A blast of flame flashed past Blu’s head, singing his whiskers.
“Arrrgh! That one was a bit too close fer me liking, lassie! Take some of this!?cried Blu as he magined an orathan into existence. The newly summoned creature darted toward Raega’s braggle. Just as it was about to strike, the braggle appeared to take on a more aquatic look. As the two creatures collided, the orathan was knocked back. Raega’s appeared untouched.
“You should know better, Blu. Your creatures can’t touch my braggle!?Focusing for a brief second, Raega summoned up another ball of fire, sending it at the orathan. The orathan’s remaining energy was consumed in the resulting conflagration—it disappeared back into the Dream Plane, leaving Blu defenseless. Raega wasted no time in turning her attentions directly to the crusty Orothean himself. As her creatures and spells pounded on Blu, the fighting continued around them unnoticed.
A short distance away, Sinder’s fire grag hurled a glowing arbolit at a nearby sea barl. The already wounded barl recoiled as it was struck, and was launched past Ebylon by the impact. Ebylon’s brow’s furrowed as he concentrated, casting a spell he had learned in his youth. The water around the barl began to churn, infusing the creature with new energy. Refreshed, the barl charged toward its foe, instinctively knowing where to strike the grag to cause the most damage. Sinder’s last creature vanished with a twinkle of animite.
Pulling a relic from his belt, Sinder drew upon its power. It was a risky gambit but the power of Gorgle’s Ring held great benefits for those who succeeded in harnessing its magic. Focusing a blast of energy toward the flagging Orothean, Sinder watched with satisfaction as Ebylon began to visibly tire. Finding a last reserve of power, Ebylon began molding water in his hands until it was a dense sphere roughly the size of a child’s fist and almost as hard as a rock. With a grunt of exertion, the ball was released, targeting the Gorgle’s Ring upon Sinder’s finger. It struck the ring with uncanny precision, cracking the gem.
“What have you done??Sinder cried in frustration. “Don’t you know how hard these things are to make??In angry retort, Sinder sent a gigantic pillar of flame blazing through the water toward Ebylon, sending him sprawling. Moving in to deliver the final blow, Sinder was momentarily distracted by a great shadow passing overhead. Sinder turned to face the new threat. An enormous parathin was descending, delivering reinforcements for the flagging Orothean forces. Before Sinder could react, Ebylon had been rescued and replaced by an eager new opponent.
“So, you’ve come to my oceans looking for a fight, eh??Karse challenged Sinder. “Well, you’ll get one!? Tapping a ring on his thumb, Karse pointed it at Sinder. There was a great outward rush of water that forced the sturdy Calder to retreat. He was disoriented by a sudden agitation of the water all around him. When he finally recovered, Sinder found himself looking at a huge black wall of shiny carapace that took up his entire field of vision. His eyes traveled up and up and up to widen as they beheld the monstrous form of a cawh—one of the most feared creatures of the deep. With a roar that easily drowned the sounds of combat, the cawh began snapping its gargantuan claws to and fro, returning even the most powerful of the Calders?creatures to the dream plane with a single snip. Helpless against such a monster, Sinder watched in dismay.
The cawh had soon cleared the battlewater of Cald creatures. The Cald Magi found themselves forced to rely on their powerful spells to fend off the Orotheans?renewed onslaught. Multiple bolts of flame flew toward the dreadful cawh as the Calders regrouped, slowly weakening the giant creature.
With a cry of defiance, Xandia charged the wounded creature, the rest of the Calders only shortly behind her. Summoning every creature in her arsenal, she sent wave after wave of attacks. Flames sizzled into the cawh’s tough carapace as Xandia pounded it with great fireballs. As she approached the creature, she whispered a quick spell and struck the creature with her staff. The cawh began to dissipate, returning to whence it came. In the last moment before it disappeared, it lashed out with all the power remaining to it, striking the bold Magi across the face and sending her crumpling to the ocean floor.
“Xandia’s in trouble!?cried Vorga to Amanax. “I’ve got to help her!?Rushing to her sister’s side, Vorga wrapped her arms around Xandia and began to drag her away from the center of combat. Amanax summoned a vortex of flame to cover Vorga’s retreat.
Still, the battle raged throughout the waters of Orothe. The renewed vigor of the Calders did little good as the sheer number of Orotheans began to take their toll. It quickly became very clear that Barak’s forces were being pushed out of Orothe.
“Barak, we’ve got to leave! This is a battle that we can’t win right now!?shouted Magam, dodging a group of charging wellisk pups. An inferno engulfed the pups and, with a popping noise, they returned to the dream plane.
“Never! I’ll not be beaten by these water dwellers!?Barak’s jaw was so clenched that his words could barely be made out over the sounds of combat. The platheus that had wrapped itself around Barak’s torso began to squeeze, causing the warlord to grunt in pain. Flexing his massive muscles, Barak wrestled the serpent-like beast, slowly gaining advantage as his sheer strength overwhelmed the coiling creature. As he sent the platheus back to the Dream Plane, a new voice spoke.
“Its time you left, Barak. You’ve overstayed your welcome, which wasn’t much to begin with.?O’Qua hovered in her usual graceful style a short distance away. She appeared to be unscathed by the battle raging around them. Her rings were glowing furiously and her tail thrashed, the only outward indications of her agitated state. She closed her eyes briefly and a look of concentration crossing her flawless features. When her eyes opened, she was surrounded by abaquists, sphors, phrups and a reef hyren. “Go now!?she commanded Barak.
The Cald Warlord steeled himself against O’Qua’s aquatic charisma. “The warriors of Cald never surrender a battle! Orothe will pay for its crimes against us!?His broad jaw set in a look of defiance as he glared into O’Qua’s eyes. The Orothean was about to command her creatures to attack when a rumbling on the ocean floor caused all motion to cease. This new commotion did not have the feel of a Dream Creature summoning—it was something natural and unexpected. The battle slowed as heads turned to view the source of the new disruption.
In the murky distance, a faint outline could be made out. As it drew closer, the warring Magi saw a man with long hair, riding astride a gigantic construct. The footsteps of the titan caused billows of silt to rise, clouding the water.
“Stand back! Rayje has come to our aid!?Sinder shouted to his allies.
“Bah! Rayje is just a legend!?Borse said confidently. “What bit of trickery is this??/div>
Barak called a halt with a smirk on his face. “Tell him that.?The Cald Magi swam aside as the huge mechanical construct stomped to a halt in the midst of the battlewaters. Everyone watched in silence as the legendary figure of Rayje descended from atop his construct.
Rayje glared around the scene of battle, taking time to make eye contact with each and every magi present before calmly replying, “Stop this fighting right now, we’ve got more important things to worry about!? The commanding tone in Rayje’s caused the Orotheans to pause. “Naroom has been invaded by the forces of the Core. If Naroom falls, the rest of the Moonlands will fall as well.?Silence met his words as heads turned to gauge others? reactions.
Borse slowly approached the imposing figure confronting the combatants. “Naroom is none of our concern. Besides, if we’re strong enough to beat these Calders, we’re strong enough to beat back the minions of the Core. Everyone knows that Tony defeated Agram. Without his leadership, the shadow Magi shouldn’t be much of a challenge.?Borse turned to see his fellow Magi nodding in agreement. “Besides, Rayje is a legend. A story told to children at bedtime. You’re just some hooligan playing dress-up.?/div>
“That’s an interesting theory.?The smile on Rayje’s face held no humor and his icy stare seemed to bore right into the back of Borse’s head. “Now let me tell you something. Either you and the Calders stop fighting now and settle this peacefully or I’ll settle this for you.?/div>
“Try me, punk!?Laughing confidently, Borse tapped the rings on his fingers. Before long, the rest of the Orotheans were following suit, some pulling ancient relics from their belts. A horde of creatures, from tiny phrups to a gigantic megathan, arrayed themselves in front of Rayje and the Calders.
“Rayje,?Sinder said, approaching from behind, “our forces are bruised and battered. I’m the only one left with the strength to continue. We can’t take them by ourselves.?/div>
With a laugh, Rayje turned toward the approaching Magi. “You have much to learn, young one. Let me show you the power that comes with knowledge.?Turning back toward his foes, Rayje shouted an ancient war cry and charged the line of Orotheans, his construct moving forward to enter the fray. Sinder drew upon his last reserves of strength, calling forth a great silth, and charged after Rayje, determined to give the living legend what aid he could.
The silth and the construct plowed into the opposing army, causing some of the smaller creatures to vanish simply by the fury of their assault. Before the Orotheans had time to react to the ferocious attack, over half of their creatures had been defeated. Sending wave after wave of spells, the Orotheans counter attacked, attempting to hinder the juggernaut that had been unleashed in their ocean. The spells seemed to bounce off the two huge creatures. A faint glow could be seen emanating from Rayje’s fists, the energy of his spell protecting the two titans.
“Mobis, what’s happening??cried an obviously frustrated Sellia. “Our spells aren’t affecting them. What’s wrong??/div>
“I don’t know. I’ve never seen anything like this. That beast seems to be getting stronger with each creature it defeats.?Mobis said. “Maybe he really is who he says he is.?Mobis turned to face his people. “Stand down, Orotheans. We can’t win against this kind of power.?/div>
“As you command, Elder!?Raising a horn to his lips, Borse blew two short blasts, signaling a halt to the fighting. The futile battle ground to a halt as silence descended upon the deep once more. Barak and Mobis approached Rayje and Sinder where they stood waiting beside the massive foot of the construct.
Mobis eyed Rayje speculatively. “I know of no Magi alive who can command magic as powerful as you have just demonstrated. I acknowledge that may be who you claim to be. You have my attention, now what do you want??A faint hint of annoyance could be heard in Mobis?tone.
Patiently, Rayje explained to the assembled throng all that he had seen in the world above. He described the possible repercussions to all of Magi-Nation, should the Dark Twin’s plans go unchecked. No one spoke as the legendary figure emphasized the possible horrors to come. Rayje ended his narrative with a pointed glance directly at Mobis. “You and Barak must come to a truce, even if temporarily. Give the Calders back their scroll and we’ll be on our way.?/div>
Mobis indicated assent. “We’ll return your scroll as long as you agree to leave our ocean.?The Orothean Elder turned to instruct Blu to search the Vault for the missing Scroll. As Blu swam off, Mobis motioned to Barak. “Bria told us that the power of the Shadow Geyser has corrupted you. If the ‘legendary?Rayje has allied with you it must not be true. Perhaps we’ll have to track down Bria and ask her some questions.?Barak responded with a rolling of his eyes—indicating exactly what he thought of Orothean interrogation and justice.
Blu reached the Vault, just as Ven and Grega came sneaking out, carrying the Last Words. “Arg! What be ye doin?in my Vault??/div>
“We came to get what’s rightfully ours!?Grega said defiantly. “You got a problem with that, one-eye??Ven began cracking his knuckles, anticipating a fight.
“I sure do, lassie. But we best be gettin?ye to Barak and Mobis ‘fore real trouble starts.?Surprised, Grega and Ven looked over to see a small group of Calders and Orotheans gathered around Rayje. The three Magi quickly swam toward the waiting assembly.
Blu swam over to Mobis and began whispering in his ear. Meanwhile, Barak took the Last Words in his hands and, with a grin, displayed it to the rest of the Calders.
“Our work here is done??A sputtering Mobis interrupted Barak.
“I thought Calders were honorable!? Mobis cried in rage. “Instead of fighting for your precious relic you sent a couple of spies into our Vault to loot it! Dishonor! Get out of my ocean! As long as I live, no Calder will every be welcomed in these waters!?/div>
Barak shrugged his indifference. “Fine by me. Let’s get out of here, Rayje.?Turning, the warlord began leading his people back to their homes. “It’s too cold and wet here anyway!?With a final look, Rayje turned his back on Mobis and the Orotheans and began his trek back to Cald.
Rayje stood silhouetted against the fiery skies of Cald, his cape flapping in the sulfur-laden winds of the shore. He eyed Sinder appraisingly. “You showed incredible strength today, Sinder. Soon I’ll be leaving Cald to warn the other regions about the threat to the Moonlands. I would like for you to come along. You remind me of myself when I was younger. There is much that I can teach you, if you wish to learn.?/div>
Sinder was overwhelmed. When he finally replied, his voice was respectful and full of awe. “I once heard it said that knowledge is power. I would be honored to learn from one as great as you.?Rayje nodded his silent approval. Sinder ventured, “Where are we going first??/div>
Rayje turned to face the young Calder; his eyes alight with purpose. “We’ll need a clear idea of what the Dark Twins are up to so that we can accurately convey the magnitude of the impending peril. We’ll head north to the forests of Naroom first.?/div>
Sinder swallowed the lump in his throat. Naroom was a land he had never thought to visit, but then so was Orothe. He had returned dripping and shivering from the Cald/Orothe war and vowed never to allow himself to be immersed in water again. Now it seemed his life was to be full of firsts. He found himself blazing with excitement and anticipation as he followed his new mentor away from the shore, back into the welcoming warmth of his homeland. He prepared to say his goodbyes.
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