The Warlock's Gambit
skyscrapers and enormous oblong spaceships hovering in a crimson sky filled with four small moons.
    A line of wraiths dozens deep appeared in front of the portal. Arthur winced as one stepped through, and then another, and another. After eight had entered, Kjor spoke a word, and the portal closed. The wraiths spun on him, clearly confused by what had happened. They must have expected their brothers to come through with them.
    “You are the best,” Kjor told them. “You are more than enough.”
    This seemed to satisfy the wraiths. One went to each corner, where shades were already forming, and two each took up stations beside the doors.
    The symbols Arthur couldn’t quite focus on winked out, leaving the triskelion symbol above the silver door as the only light. The inherent brightness of the Inner Sanctum was now completely gone, and Arthur could barely see anything in here.
    Kjor marched toward the silver door. “Stay here,” he ordered the wraiths. “Do not leave this room. Do not let anyone pass.”
    The next room wasn’t at all like what Arthur had expected.
    It wasn’t a room at all, or even inside.
    Floating along, he followed Kjor from the Inner Sanctum and straight into a clearing in the midst of a deep forest. Around the edge of the clearing stood a series of twelve standing stones. They were made from some sort of opaque crystal, each one pulsing with a different color.
    A rainbow of energy streamed out of the stones and across the ground towards the center of the circle. The light from four of the stones merged to form a thick red band. Four more flowed together into a single yellow stream, and the last four joined to form a blue one. The three arms of a giant triskelion. And where they met at the heart of the triskelion, in the center of the clearing, they formed a bright white pillar of energy that rose up into the sky as far as Arthur could see.
    In the midst of this pillar of light floated an angelic woman. She was sitting with her legs crossed in the lotus pose. She wore a shimmering dress. Her skin was rust-colored; her slanted eyes emerald; her hair copper flames. A golden triskelion glowed on her forehead. This had to be Ylliara’s mother, the Aetherian who had powered the Manse, who had sacrificed herself to bring the Manse to Arthur once the disc over his heart broke.
    She glared at Kjor as he entered. Kjor waded across the streams of energy, and they didn’t affect him in any way. He also didn’t affect them. The streams flowed right under his feet as if he weren’t there at all.
    “You cannot be in here,” the Aetherian seethed. “It is impossible for anyone to enter the Heart without my permission.”
    Kjor grinned. “Lies and tricks do not make something impossible, Orella. Especially when I do not care about breaking your rules.”
    She narrowed her eyes. “How then did you make it through the Inner Sanctum? That, too, should have been impossible.”
    “I had help.” Kjor tossed the shard into the air, and it stopped to hover in place about ten feet away. Within the shard appeared a bright purple eye with a catlike, vertical slit. The eye blinked. A shiver ran along Arthur’s spine.
    “Where is Quintus … and Arthur?”
    “Dead, but you know that already.” Kjor lifted his bloodstained hands. “I killed him and the boy myself. It wasn’t as hard as I would’ve thought. Quintus never saw it coming. And with the boy gone as well, your mission is over.”
    “You are lying.”
    Kjor drew a sword handle out from his cloak: Bright-Cage. He tossed it onto the ground.
    Orella’s eyes blazed with fury. “I will destroy you!”
    “If you could, you would’ve done so already. Without your champion, you don’t stand a chance against the power I now wield.”
    “I cannot believe you would kill the boy,” Lady Orella said, with sadness staining her voice.
    “Go to him then, give him the Call. I don’t know what good it would do to make a four-year-old the Multiversal Paladin.

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