Three things happen.
The first: pain. Searing pain. Appendages attach themselves onto Heimler’s temples, their touch burning like white hot needles being slowly, painfully pushed into his skull. In the space of a second, the pain intensifies a thousandfold in his head. Heimler tries to scream, to move, to squim, to struggle, but the immobilizing beam renders his body useless, the output portion of his entire nervous system compromised and rendering him only able to feel the pain. Touch, smell, sight, taste, hearing, all of it was irrelevant, insignificant in the face of the excruciating pain that lit fire in his entire system. Factually, it lasted for a second, but in that excruciating amount of pain, that felt like an eternity. The pain suddenly gone, Heimler almost loses consciousness, only to be jolted back by a familiar sight.
The second: images. The moonlight on Dina’s face before their first kiss; their passionate, fiery lovemaking on the roof outside their newly built home in the midnight; the mad panic as Dina went into labor, and the relief and joy when Ana came into this world; their family celebrating the moonlight festivals with the neighbors, the adrenaline as they did it in the backyard again halfway through; the pride when Ana completeded her first triathlon; the fights that Ana had with her mother as a teenager, then making up afterwards; Ana excelling at sports events that he and Dina would always attend, the surge of pride and joy that came with wins and consolation and pride with the shortcomings. Heimler experiences every significant memory and sensation in his short life, and like someone making a bad film out of it, he was forced to watch it all, knowing the inevitable was coming: the day he opened that goddamned letter. Like somebody opening the floodgates in his subconscious, joy, pleasure, surprise, disgust, turn into fear, shame, anger, and depression. The memories end with Heimler watching himself fighting like a berserker on the lifeboat to protect his daughter from abominations. Ana- Like wiping away a stain, the images, thoughts and emotions fade, leaving only darkness. A tiny, soft, orange, infernal glow pulsates in the dark, like a slow heartbeat. ‘Come’. A dark, rumbling voice echoes as the glow glows larger, and a speck of black appears in the middle of the glow. ‘Closer’. The voice softens into a whisper as the glow expands, and the speck of shadow grows into a humanoid form. ‘Help me-‘. The voice takes on a more familiar feminine characteristic, the halo intensifying as Heimler is pulled towards the shadow. ‘Release me-‘. The orange glow turns into an inferno, and the shadowy figure raises both his hands, and Heimler feels an icy cold in the depths of his heart as the hands caress his face, the voice of his own daughter in the inferno echoing in his soul.’Bring me the miraculum-‘
The third: vertigo. As Heimler collapses to the floor of the lifeboat, confused and dazed from the ordeal, like someone waking up from deep sleep. That doesn’t last long however, as a sudden impact throws him off his feet. The cold water shock jolts him fully awake, and he knows that he is underwater. Darkness overhead, Heimler kicks his legs hard as he swims upwards, only to knock his head HARD on the floor of the life boat. Trapped. Panic kicks in. Forcing his mind to work, arms stretch out and feel their way around. Seats. Innards. Corpses. Crystal shards. Ana’s shortsword embedded in the planks. Heimler grabs it in case of abominations, and feels his way up the seats, eventually finding the sides of the boat. The self-preservation instinct kicks in as he hauls himself over the side of the boat, kicking upwards to blessed, fresh air. The sensation of it filling his lungs, the salt water sting in his eyes, the salt on his tongue jolts his mind as he struggles to remember something.
Heimler looks around his surroundings frantically. He doesn’t see her. An earsplitting roar pierces the night, coming from the direction of the ship. Whatever it was, he needed to get Ana out of here. He plunges the shortsword into the hull of the capsized lifeboat, then takes in probably the deepest breath of his life. Diving into the dark, turbulent waters, he struggles to pierce the dark waters with his eyesight. In the depths, infernal orange streaks swam back towards the sinking ship, probably constructs or abominations heading back to the ship for more prey. He wondered if they noticed him. A flash of light catches his attention, followed by a streak of aqua shooting into the depths. Heimler follows the dagger as it returns to its mistress, his legs kicking hard. There! The dagger illuminates a woman, drifting downwards into the depths, blood trailing from her shoulders. The dagger circles its mistress once, then re-sheaths itself in her right scabbard and ceases to glow. Harder he kicks, faster his arms paddle, and his hands close around her arms. Grabbing on tightly, he kicks upwards. His eyes sting, his lungs burn, his right arm screaming out in agony as Heimler struggles to swim up. The weight of his daughter’s life overpowered all sensations, and the pain coursing through his limbs and lungs is nothing compared to what he went through moments ago. That determination in mind, Heimler knows that things cannot possibly get any worse, death the only thing that can stop him. He wants to yell out, but he knows he can’t, the capsized boat is close, and to open his mouth is suicide. A sudden decrease of resistance by his outstretched left hand, and he grabs onto the lifeboat, and pulls Ana’s right arm over his chest as he paddles to keep afloat. Grabbing the embedded shortsword, Heimler hauls the both of them on to the boat. He needs to resuscitate Ana quickly, before she dies from either water in her lungs, or from blood loss. Hands over her sternum, he desperately pumps it.
A flash of lightning streaks the sky, a piercing moment of brilliance against the darkness of the night, illuminating the turbulent sea. The sinking ship listed at a steep angle, and like a grotesque parasite attached to the side of its host, the gargantuan construct half the size of the ship clung on, its core shielded by large crystal panels that doubled as its claws. A flash of intense orange light from its core lanced across the ship at another creature, this one a colossal serpent that rope out of the turbulent waters at the stern of the ship, hitting its torso square on but not having any effect. A roar pierced the night as the serpent unhinged its maw, revealing four rows of jagged teeth, its face splitting into four jaws, illuminated by lightning. Smaller constructs swam or floated around the attacking beast, some of them carrying abominations that fire eye-beams at the creature, some casting their immobilizing beams at the creature, but its sheer size and scaly armor was more than enough to thwart all their efforts. Another concentrated beam of orange light strikes the creature, but it shrugs it off like the rain that starts to pour from the heavens. Another flash of lightning, and the creature rises out of the water, taking the laser with its mid section, it rears its head back and responds with an ear-splitting roar at the construct. The stern of the ship crumples as the shockwave strikes it head-on, shattering windows, ripping out benches, tearing out objects as the wave of destruction travels down the length of the ship.
Even with his ears closed, Heimler feels as if his head is going to split, but he ignores the pain as he tries to illicit any response from Ana. His vision clouds, and red forms at the bottom of his sight as his eyes start to bleed. A strangled cry exits his mouth as he struggles to make any noise, tears running down his face as desperation takes over, his hands pumping harder on his daughter as blood pools from her wound into the ocean.
The sonic attack, or whatever it was, knocks the construct backwards, damaging the integrity of the ship structure further. The difference in their size is further emphasized as the serpent rises higher up in the air, and with extraordinary speed considering the size, its head rockets forward towards the starboard side and under, reappearing portside as the serpent wraps itself around the ship while heading towards its opponent. The construct fires multiple beams at its opponent, but the serpent bursts out from portside and wraps itself around the construct, its fully extended maw closing over one of the panels surrounding the construct’s core.
PLEASE I CAN’T LOSE YOU AGAIN-
Muscles bulge as the creature flexes its titanic muscles, its coils tightening as the ship hull cracks and deforms with astonishing speed. Trapped in the serpent’s coils, the construct is unable to respond as the serpent lunges forward, its jaws tightening around one of the panels of the construct. The maw of the serpent whips backwards, and a giant crystal panel is nothing more than fragments in its mouth, along with all the people trapped in suspended animation within, their fate sealed. The construct seizes this moment, its core blazing brighter, with the luminance and intensity of a newborn star as its infernal orange core shifts to white hot in a matter of microseconds, and a thin beam lances from its core into the serpent’s maw. The beam lance, so bright that everything else dimmed for a second, penetrates the serpent’s head, emerging the back of its head and firing away into the night. The bright white core fades back to orange as the construct struggles to free itself from the serpent’s coils, and the serpent, finally sustaining some kind of damage, rears its head backwards to let out another scream, bioluminescent ichor oozing from its wound and corroding everything (not crystal) it touched. Unaffected by the ichor, the construct frees one of its panels and fires it into the serpent’s maw, only for its foe to catch it in its jaws and crush it. That distraction was more than enough, as the construct regurgitates its core into the air above the ship, swiftly followed by the its two protective panels. Freed from the serpent and having the aerial advantage, the construct starts reassembling its remaining two panels, breaking them down and reassembling them into eight smaller spires that orbited the core. The serpent bellows its fury, and slithers towards the stern of the ship, rearing for an aerial strike as it ignores attacks from the opponent’s smaller brethren. Three of the spires repositioned themselves to face the enemy as the massive construct’s core glows white hot once more. Throwing itself at the construct, the serpent stretches up to 20 meters above the boat, and seemed to be in range to envelop its foe in its jaws. Faster than the eye can follow, a beam lance fires from the construct, striking the beast midsection, burning a hole in the ship, creating massive clouds of steam where the beam struck water. Ichor barely spews from the serpent’s wound, and faster than it can dodge, a fired crystal spire impales the wound.
Ana’s body spasms as she coughs up water and blood violently. Heimler lets out a choked sound as he embraces his daughter.
Pinned to the ship, the serpent falls short of biting its foe, and its maw thrashes haplessly as the construct fires two more beam lances, one into its body, and another into its jaw, pinning it to the sinking ship. Its foe mostly immobilized, the construct lowers itself above the serpent as two spires orbit towards the serpent’s head. At point blank range, the serpent unleashes another sonic scream, the impact knocking back the construct. Exerting its colossal strength, the serpent frees itself from the ship and slithers into the ocean, the three crystal spire still embedded in its flesh. The construct follows, gliding closer towards the water surface, only to be ambushed by the serpent, and this time the serpent manages to close its jaws around the construct’s core. A sharp cracking sound propagates as the crystal spires surrounding the core are crushed, the construct core glowing white hot in response.
Leaning on her father for support, Ana touches her right scabbard. Her tattoos glow softly, their aqua color reassuring. Her right arm tries to reach for her left side, but falls short.
Lef belt-, pyrmi-
Eyes half closed, barely making the words, Ana spasms as she coughs up more blood, but Heimler understands. He frees the small, palm-sized pyramid shaped object on her utility belt and passes it to her. Ana struggles to even hold it, let alone move it, but she does so, every movement painfully slow. Heimler looks out at the battle between the giants at the sinking ship, only to see another beam lance pierce the serpent and up into the sky, narrowly missing a bunch of orange streaks. His attention is caught by the orange streaks coming their way: smaller constructs and abominations. Ana’s cheek wound glows a soft orange again. Heimler guesses it, and curses under his breath: they marked Ana, and there was no escape.
The quad-sided pyramid crackles with energy as soon as Ana touches it against her right scabbard. Releasing it, it floats above their heads and splits into four pieces, three orbiting their feet and one floating above. A runic circle forms as Heimler instantly recognizes the spell from his limited study of Garrick’s notes: a tier-three Daryean circle. With three rows of teleportation glyphs equally spaced in eight intervals, two rotating counter-clockwise and one the other way, the circle was a potent teleportation spell, but with Ana critically injured, she might not have enough mana to channel it, let alone control it. They would have to gamble it; anywhere was better than right here, right now.
An abomination hangs from the appendages of a mono-eyed construct, screeching as it came within range of the father and his daughter. Its chest open, core exposed and charging with energy. Behind them, the serpent had taken more injuries; their unlikely savior was losing the battle against its smaller foe.
How long more, Ana?!
She passed out.
Heimler positions his back to shield his daughter from the incoming attack. A blinding white light envelops Heimler, with Ana in his arm. He raises his free arm instinctively to shield her in his embrace, and jams his eyes shut against the blinding light. A rush of wind whips past them, and everything is silent.