With everyone AT LAST ready to go, Yuki, Zachary, Kimai, 200 Racaf Janissaries, the supervillain Ionstorm, Stranglevine, and ten Celestial Dragons / walking magical fusion bombs headed off into the Ru’Kahl hell-dimension.
Not surprisingly, they arrived hundreds of miles away from where they needed to be, with a horde of hideous monsters, a variety of deadly environments, and a selection of other obstacles between them and the cavernous crypts and imprisoned souls of the Ru’Kahl stronghold proper.
Oddly enough, this turned out to be somewhat fortunate; the initial battles and obstacles let them get the Racaf and some transportation arrangements (a boat made of ice) organized.
With that done, their first major battle was at an island in the sea of darkness where the Ru’Kahl were working on opening a major portal to let their legions of monsters, as well as the Harvesters, directly into New York City. After that, they’d be re-adjusting to hit other cities. The ensuing massive battle involved thousands of opponents, fortified positions, and dozens of enemy psionics and magicians – but the Mandate actually managed to get the most compatible pairs of dragons to start working together. Sadly, the battle also led to a number of deaths among the Racaf: they simply weren’t anywhere near as durable as Ionstorm, Stranglevine or the Dragons (who also took some fairly heavy hits) – and they were on the front lines rather than working as support staff like Yuki, Zachary, and Kimai. Yuki and Kimai had nearly died anyway – there were just too many nygothean chthonic crawlers, psionic horrors, toxic living clouds, and skeletal legions. If they hadn’t started using some of the Ru’kahl Harvesters own black necromantic talismans against them, they probably would have lost – and they weren’t even anywhere near the main Ru’Kahl base yet. They couldn’t keep on doing that: the things were incredibly corruptive and addictive. Yuki had barely been able to stop after the first time or two.
Two things then. First, try and get those bloody dragons to actually COOPERATE. Hopefully as a unified group, rather than in pairs trying to impress each other. The creatures had plenty of raw power if they’d just use it effectively.
Secondarily, Yuki went to work on trying to unlock the sealed settings on the Racaf’s nanite-based portable weapons-constructors. Hacking an alien computer security system built around a technology many millennia older than earth’s wasn’t exactly easy – but Yuki’s remarkable skills and intuition, backed by Zachary’s chaos-magic enhancements (and a lot of luck), proved just barely equal to the task. She got program access, unlocked the weapons-of-mass-destruction settings, and got the fusion self-destruct program to abor, moments before the countdown on the fusion reactor which powered the system would have reached zero.
That gave them access to tactical fusion warheads, nanite plagues, bioweapons, major toxins, death field projectors, gravitational nullifiers, gamma-ray flash systems, and a wide variety of other hideous weapons. Considering that the same aliens were offering their “friendship” to everyone back on earth, that wasn’t entirely a comforting thought – but they could certainly use some of those weapons now.
Yuki opted for the fusion warheads. With the dragons to hold things steady and shield their ice-ship, a “sunwall” tactic of continuously bombarding the assault area with a steady stream of nuclear weapons seemed likely to be pretty helpful. By the time they reached the Ru’Kahl stronghold they should be able to have several hundred warheads ready to go.
Back on Earth, the White Necromancer and his apprentices, the Chauffeur, Vasilko, Ranko, and the rest of the Mandate had pretty much fortified everything they could. They’d been able to sense Chi’an throwing high-powered spells around for awhile – evidently drawing on the massed power of his dragon-slaves – but none of it really seemed to be likely to do much more than delay the Bane Mummies a bit. He might be able to establish some enclaves, but that was just stalling. Maybe he’d realized it too: he’d quit a few hours ago.
Then again, knowing Chi’an… He was the one who’d thrown a retroactive spell that affected his own past. Maybe they ought to check and see what harebrained scheme he’d embarked on this time.
That turned out to be unnecessary: Kossitsika – one of Chi’ans two free girlfriends (lucky bastard, no wonder there was so much competition to be “flight leader” if the position came with that kind of perk) – dropped by with an urgent request for assistance. Chi’an had decided to singlehandedly defeat the Bane Mummies by going into the human racemind and purging the hundred-thousand-year-old trauma which lay at the base of their ability to keep coming back, and she hadn’t been sure that was a good idea even before the fireworks started.
OK, that wasn’t necessarily a bad idea – but it was a job for a human telepath, or at least a subtle human mage with mental talents, not for a walking fusion bomb spewing dragonfire and blasting away with elemental magic! Who needed something like that in their head?
No wonder he’d refused to come along into the dark dimensions. He’d wanted to be a solo hero and save the day on his own… Well, with the help of his slaves to provide extra power. In dragon terms they probably didn’t count as assistants though, just as tools.
The White Necromancer droppped everything, took Jason – no help for that, he was linked into his mind – Foxfire, and the other Werechild (also linked to him), went astral, and started trying to get into the Akhasic – the realm of the racemind – from there.
Chi’an’s trail was clear enough. He was simply chasing down associated chains of major traumas, slapping “happy-ending” fantasies/memory patches over them with gouts of raw power, and trying to fix things – apparently on the theory that if he fixed everything he ran across, eventually he’d hit the last trauma.
Either that or he’d gotten so caught up in the experiences that he’d forgotten that – fundamentally – they weren’t real.
The White Necromancer had the same problem. He accidently spun a dream of zombie hordes rising from the trenches of WWI, did battle in WWII in the role of the original White Necromancer, intervened in the plague, fought a fire, and helped villagers escape the flooding of the Mediterranean basin with barriers of bone – which was where he finally caught up with Chi’an, who’d simply spread a mass-merman transformation. With a chain of other dragons pouring power into him, Chi’an’s raw power was immense – but he wasn’t nearly as well-attuned to the human racemind, or as good at navigating the astral plane, as the White Necromancer.
They regrouped at a concentration-camp memory of world war two. That was a reliable landmark – and there ought to be a link between it and the first White Necromancer. Then all they’d have to do would be jump back to the early days of the White Necromancer, and trace back the Bane Mummies from there…
The Chauffeur had taken Vasilko and headed for Alaska. He’d better find out what was going on there before he tried anything else.
It wasn’t good: Something was obviously pushing Chi’an off course and there was a powerstorm of dark energies pouring back into his physical body. Fortunately for Chi’an, he could handle that. The Chauffeur had Vasilko try to hold things stable while he did a little research – and attended a quick emergency meeting about preventing the spread of the alien war-wiring technology. Fortunately he’d fitted his vehicles with time-travel systems long ago, so it didn’t actually waste any of his time.
Meanwhile, back in the dark realms, the Sunwall attack was underway. A steady stream of fusion warhead clusters was more than enough to keep most of the smaller creatures off their backs – but wasn’t enough to penetrate the deepest levels of the caverns of the Ru’Kahl. Some of them were so far down, and so reinforced by darkness, that material started sliding into the crater as fast as they could blow it out.
They also hadn’t really counted on attempts to possess the Racaf and have them start firing nuclear warheads at each other at point-blank range (fortunately those aliens weren’t too dumb: their weapons had computerized safety interlocks), or the Harvester attack which left them all falling into the sea of magma they’d created, or nearly losing Yuki and Zachary to the corrupting addiction of the Ru’Kahl black necromantic talismans.
Drat it, they kept forgetting that the enemy would be making plans too. It probably came with being teenagers. Yuki and Zachary were no more immune to overconfidence than the dragons were. On the other hand, faced with all their allies being in severe danger of being killed, and under mass attack, most of the dragons finally started listening to Yuki and began working as a group, with at least some consideration for what everyone else was doing and a certain amount of tactical sense.
Unfortunately, in the deep crypts, the master of the Ru’Kahl cult was at the very center of it’s power, surrounded by fear and darkness made solid, by the tortured souls of the dead which powered black necromancy, and protected by a hundreds of mighty spells. Even Yuki, now channeling the full power of the last Ice Age, a reasonably cooperative group of celestial dragons, Ionstorm, and the rest were barely holding their own.
There was still one more trick to try. If Chi’an could focus the power of his slaves through himself, couldn’t a group of free dragons do the same?
Kanmari immediately volunteered to act as the “lens” – he was a dedicated show-off – and the chain of power formed while Yuki locked the Lich-Lord of the Ru’Kahl in a block of ice with herself. She could not hold him long- he was draining her life with terrible speed – but it was long enough. The dimension of darkness dissolved around them as the radiance of creation engulfed its heart – while Yuki and the Lich were blasted beyond the material realms into the higher Sephiroth, where Yuki cast him into the quilopothic abyss.
Believing Yuki dead, the heroes, villains, dragons, and surviving mercenaries returned to Earth – there to confront Ranko, who was aware that something had happened to her sister.