Niel Rator rode hard, followed closely by Helin and Benan. Their horses breath was ragged beneath them, the animals keeping pace despite exhaustion. It was only a few more miles until the next town, and Niel had no intention of remaining outdoors tonight. The elements, Helin reported, had only intensified in their fear.
A cry from behind, “No! No! Stop!” Helin’s voice. She reigned in her horse, slowing as fast as it would allow. Niel looked over his shoulder to watch as she stopped, then fell from her mount, grasping her head. He turned his own steed, moving until he was next to her.
Helin continued to writhe on the ground, grasping at her head. “No, no, no,” she wimpered, over and over. Benan stopped nearby as well, remaining on his horse. “Prince Rator,” he said pointing back towards Alden, “look.”
Niel looked, as stormclouds gathered across the horizon, as if from nothing. Thunder rolled in the skies, while lightning flashed and arced. The winds grew harsh, biting at the small band.
“No! Don’t do this! Calm yourselves!” Helin screamed, opening her eyes. “Calm yourselves!”
Thunder crashed overhead. Niel looked up in time to see a bolt of lightning arc, crashing down on the woman before him. She screamed, her words unintelligible. Niel fell backwards at the impact of such power. His horse ran, neighing wildly. Benen’s mount knocked him to the ground, then also ran.
Niel rose quickly, then went to Helin’s side. Her body was charred, her eyes open in fear. She was gone. The prince cursed. “What has befallen this land?” he asked, as the first drops of rain began to fall on the two men and their fallen companion.
Archmage Veladion sat on a patio bench, watching the flow of nature before him from the shaded sanctuary of Sheresto. He was no druid; while a few of his kin followed the old ways, most had turned towards the path of the arcane at the dawn of the Empire. But the beauty of the natural world had never been lost on the old elf. It was almost magical in its own way, he felt. The song of birds, the chirping of insects, the skittering of forest animals, this is where he truly found peace. Not in the cities of the Empire.
Lost in his thoughts, Veladion almost didn’t notice when the birdsong ceased. It was as one, as if there had been but a single song that had simply reached its conclusion. Then, the insects and animals stopped as well. All of nature lay still, unnaturally so.
Veladion stood up, his senses alert, his mind open. Looking into the arcane, he watched in despair as the ley lines that fed the World withered and died, vanishing into nothing. Before him, he watched a deer collapse, then another. Birds began to fall from the trees. An ancient oak began to lose its leaves.
The ancient archmage clenched his fists. “They did it,” he whispered, anger contorting his face. “By the gods, they did it.”
Velsyph leaned against the cool stone walls of the Senates deepest basements, watching in a mixture of awe and dread at the sight above him. Intricate webs of light and energy pulsed, warping the space around them in unpredictable ways. Nothing, not even a century of research, could have prepared the Arcanum for such a reaction.
Beneath the brilliance of the spell, he saw the greatest wizards of the Argantin Empire falling beneath the weight of their craft. One by one, they collapsed, their essence drained into the workings of the spell. Those that remained were forced to lift the newfound burden, or be crushed beneath it as well. It didn’t take long for the old archmage to realize the futility of it.
Looking deep into the spellwork, Velsyph saw every point where their efforts could have led away from this moment. Checks upon the amounts of power it used. Separation from the greater spellweave. But now, it was too late.
Loose energy began to strike the walls, breaking free of the bounds set by the spell. Rocks and dust fell from the lofted ceiling, crashing down on the survivors with brutal force. Again and again, the members of the Arcanum died, their last work devouring what remained of them in the process. And still it grew.
“May Argantin have mercy on us,” Velsyph whispered, as the chamber shuddered in agony around him.
Deep within the catacombs under the Great Library, waves of energy crashed against ancient walls, knocking mortar loose and sending dust clouds into the dead air. Lining the walls, silver statues stood in rows, their arms outstretched to clasp those beside them. If one had inspected the statues, it would be noted that the gauntlets were sealed together, so that they could not separate. One might assume that it was a symbol of the unity and strength of the wizards, whose prowess established the Empire.
One could always assume.
As the energy echoed through the caverns, fading into deafening silence, the statues stood as silent witnesses to the event, fixed in their places. Their faceless helms, and formless armor, remained in place. At last the arcane faded away completely from the chamber, leaving as suddenly as it began.
Once more, sound filled the cavern, but this time it roared, as if from the throat of one who had not spoken in decades. Other voices followed it, until the cavern was filled, the sound of it like the force of the ocean.
One by one, the gauntleted hands unclasped, the wrenching of metal ringing out to join the maelstrom of sound.