Glimmers of the Future
Night has fallen, but the sky over Trian flickers red - flashes of color that paint the low-hanging clouds the color of blood. Most of the outer city is in flames.
From where he stands in the relative darkness at the eastern rim of the Overlook, Jase Fairimor watches the fires in horror. A few pockets of resistance still remain amid the blazes consuming whole quadrants, dark pools that appear calm despite the tremendous chaos around them. The look is deceiving, Jase knows. For those are the areas where the fighting is at its worst. That is where hordes of Darklings are smothering the last few groups still trying to hold ground against them.
Lightning rains down on the inner wall, deadly spears of corrupted Earthpower that kill and scatter Trian's troops like ants. Jase sees a section of the inner wall collapse and watches a mass of armored Darklings pour through the gap. Those defenders closest to the breach rush to engage the vile creatures but are quickly swallowed by a sea of bristling fur and black-lacquered armor. A few moments later the first Shadowhounds appear in the streets and on the rooftops several blocks deeper in the city.
Jase frowns. It won't be long now.
In the courtyard below the Overlook, a squad of armored men stands facing the deserted streets leading in from the city. With swords and spears in hand and helmets and breastplates gleaming, they stand with the quiet dignity of men who will soon meet their Creator and know it. They are the last line of defense for Fairimor Palace and the Dome, the last of an army that has been swallowed by a swarm of evil far larger than anyone could have imagined.
Jase gazes down on the men with sadness. They will die with honor, he knows. But die they will. And then it will be up to him.
Trian is lost, but he will not let the Darkling armies have the prize they so ravenously desire. He will not let them take the palace or the Temple of Elderon.
Gripping the Talisman of Elsa tightly, he prepares to seize enough of the Power to collapse the cliffs behind the city and bury the Temple of Elderon, the palace, the Dome, and the Overlook beneath a mountain of rubble. It is the least he can do after failing to heal the Earthsoul.
He sighs resignedly. Because of him, Kelsa is getting a firsthand look at Con'Jithar. Because of him, Hell has come to earth. And it is only beginning. When the Earthsoul fails completely, the world will become a place of death and savagery worse than anything happening in the outer city. Maeon will reign supreme, and his last act of mockery toward the Creator will be to place his throne in the palace created for the Fairimor family by the hand of Elderon Himself.
Jase sets his jaw firmly. Only I won't let that happen, he vows. He just hopes it will atone, in small part at least, for his failure.
He thinks about that failure and wonders how it came to pass. It hadn't happened all at once, but he still should have seen it coming. He'd certainly had enough warnings.
He shakes his head sadly. A slight misuse of Ta'shaen here, a little indiscretion there, and slowly but surely he'd moved down the path to Agla'Con until he'd lost both his birthright as a descendant of Elsa and his Seven Gifts of Power.
Now he is forced to steal Ta'shaen the way those he despises above all living flesh do. He is like them now, and he hates himself for it. But I will never be one of you, he thinks. I've failed the Light of Creation, but I will never serve Maeon.
He glances down to find the inner wall breached completely and a mass of Darklings and other shadowspawn flowing through the streets toward the palace like a river of pitch.