The music in the tavern stopped as an echoing boom sounded outside. The building shook from the force of it as the smiles left everyone’s faces.
“What was that?” Neil asked, looking to Tevarin and Cade.
He led the run to the door, pulled it open to reveal the flames lighting the dark sky in the distance. The taller buildings of the lower district were outlined by the licking flames against the wall of the Upper District.
“Faleth is up there,” Cade said as he darted past the others into the street.
Neil and Tevarin followed him through the winding alleys and streets toward the gate that led to the fire. Neil could feel his heart hammering in his chest as the screams echoed through the city.
At the portcullis, they found the guard they had spoken to earlier lying in a crumpled heap against the wall. The gate was closed, and people reached through the bars begging for help.
Another explosion rang out, this time much closer to them.
“We have to get this gate open,” Neil said, turning to Tevarin. “What do we do?”
“There has to be a mechanism somewhere on the other side. Probably in the guard tower,” Tevarin replied, her eyes darting across the stonework. “The guards inside are probably dead too. We need to hurry.”
Neil ran at the gate and began climbing. The people on the other side grabbed at his clothes as Tevarin tried to talk to them.
“He’s going to help you, but you can’t stop him,” she said as he reached the top of the gate. To his right was an arrow slit that led into the guard tower. Not big enough for him to fit through, but maybe someone inside had survived.
Looking through the tiny slit, he could see three more dead guards on the floor around a large lever.
“Tevarin, I can see it,” he called down seeing Cade making his way up the gate.
“Find a way to turn it on,” Tevarin yelled back as another explosion ripped through a nearby building, “Hurry!”
Neil looked around for another handhold he could use to climb higher. There was nothing but smooth stone. His racing heart was beginning to make him light-headed. His mind raced for a solution as he desperately pushed his arm through the slit and reached for the lever.
Another explosion, this one only a single building away, sent a shockwave through the tower as Neil’s grip slipped on the stone, making him fall a foot before Cade caught him.
“I’ve got you,” the Halfling said, “move over.”
Neil moved out of the way to let Cade put his arm through the tiny window. He kept his hand on Cade’s back to help stabilize him as he muttered a few words under his breath.
The portcullis lurched in Neil’s grip.
“Go!” Cade cried as he pulled himself free and began a graceful descent down the iron bars.
The movement of the gate was too much for Neil, his grip slipped, and he fell from twenty feet, screaming on the way down. He tried to turn to catch himself but only flailed in the air until he felt two strong arms catch him.
“You’re okay,” Tevarin said as Cade reached the ground a second later. “Let’s get inside.”
With barely enough room to roll under the gate, people were already making their way through. Pushing and shoving each other to get away from the source of the attack. The gate was two feet up when Cade ran through, Tevarin and Neil waited for a second to give them another foot before running under.
They followed the main road a few buildings in when they saw a dark figure, wreathed in flame standing in the way throwing a ball of fire at another building. Neil watched in horror as the building exploded. The people inside screamed as they ran from the building, flames covering them. They ran until they collapsed and stopped moving.
“I’ll see you soon, son of L’Grange,” a deep, resonate voice said as the figure vanished in a spiral of fire.
Neil froze, his eyes locked on the spot the figure had been.
“Come on, Neil. We have to find Faleth,” Cade said, pulling on his hand.
“D-Did you hear him?” Neil asked his legs suddenly weak.
“Hear what?” Tevarin asked, her sword at the ready, “We should go.”
“He knew my name,” Neil said.
“I didn’t hear anything,” Cade replied, “We have to hurry now!”
Neil let himself be dragged along, but his eyes remained unseeing. Questions raced through his mind faster than the buildings they passed. People still ran past them, seeking a way out desperately. He could faintly hear Cade letting them know that the gate was open and the lower district was safe.
“There’s the library,” Tevarin said as she pointed to the marble building that had flames bursting from the windows.
“Faleth!” Cade yelled.
The building came into focus for Neil as he realized where they were. He scanned the windows, looking for any sign of movement.
“There,” Neil said as he rushed forward to a person lying in the street near the corner of the building.
They came upon the person, quickly realizing that they weren’t Faleth, but a librarian judging from the uniform.
“Is there anyone else inside?” Tevarin asked.
“I-I don’t know,” the man coughed, “there were seven of us and three patrons inside when the explosion went off.”
“Did you see an elf in there?” Cade asked.
The man’s face got dark, and he nodded. “The explosion happened right next to him. I’m not sure where it came from, but there is no way he survived it. No one could have survived being that close to it.” t.com; maN��K|o@