This is a continuation of our recap of the Golden Paladin storyline. You can read Parts 1 and 2 here:

The center of Arthur’s Kingdom was a fortress city with multiple massive honey-colored walls of a mineral ubiquitous to Archaic Earth that its people called amberrock. At its center was the fortress itself, which the Golden Paladin would shortly learn was called simply ‘The Keep’. Sandwiched between walls were tightly-clustered buildings (mostly made of stone and wood). Though the place looked peaceful enough, the signs of strife were written in the very construction of the city.

The Golden Paladin and his entourage landed their magically-airborne equines down in a wide grassy field outside the Keep, where they were themselves met by another entourage. This one was headed by a beautiful, snow-white-skinned elf who introduced herself as Hesa — the Prophet of Celestial and the person the Golden Paladin had been sent to Archaic Earth to reconnoiter with — and immediately cast some sort of paralysis spell on Baleraphon.

Next to her was the shimmering, mostly-translucent form of Arthur, King of Arthur’s Kingdom.

Hesa told the Golden Paladin that he needed one final piece to fully be complete — to render the Golden Paladin immune to all magic. He agreed, and she cast the spell on him and attempted to leave.

At that point, the Golden Paladin was fully irritated with how Baleraphon had been treated by both the Crystal Magi and now again by Hesa, when the knight had been nothing but kind to him. He confronted Hesa about it, who admitted that she’d been out of line, unfroze Baleraphon, and headed into The Keep with Arthur.

The Golden Paladin, lacking other instructions, followed, and was intercepted by a very tall hominin (double the Golden Paladin’s size) who named herself Tiann’a, his appointed attendant for his time within the Keep.

Tiann’a led him to his quarters while telling him of the Keep and Arthur’s Kingdom. Upon arriving at his room, Tiann’a told him that she would also be staying nearby him — and explained the why of the secrecy and hurry that had thus far plagued his time in Arthur’s Kingdom.

What the Golden Paladin had seen — the Greenwood he and Baleraphon had traveled through, and the fortress city — was all that was left of Arthur’s Kingdom.

To their knowledge, the mages owned the rest of the planet.

Despite struggling to absorb this new information, the Golden Paladin fell into an unnatural slumber, where the Lady Celestial, Ascended of the Weave and Space, both macro and micro — appeared before him.

She bore him two messages:

I have two messages for you. The first is: Remember what they have. They are tired, beaten, broken, and have all but given up hope. Regrettably, your first impression left them with more anxiety than optimism, but I am certain that will change. They have lost sight of what is right under their nose, their most obvious resource. Secondly: tell my servant … that I am going away. The threads are in her hands. She is headstrong and that is why I love her and why I chose her, but it can be her undoing at times. Remind her to rely on others as she would have them rely on her. Specifically, you. You will be her battery; through you, she can channel all the mana in an area.

Tiann’a woke the Golden Paladin the next morning and brought him to the war room, where a dozen or so people sat with Hesa and Arthur around a massive stone table. Hesa immediately launched into an explanation of her treatment of Baleraphon the previous day. Hesa felt that since the Fae Queen was notoriously selfish, Baleraphon should have argued with the Golden Paladin — who knew nothing of the inhabitants of the planet — about accepting her side quest to deal with a situation that the Crystal Magi had well in hand.

The Golden Paladin told Hesa of the first of Celestial’s messages, and asked that the people around the table introduce themselves. They were the leaders of the other kingdom-states on Archaic Earth. Then he said:

I am the Golden Paladin, Creator-made and Creator-sent to be your champion. But I will not fight nor win this war for you. The Creator did not send me here to wield a sword and cut down your enemies for you. You don’t need me for that.
The other message the Lady Celestial impressed upon me to impart was this: Remember what you have. And do you know what I, an outsider, have seen that you have? Traveling through your beautiful land, I saw a broken people who had nonetheless pulled together. You value your land as a whole so much that any petty differences are easily and quickly cast aside. Arthur’s Kingdom contains no slums, no castes, no wealthy elite. You knuckled down to confront the problem, yes — but you did it in twelve different ways. That is why I am here. To help you weave your disparate threads together. For that, I need intel. I know of a nexus, and that the mages are using or twisting it somehow, to flood the planet with mana. But how did it get this bad?

Hesa told him of Merlin, Arthur’s court magician who had found a nexus no one knew about and had done ‘something’ to it, setting ablaze a mana storm unrivaled on most of the planet’s surface. Though she herself a prime Weave-user, Hesa admitted bitterly to not knowing what Merlin had done.

Only through Arthur’s influence were the people in Arthur’s Kingdom and the Greenwood kept safe from its effects: sickness, confusion, and wasting (which eventually led to death). They’d been confined to the Greenwood and the fortress city since Merlin’s coup, staged during the representatives’ council to keep the leaders of the various other groups stuck in The Keep and not with their people, managing the disaster.

A messenger burst into the war room at that moment, relaying the message that they’d just made contact with Evernight, a Khajiirah (felid xenomorph, one of the species native to Archaic Earth) settlement. They’d also found out that the mana-storm was concentrated around Arthur’s reach. The Golden Paladin swiftly came to the conclusion that Arthur had been Merlin’s target from the beginning.

The Golden Paladin questioned Hesa on what they’d already tried. One person every revolution of the sun could get out through the mana-storm but not back in (they didn’t know why); no one could calm raging mana of that intensity, not even Hesa, and they couldn’t use it.

The Golden Paladin privately lamented that they didn’t have tek. In a fully magical society such as that of Archaic Earth, with their one power source incited to rebellion, nonmagical tek could have provided great assistance. But Archaic Earth was uninitiated, and the Golden Paladin had not been given express permission to initiate them, and so had to work within what was available. But he did ask Hesa if they had any magical weapons, to which he got an affirmative, but that they were ancient. He encouraged her to let him try them anyway, which she acquiesced to.

Armed with an odd-shaped rifle, Hesa made her way across the Keep’s field towards one of the massive doors inset in the amberrock walls. The Golden Paladin (along with the entire contents of the war-room) followed her like leaves in the wake of a strong gust of wind.

Abreast with the Golden Paladin in front of the door, she asked what Celestial’s message for her had been, and the Golden Paladin relayed it. Though Hesa seemed off put by it, she was swiftly all business once more, and asked the Golden Paladin what his plan was for the weapon.

The way magic — and mana — worked, was that self-repeating effects had to have a specific type of calculation set into place called a conflux. The Golden Paladin knew that one had to exist for such a powerful and deadly spell with such a long reach such as the mana-storm, but he needed Hesa to find it for him. He couldn’t see magic.

Which meant that the two of them had to go into the mana-storm.

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.