“Be ready,” Max cautioned them. “I’m going to finish the return spell and release the chains. If I fail, it’s going to attack quickly.”
“You don’t have to tell us that,” Sylvie stated. “We know the risk.”
Inés turned to Serena. “Stay behind me, just in case.”
“But you’re…” Serena began.
“Not badly hurt,” Inés stated. “And still a lot better at fighting than you are.”
Serena acquiesced and backed away. Standing very slightly behind Inés.
“Don’t worry,” Inés reassured her. “Max should be able to pull this off.” She looked directly at him. “He’s not that bad of a mage.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence,” Max said. “Remind me why we’re friends?”
“Because I’m delightful,” Inés answered.
Max laughed and began casting. He quickly ran through the spell and dispelled the chains. The Shade stood still for a moment before dashing off. The group immediately chased after it, Max taking the lead after it vanished from sight.
“This way,” he called.
“Just run faster,” Inés called. “”You’re the one with a lock on the stupid thing.”
They ran through the streets and followed its trail all the way to the affluent area. It eventually led them to a large temple with stain-glass windows.
“The monotheists temple,” Max explained. “Just the proof we need.”
“So, let’s go in and deal with them,” Inés said. She made a dash for the door.
“Wait!” Max called. “We’ve got the proof. We don’t need to go in after them.”
“She went in,” Sylvie muttered. “That girl does not listen.”
“Better go after her,” Max sighed. “I’ll do a quick sending spell to get reinforcements and join you.”
Sylvie nodded. “All right. Hurry up. We don’t know how many are in there.”
“Can I?” Serena asked.
“You can, but stay close to me,” Sylvie said. Serena nodded and the two ran for the temple’s entrance. Only to be tossed backwards as they approached.
“What… what happened?” Serena asked.
“Some kind of barrier,” Sylvie stated. “They may be trying to buy themselves time. They might not even know that the mermaid is in there.”
“Or they could be trapping her in,” Serena said.
“That is possible,” Sylvie admitted.
Inés looked around the main worship chamber. It had a pretty standard design. An altar with room behind it for the priest to stand and some seating for worshippers.
The altar itself was odd. Most altars were built for burnt sacrifices, animal fat and incense for the Gods. This one was More of an opaque box with a slot in the top. That’s when she remembered, they only accepted gold. Undoubtedly, the opening was to allow worshippers to slip gold coins in but designed to be thin to make it difficult to get anything out of it.
The door in the back would lead to the priests’ rooms and living area. She made her way towards it, her staff ready.
She dropped and rolled as the flaming ball slammed above her, narrowly missing her head.
She looked around, seeing no sign of her attacker. An invisibility spell, no doubt.
“You might as well give it up,” she called. “The academy has proof that you’re responsible for the disasters you predicted. And they’re coming for you. If you surrender easily, they may just be merciful.”
“Mercy?” the words echoed, making it impossible fr her to tell where they were coming from. “We don’t need their mercy. We’ll steal away in the night. Our followers won’t believe the slander against us. Your death… well, that will just cement our great god’s power.”
“I’m not going to die,” Inés said. “Not against some cowards who hide themselves.” She abruptly swung her staff around in a circle.
It didn’t connect to anything.
“Oh, but you will.”
“Flaming arrow barrage!” a second voice shouted. The arrows flew towards her. She moved. Dodging and weaving, wincing as some of the fiery projectiles hit, burning her skin beneath the armour.
She calmed herself and began chanting. These were fire mages. She used water magic. She could handle this.
“Flash flood!” she cried. Instantly, the room filled with cool, refreshing water. The arrows still heading towards her were quickly overwhelmed and fizzled out.
She looked around for bubbles. Seeing them in three different spots, scattered throughout the room.
She swam for one, moving easily through the water. Her staff brought the first priest down. Then she headed for the next, even as the spell subsided and the water began draining.
Upon hearing the command, Inés blocked her face behind her arms. The remaining water evaporated in a sudden, powerful blast of steam. It burned and she found herself suddenly sweating profusely, but she ran to the location of the second priest and swung. Her staff connecting with his skull and sending him careening into the wall.
She ran to the area where she had seen the last set of bubbles and swung away, hitting nothing but one of the nearby seats. Where was he?
“Water blast!” she countered. The spray of water fizzled out the fire spell. She ran towards the direction it had come from, staying alert for signs of movement. She heard them, footsteps. They were muffled, but clear enough. She lunged for them and found herself hitting something solid.
“Gotcha!” she declared. The head priest turned visible in her grasp, a look of panic creeping over him even as his mouth rapidly chanted.
“Inferno Blast!” he cried.
Everything seemed to happen at once. Inés quickly moved back. The blast narrowly missed her and hit the ceiling, dropping burning materials down onto the pair of them. The fire spread throughout the chamber, quickly turning the entire building into a roaring inferno. Inés painfully made her way out from the rubble.
She quickly chanted. “Flash flood!” but nothing happened. She was too exhausted and in too much pain. She couldn’t focus enough for the spell and she was surrounded by flames.