He watches the vast dark sphere bear down, swallowing up star after star, darkening every horizon. It advances with a gravity that rips and tears at the surrounding terrain, like a predator slicing apart an already wounded rival. Clouds panic, air howls, ground buckles; the unnamed planet under his feet shows obstinance, but this is an enemy it cannot defend against.
The Wizard feels the momentous draw of invader's gravity. That same magnitude that was even now boiling oceans and toppling mountains. Like a thousand thin fingers under his skin, trying to haul him up into the air. Up toward the dark world. Up toward the immensity of Genovefa.
He bends his knees… and even that takes a terrible effort, to pull away from that monstrous grip. But he plants his feet, he forces his joints. No. You can bring down the heavens, you can tear away the stones, but you will not have your way anymore. You will learn defiance.
He calls what faint silver starlight remains, forcing it into his muscles and filaments and sinew. Ancient math runs through his waking imagination, refining the light into a purer ,primal power, letting it seep into his femurs. His legs, tight in a crouch, instinctively pushes the power down and out and away and, with a raw burst of fire and mass, the Wizard leaps at the darkness.
The distance between the two worlds is unnaturally short… the atmosphere of the one barely thins before the atmosphere of the other starts. Hurricane winds weave chaotically across the gulf and foreign storms spit lightening at each other. And everywhere, the all encompassing roar of two skies at war with one another. The Wizard tears through the cacophony, carves between barrages, and bats aside thundering fulminations. He burns on up, up until his weight mirrors, until he crosses the threshold and is firmly within Genovefa's grasp… and then he descends at her, gliding underneath black clouds, to survey her surface.
Her air is thick and rich and sweet tasting. The wrath of the storms breaks away as he circles to her opposite hemisphere, where starlight refracts through strange particles and give the night sky an amber orange tinge. Below him, vast landscapes follows a natural order of six; long coastlines adhere to hard hexagon angles, mountain ranges split at regular intervals, broad ocean currents that strangely loop through and together in strange fractal patterns. Her entire geology repeats eccentric geometry, from the macro down to the microscopic.
And yet, as the Wizard loops around her circumference, he sees no sign of the populace. This is the homeworld of the Monster Bees. Their capital and their mecca. They're know for guarding it with feverish dedication, prepared to sacrifice millions of themselves if the need aries. And yet, with every orbit, in every direction, he doesn't… anyone. No one working the rich yellow fields. No one in the hub-like communities of wax and stone. No one in the golden cities at the poles. In the cool shades, on the warm sands, at work, on guard…. nothing. Not a soul.
This unexpected vacuity is fortuitous. Bad enough to be facing down their all powerful sovereign, the Wizard was glad not to have to fight through an endless horde of her fanatical populace. At the same time, he couldn't deny a feeling of quiet, creeping dread.
Eventually, he finds what he's looking for: a scorched and blasted surface made of brittle black glass, cracked and spidering out from a single central point. A single ugly wound on an otherwise perfect world. Here, hot air scratches his skin and dries, a sure sign of freshly loosed electrons and sick with newly escaped radiation.
And at the centre of the devastation, a pile of silver bones.
With a heavy heart, the Wizard lands. There's very little of the skeletal remains, just shards and splinters and charred pieces mostly. He picks up what's left of a skull. Even stripped of flesh, the final moment of terror remain warped into its shape; its owner is gone but his final fearful seconds were nuclear agony.
He closes his eyes and holds the bone against his forehead. The atoms in the skull feel a sympathetic link, the call of similar power, the pull of a new master. With relief, the molecular bonds in the skull break apart, releasing what linger fusion they'd clung to. Golden power rolls free from the skeletal remains, from the black glass, from the crippled atmosphere. It ripples like a vast silk shroud, glowing of summertime sunlight before draping down over the Wizard's head and shoulders. The silver bones, absolved of their final responsibility, crumble into metal dust.
With an instinctive shiver, the Wizard realizes he is no longer alone. A fat wet bubbling breaks the graveyard silence. Hot honey bubbles up like gold magma through blackened cracks. A rising nectar pools and piles up onto itself, building into a familiar humanoid shape.
Tall and regal. Sharp and beautiful. A long thin coat. A high tight collar. A wide brimmed cavalier. And her arms wrapped tightly around her torso, though she couldn't possibly feel any cold. "SZchrivener? That isz you, iszn't it?" Queen Buzz calls out, a voice cracking with suppressed excitement. "You cannot hide from Usz. We feel you crawling on Our back."
He feels his breath catch at the sight of her. Even now, her presence was overwhelming. And yet, she seemed… different than he expected. No indignation, no umbrage at the sight of him. The illumination of the mourning shroud, it must be obscuring his features. She sees him, but she doesn't recognize him.
"Your plan did not work, Szchrivener. Whatever blackmail you thought to usze on the Inviszible Monk, it obviouszly failed. He came. Him, and hisz Crown." She tramps on the brittle ground with what could almost be seen as trepidation. "No wordsz. No szpeechesz. Juszt fire and impertinencze. The Tournament and the need for its reszolution, the compulszion… it wasz all too much for him, We szupposze.
"And after everything, after all our… conczern, it wasz szo easy. We crushed him. Like an inSZect." Genovefa looks at one hand, slowly closing into a fist and opening it again, as if unbelieving it capable of doing so. Then she shoves her hand in her coat pocket and puts on a sly smile. "We know why you cower. We undersztand. You're diszappointed. And you should be. After all, you came to usz with honeyed wordsz of peace. You szpun your desZperationsz into opportunitiesz, our adverszitiesz into alliancesz. You promiszed to help usz win the Tournament. And with Our szwarm back under Our szway, we would help your szuper-race againszt your Red enemy. But you have not held up your end of our agreement. You did not bring me your szuper-champion'sz CosZmic Crown. We have that, buried and hidden, closze to Our heart. You, it szeemsz, have come to Usz empty handed.
"SZtill, We are an honourable victor. You and your brethren shall be granted a boon, of a szortsz. Though there'sz no longer any obligation for Usz to asszizt you with your rebelliousz General, you will find hisz forcesz much reduced when Our szwarm returns to Usz." She visibly shivers with relief. The landscape rumbles along with her. "Finally, Our szurface will again be home to Our wayward people. All Our szweet children, szcared and confuszed, szcattered amoungst sZhallow harlotsZ. They will be welcomed home by their one true queen, sZtrong and immortal."
The Wizard feels a hot anger well up, swelling up over his anxiety. Words escape before he's even aware of them, "No one's scared. Not anymore. They can sense the sickness of you. We all can. Only you are blind to it."
Genovefa stands stock still. Hands tucked in her coat pockets, shoulders pulled close to her. She raises her chin, to stare down at her impertinent guest, but she cannot hide the hysteria creeping up in them. "You… are not the SZchrivener."
He reached to his face and pulled off the illuminated shroud. The threaded fusion unravelled immediately at his touch, and the individual sunlight strings melted into his torn uniform and battered skin. "I'm not the Schrivener. You killed the wrong Super Wizard From Space."
Genovefa's bottom lip quivers. Then she forces it into a frown. "Leave. Whichever Wizard it may have been, the Tournament isz over. We grant you thisz one merczy. Leave me now, while We sztill allow it."
"No. No more mercies."
The Wizard watches her frown turn cruel, curling into a silent mix of anger and alarm. She bears her teeth at him and a mad whispering hiss slithers out between them. He waits for her to bark, to scream, to explode at him. For her to shed her regal trappings and let the animal howl at him.
But she doesn't. She shakes, but she holds herself tall.
And after a long pregnant moment, she spits at him. And she says, "Like an inszect".
The world shakes under him. The brittle black glass snaps and breaks in turbulent bedlam. The thin fingers of power gravity grab at him again, this time a thousand times stronger than before. It pulls him off his feet, crashing him to the ground.
Bedrock and mantle cracks, and an abysmal chasm splits open under him. The monstrous gravity heaves, and he falls down, down, down, into heat and stone and darkness.
The last thing he sees is the amber-orange sky wink out as the chasm rumbles close around him.