The room was quiet, as usual. Harakken Cyrus studied the Gateway board before him with all of the attention that a man might devote to his lifeâ€™s ambition. Opposite him, Iselsi Thelos simply watched him dispassionately. Finally, Cyrus reached out and moved a piece, glancing over at his opponent.
Thelos nodded once, and swiftly moved another piece.
Cyrus raised his eyebrow. â€œAn interesting move. I donâ€™t know that it took all of my options into account.â€
â€œWhy not find out?â€ The barest hint of a smile threatened to crack Thelosâ€™s face, but it quickly faded. â€œPerhaps this will be the day that I defeat you.â€
â€œAnything is possible, my friend.â€ Cyrus casually moved another piece. â€œBut not likely.â€
Thelos studied the board thoughtfully. â€œHm. I think I see the gambit that youâ€¦â€
The sudden influx from Adorjan drove his hands to the table, and only iron self-control kept it intact. Cyrus looked over in alarm as Thelos practically collapsed. â€œThelos! Whatâ€™s wrong?â€
â€œDraniel is dead.â€ It was the first fact that Thelos could sort from his Motherâ€™s rage and confusion, and he drew on his training to impose order. Mother, please. Explain to me what happened. He winced, feeling her fury buffeting at his mind, and spoke again. â€œButâ€¦ I donâ€™t understand, he wasnâ€™t killed, heâ€¦â€ As Cyrus watched with concern, Thelos closed his eyes again, as Adorjan calmed enough for their thoughts to align as they were meant to. Through her, he saw the core of the Great Betrayer, saw Dranielâ€™s logic as clearly as if it were his own, and watched the chain of events unfolding towards their obvious conclusion.
He sagged into the chair. â€œOh, Draniel. Oh, my devoted boy.â€ He swallowed heavily. Tears began to form as he watched his favorite studentâ€™s sacrifice. â€œI understand.â€
â€œNow, I admit Iâ€™m not a scholar. But werenâ€™t you only supposed to take five days to cross into Creation?â€ Sitting under the bare shade of a long-dessicated corpse two stories tall, Lyta took a long drink from her waterskin and gazed around her. â€œIt must have been five days by now.â€
â€œIt is called the Endless Desert, not the Five-Day Desert.â€ Deled shook sand out of his boot, shaking his head. â€œYour education was badly lacking.â€ He stood and looked around as well. As far as the eye could see, there was nothing but sand and glass, alongside the occasional corpse.
Lyta nodded slowly. â€œYeah, fair enough. Well, we made it this far. Wind and sand donâ€™t have anything onâ€¦â€ She hesitated, looking down. â€œDeled, my cloakâ€™s not moving.â€
â€œSo the windâ€™s stopped.â€
Deled froze. Slowly, he turned to look at Lyta. â€œThatâ€™s impossible. The Silent Wind never stops blowing. Maybe youâ€™re in the lee.â€
Lyta stepped out from the shade, watching her clothes. After a moment, she shook her head. â€œStopped dead. Creepy.â€ Pulling her razor claws out, she instinctively backed towards her companion as she glanced around. He did the same, holding his new spear protectively. â€œWhen you say neverâ€¦ I mean, it hasnâ€™t happened as long as weâ€™ve been here, butâ€¦â€
â€œNever.â€ Deled shook his head. â€œNow be quiet. I hear something.â€
Tilting her head, Lyta held her breath and listened. A moment later, she heard it too, a low sound that was building up force as it approached. â€œSounds like a storm. Weâ€™d better take coverâ€¦â€
And then it was on them. The sky opened up above, rain falling from a cloudless sky as the silent wind blew with sudden strength, thousands of droplets falling to soak the two Exalts to the skin. Around them, the desert became wet in moments. And with the rain came sorrow.
Adorjan wept. And all of Malfeas wept with her.
In the stone and brass passages of the Demon City, the music of the Angyalka changed in tone, reflected the loss that they now felt, as all of the Past came crashing into the Present that was all they could acknowledge. One in ten paused in their motions to truly consider what it was that they played. One in a hundred of those survived the consideration, the rest annihilated in an instant by the crushing realization of the suffering of Creation. In the vast forests of Szoreny, the Luminita paused in their eternal hunts, letting their prey escape unharmed as they mourned for those that they slew. Their victims, in turn, mourned for the Luminita, and for the hunt they would never complete. Deep in Kimberyâ€™s acid seas, ten thousand Makorda found a momentâ€™s respite from the pain their grandsire visited upon them, washed away a moment later by the knowledge of their tormentorâ€™s own sufferings.
And in the vast desert of Cecelyne, two once-mortals clung to one another as they wept, incalculable lifetimes of sorrow visited upon them in a matter of moments.
And then it was done. Slowly, gradually, the storm passed. Slowly, Lyta and Deled remembered themselves, and separated from each other to find the weapons they had dropped to the sand.
â€œWhat. Was. That?â€ Lytaâ€™s voice was faint.
â€œI do not know.â€ Deled looked up at the sky. The wind was blowing again, a faint breeze that caught at their sodden clothes almost hesitantly. â€œBut I do not think the Demon City has ever seen its like before.â€ He stood slowly. â€œWe should start walking, while the land is still cool from the rain.â€
â€œYeah.â€ Lyta swallowed heavily, wiping away tears. Deled held out a hand to help her to her feet. â€œWe canâ€™t give up when weâ€™re almost home.â€