Commander Morgan al'Whaelin d'Arte sat astride his horse and looked across the moonlit field with undisguised dread. Wild K'kava was dangerous at night and it had been night for nearly sixty hours now. The three moons of Winterdark had been frozen in the sky for far too long and the creatures of day and night were all astir in the worst possible ways. The small community at the heart of the K'kava fields was now besieged by both the vines and a pack of Ulthuur that had come to feed on them.

“Sergeant? What do you think?”

First Sergeant Nadrine Guillman turned in her saddle to face her commander. “I didn't even know K'kava could flower.”

“Looks more like mouths to me” wafted forward from the ranks.

Morgan looked over his shoulder, “you're more than half right Colin. Got anything Nad?”

“The vines are sparse across the loose shale to the north, but getting back out that way will be impossible with both horse and villagers.”

Morgan nodded, “So we can come in from the north, but we'll have to fight our way out. The Ulthuur are having quite an impact to the south east. Maybe we can wait for them to resolve a little more of their issues and then go out through there.”

Nadrine looked it over. “That could work sir, as long as the villagers can hold their wall.”

“No point in waiting Nad, we can shore up their defenses and coordinate our exit.”

“Yes sir, and with any luck, the Draw will come soon and we won't have to do more than help defend.”

Morgan didn't shake his head, but he was fairly sure that was a false hope. He sent his mind down into the realm and felt the same wrongness he'd been feeling for at least thirty hours. The Draw was long overdue and Morgan was beginning to suspect it might never come.

“Sergeant, arrange the troop in two ranks, alternating by gender. We'll be using elemental electricity. Polearms and gloves, blood and glass.”

The Sergeant wheeled her mount and addressed the troop.

Morgan drove his mind out and down. Somewhere there had to be a good source of energy that wasn't all fouled up by whatever was going on. It was hard to get a line in or through anything but eventually he managed it, almost by force of will alone. A node. A rich node of something odd which was nonetheless overflowing with energy. He spread a bit of himself out in the node and begged it to make electricity for him.

He surfaced from the aether, crackling with potential. Each member of his troop had a short bladed lance out and ready. In this case ready meant they had each socketed a glass talisman into the haft. It was good, old-style sympathetics. The glass had been christened with Morgan's blood, and then the blood of each talisman's owner. It created a sympathetic bond that let Morgan simply open his mind to the weapons as one.

They spread out in his mind, the weapons and the people, arranged in a complex space of traits and properties. He didn't plan anything fancy, simple gender separation. Men with a negative charge, women with a positive. And the thinking was the doing, as the thought formed a buzzing tension gathered about them all.

“Strike in pairs. Center mass. Sequences if you can place them. Any questions?” Morgan didn't expect any, they'd drilled this pattern before, and he knew his people were good. Besides, Nad would really lead the combat. He'd be busy.

They rode forward, Morgan and Nadrine forming the short crossbar of an elongated “H” and Morgan's mind was spinning out ahead of them looking for advantages.

The K'kava was awake in a way it really couldn't possibly have been. It was vaguely sentient, and somehow seeing daylight and night at the same time, as if the field were partially in another world or another time.

The first file surged forward and swept wide, verging into the writhing mat of vines on either side of their path. The second file went a little further towards the village stockade before turning into the vines. Both of the leaders had each already found a juicy central trunk and, keeping the spikes on the tips of their lances buried deep into the woody mains. They were dancing their mounts, hoping the next file would find strong hits before the plant rallied itself to do more than grab at the horses' feet.

Morgan could feel a potential between those first two hits, but it was a long path that would be too hard to force without intense need.

The third lance went in somewhere on the right and electricity poured loose. Vines writhed and blackened and a keening started up that everyone hoped was just boiling sap.

The next strikes enlivened Morgan's awareness of something being terribly wrong. A considerable current flowed up from the realm, though his mind, through his men's weapons, and out through the K'kava. It connected him. It brought perspectives he shouldn't have had and he didn't really want. It filled him with unwanted energy, a fragment of the differential between what was supposed to be happening and what was actually going on in its place.

It rose in him like bile. He tried to ignore it and then he tried to suppress it. The more he tried to let it go or push it away the stronger it became. It wasn't going away and it wasn't something he could keep. It was a bad thing and he had to get rid of it, whatever it was.

Morgan opened his eyes and threw himself from his horse. He bellowed “Ride for the stockade! Run!” Then he charged into the K'kava, ignoring the way the vines snagged at him and unaware of the way every fiber that touched him withered as it fell away. It didn't matter. He had to rid himself of the energy. When he'd gotten as far as he could in the little time he dared risk, he faced away from everything and vomited up a burst of chaos.

A great gout of not-flame, a glowing icy excretion of surprisingly cohesive destruction, whipped itself into existence all around him. He pushed it away from himself and then did everything he could to control the burst, or at least funnel it away in the least harmful direction. To do that he had to reach out and bind all manner of things. Unfortunately everything he touched in the process tried to latch into him. Whatever the wrongness was, it seemed to have an affinity for him, or he for it.

For some annoying and inexplicable reason the knot of destruction refused to go safely up into the sky, so after an unending moment of coercion, he made it leap away at ground level towards the edge of the world.

But the crisis left him with a mind full of bindings and an increased understanding of just how badly everything was going.

Deep inside, Morgan felt the end of the world. The impending, absolute dissolution of his reality, and he decided to save what he could. He wove a shield around the stockade and its inhabitants and began summoning in every useful thing he could think of, peeling away and redirecting the wrongness from everything he strove to preserve.

His half formed plan was to try to push his new-made bubble of preservation out through the margins and into a different reality. It wasn't something he knew how to do, or even really the first thing about how to start doing, but it was the only thing that seemed possible.

He began to feel the crushing change rumbling out from the center of the world. A shifting and a stretching that didn't belong. And gravity. Far too much gravity. It tore down buildings and pressed the life out of man and beast. It snatched birds from the sky, suffocated whales in the depths, and broke the backs of oxen in the fields. And whatever was causing the changes was somehow both horrified and delighted at the suffering.

Morgan lay in the field amidst the dead K'kava and outside his own shields as the wave front passed him. He saw the moons and the stars snuffed out, and utter darkness filled the vault of the sky. As the shifting and the pressing and the stretching and the wrongness pulled him apart and spun him out like candy floss, he searched and prayed he could find a way to save the tiny handful of reality he'd managed to imperfectly preserve.