Consciousness returns without light, and with crushing pain. Sharp, constant pressure, from every direction. Bending and compress,so violent that it feels his skin might rupture.
But it was there. It was real. With direction and dimension and mass.
He taps into his fusion with instinctual science-sorcery. Burning starlight rolls off his body, sliding over dried blood and torn uniform and encasing him in a contiguous bubble. He flexes the bubble outward, expanding it into a spherical shield. The surrounding bedrock protests. Screeches. Screams. The shield holds. The compression relents.
His light reveals dull grey stone streaked with yellow pumice and iron pyrite. From vast jagged cracks bleeds ruby-orange magma, glowing hot and smelling of burning honey. He pushes out his shield, increasing the pressure against the molten magma. The burning liquid squeezes through fissures, searching for release.
He pushes harder, harder, harder, raising its temperature to a furious boil. Inevitably, the bedrock cannot hold the terrible forces, and it erupts! Up! And out! Boulders, debris, burning rock; he batters it all aside.
Up here, in the open. Black rolling storm clouds and saccharine atmosphere. All around him, the same radiated ions clinging to the air, the same expansive field of blasted black glass. And standing there, the animated avatar of Genovefa Buzz.
"Boorish and myopic," she mumbles under her breathe, the storm echoing her with thunder. She wraps her arms tight around herself, bares her teeth in frightful anger. Her wax-honey shape ripples and bubbles as she shudders. "No thought in your actionz, no care for the consZzequencez. You've no idea what you've done."
The wizard pulls himself up onto his knees. He breathes through painful tightness, sight marred with red scratches, a bitter copper flavour in his mouth. He touches his forehead. His forehead. And his pain. "You'll not browbeat my mind like you do your drones. I've suffered worse monsters than you."
"MonsterzZs? Ignorant termite! You've not yet met the monstrouz. You've only woken it."
"…sammaelle…?" He still had a sense of it, a fleeting idea his thoughts desperately were forgetting. Of an incomprehensible abhorrence that blanketed everywhere and forever and inward.
Genovefa hisses, as if trying to drown out the word with impulsive frenzy. "You should have left well enough alone. You should have turned back. You should have known enough to die, to end thizs, like your impetuousZz precurzor."
Precursors. The Schrivener. And the Stringer before him. Dead, thanks to this madness. The last remnants of their unique starlights still folded and carried within him. He stands, wiping mud and blood off his face. "I do plan on ending this."
"Fah! You've no idea what The End iz. You've only juzt a word. You've only had a glimpZse." She backs away from him, turning up her nose at him. "We were right about you. We were right all along. You are death."
"Enough. This is over." He holds out his hand. "Return me my Crown and surrender your Feather."
Genovefa's expression turns cruel. "A queen doez not zubmit," she snarls. The temperature chills around him. The ions crackle with sudden anticipation. Storm clouds clamour together. Genovefa jabs a finger toward him. With a single baleful scream, a bolt of lightening explodes down at him!
Electric fire shoots through his bones. Every nerve is a knife is being thrust. Rubble and glass detonate under his feet, flying shrapnel that bursts with a million vehement volts. He crashes down, registering the impact before realizing he was knocked off his feet.
The sky grinds its teeth and howls again. He barely has time to throw up his hands, blocking the second lightening bolt with a sheet of fusion. Electricity erupts in blinding fireworks.
Genovefa's voice echo with thunder cracks, "You think you'll bully Uz with bluster alone? We've watched you, We've sztudied you for thiz entire Tournament!" A third jab of the finger. Another spear of lightening crashes against the wizard's shield! "Without your cosZzmic weapon, you're no threat! None at all! You're little more than a ztubborn nail for me to hammer down."
She balls up her hand into a tight fist and pulls her arm back. The ground quakes under him. Bedrock wrenches with deep underground rumble. On the horizon, a mountain range pulls away into the distance, as if the landscape were mirroring the Queen's movement!
She thrusts her fist at him in a mimed punch. The surface of the planet yells in avalanches and landslides. A tidal wave of molten crust leaps back over the horizon at him… and riding it, the massive tumbling shadow of a tectonic plate! Its massive size and colossal scope blot out half the sky! A crashing wall of granite and andesite, dozens of miles tall, riding explosions of magma!
The wizard calls out the fusion fire within him. White hot plasma rolls down his arm. He snaps his wrist at the oncoming landmass, whipping out energy as a billowing solar flare!
Fusion plasma lashes out in an enormous arc, colliding with the planet's crust! Energy detonates rock and stone! Molecules burn, atoms smash, billions all at once! The edge disappears in a chain of nuclear infernos!
The atmosphere turns crimson. The sugar sweet air catches fire. The storm explodes into a caustic, conflagrant hurricane!
Mountain ranges melts and tumble out of the sky. The rushing landmass slams into the ground thousands of miles short… still enough to cause the ground to heave at the sky. The wizard is sent spinning chaotically into barbarous heavens. Below him, endless fields turn into blacken rubble. Hot blistering lava seep from a million scattered fissures.
A vast, fiery wound, scarred with newly opened canyons, stabbed with newly jagged peaks. An atomic devastation that carries over millions of miles, in every direction.
As he struggles for control against the hurricane's ferocity, the raging winds carry Genovefa's words to him. "How many civilizZsationz have you brought down with thisz power? How many thought you a god, flinging ruination with a wave of your hand? You'll not find Uz awed by your fireworkzZzz. Throw all the szolar flarez you like…" the landscape ripples, as if the Queen were rolling her knuckles. "SzcratchezZz on Our szkin, little more."
The wizard doesn't answer. His bones still rattle with electric pain, catching stray jolts from the storm's mad lightening. Movement feels laborious and acrid.
"You've been fearful a shadow over Our thoughtz…" the winds shift, curving and pulling away from the wizard until he's left in the hurricane's calm, empty eye, "…but We retain the ultimate advantage againzt shadowz."
The clouds pull away, revealing a brightly lit sky. Poisoned sunlight floods his body, seeping into his skin like boiling molasses. Instinctively, his body tries to fight the toxic light, but by doing so, draws in more power. He doubles over and screams.
He can't stay. He can't possibly win. Here, Genovefa is both the opponent and the battlefield. She's the air and the ground. She's every size and every scale and every direction. And his only weapon is a sabotaged sun. He needs to get out of her field of influence, to get away from this star system.
The wizard cuts under reality's skin and opens a warp tunnel. With a burst of speed, he leaps into the hyper-dimensional capillary and launches toward another part of the galaxy.
He doesn't get far.
A herculean amount of gravity crushes his tunnel. The sides collapse like a paper tube squeezed by impossible amounts force and physics.
His tunnel shreds apart. Space-time crash back at him. He rockets out of the torn remains at half the speed of light.
He's hit by the friction fire of reentry. Then by abrupt impact.
He loses consciousness for a few seconds… a rushing cold startles him back awake. He's crashed onto an ice planet. Continents of frozen water, ammonia, and methane. His impact has blasted a crater a hundred miles wide. Waves of liquid nitrogen was already flowing, threatening to flash-freeze him in the hole.
An eclipse spreads out over the glacial horizon. Genovefa's planetary shadow looms upward and forward, growing and expanding in the frigid heavens. And peaking out behind her… the same sharp, stinging, biting sunlight!
She curls radio waves around her gravity well, throwing her voice at the wizard. "No, no, no. No tunnelling under gravitiez. No szcurrying beneath the floorboardz. Only here. Only now. Try to run away and We will stamp and stomp and force you back out.
"We will overcome you, and szo once again become deathlezZz, endlezZz and infinite!"