The Binding

Tari woke up, not easing out of sleep and slowly becoming aware, but abruptly, like the snapping of a string, her body tense and mind seeking information. Her kyr-marks rolled in waves, dancing madly as they stretched and expanded off her skin into the ground and air to confirm what her five senses already told her: no enemies, no battle. She knew, but it wasn’t until her marks became still on her body that she allowed herself to breathe. Then, she was able to take in the sensations she had initially ignored: sounds of her comrades laughing outside, the bubbling of something in a pot, fire crackling, and quiet chattering. It seemed like she was the last one to wake up, but instead of immediately going out to join them, she laid back on the soft bed, looking at the ceiling of her tent, but seeing the dream she had woken up from.

The last time she remembered dreaming was almost a year ago, so she wanted to linger in it for as long as possible. In the dream, she was back on Marak, sitting in a nook by the window with a book, but rather than reading, she was more interested in how the crisp rays of sunlight danced upon the black and white symbols on the page, making patterns within patterns, how those same rays, danced upon her skin, making it shimmer like bronze. The feeling she longed most for from the dream was the way the sun heated up one side of her body, nearly burning it, while the other half, within the shade, was cool, almost cold. Tari sighed and gripped her blanket tightly as the echoes of the dream began to fade. She tried to focus harder on the feeling of the burning sun, but the more she longed to hold on to it, the faster it slipped away, like water, out of her grasp and gone, replaced by murky lukewarmness. She sighed again, threw her blanket off in annoyance and got up. The dream was great, but it had only made her more keenly aware of the fact that she was as far as she could be from Marak.

“Ah…I hate this place,” she whispered to herself as she peeled off her clothes. They were wet, not from sweat, but from the unnatural humidity and mugginess of the binding. She groaned, then forced herself to walk to a corner of her large tent, where the cleansing station was.

She squeezed the clothes in her hand and wrapped her marks around them. The marks, naturally black, began to glow blindingly white, igniting the clothes and burning them at a temperature so hot that not even ashes remained. Tari giggled as she watched the plasma consume the clothes. She couldn’t burn down the binding itself, but she would take as much pleasure as she could from imaging that as she burned the clothes, she was also taking some small revenge on the place.

She rubbed her hands together satisfied with her petty actions. Then she waved her hands over the glyphs on the cleaning station, a disc-shaped piece of metal, about eight inches in diameter, and two inches thick, attached to the wall, with a small nozzle at its center. The glyphs on the disc glowed a faint yellow, then as they tuned green, steam burst out of the nozzle, covering her in a membrane of moisture. The steam poured out for a couple minutes, and then warm air followed after, drying her body and completing the cleansing. Tari smiled as the floral scent of the cleansing steam filled the room. One of the things that had kept her sane these last few years was this scent, light, crisp, and clean, though she admitted that, despite the convince of cleansing stations, she still missed an actual bath where she could sit in the water for an hour, solely focused on unwinding.

She sighed again, but deciding not to dwell on things she couldn’t change, she manipulated her kyr-marks to take on the shape of a simple shirt and leggings, then pulled kyr particles together into a soft but durable fabric of the same shape. Finally done getting ready, went to join her comrades.

“What’s the weather like today?” She asked as soon as she stepped out of the tent. There was always a moment when stepping out between her temperature-controlled tent unit and the thick warm air outside, where she had to brace herself against the strange feeling of the atmosphere. She knew that even spending ten more years there wouldn’t get her used to what felt like the inside of an animal’s mouth.

“Hmm, let’s see,” Brel said, coming over to her and looking around. He pointed exaggeratedly to a random spot in the sky. “Well over there is yellow murky, and there,” he pointed in another direction, “is orange murky combined with a hint of brown streaks.”

“Wow, that’s amazing!” Tari said, clapping with feigned enthusiasm, playing along with their usual morning routine. Then more seriously, “Well, honestly, it’s definitely better than the purple and green mix we had yesterday.”

“Or the yellow and turquoise the day before that.”

“Exactly,” she said and laughed loudly in a painfully mechanical way that bordered on hysteria. “This is wonderful,” she added, and it sounded like she meant it.

Her four companions stopped midway in their cooking, training, writing, and whatever else they were doing to stare at her. Brel took a step back, watching as Tari whipped nonexistent tears from her eyes, her marks dancing frantically on her skin. Even as she straightened up and regained her composure, they didn’t stop watching her.

“Are you okay?” Fee asked, putting down the pad she was writing on. Her blue hair fell in wisps around her face.

“You seem a bit… tired,” Brel added, “Maybe you should get some more sleep.”

Tari shook her head and sighed at their concerned looks, letting out a hollow laugh. It had become something of a dial ritual to joke about how much they loved the binding, and she had played along as usual, at least she thought she had, but seeing none of the usual teasing or lightheartedness in their tone or looks, meant that she either really did seem unwell, or that they were too stressed to recognize the joke. It was probably a bit of both.

“I’m fine,” she said. “Really.”

“Are you sure?” Fee asked. “If you’re not okay, you have to let us know. We can’t have you losing your mind on us.”

Tari shot her a glare, then looked around, first, up into the sunless murky sky, already beginning to shift colors again, adding strange reddish hues into the mix, then down at the deep mauve stones that made up the desolate rocky terrain, and finally, she looked at her friends and saw the strain and tiredness that painted their faces in deep shadows. In an instant, she recognized in them, what they probably saw in her, that ten years of dimness, ten years of permanent twilight, ten years of this horrid sunless sky and its horrid colors were starting to take its toll on them all. It was no wonder they seemed concerned about her when she felt equally concerned for them. She wondered how they had all managed to keep their sanity this whole time.

“Maybe we’ve all actually lost our minds,” Silver said in reply to her thoughts. Then she turned away from her and back to her cooking, satisfied that Tari wasn’t any crazier than she had been the day before. She tasted the soup and smiled brightly.

“Maybe you should stay out of my mind,” Tari said, walking over and lightly kicking her.

Silver made a sound which was intended to be a grunt, but which, in her high hymn-like voice, sounded more like a lilting squeal, then fell in exaggerated pain. Her twin brother Capricorn, joining in on the fun, leaped over from where he had been training to catch her.

“It’s not my sister’s fault that you leave your mind completely defenseless,” he said, cradling his twin’s head. Keep your feet to yourself, hooligan,” he added dramatically.

“You all have far too much energy in the morning,” Fee said, stretching her back. She picked her notebook up and started writing, offhandedly asking, “Have you heard anything from Rick, Tari?”

“Nope,” she said, sitting down. Brel joined them around the food, and Silver started handing out large bowls of the transparent, watery soup. That good for nothing,” she scoffed and accepted a bowl from Silver. “He must be so thrilled to be back in Nol that he hasn’t bothered to contact us once, except when he bought a new pair of shoes. Why the hell would I care about his damn shoes? When we are still stuck here.”

Capricorn laughed, “That’s so like him. Well, he did say he would leave the final sealing to you. The fact that he’s not concerned means he trusts you. It’s unfortunate that the sentrinians have been attacking more frequently. They’re not giving us any time… but more importantly,” He said, mischief creeping into his voice. “Should you really be calling your father a good for nothing?”

“And who exactly is my father?” Tari said, giving Capricorn a look that dared him to continue.

“Rickandel Lupaine,” the remaining four said simultaneously, laughing obnoxiously as they did.

“Oh, here we go,” Fee said, exasperated, though she smiled softly as the banter they’d repeated at least a hundred times in the last month played out. Something about the repetition of these mundane conversations and jokes brought them a resume of comfort.

“I don’t remember agreeing to become his daughter,” Tari said, laughing. “He just goes along with his own whims.”

“Oh, please. Just a few decades ago, you were always talking about how you wanted to make Rick proud and how you loved him so much that…” The pink sand thrown in his face cut off the rest of Brel’s words.

“Ugh, you got sand in my soup,” he yelled while the rest laughed.

“That’s because you say the most unnecessary things. All that happened when I was young and still thought he was the coolest man alive. Blame my naivety.” Tari mumbled.

“So, what you’re saying is that you don’t think he’s cool anymore?” Brel asked with obvious disbelief.

“No, he’s incredible. Always. But I’ll never tell him that to his face. It goes right to his already overinflated ego… Besides, Sol and Marviel are much cooler,” Tari said, then quickly shoved a spoon of soup into her mouth. Rick was the only real guardian she’d ever known, and for well over two thousand years since he’d found her, he had raised her as his child, declared it to the whole galaxy that she was his heir, but as much as she loved him, the nature of their relationship sometimes still felt unreal to her. She felt like one day she’d wake up, and…she let that train of thought go. The Binding was already depressing enough without making it worse with bad memories.

“You’re all so immature, talking about who’s cool or not,” Fee said, putting down her already-finished bowl of soup and beginning to drink the remaining soup right from the pot with the ladled.

“And your appetite is as baffling as always,” Tari said, putting her own bowl down.

They laughed and joked a bit more, then fell into silence for a while, each deep in their own thoughts. Tari looked off into the distance. The horizon, where the supple translucent dimensional walls of the Binding met the dark gray edge of the sentrinians dimension. More specifically, she looked at the point where a large rip in the dimensional fabric was roughly held together by Silver’s energy shield and her rough Kyr stitching. The shimmering threshold seemed to hum and vibrate with life.

She turned back to the group “Onto more serious things, what’s the plan for today?” She drummed her fingers on her knees. “I know we all just love being here, but I’m ready to go home. It’s about time we find some way to finish the final sealing. ”

Silver nodded, “I hate to sour the mood, but no matter how much we try to play at having a good time, I really don’t think we should stay here for much longer.”

They grew grave at her words. They joked frequently about it, but they truly feared that it was only a matter of time before one of them would really lose their mind, and the last thing they wanted to deal with, along with the sentrinians, was a very powerful lunatic.

“I think we can finish it by the end of the week,” Fee said, using her fingers to clean out the last traces of soup in the pot. “The breach is almost closed, and the sentrinians know this. That’s why they are trying so hard… think about it… for the last ten years, we’ve been steadily stitching the tear yard by yard. The extent of the damage we’ve fixed can not be understated, but now we’ve spent over two months since Rick left, trying to seal a hole that should take a day or two max.”

“Well, it’s difficult to hold them back with Rick gone,” Brel said, defensive of him and Capricorn. They were both at the vanguard fending off the waves of attacking sentrinians. A role Tari had been part of until Rick left. “Tari now needs to focus on weaving the tear closed, but without her help, we can’t stop their hordes from trying to destroy what has already been fixed or blasting through the breach,” he said.

Tari sighed, taking their words more personally than they’d probably intended. She was supposed to be filling Rick’s shoes now, and if she had even half of his skills and power, she’d be able to help fight off the sentrinians while weaving the dimensional thread at the same time. She knew she couldn’t carry the same weight Rick did and no one expected her to, but the burden was heavy. Their ten years’ worth of effort, fending off an incessant invasion, could all be in vain if she made a wrong step.

Silver reached over, laying a comforting hand on her back. “Don’t look so down, Tari, it’s not your fault.”

“I know, but it’s frustrating. If Rick was here, a hole that size could be closed in a matter of hours, yet we’ve been here for months.” She shook her head. “Heck, if all this nonsense with Iclax and Cajara wasn’t going on, Alexil would be here as well, and there would be no issue.” Tari sighed. Fee leaned forward, and everyone fell silent. Tari cringed inwardly, expecting the soft kind of rebuke that Fee was an expert at giving.

“The Master of The House of Lupaine has already been absent from the galaxy for ten years,” Fee said in almost a whisper. “Tari, you should know better than anyone that is unacceptable. As for Alexil, Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do about that situation. As the next head of the Lupaine, it’s your duty to do this and to do it flawlessly,” Fee said unsympathetically, causing Tari to roll her eyes in frustration.
Fee allowed her words to sink in for a moment, before leaning back and continuing in a lighter tone. “Anyway, I’ve been doing some thinking, and I know how we can get this finished in about ten days…honestly, I’m disappointed in myself that I didn’t think about it sooner.”

“How?” Capricorn asked, skepticism obvious in his voice. Then threw his head back and poured the rest of the soup down his throat, somehow still looking graceful as he did it. Tari smiled, thinking it was a special kind of affliction with the twins that everything they did seemed so naturally beautiful.

“As Brel said, we need Tari to focus on the actual sealing. She’s the only Marakian here. No one else can do that, so the rest of us need to hold the sentrinians back…”

“Sorry to cut in,” Brel said, “but that’s exactly what we’ve been doing, and the four of us can’t hold them back alone. Even when Rick was here, all five of us defended the breech while he closed it.” Brel said, rolling a small stone under his foot. “I thought you’d come up with something new.”

“Well,” Fee said, nudging his forehead. “If you let me finish, you’d hear the rest. The fact is, when Rick was here, only four of us were facing the sentrinians, and with Rick gone, it’s down three when Tari is closing the hole. As you are well aware, Silver has constantly maintained a shield around the entire Binding wall, so her contribution to the offense has been minimal. I think if she dropped the shield completely and helped us defend Tari, we could close the hole in less than a week.”

“Fee,” Capricorn said and shook his head. “That’s seriously not your plan, is it? The breech makes the entire binding unstable. Silver’s shield is the only thing that has prevented this place from crashing in on us. Do you want to be crushed between two dimensions?”

The rest said nothing, but the bit of hope that had sparked quickly died away.

Fee shook her head. “In the beginning, her shield was completely necessary, but that was ten years ago. The hole was almost the size of a planet, for goodness sake, but now it’s not even as large as a standard hovercar. Even if it’s just for a few hours at a time each day, we will have the full force of four of us, defending Tari and the hole. It will give her the time she needs to be able to actually focus on closing the breach, instead of having to start and stop every minute because you and Brel are getting overwhelmed … do you want to spend another month or two here, hoping the sentrinians will just let us be?” she said, raising her voice slightly.

They remained silent, each contemplating the idea, trying and failing to devise alternatives. Silver finally spoke up.

“I think it’s the best idea we’ve got. We’ve been here for months, and unfortunately, no one else has come up with anything better. It would be silly to repeat the same routine each day, hoping something will change,” she said, looking around. “Let’s try it out first, and if I notice the Binding starting to collapse, all I have to do is put the shield back up.”

“You make it sound so simple like you can just create a dimension-sized shield in two seconds by snapping your finger or clapping your hands,” Capricorn said, turning to his sister, his blue eyes flaring and flickering. “Who do you think you are, Prince Sol?”

“And not just once, Silver, but potentially multiple times? Are you actually trying to kill yourself? Death might be better than this, but there are much easier ways to die,” Brel added.

Silver laughed quietly for a moment, “There are definitely easier ways to die, but right now, I’m not so eager for death,” She stood up and smiled so brightly that for a moment, Tari didn’t miss the absence of sunlight. “This is actually a great idea Fee, and you know what? I think we can be out of here in two days, maybe less,” she declared.

They all looked at her with equal parts of confusion and desperate hope. “Two days?” Tari asked.

“Two days,” she said. “Like you said, Tari, a hole this size can be closed in a matter of hours if Rick were here, but I know you’re capable of doing the same, so let’s drop the shield, fight hard for two days, then leave,” she finished, flicking her hand as though it were all as easy as brushing away some dust.

As Silver spoke, Tari couldn’t help the excitement creeping into her blood and pounding through her veins from the confidence her friend had in her. A smile slowly crept onto her face, and she got up, taking Silver’s hand. “Two days?” she said, then scoffed. “I’ll close it in one.” By now, an infectious thrill had fully spread through Tari and Silver, making them jump up and down wildly. Tari continued, her voice rising. “I’ll finally be able to go home,” she shrieked, jumping ten feet in the air and dragging Silver up with her, creating a cloud of dust underneath them. They hovered together in the air, flying around in circles like drunk birds.

Fee looked at them with mild concern but said nothing while Brel and Capricorn shook their heads slowly. They were definitely not sane anymore, and Brel was already planning a visit to Laurim for counseling the moment he got back to Nol.

“So that’s the plan then?” Capricorn asked, still uncertain. He was fine with fighting, but when he thought of the strain Silver would have to go through to put up the shield again if everything failed, he couldn’t get as excited as everyone else. He looked up to where she was floating. Her hands and neck were covered in bandages from when her own powers had rebounded back at her prom overexertion, melting and scaring her countless times in the years she had maintained the shield. Even just releasing the shield would be taxing to her psycor. He also thought about Tari, splitting her Kyr-marks hundreds of times smaller than a strand of hair, trying to weave a dimension. He looked at her bowl of soup, abandoned on the ground, still full. She couldn’t even eat properly anymore.

“That’s the plan,” Silver said, landing lightly on the ground while Tari continued to fly around, morphing her marks into the shapes of mangled sentrinians and landmarks from her home, unconcerned about the energy she was using up. It was baffling how childlike she could be sometimes. “I’ll drop most of the shield except for a few delicate spots. I’ll also completely remove the temporary shield over the breach, so Tari has complete freedom to manipulate it while we defend until it’s closed.”

“Tari, Silver…I think you guys need to really consider the consequences of this plan. Even if it’s successful, how long do you think it will take you guys to recover from…”

“When do we start?” Brel asked, putting his arm around Capricorn’s neck and covering his mouth.

“Right now,” Fee said, “While I’m still full, it seems I won’t be able to eat for at least two days straight.”

“For one day,” Tari said as she landed beside them. “If you beautiful Cajarans and my always hungry Zentalian sister here can defend without me,” she said, putting an arm around Fee, “I will finish this in a day.”

“Such bravado from someone who was whining about not having Rick and Alexil’s help just a moment ago,” Fee said, smiling.

Tari laughed. “That’s true, but that was before I heard you plan.”

They all smiled, and for the first time since Rick left, they actually felt hopeful. Now that they could see an end, even Capricorn couldn’t help but give a small smile. The energy of their combined excitement was so palpable that small particles in the air instantly combusted, creating sparkles around them.

“Alright, let’s calm down a bit. The last thing we want is to get so excited that we mess something up,” Capricorn said.

“You’d sound more convincing if you weren’t smiling like a maniac,” Brel said, nudging him with his shoulder.

“Shall we begin preparing?” Fee said, clapping her hands softly.

They all settled down, although not with the level of seriousness they had earlier, and began mentally preparing themselves for the difficult day ahead. Silver sat down, closing her eyes and preparing herself to take down the shield. Capricorn and Brel went to change into their combat suits while Fee began making more mysterious notes on her pad. Tari grew still, focusing her eyes upwards on an empty point where nothing but the murky sky could be seen, but which she knew by instinct was the direction of Marak. Her marks settled down on her skin, and she emptied her mind for a moment to focus only on the now distant but ever-present pull from her planet. Subtly, she also felt the presence of Zental and Fee, who was still scribbling in her notepad. Fee sensed her thoughts and looked up to share a smile. After a few minutes, Brel and Capricorn returned fully dressed in their Cajaran nano-lyfol energy combat suits, and Silver opened her eyes slowly.

“I’m ready,” she said, smiling, and they began the short walk to the edge of the Binding.

They arrived in front of the breach shortly, their base being specifically built nearby so they could fend off any surprise sentrinian attacks. While the others began taking their positions, and making final adjustments to their equipment, Tari stepped closer to the binding, examining it to see if there were any changes since the night before. The binding’s thin membrane wall, shimmering iridescently and incorporeally fading in and out of sight, gave slightly under her touch, like the surface of water, pushed without breaking. Tari moved her hand to a spot where the torn dimensional fabric and the undamaged parts met and looked through to the other side. Looking through the tear into the dimension of the sentrinians always made Tari incredibly uncomfortable.

It was like staring into a gray void devoid of light and shadows. The material of reality within the dimension Sentrin was indistinguishable from the sentrinians’ writhing gray and colorless bodies, which stared back at her with the pressure of millions of hungry glares. She paused in her inspection, taking a moment to stand and glare back, grinning as her kyr-marks jumped sporadically, showing her own desire to fight. If she didn’t have to close the breach, she would have taken great satisfaction in personally cutting down the number of glares she felt on her by half. She sighed as she returned her focus to the binding. It was all a constant futility, though, as the same sentrinian she cut down today could possibly be the same one, respawned after centuries, that she would have to cut down again. They didn’t die, and their hunger to devour the vibrant energy of the Nol galaxy would never abate.

She stroked the binding from the top of the tear, down to where it met the ground. Contrary to its smooth appearance, it felt fibrous under her hand, like the skin of a leaf or a flower petal. It was a wonder that something that felt so delicate was strong enough to block out an entire dimension of monstrosities. She traced the tear again in the opposite direction, feeling each undulation under her touch. She could also feel the residue of the auras left behind by its original creators: Rick, Sol, and King Marviel. She felt burdened by the fact that her own unique mana signature would now be added to this fabric. She knew she was not worthy to stand among such great individuals yet, but the sense of honor and pride she felt was much stronger.

“Tari, are you ready?” Fee asked. Tari nodded, turning to look behind her. Fee had changed into a white two-piece suit that included a long-sleeved shirt and snugly fitting leggings. On her feet, she wore thin-strapped white caliga sandals. Like marakians, zentalians did not wear armor into battle, but Tari couldn’t understand why they wore white of all colors. Then again, she thought, it wasn’t like the sentrinians bled.

In their combat suits and helms, Brel and Capricorn looked like grey statues, shimmering red and gold for Brel and blue and white for Capricorn as their powers flowed through the suits. Tari knew from experience that even high-powered laser blasts from an Iclaxian battleship couldn’t pierce the shell of those suits when Brel and Capricorn wore them. She smiled, seeing that everyone was ready. The smile immediately dropped when she saw what Silver was wearing. Dressed like she was about to go to a gala instead of engaging in battle, Silver wore a light blue dress that stopped at her knees, made with a thin billowing fabric, which draped elegantly on her light gray metalo-protein skin, paired with glaringly white running shoes. She had definitely not been wearing that when they’d left their camp.

“Silver, did you just change?” Tari said, wondering why she had even brought such an impractical outfit into the binding.

“Yes, but I’m ready now,” she said seriously.

“You did understand the plan, right? You’re not just creating a shield today. You’re actually fighting.”

“Oh, she knows,” Capricorn said, “She’s just choosing to be an overconfident princess.” He still clearly had reservations about the entire plan, and Silver’s leisurely attitude did nothing to improve his mood.

“Capricorn, I’m being very serious right now,” she said, adjusting the bandages on her hand. You all know that nothing can touch me,” she said, smiling softly, though her eyes shone like blue orbs of defiance.

They said nothing for a moment until Brel whispered, “famous last words,” then pretended to clear his throat.

Silver rolled her eyes. “Let’s get started. I’m ready to drop the shield.”

Choosing to accept Silver’s fashion choices, they grew serious and moved into position. Brel, Fee, and Capricorn moved to stand directly in front of the breach, with Tari and Silver standing two steps behind them. In reaction to their movements, they all felt, like the rolling of thousands of marbles under their skin, the attention of the sentrinians turn fully towards them.

In a wave, the void behind the binding shifted, slowly lightening up as small spots of light began to fill the space, a horrid mimicry of a washed-out starry night sky in the form of millions of bright, mad, yellow eyes opening up. Within minutes, the sentrinians were throwing themselves at the wall of the binding and breech, trying to rip it open with the force of their assault. There was no sound when they hit, only ripples in the binding’s wall and air pushed continually into a powerful breeze. In places where the Binding was undamaged, it held firm, but the tear, which they targeted with specific brutality, only remained unbreeched thanks to Silver’s shield.

“Alright,” Fee sighed, moving ahead of Brel and Capricorn slightly, “Silver, drop main the shield.”

“Dropping the shield,” Silver said, then closed her eyes. Her body started to glow a bright blue. She looked up, feeling her power and mana, which had been spread across the binding dimension, begin to be drawn back into her. It was like folding a large silk cloth, small enough to fit into a space beside her heart. To Tari, it felt like a filled cup spilled over, its contents evaporating instantly, leaving behind only emptiness. It suddenly felt much colder, and she shivered slightly, not realizing how the constant presence of Silver’s power over the place had made it much more bearable.

Silver opened her eyes, breathing hard, but remained standing, her eyes causally filled with bright blue energy, now had black streaks around the corners. “Main shield down,” she said clearly.

“Confirmed. Drop the breach shield on my mark,” Fee replied, then stretched a hand forward palm facing the rush of sentrinians hurling into the shield, the last barrier between them. Her pale skin glowed as her veins lit up in hard, bright purple lines. In front of her palm, a large purple wall of light formed, slightly smaller than the size of the breach. Behind her, Capricorn’s hands lit a bright blue, and energy constructs of plasma in the shape of long swords slid out of his hands. Brel remained still, but Tari saw the small sparks of his signature gold lightening, dancing on his shoulders and around his head. The three of them were a blazing sun, but the sentrinians, though they hesitated slightly, continued to throw themselves at the breach.

“Drop breach shield now,” Fee said.

She said, “Dropping breach shield,” and immediately, the shield was dropped. “Breach shield down.”

The result was instantaneous. The sentrinians began to push through the hole, their numbers in the tens of thousands, only to meet instant death against Fee’s wall of anti-matter. She spread her arms, expanding the wall, then leaped forward, forcing the sentrinians back into the void, along with herself, followed by Capricorn and Brel. The three small, bright spots of light, purple, red, and gold, fought against tides of gray, as they had been doing almost every day for the last ten years. The sentrinians fell by the thousand under their attacks, but where the thousand fell, two thousand rose to take their place. As they continued to fight, a large group of the sentrinians suddenly turned to Fee, attacking her specifically. They twisted their bodies tightly into needles and threw themselves at her, attempting to get past her anti-matter wall, targeting her head and heart. She fended them off with ease, though some of their attacks hit her arms and legs.

“There is a wrag mother or father among them,” Capricorn said, sending the telepathic message to all five of them. From that point, all communication was done telepathically, as in-ear neuro-comms did not work in Sentrin. It was obvious from the way they specifically attacked Fee, unlike him and Brel, whose energy-based powers often lost some efficiency against the sentrinians, Fee’s anti-matter could not be consumed by the energy-hungry creatures, so each touch of it was a guaranteed kill. Capricorn knew the regular sentrinians had no way of knowing that, but a wrag mother or father, maybe millions of years old, could easily direct the rest with their knowledge and power.

“It doesn’t matter,” Fee answered back, “Unless it chooses to show itself and fight personally, this is just a minor annoyance.” She made a slicing motion with her hand, cutting through the next wave of sentrinians like melted butter.

Capricorn and Brel, too, cut down wave after wave. Capricorn’s plasma swords, tearing sentrinian after sentrinian in two, then he stretched out his hand, and mimicking the sentrinians’ assault, he twisted his plasma constructs into thousands and needles, each as powerful as a small sun and sent them hurling towards the sentrinians. Brel danced among them like lightning between clouds, sending destruction wherever he landed, creating large gaps in the sentrinians’ formations with his explosions of lightning. So, they fought none stop while keeping alert for the monster they felt shifting among the hordes of mindless soldiers.

Within the Binding, Tari continued sealing the breach. She sat down a few feet in front of the hole, legs crossed under her, with her hands on her knees, palms facing up. Her marks pulled themselves from the rest of her body to concentrate in pools on her palms, then in fine threads, they rose up from her palms, into the air, and onto the edge of the breach. With each strand that rose from her hand, Tari felt a small tug in her psycor. She closed her eyes as the battle ahead became too distracting. Focusing on her kyr-marks, she carefully split each band, thin enough to match the intricate and detailed thread of the rest of the binding.
Each split felt like the ripping of an organ bit by bit so that it didn’t hurt as it happened, but eventually, she would realize half of her was in shreds, and the pain would come all at once. As each strand formed into the correct size, she immediately began weaving it into the binding. Then, once a patch half the size of her palm was woven, she would collect kyr particles from the surrounding area to take the place of her marks, manipulating them into the unique material of dimensions that was created by Rick, Sol, and Marviel. This was the easiest part since she had the rest of the intact binding to use as reference, but the weaving itself was a trial in patience, skill, and stamina. She continued the process, sealing the hole, patch by patch. She felt something brush past the area she was working on and opened her eyes to see multiple sentrinians pushing past the frontline and into the breach.

Usually, this would be the point where she would have had to stop weaving and start helping with the defense to prevent any sentrinians from making their way into the binding and thereafter into Nol, through the binding wall on the other side, but this time, she simply smiled and closed her eyes, refocusing on her work, as Silver stepped in front of her. Silver stood immovable as she forcefully smashed down and crushed sentrinians between her shields. Not one passed her to reach Tari or the other side of the binding.

# # #

They weren’t sure how long they’d been fighting at that point, but it was irrelevant. The hole was now half closed, and the sight of the progress gave them such hope that they grew immune to any pain or weariness they felt. Fee, Brel, and Capricorn gathered closer to the front of the breach. Now that they had a much smaller hole to defend, they concentrated their attacks on the sentrinians directly in front of them. Perhaps due to their weariness, which they ignored, or the hope they felt clouding their judgment, they didn’t notice as a spear snaked between the sentrinian soldiers and past Fee’s shield.
The force of the attack knocked back into the binding wall, and she twisted at the last minute so it barely missed her neck but tore a deep gouge in her shoulder. Her fuchsia blood erupted from the wound like a fountain, staining her white shirt, purple and glistening from the zentalian crystals in her blood. She let out a scream but quickly bit down on her lip and, using her other hand, grabbed the spear as it was pulled back. Her hand glowed as veins of anti-matter shot up the length of the spear to the creature that had sent it. As the spear-like limb disintegrated, a loud primal scream erupted from the depths of the sentrinians army, and they parted to reveal the wrag mother in their midst.

Wrag mothers, unlike wrag fathers, did not take on a recognizable bipedal or animalistic form. Instead, they were large balls, the size of moons and planets, rippling with monstrous life as they poured young sentrinians out of their bodies like smoke from a factory chimney. This one was on the small side, but they knew immediately that they could not underestimate this monster. The concentration of its colorlessness drained any hue from its surroundings. Parts of it were fully translucent, and thousands of large pale yellow eyes covered its body. Where there were no eyes, sharp spears, and needles protruded from it, one still shrinking from Fee’s attack.

“Kicht,” Brel cursed. “Fee, how are you doing?” He asked, not looking away from the wrag mother.

“Fine,” she said, getting teeth against the pain. “You and Capricorn take care of the wrag mother. Silver and I will protect the breach.” Fee felt Tari reaching for her telepathically but interrupted whatever Tari had to say. “We don’t need your help, Tari. All you need to do now is focus on the breach. That’s the way you can be most useful to us right now,” she said, moving back into the binding.

The wrag mother screeched, and the sentrinians renewed their assault. Capricorn and Brel charged through them, aiming for the wrag mother, trusting that Fee and Silver would hold back the assault. They flew quickly, discharging lighting and plasma in their wake. As they approached the wrag mother, the concentration of sentrinians grew thinner, but each one became stronger. Capricorn and Brel fought hard, slashing and cutting, sending energy blasts, and creating shields of fire, but each death was flowed by another birth from the wrag mother, though the successive sentrinians were becoming weaker as their gestation period within the wrag mother was shortened.

“It’s a matter of patience,” Capricorn told Brel telepathically.

“I feel like we’ll be worn down long before that thing is exhausted,” Brel replied, laughing lightly. He grabbed a charging sentrinian and sent a powerful bolt of lightning through it and five others behind it.

“Yes, you look so tired,” Capricorn muttered, responding with his own blast of plasma. Blue hot liquid death flowed from his hands, mowing down sentrinians. Their progress was slow but steady, and soon they were before the wrag mother, now struggling with each birth it attempted, many of its eyes dimming and shut, the spikes on its body dropping slightly. Brel stretched out a finger, channeling lighting right at the creature’s center. Contrary to its weekend appearance, though, the wrag mother reacted quickly, extending one of its spears to meet the attack. It absorbed a bit of the energy and batted the rest away, then three more spears followed, aiming for Brel.

Capricorn moved forward, quickly extending his swords and cutting down the spears. Then he spun, avoiding another spike but missing one that grazed his leg. He was sure he would have lost the limb if not for his armor. Brel joined him, moving in on the creature and surrounding it. The wrag mother fought desperately, but it was a losing battle. For every hit that its spikes landed, more were cut down, and it could no longer focus on creating more sentrinians to defend it. Capricorn pulled back, then he raised his hand up. Brel quickly moved away as Capricorn brought the hand down. A massive wall of plasma, shaped like a fist, slammed into the wrag mother, engulfing it in liquid fire.

It Screamed and thrashed in formless agony, letting out a belt of pain, extending its spikes out suddenly, in blind fury, one catching Brel on the side of his head, knocking his helm off, another through his shoulder, while Capricorn got one through the leg again. Cajaran’s did not bleed, but from each wound, energy spilled out profusely. They pulled back and sent more beams of power toward the creature that refused to die, each blast weaker than the last. They stayed together, breathing hard and barely dodging the mad attacks of the wrag mother.

Capricorn saw how the wound on Brel’s head spilled out his power into the empty void, how his gold eyes were dimming to a pale yellow, and quickly pulled him closer and farther back from the wrag mother. Brel tried to brush off his friend’s hands, but Capricorn didn’t let go. Now, some of the sentrinians were pulling away from the hole and coming to the aid of the wrag mother. With the wrag mother in front of them and the horde behind them, Capricorn quickly created a shell of plasma around them, attempting to give them time to rest, though he knew it would not last long, as he did not have his sister’s skill for creating shields.

“He quickly thumbed his hands over the glyphs on his waist, and a thin strip fell into his hands. After a second, it began to expand and unravel into a sealing patch.

“Brel, hey Brel, look at me,” he said, pulling Brel’s head close and brushing away his golden hair, which was also dimming to a dull yellow. “Brel,” he yelled.

“Why the Kicht are you yelling? I’m not even unconscious,” Brel said, snatching the patch from Capricorn’s hand and fixing it to the wound himself. “What do we do now?” he asked as he got some more patches and began covering some of his other wounds.

Capricorn, certain that Brel would be fine from his attitude, began doing the same, paying attention to the large wounds on his leg. A loud crack against his shield startled him, and he saw the wrag mother retracting a spear and preparing to strike again.

“I think we came in too deep,” he said, looking to the thick army of sentrinians that separated them from the binding wall. He could hardly see the purple and blue light of Fee and Silver’s powers.

“How long have we been going at this?” Brel asked.

Capricorn just shrugged, then flinched at another hit from the wrag mother.

“Ahh. We’re dead,” Brel said as if he was talking about the weather.

“You can die by yourself,” Capricorn said, placing his hand on the shield and sending shafts of fire at the mass of sentrinians. He was to hastened to concentrate his power into the plasma.

“It’s healing,” Brel said, pointing at the wrag mother, which was beginning to absorb some of the sentrinians.

Capricorn’s heart dropped. He reached out telepathically to Fee but felt no response, so he tried Silver.

“What’s going on,” he asked.

“Capricorn, how are you guys doing? I can’t see you anymore. Fee is too injured to keep fighting, and I’m out of the binding, but I’m not sure how Tari is doing. I can’t reach her telepathically,” she replied.

“Kicht,” He cursed.

“I…” then she was cut off.

Another strike against the shield cracked it, and Capricorn groaned loudly.

“What’s going on?” Brel asked.

“I don’t know, she cut off… but Fee is out, and she can’t contact Tari,” he said quickly. Then they braced themselves as another hit shattered the shield. “We’re retreating,” he yelled, and they started pulling back.

They began moving backward, back to back, with Brel clearing the way back to the binding while Capricorn fended off the attack of the wrag mother. As hard as they tried, though, minutes passed, maybe hours, yet they did not seem any closer.

“This isn’t working, Capricorn,” Brel said without a hint of humor in his voice. “We’re in trouble. I’m barely making sparks at this point.”

Capricorn said nothing but saw that his own blasts were looking more like thin strips of fire. As if to make them painfully aware of their impending deaths, the wrag mother, now mostly recovered, let out a screech that Capricorn could have sworn sounded like laughter and then charged at them. Brel quickly turned to face the charge with Capricorn. Together, they created a wall of compressed energy that, though protected them, broke under the first hit and left their back open to the smaller attacks from the sentrinians. Fortunately, their suits protected them from the smaller assaults, but as the wrag mother charged forward again, spears extended, eyes blazing hungrily, they boldly raised their hands again, forming a shield they knew would not be strong enough to protect them.

The spears bore down on them and struck, but instead of hitting and destroying their weak shield, the attack was repealed, and the spears retreated, burning with blue light. Surprised, Capricorn felt a shiver run down his spine and turned back to see Silver, in her ridiculous dress, still pristine, cutting a wide path through the sentrinians with her shield. Like the batting of a giant fan against flies, she flicked her hands and pushed the horde back, crushing them under sheer telekinetic force. Then behind her, moving through the cleared path, unhindered, on large black wings, Tari flew past them, creating a powerful gust as she did, and charged at the wrag mother.

Tari extended her hands, and her marks formed into a thousand blades of steel, twisting like snakes, striking the wrag mother. It screamed furiously, sending shockwaves that shook Tari’s bones and rattled her teeth. She undid the kyr-marks that made up her wings and dropped, avoiding a spear from the wrag mother. Then, as the spear started to retract, she wrapped her marks around it, allowing it to pull her closer to the creature. Once close enough, she placed her hand on the creature’s body, thick like mud, and pulling her in like quicksand, but she remained unphased. From the point where her hand touched, her marks began to leave her body, crawling and spreading over the wrag mother’s body. Tari stared into one of its eyes and smiled viciously. She felt the creature shudder as her marks invaded it and restricted its movements. She manipulated all her marks into the form of barbed wires and tightened them until the only thing that dared to move on the creature was its eyes, which shook in a mad fervor that its body could no longer express.

Tari exhaled slowly, and her kyr ignited as she sealed the creature’s eyes closed and shredded through it, leaving nothing behind.

The wrag mother passed silently, but the sentrinian soldiers screamed an insane cry that thundered and echoed in through her mind, yet their bodies were unmoving, in catatonic stillness. Tari did not know if they screamed out of grief or anger, but they screamed and screamed until she cut them all down as well. She felt no pity for the sentrinians, as they were not so deep in the heart of their dimension that their deaths would be permanent. Unlike them, she and her friends did not have the luxury of reformation after death. Now that sentrinians had been cleared away for the moment, Tari joined Silver, Capricorn, and Brel as they made their way back to the now fully intact binding.

# # #

The battle and sealing of the breach had lasted about three days instead of one, and after taking four more days to recover and make sure the binding was fully secure, they were finally able to put their ten years in the binding behind them and return to Nol.

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