Twin Suns rose above the dusky plains to bring new light to all the shadows. The army that trod upon the ruin of Havensong looked up and quailed at the lights that descended from the sky. One of the new Suns carried a weapon that looked sometimes like a longsword of molten silver, and sometimes like a staff, shifting between both in the manner of water. The other held a bow of some dark metal.
Ossari stared and watched, measuring these beings with eyes that had seen wonders beyond mortal imagination. He knew that they were enemies come to challenge him, and he welcomed the coming battle by raising twin axes to the sky.
The first of the War Wizards swung his longsword like a scythe reaping across the plains around the grounds of Havensong, and thousands of Revenant died screaming in pools of liquid metal with every swing.
The Archer raised a bow to the sky and loosed twenty-seven arrows of light. They soared into high arcs before plunging down toward twenty-seven clouds of fog whose wispy eyes watched them fall. The twenty-seven wickerwends that remained alive—if the word applied to such as their kind—were extinguished from the world.
Perched upon a high cliff face in the Roans, the remnants of Arebon's iskele huddled together to watch a battle as among gods of sky and earth. From within the Sanctum, the remnants of the Council of Nine Branches watched through the chokepoint in the Roans as flashes of light and darkness stormed across a once-blue sky. And Avendyr the human king leaned through a window with both hands gripping the sill, watching as fire and storm and liquid metal strove across the ruin of his people’s city.
Often the battle was obscured by flames, or by the dust that rose from the ground. A shape in the dust, as if a giant strode within, revealed where Ossari fought, grown to great size in his rage. Around him the War Wizards danced and flew with weapons and magic.
Great fingers of stone burst through the ground and reached for the clouds. Rivers dried up beneath the onslaught, and the land itself bent and groaned in the tug of collosal forces.
The battle continued for days, and if some of those who hid in the Sanctum slept fitfully, many could find no sleep for the sounds that roared from the south.
On the morning of the fifth day, a roar sounded from the Plains, a scream of rage and confusion. And then Ossari, once a god, lay dead upon the foundations of the once-palace of Havensong. His mortal body dissolved into dark smoke that found no friend in the winds that blew across the bare lands.
It was a long time before the clouds of dust and smoke blew away. But mere hours later, those within the Sanctum could see the approach of two figures. One appeared to be wounded, yet both were alive.
The Plains, silent.
They left the Sanctum—the leaders, the councilors, those who spoke for their people. They stepped past soldiers and defensive walls and onto the ground before the edifice of stone that towered over them up the mountain. They were twenty-four in number, haggard and weary from the long years that had led to this moment.
Kaolyen Greyborne stepped before the War Wizards and bowed. Then he said, “Is it over?” And it felt as if all the world paused and listened.
“Ossari is dead, his mortal form destroyed and his spirit gone to wherever the thoughts and hearts of dead gods go,” said one War Wizard. “Though the Ravaging Lord and an army of Revenant still haunt Reignfall, the fallen human god will trouble this continent no more.”
And young Avendyr turned and looked up at the Sanctum, and the many faces that peered through the openings upon the walls, level after level into the highest reaches. As if sensing his moment, he spoke loudly. He told his people that the time of the darkness was ended, that humans would take this dawn and build their future again—a new city, a new beginning on Terminus.
Avendyr spread forth his hand. “And in all these lands within the reach of your king, these lands of Kingsreach, none of the followers of the dead god will live!”
Naftali said quietly, “Did this boy just name our continent after himself?”
Kaolyen said, “I believe he did, yes.”
Isek turned away from the growing crowd outside the Sanctum and returned to the darkness within.
And so the elves returned to their lands, some along the hidden paths and some upon the open steppe. Even when they were out of sight of the ground of Havensong, they could still see the troughs and marks of war upon the Plains—the burnings of the army of night, and the furrows of a god fighting to the last.
They returned to find a city of charred stone and the grasping limbs of dead trees. Their belongings were scattered upon the ground, burned and torn and covered in blood.
And their Tree, the Tree that had grown from a heartseed of Lumos of S’iolaen, was but a scorched husk, crumbling in its once sacred dell.
Some few elves stepped over the ashes and bones of those who had remained to guard the Tree, and they leaned against the trunk, as if listening to a voice within. They held to the trunk with arms spread and said nothing for a long time, until one spoke and “The Lucent is alive!” she said.
Naftali Oakweaver of the Council joined the group around the tree, bringing his arms up to feel the trickle of warmth from its heart. The Lucent was indeed alive, deep within its heart.
He stepped away to allow others to embrace the Tree. Then he looked down at the ash and bones around his feet. How many had died here? He knelt and found a pendent of jade and wiped from its surface the ash of the dead.
"Sharowsul," he whispered.
From the journal of Kaolyen Greyborne, Faerthale, 486 IH
Stories will be told a hundred ways, yet none will be what we saw with our own eyes. Even in my memory the character and sequence of events through which we lived begin to blur, to twist into stories the way our minds mold history so that we can understand. When no one is left who was there, all that will remain are old scrolls and stories told by bards who organize them into verse and drama, to tell of tragedy and heroism and the nobility of elves and humans.
It will be a story, a tale, with the messiness and horror removed.
But who are we now, after the end? We are once again survivors of the Night. We will rebuild, and begin history anew, and pray that we are never again children in the path of reckless gods.
Sunlight fell through the broken wall, and dust cast by a stray wind blew across the burned and ragged pages that lay upon the floor. No lamp was lit. As the day moved on, the sunlight made its way across the study toward the man who sat unmoving at the remains of a desk, revealing a face thick with ash.
Isek Riverdusk held a scroll somehow untouched by the war in Faerthale. Its halting script told one of the lesser histories of the early days on Terminus. Of the scrolls in his collection, this one had moldered on the back of a shelf untouched for years. Yet now it was all he had. He knew this meant nothing in the shadow of all that had occurred, of all his people had lost, yet his grip tightened upon the scroll.
He looked up when another shadow fell across him.
“You did not answer the door,” said Naftali.
Isek nodded and looked away.
“Are you returning to the council tent? We have much to do to plan for the rebuilding of the city, and the feeding of our people. And many would follow Avendyr to Reignfall to face the Ravaging Lord himself. This is not over, my friend, and we need you.”
Isek shook his head. “You do not need me,” he said, his voice rough. “Find someone who can take my place. I have done all I can.”
After a long pause, Naftali said, “Have you heard from any of your… rangers?”
“No. I have heard stories of what they did, feats of bravery and sacrifice—but no stories of their return.”
“They… and you… helped save our people. You should—“
“I am done, my friend.”
There was silence for a time. Through the open wall came the sounds of elves exclaiming as they wandered the ruin of Faerthale City.
“I must go,” said Naftali, “but I will return. Others will visit you. We will not leave you to sink deeper into despair.”
Isek did not respond. After a moment, Naftali set on object on the desk, then took his leave.
Isek looked down at what Naftali had left for him. It was a figure of the Lucent carved in jade, a stone once favored by Sharowsul Iskosia. Isek laid a hand upon the stone and traced a branch with his fingers.
He heard no one enter, only the sound of sword leaving scabbard, and then a blade hung in the air before his neck. The edges of the blade formed waves toward the point, and colors moved across its surface like an oily substance across water.
Isek looked up, and then "Isonis Rowan," he said.
"You know me."
"I remember all from Arebon's iskele. How could I forget the trouble you endured at the hands of my colleague, your disappearance and return.” Isek turned away. "The others…"
"Three of us remain," said Isonis.
If he wanted to see Isek mourn, he was too late. Isek had mourned what had to be for many years now. "Our people are alive. As a people we continue. I have done what I could."
"No one will remember you, Isek Riverdusk," said Isonis. A sheaf of ragged papers landed on Sharowsul’s pendant. "But you will remember us."
Isek reached up and pulled one of the papers closer, to read what he could through cracked lenses.
"Aovyn wrote of our journeys,” continued Isonis, “though he always seemed to lose pages along the way. These are all we found in his pack. I want you to know how we lived. How we dreamed. Who we were in the end.”
"I will read it," said Isek.
“I leave you, then, to bathe in your sacred ash. I shall find those who will fight for the embers that remain.”
The last of the known pages of the Oracle of Aovyn
It is a strange thing to see my own death, and yet it feels somehow remote. What torments my heart is the death of those I love, for I see other deaths among my companions.
I shall not tell them. Better they should live each moment in the wind as if all that they desire could yet lie ahead.
Of my life there is nothing I regret—nothing except the loneliness of Sunlight Sparkling in the Grass when I am gone. I hope that she will find a pack, and a better mountain when I’m gone.
Isonis found Yonai stooping in the burned Redgrove, examining something on the ground. As he drew closer, he saw shoots rising from the ash.
"The fire didn't touch these," she said. So many of the older trees have burned, but a lot of smaller life remains."
"Our people have found their homes in ash and ember," said Isonis. "They are hungry and need food. We can give them that."
"And later?" asked Yonai.
Slumber shook his head and looked away, following the wolf's gaze toward the hills.
“Later is a lifetime,” said Isonis. "Today let us hunt together.”
~ END ~