The small spot of light that hovered at the very top of the invisible dome over the Fortress rose in the air, blooming into something that saturated every point, every fraction, every iota of air and breath and body. It glowed through the barriers of the Fortress walls, an all-pervasive white that replaced the rest of reality, entirely soft and gentle yet searing itself into her vision. Everything seemed to slow, the thread of time unraveling and slipping away.
The weight of history’s end pressed down on her as the land yielded up that vital essence, past, present, and future being pulled into the light and spun out again into pure finality. Outside the bounds of the Fortress walls, everywhere the light touched simply ceased. Stone and grass and tree, monster and weapon, magic and water and cloud. They were ended by the mandate of fate, which brooked no defense.
Seconds limped onward, minutes and hours robbed of their import as the Light of Eschaton presided over all, the future only arriving in broken fragments. She could see and sense the vanishing, quiet and small and not in any hurry. Everything was inevitable, so what worry was time? The moment stretched on and on, seconds and hours passing just the same until the light, satisfied with its work, faded at last.
Time resumed and the Fortress stuttered, its mana spent. Iniri could barely think, overwhelmed by what had just happened. There was room for nothing else in her mind but the sight and feel of that light and the sacrifice of Tarnil’s fate. For fate it was, fate mana taken from her land and channeled into a hideous, horrible weapon. Whatever future might have been, exchanged for salvation now.
The Fortress fell apart, everyone tumbling into the newly formed crater, a depression miles and miles across. All of Tor Kot’s armies were gone. Blue’s structures were gone. The sun was well over the horizon, hours having passed in the strange and suppressed aura of the light, and it shone on a faded and exhausted gaggle of Classers. Everyone was chastened and humbled by [The Light of Eschaton], indelibly touched by seeing their fated end.
Iniri was half-conscious, still in a haze, able to do little more than sit on the freshly revealed stone and dirt and stare. There was too much to take in, too much to work through. She didn’t even take notice of the sprawled, surrounding Classers until a sudden movement made her flinch away, her Skill instincts sapped away by the experience.
A massive sword forged of light, Harold’s pinnacle Skill, swatted a blue-white ball of flame off into the distance mere inches from her face. She swayed, still trying to process what was going on, as Harold bolted forward toward Keel. Her mage was pulling on mana, far too much for a simple scry or calling, now that everything was dead. Keel’s other Skills started to manifest as Harold barreled toward him, a flaming barrier snapping into existence just before her [Sword Saint] reached him. Cheya lurched forward to help, still hazy from the aftermath, her shadows indistinct and unformed.
“Run, your Highness!” Harold shouted, light-limned sword snapping out to intercept the growing conflagration. Iniri just blinked, half out of surprise and half out of disbelief at what was happening. Of all people, of all her advisors and guards, Keel was targeting her? Keel, who had been in her court since she could remember, who had sworn into her father’s service before she was even born?
But there was no denying the formations of mana swirling around Keel, protecting him and targeting her, when she had no mana, not even enough to conjure a hand’s-width of [Shield of Tarnil]. Cheya staggered in front of her, sluggish and off-balance, but doing her best to protect Iniri. The mana from Keel spiked, his flames turning practically white as dozens of tiny sparks flew out of his shield. Small as they were, she knew exactly how deadly they would be.
Harold let out a gurgling cry as several of them burned into and through him, already spent from his first, desperate use of Skill to save her, while Cheya’s shadows flickered, snapping one, then two, then three of the sparks from the air. It wasn’t enough, as the rest of them arced around, aiming directly at her, and all she could do was stare dumbly, still gripped by the inevitability of the end.
Suddenly the world snapped around her and she was staring at Blue’s core, safely ensconced inside the cottage. There was no Keel, no one trying to kill her. There was no Fortress, either, no advisors or guards. She was alone with the end of everything she had known. Everything simply seemed empty, with even the warm and homey surroundings of the cottage being cold and distant. There, alone, having lost everything but herself, she buried her face in her hands.