Aleph-Null: The Awakening of The Celestial Heart
Volume 1: The Weeping Woman & The Wild One. Act 1, Ending- Outline
Act 1 - Ending
The inn is awash in ghostly red flame, its heat is palpable, and its light is blinding, yet nothing is incinerated. This energy heaves with Liya's breath, and then disipates. Sophia rises to her feet as the field of Etheric light fades into the immaterial. She and Liya look at each other for a long moment before Liya catches her breath fully, still shaking from the outburst. Sophia grabs her young friend by the hand, and they move to flee. As they touch Sophia sheds a tear, feeling Liya's fear, the terror of being hunted.
Devlyn stands shakily, pushing a table off of himself as the two women grab their things from the clutter and make for the door that is barely hanging on to its hinges.
Devlyn calls to them from the doorway. "WAIT!".
The two turn back to face him, feeling his call before his words reach their ears.
Devlyn leads the women to his cart, grabbing them some provisions, travelling food, a spare waterskin, and a large fur to keep them warm.
He points out the three men's horses tied to the hitching post out front of the inn and tells the women to take them.
They further supplement their packs with items from the saddlebags of Petyr and his brother's horses, consolidating everything as they situate themselves and prepare to make their escape.
Devyn implores them to make haste, get away as fast as possible. He will stay behind to help the Innkeeper and deal with the men.
Through their tears, and with heavy hearts, the women thank him and do as he says.
He reminds them of their bravery and wishes them good luck as he watches them ride off into the downpour and disappear into the night.
The hope and joy they had all felt just moments ago were now dashed to pieces.
Devlyn returns to the inn after checking on his animals. Both are spooked by the storm but safe. Roofus has hopped into Winfrey's pen and adopted his usual defensive posture, but upon seeing Devlyn he settles down.
Devlyn hears several pitiful barks and howls heading into the woods, he realises the men must have had dogs of their own.
Devlyn resets the inn's door and stands what furniture is not reduced to splinters back on its feet before helping the Innkeeper and his wife, frightened and huddled under the bar, reassuring them that he would help them with everything.
He tosses the two unconscious men into the back of his cart, then returns to help the Innkeeper and his wife move Petyr, presumed dead, in a heap against the wall.
Miraculously they find him barely clinging to life, still breathing through his split lips and crushed nose. They stabilize and bandage him, but his arm is so badly mangled and burned from the blast that Devlyn must amputate it to save him. He lays him with his fellows in his cart and returns to the inn, offering one of his casks of silver from the strongbox to make up for the incident.
Devlyn drives his cart through the night with the men in the back to the closest village, Liya's former home, where the men initially came from.
He hops off his horse in the square and pleads for someone to aid the unconscious men, shouting as the storm rages.
He tells the people that he had found the men on the road and offered help, but they are in dire need of a healer's attention.
This was a half-truth, but he would be long gone before anyone would be the wiser.
The men are taken in by their neighbours to be healed, and Devlyn makes his way on his original path back east to The Riverlands.
The people of the village tend to the men. Their imaginations run wild, rumours began to spread. The people knew that the Petyr and his brithers had gone out to hunt someone or something powerful. Little else could have caused such a massacre to leave the dead boys in such a state. Perhaps they had been found first.
As the men awaken, Petyr is consumed by rage. He had his vengeance in his grasp and it slipped away. He whips up the people of the village into a frenzy, spinning a story of the evil magic that Liya, who he refers to only as The Wild One, dehumanizing her, had used to defeat them and the dark company she now keeps.
These are lies, born from his ignorance and hatred, but they fill the people's ears just the same, corrupting them to his vision of what had happened.
He declares he was saved through the strength of his faith and calls for all his people to join him. To end The Wild One and any like her. The village then empties. Liya's parents are left locked in the undercroft below the chapel, this will be their penance, to suffer and think about what evil they had brought into the world. Petyr The Zealot, as he now calls himself, begins his crusade.
Liya and Sophia race into the storm. Lightning flashes fill the sky all around them. They hear strange howls and clicks as they ride. Something draws close.
A bolt of lightning strikes the road, spooking their horses. They are forced to halt. At that moment, they see what hunts them, stalking in the dark between the trees. A horde of otherworldly beasts, eerily similar to, if smaller versions of, the beast Devlyn had described have surrounded them.
The creatures charge at the two women, shrieking and lashing out with spined tentacle and talon.
Sophia calls out to Liya, who is delirious and barely able to sit in her saddle, "RIDE! WE HAVE TO GET OUT OF HERE!"
Liya's face is blank. She does little to control her horse. It simply follows Sophia's. Liya mutters as her horse carries her, "This is all I am. A monster who brings pain into the world."
The women ride hard and fast through the rain but are out of cover near the vast fields surrounding Aegisglade.
Sophia draws her sword and swings bolts of blue Etheric light behind their horses to keep the creatures at bay.
As they leave behind the last sparse trees, they see a small structure silhouetted by a lightning strike further in the fields.
Sophia looks back to see that the creatures behind them have either been destroyed or scattered by her attack.
She calls out to Liya again, "We're almost there. Just hold on."
Liya, still hazy, "Why... why is this happening... why are you even trying to save me... I'm not worth it... I deserve to die for what I've done..."
Sophia calls to Liya again, concerned, but her words cannot reach through the driving rain and thunder claps.
With her focus diverted, a creature leaps from the overgrown field and knocks Sophia from her horse.
The creature has Sophia pinned. Several more leap from the treeline to attack. The beast digs its jaws into Sophia's unarmored shoulder. At the same time, it wraps its tentacles and talons around her sword and armour, sucking Etheric energy from her body and relics.
Liya's eyes widen, "No... She doesn't deserve this..."
She breaks from her haze and draws her bow, knocking an arrow.
She leaps from her saddle, and with a flipping spin, she draws the string. The arrowhead is imbued with her red etheric fire.
She releases the arrow and it erupts against the creatures chitin, casting a fan of flames over the horde, incinerating them. Puffs of ghastly acrid green smoke rise into the air from where they stood before the rain falls again.
Liya rushes over to Sophia, who is already rising, holding her wound.
Liya, "I'm so sorry, Sophia. Are you alright?"
Sophia, "Don't worry. I'll be fine."
Sophia's wound fills with icy blue stitching from within as her power knots her skin back together.
Sophia, "Thanks for getting that thing off me. It was trying to... feed... on my Ether..."
Liya, "What the hell are these things?"
Sophia, "I don't know, but we'll have to figure that out later. Look."
Their horses both buck wildly, they are spooked but uninjured, unsure where to go or what to do. The lightning strikes continue all around them.
Sophia, "Take the horses to that farmhouse. I'll hold these beasts back for a moment."
Liya, "I won't leave you behind."
Sophia "Don't worry, young one, I'll be right behind you."
Liya nods and does as her teacher has asked. She does what she can to calm the horses and leads them by the reigns, heading off to the structure in the field.
As she nears, she sees a blue flash running through the tall grass, snaking in an intricate pattern. She looks back at Sophia and sees her glowing with arcs of Etheric light, arms raised.
Sophia plunges her sword into the ground, and the tesseract lattice she has cast on the ground bursts with light, consecrating the earth.
She watches as the horde of creatures burst into ghostly blue flames, burning away in plumes of green smoke when they try and cross her barrier.
Sophia sheathes her sword and heads to join Liya, but as she draws close, the two hear a terrible cacophony of shrieking and gnawing beyond the ward.
The creatures held at bay by Sophia's consecration cannibalize each other, growing as they devour one another until only one enormous beast is left.
Sophia and Liya look on in horror from outside the farmhouse as the behemoth steps into the grid of Sophia's spell. Its magic is still powerful and arcs all over the beast, but its chitin is thick, and its hide is tough. The Behemoth stumbles as it enters and feels the pain of the bolts but rises and begins to gallop towards the two, wreathed in the crackling energy of Sophia's Etheric light.
Sophia places her hand on Liya's shoulder, speaking to her subconscious, "I need you to fight. Right now. This is the moment. I will help you bring your light into focus. You just need to let it out. Bring the fire of your soul into the world and burn this creature away."
Liya places her hand on Sophia's, holding it tight, "I will...Even if it scorches me to the bone, I will not let this monster touch you..."
Liya relaxes and holds her hands before her. Her crimson etheric light pools in her palms. Her eyes open, flashing red-gold light before her.
Sophia spreads her arms wide, calling forth the tesseract around them. She bends and shapes it into a lens, focusing on the Behemoth.
Liya continues to pool energy as the Behemoth draws near. She is calm and collected as the flames in her palms burn with ever-growing intensity.
Sophia, eyes filling with sparks of azure light, "Now, release it. Send this creature back to the immaterial!"
Liya brings her hands together and launches a stream of Etheric plasma through Sophia's lens.
As their light refracts together, the colours mix and change. The center of the lens shifts from blue to an iridescent magenta as Liya's energy fills it.
A beam of deep violet energy pours forth from its surface with immense power.
The beam of light fires through the field and slams into the armoured hide of the Behemoth, stopping it in its tracks, but only for a moment, as the violet flames dig in and scare the chitin, but do not pierce it.
Sophia focuses the lens into a finer beam, digging deeper into the Behemoth's flesh and severing one of its arms, which burns away into green smoke, but the beast continues its charge.
Sophia, eyes arcing with her blue-silver Ether, "Let go. Use everything you have. Take your righteous fury and bend its flame to your will."
Liya closes her eyes, and tears of blood roll down her cheeks.
She drops her arms, and her beam of plasma flickers away.
The Behemoth takes this opportunity and leaps at the two.
Sophia, eyes burning with the golden light of The Sovereign, "This is the true enemy. This is the face of One Beyond. The one who hunts you. Show it you are not its prey. Show it you will not be taken. Make it know your power."
Sophia adjusts her lens and braces for the Behemoth's attack.
Liya opens her eyes, blood red with black flames flowing from them.
The Behemoth lands its attack on Sophia's lens, cracking its surface as Liya's Darklight fills it with energy.
Liya's energy is released as the lens shatters, sending the shards and plasma into the Behemoth.
The pieces of Etheric light-matter that made up the lens rip through the BEhemoths chitin and flesh before it is erased from reality by Liya's Darklight.
The night sky is torn asunder as Liya's torrent of energy smites the Behemoth and continues to cut through the clouds, breaking the storm before sailing to the cosmos like a shooting star.
Sophia releases her sigil, and the lattice at their feet dissipates. They are both completely exhausted, but safe.
Liya wipes the bloody tears from her face and collapses when she tries to walk back to the overgrown farmhouse.
Sophia catches her and scoops her up to carry her inside.
Sophia, "Rest now, young one. I've got you."
Liya, "Thank you... for everything..."
Sophia places Liya in the home near the hearth, wrapping her in one of the furs Devlyn left for them. She builds a fire and parcels out some food and water for her to have when she is able.
As Liya sleeps, Sophia reaches into her mind. She does what she can to calm her dreams and soothe the roiling in her spirit. She senses the fear and pain she tapped into to summon such enormous power. She guides her young friend into happy, peaceful memories so she may sleep soundly and wake refreshed.
Sophia speaks to her as she holds her in her arms, "I'm so sorry, young one. I shouldn't have asked you to reach so deep into your darkness. I know it couldn't have been easy. But you did it. You saved us both. I just hope you can forgive me. This power you hold in your heart is astonishing."
Liya adjusts herself in her sleep, and Sophia smiles lovingly while she watches her. "I know now that we are bound by destiny. I understand why The Sovereign brought us together. So that I can bring your light into focus and teach you to use your gifts with pride and temperance to conquer the darkness within you and bring it into balance. We have a long journey ahead of us, but I know that one day soon, you will be able to find the peace within. When that day comes, I know you will surpass even The Sovereign to become the greatest among The Ascendant."