Just a quick intro today…
This is the third part to the stories posted recently:
Part 2 & 3 are actually meant to intermingle, but I separated them for posting, so that As Darkness Rises could be short enough to turn in for my assignment. They will go back together as intended when all the parts are complete.
Enjoy Part 3!
The Sky Crumbles
“The situation goes from bad to worse,” Sapphire said to his siblings, hissing the words through his sharp teeth.
“This new arrival troubles me more than even this war between the elves and humans,” Ruby agreed. She slowly shook her large, horned head. “What are those dark creatures?”
“I fear there is someone else behind this new development,” Emerald said with a frown on his muzzle, flicking his golden eyes to each of his siblings in turn.
“I have a thought of who,” Onyx replied, her usually lively countenance serious.
“Zaeriin,” Quartz said, reading the look on her sister’s face.
The five Dracolords continued to watch the battlefield. The conflict had been moving closer to the the gates of Bethel, but stalled with the appearance of the gaping, black hole and the dark creatures spewing from it. Details proved difficult to discern through the sooty black fog, all the the Dracolords could see were vaguely humanoid shapes scrambling around and colliding chaotically.
The dark creatures from below continued to multiply.
“We must do something,” Ruby insisted.
“We’re already too far from the Temple,” Sapphire said.
“Maybe we should return,” Onyx said, her voice less certain than usual. She glanced from the battlefield to the Temple of Yargonae, still shining and golden behind them, unaffected by the darkness screening the battlefield below.
“As this darkness arises, it continues to spread,” Emerald said. “What if it continues toward the Temple?”
Before the others could answer, the end began.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Zaeriin climbed the mountain of steps up to the Temple of Yargonae. Usually, the Dracolords would have sensed his approach and barred his way long before this point, but they stayed distracted with the battle from above. He could see their shimmering rainbow still spanned across the heavens.
Yet the great aspen doors remained sealed. Zaeriin cursed under his breath and glanced behind him, in the direction of the battle that raged just out of view. He could hear the growing terror as his dark minions from below sliced and slithered their way through the elves and humans. The inky cloud still hung there like low, thick fog, enveloping the whole of the battlefield.
Other than his brother, Yargonae, only Zaeriin knew the origin of the creeping darkness. Only Zaeriin knew of the existence of sleeping, dreaming horrors in the depths and how to use them.
But Zaeriin’s patience was at its end.
Thankfully, he didn’t have to wait much longer. He saw the first magenta flashes flicker over the walls of Bethel. Zaeriin knew those sparks of light meant the humans were fighting the approaching darkness with arcane magic–magic the young and irresponsible Bael had blessed them with but had never shown them how to use responsibly.
With a raised hand, Zaeriin felt along the weakening aura holding closed the doors of the Temple.
“Soon…” he hissed.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“Finally!” Zaeriin hissed.
He shoved both palms against the stout aspen doors of the Temple, and felt the rush of sweet success as they parted. Warm air and the scent of hot metal and spring flowers wafted against him.
Zaeriin crinkled his nose.
Then, his visage immediately brightened when his eyes fell upon the Sunstone. His goal was finally within reach.
One step. Two steps. Three steps. The footsteps came quickly and without thought.
Zaeriin moved within arm’s reach of the Sunstone. The rays of the sun glittered off its perfect topaz surface, causing the gem to twinkle and warble a mournful tune.
It was as if the Sunstone knew the fate awaiting it–awaiting them all.
Zaeriin flinched. The gem seemed to be asking him, begging him, to walk back out.
“No! Not after all this!” Zaeriin roared, gesturing behind him with one wide circle of one arm. “I’ve waited too long. I’ve come too far. You belong to me!”
No, Zaeriin. The Sunstone is not yours. Never will it be yours. As the voice invaded his mind, he watched a swirling grey vapor drift between him and the gem. Seconds later, the vapor coalesced into the looming form of a large, shimmering black dragon, forcing Zaeriin back several steps from his prize.
“Onyx, don’t stand in my way.” Zaeriin glared into the Dracolord’s yellow eyes. The jealousy built within him again, so hot he forgot all other emotions. She had spurned him. She had denied his advances. She had claimed her heart belonged only to Umaesh, god of the moons and stars.
Zaeriin’s insides burned, a building volcano of vehemence.
“You will go no further, Zaeriin.” Onyx met his eyes steadily, her head high and her muzzle elevated. She stood on all four of her muscular legs, toes tense and talons clicking against the smooth gold and grey swirled marble beneath them, her tail twitching restlessly.
“My feelings for you won’t stay my hand,” Zaeriin promised. “Remove yourself, or I will kill you. I will let nothing stop me.” His gnarled, sharp fingers clenched and unclenched at his sides.
Onyx’s lips curled, and she bared her pointed teeth.
The Temple became cloaked in blackness. With the sun blotted out, the Sunstone ceased its singing and silence fell. The abruptness of it was deafening. Onyx found herself disoriented.
But Zaeriin was in his element.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“You should not have come alone,” Zaeriin said, his voice reverberating through the air.
Onyx spun towards his voice, snarling and flailing with claw and tail and snapping maw.
A moment too late, she saw it for the deception it was. Something sharp pierced her breast, in the spot where her scales were thinnest and her body least armored. So sudden did it strike her, her breath caught in her throat. So deep did it cut, it pierced her lung and her heart beneath it, denying her any further objection.
Zaeriin dispelled his darkness, and watched as Onyx slumped forward. She wheezed a few final breaths and growled in the direction of her attacker. Then, her head thumped heavily to the marble, in the growing puddle of her garnet-colored blood.
Allowing himself only a moment’s reflection, Zaeriin swallowed down any regrets. Then he tore his gaze from one source of his envy to the other.
The Sunstone had begun to sing again, a melody dreadful and forlorn.
Zaeriin reached forward. A tiny tremor in the marble floor gave him pause. He hesitated for only a moment, then grabbed hold of the gem. A greater vibration shook Zaeriin, seeming to originate from the Sunstone. He took a firmer hold of it. The walls of the Temple began to shudder and cracks appeared in their flawless surfaces.
Zaeriin stood mesmerized, gazing deep into the Sunstone. Deep within the gem were swirling masses resembling tiny cosmic clouds, and within them twinkled tiny stars. Now that he held it, the Sunstone seemed to trill with a higher pitch than before.
First dust, then pebbles, then large sections of the plastered walls and columns began to crumble and collapse around him. A large chunk fell to the floor, narrowly missing him and breaking him from his revere.
“I think that is my exit cue,” Zaeriin murmured.
The Temple groaned and rumbled with discontent. As Zaeriin moved toward the doors, more chunks of plaster fell, now joined by the stone and mortar beneath it, quicker and in larger pieces than before. A jagged hole marred the ceiling, and it made the sun’s rays unpleasantly harsh and condemning.
Zaeriin clutched the Sunstone protectively to his chest. As he reached the aspen doors, the gem wailed and flashed hot pain into his chest.
Crying out, Zaeriin tried to hold on, but the burning gem tumbled from his covetous fingers.
The Sunstone hit the marble and shattered, letting loose an ear-piercing wail. It was a scream of fear, a howl of pain, a cry of anguish.
And it woke Rhaegar, the Dreamer, from his slumber.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
This story and all related material are the original works of Awaiting the Muse and Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti. All rights reserved.
Awaiting the Muse by Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at https://awaitingthemuse.wordpress.com/.