The Northern sky was black and lilac. Smoke, fire, and death stretched across the horizon. Cities and townships dotted the terrain but most were hidden by thick clouds and unnatural darkness. The lucky ones had deserted those towns three days ago, before The Destroyer crossed the mountains. The luckiest ones were with her, at the tower that held the last hope of salvation.
Sweat was beading on her forehead and her skin felt cold and tight. She had never been this scared in her life. Not when The Destroyer arrived, not when her father was slain by their servants, and not when she had been handed his blade and told she was the head of their house just days ago. She knew how to use it, her parents had ensured that, but she hadn’t chosen the path of the warrior.
With her woollen robes bunched about her legs she sat cross-legged on the tower, finishing the last of the runic inscriptions. The Stone was veined and smooth, but dark like a storm cloud. She whispered her words over the last of her chalk markings, and saw them fluoresce briefly in response.
Aleric was explaining to a frightened family for the third time what the ritual involved. His eyes were tired but sharp and the occasional rays of sunlight highlighted the grey of his hair. He gesticulated as he repeated what he had told each of them here before: Our world was dying and we had to try and get as many people to safety as we could.
There had been other planes of existence nearby, but they had been consumed by the destroyer in the past few years. Their only hope was to travel to a whole new world. A world with different planar alignments, different people, and maybe there they could find a way to halt or end the destroyer.
She strode to the edge of the platform, looking down over the city. Grey buildings rose from brown earth and green foliage. People hurriedly moved about, some were fortifying the city, others gathered their belongings to flee. Some thought they could flee further south, though Korinyi knew they would simply perish in the hills, The Destroyer overtaking them. The wise or brave had agreed to Aleric’s plan, risking their being in a trip through the cosmos.
Little was known of their destination, it was an inhabitable world at least. It had a sun and three moons. Aleric’s scrying could only determine so much. There had originally been more mages working on the plan but The Destroyer’s arrival had scattered or killed everyone else. Aleric and her were the only people from the team who had managed to arrive at the city. Her eyes began to water as familiar faces came to mind, faces she had seen only days ago. Her mother, the matriarch of house Atethys, was amongst them, her efforts at rescuing others from the chaos had led to her death. A panicked mob had crushed dozens of people as they fled The Destroyer. Some of them were here with her. Some looked to her with hope, most would not look her in the eye.
She wiped the sweat from her brow with her sleeve and turned to address her sibling, who had just ascended the marble stairs of the tower. The twins shared their mother’s deep red hair and both wore it loosely.
‘’It’s good to see you, Lessempir. I trust your quest was fruitful.’’
Lessempir smiled. ‘’My quests are always fruitful, Kori.’’
She heard the unmistakable sound of an armoured warrior ascending the steps.
They smiled coyly.
‘’Your lucky groom. He demanded to go with the first group and it seems his Order stills holds its authority, despite it being the end of the world.’’
Kori rose and wiped her palms on berry blue robes.
‘’You shouldn’t speak that way. Especially not around these people. They can’t tell when you’re joking.’’
‘’Do you mean about Mortimus being your lover, or it being the end of the world’’ they chuckled dryly.
‘’Either. Both. They don’t want to hear that and neither do I.’’ she said sternly.
Mortimus was a tall knight with deep brown eyes that never lost their focus. He wore fine steel plate, functional and of a quality befitting his station.
When he spoke, his voice was deep and authoritative, while still managing to achieve the courtesy her family was used to receiving. ‘’Lady Atethys, you have my deepest sympathies. Your mother was a brave woman, few deserved their ends at the hands of The Destroyer’s chaos, but her least of all.’’
She stepped around her supplies to stand beside her sibling. Resting a hand on their arm. ‘’Thank you, Morty. There’s no need to call me Lady, titles hardly matter much anymore.’’
Mortimus nodded and looked over her shoulder to the group assembled on the tower-top. Families, soldiers, craftsmen, many children. Many were farmers, a few had been landowners before the surrounding countryside had turned to dust.
‘’Is this everyone?’’ he asked, his tone betrayed a nervousness he was attempting to conceal. ‘’What about the crowds down below?’’.
‘’We are the first group. The others will follow us through the Aether soon enough.’’Lessempir answered, with the voice of seriousness she had heard so much lately.
Kori left them and strode to Aleric, who seemed to be triple checking their calculations. He didn’t notice her standing beside him until she spoke.
‘’The preparations are all complete, Master. You said so yourself, our arrival is certain.’’
His weary blue eyes turned to her, the corners cracked by age and worry. ‘’You’re right of course. No-one has ever attempted something like this on such a scale before. And The Destroyer has been disruptive-‘’
‘’The Destroyer hasn’t won yet.’’ She intoned fiercely.
He smiled and put his gaunt hand on her shoulder. ‘’Are you ready? I will follow you once the other groups are on their way, the singular spell is not nearly so troublesome.’’
Korinyi nodded solemnly and turned to Lessempir and Mortimus who were still conversing quietly by the stairway. She caught her twin’s eye, they looked so melancholy, the easy smile of just moments ago gone.
While the refugees were getting into position she walked around the perimeter of the tower whispering protective wards. Her left hand rested on the hilt of her father’s sabre, she could hear the voices of her ancestors. Their voices were indistinct but she heard sadness, confusion, anger, and hope strongest of all. She smiled sadly as she heard the voices of her parents amongst the clamour, murmuring encouragement. As the last of the shields locked into place around the tower she took her place beside Lessempir and Mortimus. Mortimus was looking stoically straight ahead, Lessempir was shuffling nervously.
There were 102 of them, two dozen of whom were children, many were crying. Aleric had his tome open on a small bench before him, its pages frayed and yellowed. Korinyi looked to the north, many other followed her gaze. The storm clouds of The Destroyer had obscured the mountains. Tendrils of darkness were sweeping over not-so-distant plains. Many were muttering fearfully, others were silently weeping. Aleric had begun the spell, his voice was strong and managed to calm her nerves somewhat. The runes carved a complex circle about the group and began to glow softly as the master wizard began the ritual.
She tried to focus on Aleric, on her twin, on Mortimus. She couldn’t help but glance north and every time she did, The Destroyer had swept closer. She tried to picture their destination, but knew too little. She saw mountains, immense forests, and three moons hanging in a twilight sky.
Aleric looked into her eyes as he finished the spell. She smiled tearfully and squeezed Lessempir’s hand.