The brisk winds of the Bentrinc Sea blew northwest to the peak of Mount Graftrie, where I stood among the Ruin of the Fallen. The sun had begun its descent behind the mountains to the west, leaving the coming storm in odd contrast with the sky. Lightning, like veins running up an arm, arced across the face of the clouds in warning of what was to come. Behind me, my team was busy packing up their equipment.
“Should we make camp, Adalynn?” Caden asked.
“Do you see that?” I asked, nodding to the impending storm.
“That doesn’t look very friendly,” Caden replied. “What do you want to do?”
“It’s going to be a hell of a storm, probably best if we can find an alcove to bunker down in rather than using the tents out here,” I replied, turning to face the ruins. “It’s riding the trade winds right now, so we’ve got maybe an hour to pack up.”
Caden nodded and set about his duties. For an assistant, he was always honest and the hardest worker on my crew. In just over forty-five minutes, the camp was set in a large cavern with a small entrance not far from the dais at the center of the ruins. A fire crackled merrily as the rain began outside, coming down in buckets against the mountain outside.
A flash of lightning and a deafening boom of thunder came from outside, illuminating everything we could see. It happened again and again, in intervals of ten to fifteen seconds.
“What do you think it’s hitting out there?” Lane asked as they set out their bedroll.
“Probably one of the pillars around the perimeter,” Galen replied through a mouth full of dried meat. “They’re the highest things around.”
“Should someone keep watch?” Caden asked, looking to me expectantly.
“You three get some sleep if you can. I think I’ll stay up and watch the entrance,” I replied, stretching and standing. “I’ll wake Caden in a couple of hours, and we’ll start the rotation, okay?”
“Sounds good to me,” Galen said, lying back on his bedroll.
I walked near the entrance and sat with my back against the wall. Looking out into the ruins, I was blinded with each lightning strike but felt a twinge of curiosity as I noticed the lightning hitting the same spot in the center of the dais. The lightning strikes grew closer together until they seemed to be striking one on top of the other in a near-constant stream of electricity. It felt as though the storm itself were warning me against stepping out of the cave.
“How the hell can anyone sleep with all this noise?” Caden screamed as he got near me.
“I think something is happening,” I yelled back, pointing to the dais. “Look!”
In the center of the platform, where we thought religious services were held for the ancient inhabitants of this place, a man suddenly appeared at the same moment the lightning stopped, and the world fell into dark silence.
“How the hell?” Caden said, his voice still raised. The words echoed through the ruins, and I watched in horror as the man turned to look directly at us. Where his eyes should have been, I could see gleaming gems glowing a deep purple color. “What is that?”
“I don’t know, but wake the others,” I said as the man began walking directly toward our haven. “I don’t have a good feeling-”
A flash of distant lightning illuminated the ruins, and the man vanished.
“Where’d he go?” Caden asked.
“What the f-” Lane screamed before her voice was cut off.
Caden and I both turned to see the gem-eyed man standing over Lane as a tether of purple energy flowed from her mouth to his. Lane’s face was a mask of horror as her back arched in pain, and her mouth silently screamed. In the dim light, I could see tears flowing from her eyes as they darted around.
Galen, the largest of our group, rose with a roar that shook the very rock surrounding us. Leaning into it, he bull-rushed the man. My heart skipped a beat when the man put out an arm and caught Galen like he was catching a dinner roll, stopping him in his tracks. I felt the air turn ice cold as the gem-eyed man lifted Galen from the floor, letting his legs dangle while he struggled.
I drew my sword halfway out of its scabbard as the tether between the man and Lane went dark, and Lane fell back, wide-eyed and still. The man turned to look at Galen, and I watched in horror as Galen’s body shrunk like a deflating waterskin. His skin grew dull and gray before the gem-eyed man tossed him to the side like a child’s toy.
“Adalynn, run,” Caden said, startling me. I had forgotten he was there. His eyes became white fire as he turned away from me.
Caden ran forward as the gem-eyed man turned to face us. Caden twisted his hands while he spoke, and as though a god had arrived, the cave lit with a beautiful radiant light that spun in a wide circle around him. I swore I could see the shapes of weapons twisting and turning within it.
“With the woman’s tongue I can speak, and with the man’s strength I can fight,” the gem-eyed man said, his voice cascading off the rock as though it were spoken from some far-away place.
Caden continued forward until the gem-eyed man stood in the center of the ring of spinning light. I watched as the weapons sliced and burned the gem-eyed man, unable to free my feet from the floor. Caden swung his sword in an arc over his head down toward his enemy.
The gem-eyed man reached straight out and touched Caden’s forehead with a single finger, and the light vanished instantly. The sword came loose from my friend’s hand as he crumpled under his weight.
“With his light, the world will see,” the gem-eyed man said, his eyes locking on me.
My heart raced in my chest as my breathing became shallow. I couldn’t move a muscle as he came closer to me. I could feel the cold washing off of him as though I had plunged into an icy ocean.
“With your life, I will live again,” he said, reaching for me.
“Who are you?” I managed between breaths. It felt as though I were drowning.
“I am Algan the everliving, and I will rule again,” he replied as his hand touched my shoulder. I tried to scream, but there wasn’t any air left in my lungs.
My eyes opened, and I swung at the vaguely human shape above me in my panic as I gasped for air.
“Sorry, Adalynn,” Galen said, “There’s a storm coming in. I didn’t know what you wanted to do.”
I rose from her bedroll and scurried to the entrance to the cavern. The clouds looked the same as I had seen before. I looked toward the dais.
“We’re leaving,” I said. “Pack up what you can, we’re leaving now. I don’t want to be here when the storm arrives.”