Photo by nate rayfield on Unsplash

With Hesa’s discovery that the towers overlapped the leylines, she and the other magi could — finally — begin the laborious process of untangling the connections between them. Messengers flew back and forth between the Golden Paladin’s location (which varied from the training grounds, Crafthall, or the Keep, depending on what he was doing that day) and the magi cloisters. When the Golden Paladin wasn’t otherwise called to assist someone else, he and Hesa were attached at the hip. She provided him with the direct and precise knowledge of the Weave that was crucial to wage war in a land steeped in mana, and he used his extensive knowledge of military strategy to manage the contributions from the various forces of Archaic Earth with cunning efficiency.

Things accelerated at a freight-ship pace after the meeting, with only those in dire need of it getting any sleep at all.

Three days later, in the midst of deep preparations on how to allocate their very limited forces, the Golden Paladin received an alert that friendly forces were approaching from the Sylvanwood-side of the Kingdom.

Don’t tell me it’s —

“Ah,” Hesa said smugly, straightening from the map she’d been bent over. “I wondered when this would happen.” But she refused to elaborate when the Golden Paladin shot her a questioning look, only smiled and gestured that he should precede her.

The two of them and their entourages met Arthur on the way out to the gate leading to the Sylvanwood, where the Golden Paladin got his first official look at the fae army.

— or, at least, what there was of it. The fae weren’t known to have ever joined a conflict, so to what end the fae even had an ‘army’ was questionable. Frankly, unlike Hesa, the Golden Paladin hadn’t been expecting they’d offer their assistance at all.

Military leaders had to learn not to rely on unpredictable elements: a lesson bought with blood.

But he had just been fretting over their front line, so this was a very welcome surprise.

As they approached the two representatives for the fae, his eyes swept over their assembled. Sprites — thin, hominin-shaped, with two to eight iridescent wings, wearing iridescent carapace-like armor — hovered effortlessly over the army of ground-bound brownies — also thin, also hominin-shaped, but somewhat leathery and wearing armor reminiscent of polished river stones. Three aerial regiments, two divisions of brownie archers: all told, the Golden Paladin guessed, several tens of thousands. Yet, due to their size (an individual brownie came up to just under his knee, and the sprites were about three-quarters a brownie’s size), the entire lot of them fit well within the courtyard of the Keep.

Frankly, he was privately shocked that so many had shown up. Due to the fae Queen’s reticence and isolationism, he’d expected to get a few separatists who felt that what she was doing was cowardly, but this was more than he could have hoped for. While the fae primarily existed in the quantum, they were particularly active on Archaic Earth, probably due to its extremely high mana quotient. He’d calculated that there would be some fae who were fond of this planet and didn’t want to see it go to ruin, or saw the idea of an evil mage irreparably tangling the Weave so close to one of their doors as a direct threat.

Before the Golden Paladin could say or do anything, the representatives at the head of the army  saluted him in the traditional fashion.

“Generals Hesh and Sa,” the sprite said, “of the First Rebellion Army, all accounted for and reporting for duty, sir!” She flashed a relieved, proud grin.

The brownie General — Hesh — gave a mysteriously encouraging smile while side-eyeing her.

The Golden Paladin was taken aback for only a split second, then returned the salute and introduced himself. Hesa bowed and did the same, and Arthur chose to pair her introduction with the Kingdom salute.

The first order of business was to find accommodations for the new influx of troops (they hadn’t necessarily anticipated housing other Kingdoms’ soldiers, but it had been something that had come up as a possibility, so they weren’t unprepared) and giving general directions to amenities around the Kingdom. Once that was settled, the Generals and Arthur’s Kingdom leaders retired into the Keep to talk privately.

While he’d broadly guessed at the reason why they were here, the Golden Paladin was still dying of curiosity to hear it directly from the fae as they made their way to the war-room.

The door shut behind them, there was a beat of silence, then — as though their fae guests knew what was on his mind — General Hesh put his hands on the table and leaned forward from his place atop the provided tall chair, and seriously met the eyes of each Arthur’s Kingdom representative in the room in turn while saying:

“As you no doubt guessed, we have separated from the Queen. King Arthur protected our Wood for so long at detriment to herself, and this is how she is repaid?” His voice was raw, conveying the strength of the conviction behind his words. “The Queen does prattle on about respect and paying back debts, but it seems she’s only interested in pursuing those indebted to her. Stay your tongue, King; I need no words of conciliation. We are here, and we will fight. For the good of all of us.”

One step closer to marching against Merlin, and one of the Golden Paladin’s biggest burdens has been relieved — if only slightly. But with time ticking down, how will our heroes outrun Merlin’s clock and find the offensive?! See you next time!

Metacosm trivia time!

Leylines: arteries of Weave energy.

A lot of Weave terminology revolves around the idea of … a weave. 

Different Threads make up what is essentially a blanket — the Weave — which itself has other elements attached to it (like mana, energy, or the quantum, which we won’t delve too deeply into here). But in essence, in most places, it does function much like a mesh. One can pluck a single Thread, or several, or use it in its entirety, much like grabbing hold of a handful of blanket, depending on the effect desired.

The thinner the Weave is in a place, the tighter it is and the harder it is to access it. The more it fights you. But the opposite is also true. The denser the Weave is, the more it adheres to the laws of fluid dynamics and can act less like a blanket and more like a river.

On Archaic Earth, the Weave is so dense that it flows through channels called leylines, carved through the physicality of the planet based on attraction or repulsion to the trillium-thaumium in the planet’s crust. These ‘rivers’ of magical energy cross over each other, forming ‘lakes’ (nodes), or split off into smaller tributaries.

Understanding the shape of the Weave-flow on Archaic Earth is paramount to understanding how to use it — which is why the strategy at this point is a tactics battle between two highly-skilled magi, manipulating the very fabric of the planet itself.

N.A. Soleil is a portmanteau pseudonym of the two authors' names.

Land of Chaos is a serial novel that we'll pick back up after these recaps! You can read previous Metacosm Chronicles stories in past issues of Tumbleweird.