by M. Keaton
Four days in the temple. Four days of prayer and supplication, days of censured smoke and raw-throated psalms. Four days without sign of divinity. After four full days, the temple remained still.
The four days after the new moon, sacred to their goddess, one day for each college and the fourth day for the goddess herself. And at the end of the fourth day, as it had for each month previous over the past two years, the temple was still, their cries ignored.
The High Priest and Archmage had just set aside his miter when the altar cracked, a single fault bisecting its length, a small, almost invisible mar, but the sound echoed in the temple like the chime of a bell, or a death knell, and the assemblage froze, stunned. A sound like the roar of wind-driven rain boomed through the building, driving some to cover their ears in pain, so loud it was, and mixed within the roar was the haunting tones of aeolian harps.
After the sound came the light, blazing from the slit in the altar like the blue-white rays of a newborn sun, blinding, burning, all-consuming, and they fell within it.
Below them in the grey void, a city hung, torn from the earth, denied the heavens. Above it rose the anguished ghost of a man torn in twain, lifted as though by an invisible claw about his chest; his life's blood flowed through the city's streets and poured from its edge as a river, and it smelled of lilac as the grey mists turned it under and let them adrift again.
They felt rather than saw a great hand reaching, grasping, hungry as a mouth, straining just beyond the walls of being, filled with longing, and fear caught their breaths within them. A form approached with the fog, shrouded in the black robes of the desert witches. The robes curled back from a fiery form who stretched out her hand, and the robes became a spear thrusting forward, through them and then gone and they, untouched.
And in the void, there came a singing, the voice of a girl-child, a simple tune, the lullaby of their youths, the words now twisted strange and sung by granite stones.
Hordes race forward from the north, screaming in fury, crying for blood, numerous as the sands of the desert, black shrouded women within their midst, screaming for vengeance with soundless tongues, a world of flame in their wake.
And at their head came a man with their own face, wounded as unto death yet moving without falter, black flamed daemons at his shoulders, riding in a chariot of beaten brass, sweeping down as the scythe of death.
A creature rose from the seas to the east, a centaur with the bodies of two men, not one, and the two did battle above their single body and when one struck the other, both fell as dead.
Two women stood with hands clasped together and one shone as a new dawn and the other wore seraph wings as a guardian cloak. Behind them old robed men sat within a boat upon the sand, bailing water from within to without, sinking slow in a flood not there.
A king in the west wrung water from his hands into a washbowl and turned to face the twilight. The water in the bowl became blood and cried as a newborn child as he walked into the sea.
A blind man wept at the base of a tree, speaking truths in a tongue unknown, and none listened as the tree replied with the ringing of cymbals and calling horns.
In the center stood a man before the horde. At his side, a child in rags, a great jeweled sceptre cradled to her chest. The man held out in either hand a golden mirror and spoke first to one, "Dexter", and then the other, "Tallus", and the chalk white cliffs beneath him shattered like glass, falling away into the void like raindrops of melted snow, and darkness rose up on leathered wings to engulf them all.
And the temple was as it had always been save a hairline fissure in the altar as the supplicants stood, as if awakened from a long sleep, and were afraid.