and branches grew in cracks. The weeds and grasses from the ground leaped up, practically leaping for the top of the wall in a tangled, living tidal wave of growth. Small trees sprang from cracks in the walls, and ivy wound everywhere, along every available surface.

By now, even the most dense of the demons realized that they were under some form of attack. Shouts and cries went up as flaming pitch and oil were poured over plants, and the talons or blades of demons began to hack at what plants they could reach. Alassiel nodded in satisfaction… it didn’t matter. This wasn’t the attack… it was merely the preparation for the attack.

That had been the easy part. Now it got hard.


The night before, outside of Maithum Falls

Alissandra didn’t think she’d gone an hour without crying since Teheras. She hated it, hated herself, hated that she was too weak to throw herself on a blade. She had sworn that she would make Lahk pay for his crimes, but she she was powerless to do anything. Her strength, her magic, her speed and endurance had all been taken from her, and she had nothing left to give, to use, nothing left to contribute.

Useless. She was simply useless.

It wasn’t something the former Erinyes knew how to deal with. She’d be helpless, she’s been down, she’d been exiled and condemned, she’d been hated, and each of those things she had dealt with in turn. Always, she had had a goal… something she could do, something she could focus her efforts towards that would make things better for her, that would give her what he wanted. Now, however, she had no goal. The only thing she wanted was to see Lahk pay for what he had done… but she couldn’t even bring herself to care about that. Alassiel would do it, or she wouldn’t, and there was nothing Alissandra could do to change that, either for good or ill.

She no longer felt like she had a stake in it, or anything else in this world.

Her green eyes, blurry with tears, looked down at the knife she hid in her lap, giving a small, bitter, hate-filled laugh. The thing she hated most about herself was that she was too gutless to just end her useless existence. To useless even to die. For about the hundredth time, she wished her rapists had just killed her… it would have been easier.

“You should eat,” a woman from behind her said, and Alissandra felt for a moment like screaming in frustration, turning, and knocking the delicious smelling soup that she no doubt carried out of the young elf’s hands. She did none of those things, of course. Liriel had been bringing her food, cleaning her up, and generally taking care of her like the invalid she was. Alissandra hated it, but her weak protests had fallen on deaf ears, seeming completely unable to even dampen the cheerful elf’s spirits in the least.

It was vastly irritating.

“Here,” Liriel said as he pressed the heated bowl into the woman’s hands, complete with the spoon. Alissandra didn’t feel like eating, but her body was certainly hungry, and without needing to think about it she ate mechanically, swallowing the heavy, meaty broth down while she stared absently into the fire. Meanwhile, the elf druid began to run a comb through her dark hair, brushing out the knots and twigs that had gotten stuck inside the tangle of hair.

The soup was probably delicious, but it even when it was in her mouth the fallen Erinyes couldn’t have said what it tasted like. Her mind was somewhere far away, only tangentially connected to the real world. Still, though, every brush of the elf’s fingers against her skin were something she couldn’t help but feel, no matter how far away she went. It broke through the walls she was trying to put up, shattered her isolation and made it impossible to ignore how close she was.

It would be easier if she hated the elf being there… but Alissandra was pretty sure she didn’t, and the last thing she wanted was for the albino elf to leave.

“Why are you doing this?” she asked, voice not even a whisper. It barely reached her own ears… but Liriel heard her.

Liriel put down the brush. “Because I’ve been there. Because you need it. Because you deserve it.”

That was enough to break through the haze of indifference that surrounded the woman. Alissandra laughed, a bitter, cruel sound filled with ager and despair. “I deserve?” she said, spitting into the fire. “Do you have any idea what I’ve done? What I was?” She threw down the bowl of soup, noting as she did that it was already nearly empty… shame, it would have suited her mood if it had been full. “Clearly you don’t have a clue, because if you did you would know I deserve nothing better than what I got.”

Liriel opened her mouth to respond, but the brunette woman cut her off. “No, don’t say it. Don’t you dare say some worthless tripe about how no one deserves it. I do, I know I do, and the only way it could have been more merciful is if I had died. Don’t you understand!” she raged, unable to even see the woman anymore through her tears. She had started crying in earnest again, Alissandra noted with disgust. “The torture is still being alive… thats the fate that I deserve, that’s my justice! I’ve lose everything! My strength, my wings, my beauty, even my revenge was taken away. I have nothing!”

Alissandra never saw the kiss coming… her first warning was when the elf’s soft lips pressed against hers, warm against her skin. She shut up, shocked into silence, too surprised to move, let alone to speak. Anger welled up in her… how dare she? She would be skinned alive for daring to… what? Alissandra swallowed heavily, her lips shut tight. Liriel felt shockingly warm against her body as her hand came to rest once again on the woman’s shoulder, and without meaning to the former Erinyes moved herself toward the touch, craving it.

She had been isolated so long that sex was the only intimacy she had known for centuries, and she had wielded it like a weapon. Liriel, however, wasn’t pressing. Her mouth wasn’t open against the crying woman’s, nor were her hands roaming to anywhere that might make her uncomfortable… instead, she was just touching her, calmly, casually. Letting her know that someone else was there.

And by all the gods it felt good.

The kiss ended like the last breath of winter, a slow withdrawing, a fade into spring slow and sweet enough that she didn’t even realize it was ending until Liriel rested a foot from her, her blurry, tear-stained visage bright as a sunrise in the firelight. “That’s not true,” Liriel said softly. “I can’t swear what else you’ve lost, but you’re certainly still beautiful.” Her lips darted forward, and while Alissandra was still paralyzed with unwillingly to break whatever spell the elf druid had over her Liriel kissed a few tears from the woman’s cheek. “All of that, whatever you were, is in the past now. You aren’t that person anymore… You can be something new. Mortals are good at that.”

Liriel began to pull away from her, and it was all it took to finally draw a reaction from the other woman. “Don’t leave!” she rushed out, and hated how desperate her voice sounded. “Stay…”

The elf took a step forward and abruptly moved to alongside the other woman, sitting down beside her, her arm wrapping gently around the other woman’s. Liriel was content to look forward into the fire, while Alissandra cleared her eyes, her face turned to study the druid next to her. Her eyes looked so young… or maybe that was just what it looked like to have hope.

They sat there for several minutes in silence before Alissandra finally spoke. “I don’t think I’m going to make a very good mortal, Liriel.”

The elf smiled. “How do you know? You ever tried?”

And suddenly, just like that, Alissandra knew what she needed to do. Something she could do. Something she had to do. Her eyes widened. “No… no, I guess I haven’t…” She swallowed, then stood. “But there’s something else I need to do first. I need your help.”

She needed to talk to the last person she wanted to see, so that she could get his help to talk to the second last person she wanted to see.


Alassiel brought her arms together in front of her, and made the greatest effort of will she had ever summoned for her magic. “Arise,” she whispered, lifting her hands together. There was a rumble, a cracking of earth, and then with the sound of all the oceans waves cresting at once water rose up from beneath the ground in a single, massive wave, leaped high into the air and crashed down against the walls, washing it entirely in the spray of that single wave. The water sank into every minute crack in the wall, every chasm that had been created by time or poor construction or the thousands and thousands of growing plants she had just summoned.

The effort of lifting that much water made Alassiel’s muscles sag, made her want to pass out. Instead, she broke her hands apart, opened them into spread palms, and threw every inch of her will and magical experience into forcing the water to freeze. She yanked what little heat the bitterly cold water from beneath the earth had left from it, turning it into blasts of hot hair that washed up the walls toward the demons while the walls were abruptly coated in a sheet of solid ice. A cloud of heavy mist and puffing vapor so solid it was nearly a wall itself swallowed the fortress. Ice crackled and screamed.

Alassiel was panting with the effort of the sorcery. The elf goddess reached back to the water and put the heat back into it with a wordless cry, and steam exploded from the cracks with screaming whistles… only for Alassiel to immediately steal it’s heat once again. This time, she could feel it… the water sinking into cracks that were widen that before, deeper than before as it froze once again into a solid sheet.

And she sent heat washing back in a few seconds later. And stole it. And sent it back. And stole it. And again. And again.

Ice and steam hissed and cracked. Stone screamed. Thick white vapor billowed out from the walls, denser than the veiling cloud, all but opaque. She could no longer see the walls of Maithum Falls… only feel them. Nothing in her life had prepared her for magic working on this scale… Alassiel was drawing on every bit of experience she had, every power her new found divinity had to offer, drawing strength from the earth in amounts she never had done before… and while the earth’s power might have no limit, as a conduit she did. Like a length of copper heated a thousand times, she was reaching a point she could take no more. A thousand seasons passed for the walls in those few minutes.

At some point, she had nearly fallen forward, her hands braced on the ground to keep her from laying prone. Odd that she didn’t remember. No matter. It would need to be enough.


The night before, outside of Maithum Falls

Alassiel was more nervous that she would care to admit as she crawled on hands and knees across the bedroll towards where Liam knelt. While she’d been spending nearly all her time in Liam’s close company since she had found him once again, constantly together whether in waking or in sleep, but in all that time they hadn’t been intimate again. Liam had never moved for it, and while she felt that that was purely him being the man she loved, waiting until she was ready, there was a bit of a nagging doubt.

It wasn’t that she had been raped, not really, not specifically. In truth, Alassiel really felt no shame on that account any longer. Anger yes, but shame and disgrace? Not in the least. No, what she feared was that she was too damaged to please her lover any longer, or as bad or worse, take any joy in sex herself. Her body had been thoroughly abused and ruined over her year of slavery, then further while she was imprisoned at Cerec’s tender mercies… even her ability to even give birth had been taken from her forever by the damage she had suffered as a whore in one of Lahk’s brothels. What if she didn’t… function… properly anymore?

It scared her… but at some point, nothing good came without bravery. Tomorrow she would face her brother, likely the strongest god this world had ever spawned, and if she was to die, she would not have her last memory of a man’s touch on her body be some disgusting rapist prisoners from Blackwand. She wanted to feel his touch again, even if it only proved in the end that there was hope it could ever happen again. If that was the price she had to pay, to finally know, then so be it… but the last time she had sex, it would be by her choice.

Her breasts dangled from her bare body as he crawled toward him, deliberately seductive in a way had almost forgotten how to be. Every movement of her send her hips swaying back and forth, her ass swinging enticingly as she moved toward him in silent until she leaned up to kiss him, her hands resting on his shoulders as she grabbed his tunic, pulling it up and over his head.

“Are you sur…” was all he got out before her kiss silenced him, and to the druid he had never tasted so good. He tasted like spice, like cinnamon and in that second it was like she had never kissed him before… never tasted anything so good. She moaned into his mouth as his hands came up and played over her body, squeezing softly at one of her breasts. At just that one touch, she was prepared to let it go. Nothing else mattered to her right not but pleasing her lover, and being pleased in turn.

She couldn’t remember exactly how it had happened, but one step at a time they had guided each other down to the bedroll until they were laying together, their kiss growing hungrier with each passing second as they sought to devour one another. When she finally pulled away, she was gasping breath, her mouth and eyes both wide as golden glow lit the room. As reached down her body, his mouth found her nipple and sucked it in, leading to a loud gasp as her hand gathered his short hair, holding the back of his head.

They ended up with Liam kneeling between Alassiel’s spread legs, kissing her smooth thighs and savoring the taste on her skin. As good as her taste was to him in the past, it was better now… something wilder, even less tamed. While before she had been connected intimately with nature, fertility, and life, now she was all of those things, and her very skin oozed sex to him in a way it hadn’t before. By the time his attention reached her pussy, he was already as excited as he had ever been. He opened her lower lips, covered by sparse crimson hair that was softer than velvet, with his fingers and drew in her heady scent.

Liam slid his fingers over Alassiel’s slippery sex. She was coated with juice and when he dipped his tongue into her, the taste was like berries soaked in a wild, clear stream. He continued licking and sucking on the delicate lips of her pussy, finally finding her clit and pulling it into his mouth. Alassiel’s hips arched as he flicked his tongue over it, a short cry of pleasure escaping her throat as she moved up and down against his tongue while he took long licks through her entire slit.

“Laim,” came Alassiel’s husky voice, short of breath from the feel of his tongue. “Please… please fuck me. Don’t make me wait…”

The elf goddess was shaking as Liam got on his hands and knees and moved up her body. One of his hands was lightly runnings its fingers over Alassiel’s breast as Liam lined up with her, then started easing his large cock into her body.

Liam and Alassiel both stiffened in shock at the feeling as he slid into her, at what it revealed. The restoration of body that she had undergone when she had awakened at the new goddess of the earth and eren eregdos had sprung back to life had been more complete than either of them had counted upon… Alassiel, goddess of fertility and growth, was a virgin once again. Wide eyes met, blue stared into gold in surprise.

“You, but, you’re a…” Liam sputtered in surprise. Not even the first time they had been together nearly thirty years ago had Alassiel been untouched.

The elven druid recovered quickly, a smile splitting her face yet again. “Not for long… I hope.”

Liam didn’t need more encouragement than that… he began to slid into her. Alassiel’s early concerns about her body’s ability to please a lover were certainly off base… Liam needed to work to push into her tight body, even as wet as she was, and, concerned about hurting her, he was taking his progress slow… too slow for Alassiel’s taste.

Alassiel eyes hadn’t left his since he began to push his member into her body, and she laid a hand on Liam’s cheek now. “I can take it, my love… I can enjoy some pain. Don’t make we wait…”

Liam took the hint and pushed – hard. She was soaked on the inside and wanted him inside her badly, but even so piercing her barrier wasn’t easy. Alassiel’s mouth opened in a gasp as he finally pushed through, sliding deeply into Her with the rest of the stroke. She moaned… it hurt, but the sharp pain was gone almost before it had registered, and the soreness that followed in its wake was almost ecstatic, and the pleasure of his penetration all but entirely overwhelmed it.

He pulled back, then entered her again, and the feel of him inside her body was the greatest pleasure she could remember. The thought of sex as a pleasant feeling was almot alien to her, something she had known once but forgotten, like a language no longer practiced until the use of it had been lost. Now the glory of it flooded back into her, the shared joy of two lovers sharing their bodies with one another, and her body began to push back up against his thrust.

When Liam pulled back for a third time, she reached between them for a second, then brought her hand up. Even in the dim light of the fire and moon filtering through their tent, it was easy to see Her fingers were coated with her juices and some of her blood.

Alassiel pressed one finger into her mouth and let her senses explode with the combined tastes, sharing this moment as closely with he man she loved as she could. Something she had never done before of her own will, something she would never have thought of as erotic before this moment, was suddenly so amazing to her that she slammed her only back to meet his next thrust, making Liam gasp even as she began cleaning her fingers with her tongue.

Liam picked up his pace at that, enjoying both the sight and the feel of her muscles and tight body around him. Alassiel was gasping in a rhythm with the fucking now, each one drawing new noises of appreciation from her throat as he pounded her sensitive body. Her hands wrapped around him, nails digging into his back while her thighs clenched around his thrusting hips, thrilling in the sensation of being made love to at long last. She knew it wasn’t going to last, but she was already nearly screaming as she was close to cumming around his shaft, but she was going to enjoy every second.

The spasming tightness of her clenching cunt in orgasm was all the intensity Liam needed to push him over the edge. When her lover came his orgasm was not just with his cock: it all but exploded through his entire body, each muscle, each nerve ending, every particle detonating with pleasure as he groaned, to the point where he began to feel his sense of self dissolve.

Heat filled Alassiel as his cum splashed against the walls of her sex. Her mouth was open in a constant gasp as she clenched herself around the thickness penetrating her, buried deeply inside her as it swelled and jerked inside her depths. Her entire body squeezed on him, tightening with arms and legs and her insides for long seconds until, drained, she finally relaxed and went limp beneath him, her hands resting on Liam’s back.


Alassiel climbed to her feet only slowly, unsheathing Menelrûth as she did, examining as she did every time the exquisite blade that marked her new found, improved link with the earth. The shining blade that her mother had died to finish gleamed and danced like fire blazed within, lightning dancing from cloud to cloud inside the Fury of the Sky.

She stood there, slowly getting her breathing under control as the mist around the fortress-city began to slowly dissipate. The walls, plants, ivy, moss… all of it was covered by a layer of ice nearly a foot thick, slowly melting now that the power that held it together had withdrawn. On top of the walls, the demons were active in helping that proceed along. It didn’t matter. Damage done. For a moment, Alassiel closed her eyes and rested, feeling the exhaustion in every inch of her body. Then she thrust her sword to the sky.

The universe roared as lightning flew from a clear sky, summoned by the blade. Ten seconds, twenty seconds, thirty before it stopped summoning the planet’s energy to itself, gathering the destructive rage the sky held in check, transformed it into energy for the druid. Alassiel let out the breath she had been holding, then screamed and extended the bastard sword toward the walls of the city.

It was less of a bolt of lighting than a beam that flashed from her blade, white hot and furious. It struck the ice like a hammer, like a battering ram, and the ice sublimated in an instant with a roar of expanding steam before it smashed into the basalt beneath the plants and frozen water.

And the walls of the city, manned by hundreds of demons, strained beyond measure by the flexing of water and ice and new life growing within them, shattered.

For a hundred feet in each direction from where her blast had struck, the walls roared away from the fury of that fiery blast, screaming as they flew into pieces, bursting into their own heat and wild motion as the overstrained stone was finally pushed past the limits of its ability to keep together. Stone and metal fragments the size of small houses were sent spinning away, sent crashing out into the ruined countryside or inward, into long deserted homes at the base of the walls.

The collapse carried momentum of its own. Shrapnel and sudden loss of support weakened others of the walls and towers surrounding the city. Secondary collapses followed, buildings that were torn to shreds by the destruction of the walls falling in beneath their own unsupported weight. And when those structures fell, they claimed others that stood alongside them. All told, it was more than three minutes before the crash of collapsing stone and masonry quieted.


Alassiel lay panting beneath her lover, the only consenting lover she had taken in thirty years, since she had met him in the Elvish war camp so long ago, her arms wrapped around his strong body as her fingers squeezed into his muscle, laying with her head back, throat exposed to Liam. His legs resting between her spread thighs, his length still impaled deeply within her, it was a mix of sensations she had spent what felt like forever growing to hate.

Instead, she felt comfortable, relaxed, and warm.

She had been afraid, if she was going to admit it to herself. She had been afraid Liam would not want to touch her any longer, after what had been done to her. She had been afraid she wouldn’t want to let him, even if he did, or that she would hate it, or that she would be too badly damage to bring him any pleasure. All of those worries had vanished now like mist in a breeze, carried off to oblivion by the warmth of her lover resting on top of her, his hand tangled in her scarlet hair.

There were a million things to do, a war to prepare for, but right now she wouldn’t have moved for everything in the world, and Liam seemed equally content as his own arm slowly circled better around her, squeezing her better against him as he embraced her, sensitive nipples brushing pleasantly against his hard chest.

“Before,” he whispered, “I was foolish. I thought I was being patient… but the world isn’t a respecter of patience.” He turned his face from the side to look into her, meeting Alassiel’s golden eyes, and smiled at what he saw in them. Alassiel, in turn, felt heat rise on her cheeks at the naked enjoyment and lust in his own. “Be my queen,” he said, not looking away from her, not blinking.

Somehow, the elf woman wasn’t surprised. “You mean if we make it through tomorrow alive?” She said with a small smile.

Liam, however, shook his head. “No, I mean regardless. Right now.”

Alassiel, golden eyes goddess of the earth, tilted her head against his and kissed him, warm lips brushing against his as her tongue slid easily into his mouth. Perhaps, under other circumstances, she would feel honor-bound to make Liam sweat for a while first, but with the doom hanging over all of their heads, with him on top of her, inside of her, making her feel like a woman again for the first time since Lahk, there just didn’t seem to be a point.

She broke the kiss. “Of course I will.”


Another roar came from behind Alassiel as the crumbling buildings ceased their fall, louder still than the collapsing masonry of the city. The army shouted with a single, devastating voice, enough to make her pollen-covered hair vibrate with the sheer thrill of their triumphant joy.

Alassiel smiled, spinning to look at the cheering army as she raised her sword. She had a moment to be grateful that the duration of the collapse gave her a moment to recover her breath, to let her exhaustion walk over her and let her put on a pristine face for the army as she looked at them, taking in their shocked but exhilarated faces as they cheered for the destruction.

Back in the city, demons were just starting to stir from the rubble, the survivors of the catastrophic collapse slowly digging their ways out, smeared with the black smog that served such monstrosities as blood.

Alassiel swept her sword toward the city as she began to run for the collapsed walls, and the ground rumbled beneath her as the rest of the army lurched into motion behind her. One way or the other, this would be the final battle of the long War of Ascension.

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