Prelude – Futurity (Again)
The wind began high in the mountains, swooping past outcrops of contorted stone, tracing the jagged outline of rock folded back on rock by the incalculable force of eons. The wind whistled on, roaring past plunging chasms ten thousand years deep before avalanching down the mountainside to dance through the lowlands, driving the wispy autumn rain-clouds into the sea.
Sepherina gazed out into the emptiness of the night, her head bowed in contemplation as she sat atop a crumbling monument to some long forgotten god, waiting for the dawn. Her fingers opened and closed as the twinkling watch fire lights danced like fireflies between the shadowy outline of the trees. Above her an incandescent sky burned with a livid glow as a comet barreled across the horizon, dragging a parade of fire behind it. The shimmering ocean refracted the light of the comet into angry red lances, rippling across the water to smother the sea in a molten red blanket.
As the first sliver of light from the molten morning sun crept leisurely across the horizon, Sepherina raised her eyes to the heavens and smiled. It was time.
Each Moment, Only Once.
Sepherina gritted her teeth as the blast of energy slammed into her chest, folding her in two like a ragdoll and flinging her across the room to land in a crumpled heap as she slid backwards into the ruined stone wall at the western edge of the chamber. Her head swam from the blow and for a moment she could only blink as she took in the battle that raged across the pillared hall. In front of her a balcony opened onto the mountainside and the twisted vista of the Searing Gorge was spread out before her eyes, a cacophony of flame and industry that burned tirelessly into the night, reverberating to the sound of tortured screaming and the seething hiss of condensing steam. The balcony itself was thick with a choking red dust that billowed in from the forges far below, burning the inside of her lungs as she drew large ragged breaths in the humid atmosphere. The air around her hummed with the crackling discharge of magical energy as countless spells arced through the gloom, a galaxy of twinkling lights streaking towards their targets in the crimson fog.
With a cry she picked herself up and ran forward once more, dark bolts of energy lancing from her fingers to erupt among the Dracanoids that swarmed throughout the chamber. They writhed like a living sea before her, seemingly without number as they engulfed the two groups of the Ebon Flame that stood valiantly against the rising darkness. Swords and axes rose and fell in huge sweeping strokes and flights of arrows fizzled past her head while the very ground beneath them erupted as the Ebon Flame channelled its fury.
Then, as suddenly as it had begun, the tide of Dracanoids began to slow and a booming voice rang out across the chamber.
"Well done, my minions. The mortals' courage begins to wane! Now, let's see how they contend with the true Lord of Blackrock Spire!"
Sepherina turned as the last Dracanoid fell bonelessly to the floor, in time to see Nefarian settle on the balcony, his claws carving great gaping scars in the stone floor as he strode towards her. The creature was easily as large as a house, a writhing mass of tooth and claw and fury that roared its defiance into the night as a wave of sickly purple fire washed over the balcony. Wrapping her cloak around her shoulders Sepherina forced her tired legs into action, throwing herself to the floor as the beast’s enormous tail whooshed through the air where her head had been short moments before. She turned the dive into an awkward roll and came to her feet, digging hard to reach the small cluster of Mages and Hunters that stood huddled together at the back of the chamber.
They waited, shoulder to shoulder, as the creature unleashed the magnitude of its fury upon Chiisai. The moment seemed to stretch onwards into eternity, the dance of combat slowing down into a lethargic crawl until; at last, the order came.
“Attack. For the Flame! Attack!”
The rallying cry reverberated around the chamber and all at once the air was alive with bolts of energy, arrows and weapons carving through the swirling miasma of dust and flame that danced across the balcony. Sepherina closed her eyes and smiled. This was their time, she could feel it.