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Monday, June 27, 2011

Agents of Artifice - Chapter 32



This is it. Time for the showdown.


Agents of Artifice - Chapter 32

Tezzeret is clueless to any escape plans and that his race to build his mindslaver is already lost. With no idea what's going on in Jace's cell, he and Baltrice look upon the finished product, carefully inspecting this work of art for any impurities and imperfections.

Baltrice welds one final seam, and with the finishing touches complete-

The artifact shatters, spraying green fluid all over Baltrice. Tezzeret spots a tiny drake yank the manablade from Baltrice's hip, and then he sees the impossible. Jace is free. Jace grabs the blade, gives Tezzeret a wave and grin, and walks by way of one of his own Infinite Globes!

This would not be. Tezzeret commands Baltrice to follow as soon as she's able and he produces one of the rare globes of his own, and chases after the traitor. Without a globe, Baltrice has to take the time to gather mana, but she flinches away as a darkness touches her soul.

Baltrice opens her eyes and sees a second traitor in her midst. Liliana Vess stands atop the high platform where Jace Beleren had been. Baltrice launches herself on jets of flame, and Liliana flies with the aid of a dozen phantoms to meet her.


...In the Blind Eternities...

Tezzeret searches for any sign of a trail. His new orbs should have allowed for plenty of time to still find it with the Blind Eternities, but when he does pick up trail he notices an unusual curve as if...

BAM!

Jace hits him from behind, and a struggle of raw power facing raw power is unleashed. When ever one of them draws blood, life is created and then torn apart by the chaos of this space between planes. And in a blink of an eye, they are transported from that directionless chaos and fall through branches and they crash to a swamp below.

Tezzeret gets to his feet and readies for an attack. He knew he was the stronger of the two after getting a good look at Jace's pale and gaunt face, but he was preparing for a magical attack when a hanful of mud hit hits him straight on. Jace takes the opening and closes the gap, and does things the simple way. Jace strikes with the manablade and Tezzeret manages to block with his etherium arm just in time.


...Back at the base...

The disheveled Liliana knew she was the stronger of the two, but the fight was going in Baltrice's favor. There was this moment of respite as the fire mage hid behind her wall of fire, and her fire serpent battled with a trio of Liliana's specters and her angel of despair. The advantage lay in the Consortium building itself. Mana flowed through certain pipes, and Baltrice knew which ones and where all the access points were.

Already one wall of the laboratory was completely melted away under her intense attacks, and those attacks would resume soon. Things had to change. If Baltrice could use this building to her advantage, Liliana would have to do the same. Mana wasn't the only thing that flowed through these walls. And so the necromancer gashes her arm along the wall, and by the way of her own blood she summons forth all the souls that were used to power this sanctum.


...Back at the swamp...

Using every ounce of knowledge that Kallist bestowed upon him, Jace unleashes the manablade in a flurry of strikes. Tezzeret manages to keep up, and in his weakened state, they both know that Jace won't be able to keep it up for long. Tezzeret bides his time, and waits for the right opening. There was no need to get too aggressive when the outcome was inevitable.

Slowly but surely Jace begins to slow, and with one solid strike to chest, Jace is flung back and into the mud.

"Pathetic, Beleren." Tezzeret strode caually toward him, content now to take his time.

"I thought it was... pretty impressive, myself," Jace gasped between coughs of pain.

"Oh, your blade-work was surprising, I'll give you that." Tezzeret crouched to meet Jace's gaze and raised his hand to show the marring and scoring along the metal. "It'll take me a good long while to repair the damage. But really, to what end? You should have known the moment your psychic attack failed even to materialize that it was over for you, that you were just delaying the inevitable."

And Jace- Jace smiled through the pain, an eager gleam in his eye. "I wasn't attacking, Tezzeret. I was negotiating."

Nezumi rise up from the swamp and surround the Metal-Armed Emperor of the Infinite Consortium that has been their elusive enemy for so long. Before Tezzeret could decide to make one final strike against the traitor that was within his grasp or to run from the ratmen that had him horribly outnumbered, thick roots shoot up from the swamp and coil about him keeping him from doing either. Poisons fill the air keep him from uttering any spells as Jace calmly walks up to his enemy, slams the manablade point first to the bone, and works the blade back and forth until his etherium arm falls off.

(Whoa.)

Tezzeret manages to free his remaining arm and casts metal shards that summon a steel golem for one last attack, but the rat shaman is prepared and calls forth a swamp elemental of his own to take care of the creature. The shaman then turns to Jace, and considers his part in Tezzeret's capture as payment for his crimes against the tribe during his last visit. They appreciate his part in this endeavor, but he is to never disturb them again.

That suits Jace just fine. There's just one more thing... without the stores of mana in his etherium arm as his disposal, now was the the best (and last) chance to do what he had planned. Jace enters Tezzeret's mind. It was so easy. The chaos within takes some time to navigate, but he finds what he's searching for. He had within his grasp the knowledge it would take to rule the Infinite Consortium. He could be master of all and servant to none.

But...

Jace sighs and let's it go. It's not a responsibility he wants, and he feels a weight lift from his shoulders and walks away.

* * *


Tezzeret, the Crippled

That was quite a finish. The whole thing was very nicely wrapped up. Maybe too nicely? I'm not sure. Bringing in the nezumi and a call back to Kallist was nice, and the cutting off of Tezzeret's arm was actually shocking, but I feel it could have been better.

Perhaps the back and forth between the two scenes slightly ruined the pace for me. Not enough to make me feel sorely disappointed, but just enough to get a hint that something could have been tweaked just a bit more to get it just right. The picture frame is tilted just slightly off and isn't quite level.

But still, all in all, I felt it was mostly satisfactory.

The question remains with just one chapter left will we see the end of the Liliana Vess/Baltrice fight? That seems wrong to end with the battle that doesn't contain the main character. Maybe Jace returns and saves the day with his final confrontation against Jace that I've been expecting this whole book.

Well... one chapter left, and then the Epilogue!


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