The two armies felt each other’s positions under the cover of  darkness. Achlys and I were involved in that. We didn’t engage. We just needed to know how they’d prepared the field. Oh, yes, the story of the Tempest you often hear makes it sound like it was fought on a flat plain, by two armies who surprised each other. That’s ridiculous.  We attacked them.

Achlys had a spell which turned grass into blades of iron, and I could hide that with illusions, so we spent a lot of time putting these sorts of traps into the far end of the battlefield. I know people claim they were demons, but I think we penned up some blood-drenched satyrs. Our spells probably did them some damage. I certainly didn’t see any of them later, when everything fell apart. We had the time, so why not use it?

As dawn broke, parts of each side began to cast vast rituals. They’d held off so that their Parmae didn’t flicker out partway through. The remaining parts of each side squared off in the centre of the battlefield. The rituals mattered, but only because we let them matter.

The skirmish lines in the middle could have been decisive, if we’d wanted them to be. We thought the ritual would win the battle for us. They thought their ritual would win the battle for them. Our leaders had said we were to attack, and technically we were pressing forward. Combat occurred, because each side had certain assets they could either use or lose, but the plan was never, really, to pierce the enemy line and strike the other ritual directly. We just wanted to knock them so hard they’d rattle, then bunker down and let us complete our ritual.

Achlys and I did make random attacks on the druids, which could be why things went so badly for me later. In the quiet times, why not sling some spells at the enemy? Perhaps you’d distract someone. Achlys was killing people, I assume. I certainly saw her poison mists drifting over the field, sickly blue and grey, and vaguely malicious. I knew I wasn’t going to get through the Parma on anyone important, so I was just throwing the weirdest illusions I could think of. Pornography sometimes. Visual gags. Anything that might lead someone to miss a syllable.

I did have a magic item which could push coach nails through magic resistance. I launched some of them, perhaps two dozen. My combat doctrine was based on attacking and then moving, using illusions to prevent the enemy locating me. I did some damage to the monsters the other side had bought to the field. I think I wrecked whatever they were planning to do with their satyrs. My method of fighting slowed my rate of fire down, though, and it also slowed Achlys too, because she’d relocate each time I did.

Our side wanted to incinerate everything at the druidic end of the battlefield. The idea was to create a spell so tremendously powerful that the Parma would crack before it. This spell was, perhaps, sixteenth magnitude. It was going to take hours to cast. The rest of us were just meant to absorb any attacks until the sky itself caught flame and everything died. The druidic plan was simply better than ours.

Their plan was to cast a small, subtle effect, that was specifically designed to slice through magic resistance. Even with the time needed to enhance the spell’s penetration, their ritual was completed first. You know “Call to Slumber”? It’s the deadliest spell in Hermetic history.

I know the others will tell you that it was some sort of storm, or lightning, and that’s why it’s called The Battle of the Tempest, but no. formed. The Tempest was what happens when dozens of magi all fall into Final Twilight at once. The Realm of Magic just rips open, and bleeds from its depths until everything magical nearby is scoured away and the mundane realm is all that’s left.

You can feel it, in your Gift.  You know how you can feel your Gift flicker in Church? Imagine that. You know how if you are dying of shock, toward the end you feel deliciously warm?  That. In your Gift. That’s what it feels like when the Mundane Realm vomits its pain into the Realm of Forms. It feels like everything that’s wrong with you, and everything that’s right with you, and everything that’s distinctively you, is about to get smoothed away, and you are kind of looking forward to it.

Achlys and I were on a little hillock, looking at some tortoise-hydras and hoping they’d stay exactly where they were. We both felt the Tempest begin. We looked at the Mercurians and they were being blown about like scarecrows in a storm. We heard the Diende’s monsters scream with hunger and bloodlust. They hadn’t spotted us yet, because we’d just shifted position. Their line began to charge across the field, and our position was going to fall in a couple of minutes. Time to decide.

Achlys slapped my arm, hard, and yelled over the storm “Now, we run like Hell!”

I nodded.

We ran like Hell.

 

 

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