Blasts of green and black magical energy flared back and forth across the Tower's roof, gouging furrows of melted stone along the floor or gouging holes in the low wall at the roof's edge. Some soared out into the sky at random angles, deflected by one combatant or the other. It was clear to Noman that this was going to be a drawn out battle of attrition. Right now neither he nor Olian had the upper hand, and it would remain that way until one of them made a mistake.
"Fight this, Olian!" he urged, sweeping aside one of the mage's attacks. "I know you're in there, damnit!"
"Give yourself to the Maw," Olian countered, dodging a green bolt of energy that soared off into the sky above Marsten. "This world's destruction is inevitable! In it's place will be his fortress, a place to raise the limitless numbers of his children."
"Once your god is in my house he plays by my rules," Noman retorted. "That means he can die, and that means I'm going to kill him."
"A low creature like you cannot kill a god!"
"I think Airea will give me an exemption on that one," Noman growled, and again the two traded magical attacks. Noman's went wide... but then, he hadn't been aiming for Olian. The magical energy slammed into the stone where part of the rune was inscribed, marring its outline. It wasn't the first time he'd done it, but each attack seemed to do little damage. While Olian lived, he suspected, the rune was protected.
"Ah, your goddess Airea," Olian chuckled. "Such plans, she had. So calculating. All come to nothing."
"We'll see about that." Over his adversary's shoulder Noman saw something he would scarcely have believed - Lucan and Volker, floating up and over the wall. Knowing they wouldn't survive long against Olian should the possessed mage see them he launched a sustained attack against him, pushing with everything he had. It was a direct test of strength, one that he had been reluctant to make earlier. Which god's powers were stronger, Airea's or the Maw's? A vortex of bright light formed where black magic met green, and the stones of the Tower's roof began to glow orange beneath it.
Volker grabbed Lucan's shoulder to steady the older mage as they settled on the roof of the Tower. The wind up at the top had accelerated to great gales and buffets, and it was only through their facility with magic that the two had managed to make it to the roof without being blown away.
"Olian," Lucan said in a horrified voice as they took in the scene before them. He started forward, only to be restrained by Volker's hand.
"You can't save him!" Volker cried above the wind. "We have to end it!"
The words reached Olian's ears. He turned to look at them over his shoulder, face contorted with the effort of fighting off Noman. With a strangled cry he reached towards them with one hand, sending a blast of energy their way. The mages reacted quickly to deflect it. Volker wasted no time in counterattacking. Muttering a constant stream of words he sent a steady wave of energy towards Olian.
As he fought in vain to push back Noman's attack, now too did he fight to fend off Volker's. Volker felt himself begin to sweat and tremble with effort - unlike Noman or Olian he didn't have the strength of a god to power his magic, and it was already taking a toll on him. He wouldn't last forever. Pressing his attack he looked desperately to Lucan, who had moved to one side and now stood staring helplessly at Olian.
"Kill him already, gods damn it!" Noman's voice ripped through the roar of the wind and magic.
Volker gasped in air. His attack was pushing towards Olian, slowly but surely, as was Noman's, but it wouldn't get there in time. Already he could see the edges of his vision going black.
Lucan raised both of his hands towards Olian. They shook visibly as he prepared his spell. At last he looked Olian in the eyes. "I'm sorry," he whispered, and loosed a spell at his friend. Olian staggered when it hit, crying out in pain, but did not fall. Lucan gasped in surprise, preparing to attack again.
"Volker, drop!" Noman cried. Without hesitation, Volker cut off his spell and dropped to the ground, narrowly avoiding Olian's energy blast as it pushed past the last of his defenses. At the same time Noman dropped his own attack, spinning to one side as Olian's more powerful magic rushed by. Suddenly unsure of where to attack next, Olian spun around to face Noman.
Volker and Lucan's magic hit him at the same time, and when he turned to ward them off Noman sent home an attack that picked the mage up off the ground, spun him around, and nearly sent him flying from the top of the Tower. The knife he'd held clattered to the ground. Noman strode quickly to it and picked it up. It was obsidian, or looked like it, the handle wrapped in rough leather.
"Olian!" Lucan cried, rushing to the fallen mage. Volker arrived with him. He found Olian limply laying against the stones of the roof, smoke rising from his charred body. Despite his wounds, Olian was still awake. His bloodshot eyes fixed on his fellow mages.
"I'm sorry," he croaked. "I was... only doing... what she wanted. I... I... I think... I'm dead..."
"No," Lucan protested as Olian's eyes rolled up in their sockets. He quickly started mumbling a healing spell, laying hands on his tortured friend. Volker stepped back, lips pressed tightly together.
"You'll want to get out of here," Noman said, stepping up beside Volker. "This isn't over. I need to close that portal."
"Olian?" Volker asked.
"Take the body if you want," Noman allowed, "but keep an eye on it. He's been possessed by a demon, and they won't leave very easily. Just make it fast."
"Lucan," Volker put a hand on his fellow mage's shoulder, "We have to go. Bring Olian, but let's go."
As they prepared to leave, using the last of their strength to float from the top of the Tower to the ground below, Noman stepped into the center of the rune and looked up at the portal and the tempestuous sky around it. With the stone once again in hand he could feel it's influence on the rune and the Tower. The rune had been created with the stone, the magical power in the Tower was attuned to it. That meant he could control it. He closed his eyes, focusing on how that power was being used. He could feel it slowly feeding up into the portal, keeping it open like a wedge.
Holding the stone tight in his hand he concentrated on all that energy. Once he felt it under his control, he ordered it all back down into the Tower, ever last bit of it, all at once.
The demon scurried away from Hatchet again, stopping just out of reach. It snarled at him, and he growled back in frustration. It circled Hatchet, looking for an angle it hadn't tried yet, and he turned to keep it in front of him. Suddenly it's head snapped up towards the Ivory Tower. Without a second glance at Hatchet it tore off through the general melee, screeching some unintelligible language. Those demons still alive and fighting took heed of it's warning, and ran off after their leader.
"What just happened?" Asmova inquired, looking around bemusedly.
"I... think we won," Hatchet suggested. It was then that a deafening roar swept over the courtyard. He shouted and put his hands against his ears, craning his neck within the confines of his frame to look up at the Tower. It was as if a million lighting bolts had all decided to strike the Tower at once.... and then it exploded.
The Captain turned at Her Ladyship's exclamation. It was easy to see what she was talking about. Something was happening in Marsten. The portal, which had by now grown to twice its original size, was raining a continuous barrage of lightning onto the Ivory Tower. There were so many bolts of energy it was hard to distinguish individual ones, they all blurred together into a constant flow of green energy. As they accosted the Tower the portal shrank rapidly, retreating in on itself until it could hardly be seen. When it reached the point where it seemed that the portal had vanished, the lightning strikes stopped.
The Ivory Tower glowed brilliantly with barely contained energy... and then it exploded, sending a pulse of energy skyward. When the pulse reached the spot where the portal had been it looked as if a second sun had formed with the sky, and the crumbling remains of the Tower were blasted aside as a shockwave hit them from above. The shockwave swept over all of Marsten, beyond it's walls, and rushed out over the fields beyond.
"Cover!" someone shouted. Before they could react the shockwave was upon them. It felt like The Captain like no more than an incredibly stiff wind, but when it hit the demon horde it seemed to stagger them as if they'd all been hit by a much greater force. The attack stopped immediately, and the demons seemed to descend into chaos. The Captain looked towards the demon they'd picked out as the leader of the horde. It was gesturing wildly, possibly trying to get the demons back under control.
"Now!" he ordered, "Take it out!"
The two crack shots that Wellesley and Howe had sent him took aim and fired. The demon jerked and went down. "Did we get it?" he asked.
"I think so," Her Ladyship said. "Or we at least wounded it enough that it's no longer an issue."
As they watched the demon horde finally broke, individual demons fighting each other as much as they were fighting the army. Before long they were all running for the open fields, the army long forgotten. Cheers rose from the ranks of the soldiers on the front lines, and soon the entire army was shouting their throats raw, thankful and elated to be alive.
The Captain swallowed hard, looking out on the massive numbers of dead. The army was a fraction of it's original size... hardly enough to be called an army, really. But big enough to be a garrison.
"What do you say we go reclaim our city?" Her Ladyship asked, echoing his own thoughts.
"I'd say that's a damn good idea," he smiled.