The anchor of the umbral abyss snapped and cracked like thunder as it broke open. As the final piece broke away, Shun and Luna found themselves standing side by side on its pedestal.
The lupine elder, eyes wide, stepped back. “Welcome back, your majesty,” she said, bowing her head.
Luna held up a hand. “The kingdoms I once ruled are no more. For the moment, I am not a queen, my chosen title is Ultima,” she placed her hand on the elder’s shoulder. “Ultima Luna,”
“Hey, Ultima Luna?” Shun called from where he stood, “Just so you know, you’re still not technically free,”
“Don’t you trust me?” she said, playfully.
“I just met you. Besides, this part wasn’t up to me. The final line of defense against your return was a binding spell. You are now bound to everyone in your vicinity. Should you attack anyone unprovoked, you shall suffer the same fate as your target,”
“Seems like those old ‘heroes’ weren’t above a little dark magic themselves,” she said.
The elder cleared her throat. “Y- yes... well regardless, why don’t you two come upstairs? No doubt you wish to be caught up on what has changed in the years you were imprisoned,”
“No need,” Shun said. “I told her what she needs to know,”
“I’ll be the judge of what I need to know,” Luna said, turning to the stairs. “Up here, right?”
The elder nodded and the three of them went upstairs.
The staircase to the surface was long and had seen little use over the years. Only the elder was supposed to ever enter, and, only once or twice a year at that. At all other times, the paladins were to stand guard, but never set foot inside. Outside, the sky was grey and overcast. A few people milled about in the courtyard, but upon seeing Luna, they scurried away to get inside or even just break line of sight. As soon as she noticed this, Luna averted her gaze and found herself staring down at her bare feet, trudging across the grey stone courtyard.
The group entered a small shack on the edge of the temple grounds.
“Shun, go make some tea,” the elder said. “I’m going make sure Ms. Luna knows what she’s getting into,”
Shun scoffed, but grabbed the kettle and went out to the well to fill it.
“I think I understand the big picture at least,” Luna said. “Big scary powerful guy in charge Djastra’a, life there is terrible and you need someone on my level of strength to deal with him. Am I close?”
“Not as far off as I was expecting. Yes, the entire kingdom of Djastra’a is under the control of King Xipil, and yes life is terrible, but there’s more to it. When Xipil took the throne, he attempted to make use of some kind of unknown magic. He said he wanted to make a kingdom more wonderful than that of the gods. But none can say if the spell worked as intended, or if something went wrong,”
Shun returned with the kettle and hung it over the fire in the center of the room.
“So what exactly is going on there?” Luna asked.
“The entire city is engulfed in a golden light,” Shun said, looking away, switching his tail from side to side. “It never rains, so no crops will grow, all the wells have dried up, no one can properly die and no one can leave.”
“You mentioned that before,” Luna said. “Something about fearsome beasts surrounding the kingdom?”
Shun nodded. “The light attracted all sorts of monsters like moths to a lamp. Also not a wholly inaccurate comparison. If any of those demons were dragged into the light, they’d turn to ash almost instantly, just like if a moth could actually get to the flame inside a lamp.”
“So just dispel it,” Luna said, looking annoyed. “No, wait. If you brought me back, you must’ve tried everything already. What is it you expect me to do?”
Shun’s ears flattened against his head. “I expect you to bring death and darkness to the city of endless light,” he growled.
Luna sighed. “Fine,” she said. “I accept. Not that I have much of a choice in the matter.” She dispelled the glamor that kept her large black wings hidden. “I don’t exactly know where Djastra’a is, but I figure a country surrounded by monsters and engulfed in light shouldn’t be too hard to find.” She got to her feet.
“Hold it!” the elder slammed a cup onto the table. “Two things. First, it’s poor manners to walk out on your host before she’s served tea. Second, we can’t let you go alone. If people were to see you, it would only spread more fear and panic. That’s why Shun will escort you to Djastra’a,”
“I’m not a pet,” Luna said. “I’m a witch who’s many, many centuries your elder!” Luna said, advancing on the old wolf. She wrapped her claws around the elder’s neck. “Don’t you-” she squeezed, “-tell me I need an esco-” Luna gasped and was forced to release the old woman as she felt her own strong fingers close around her neck, claws digging into her her flesh. She had almost drawn blood.
“This exact scenario is why I’m going with you,” Shun said. “You may be a powerful witch, but you can’t even hurt anyone without it rebounding on you.
The old wolf, having regained her composure, poured the tea.
“I’ll help, I already agreed to that, but you need to get this last binding spell off me,” Luna said, taking a sip.
“I’ll think about it on the road,” Shun said. “I’d like to relax for now. Might be the last time for awhile.”
The group sat quietly and drank their tea. The elder caught Luna up on the more minute details of the world. Advances in both technology and spellcraft, and changes to borders and laws. It was only a cursory explanation, but even glossed over, all the changes were enough to make Luna’s head spin. Hardest hitting among the facts, was that dark magic had been outlawed. She understood why, but didn’t like it. All Luna could think about was how many people could’ve been saved over the last two thousand years if dark magic had been allowed. She kept silent though. Neither of these two would understand anyway.
The group finished their meal and with surprisingly little ceremony, Shun and Luna set out along the dirt road on their journey to dethrone King Xipil.
“We make for Maea,” Shun said. “Assuming everything there is working properly, we should be able to get to Fensburg and to Djastra’a from there.”
Luna placed a hand on his shoulder, stopping him in his tracks. “I know you’re driven,” she said. “But I’m not the woman I was back then. I’m still powerful, but I’m not sure I have the energy to do what I did all that time ago. You’d better pull your weight too.”
Shun shrugged her hand off. “I’ll be fine. Just don’t lose your temper and get yourself killed.” He still refused to look at her.
She resigned herself to her new mission and the two continued down the road, without another word. The only sounds were that of fallen leaves crackling under their feet.
Yes, I’m aware the formatting is inconsistent with the last one, but I’ve been unable to figure out how to consistently indent the first lines of paragraphs. If any of you know how, lemme know.