Memory Zero – An End
Two suns collided, igniting a terrible blast. Zammela cowered from the blinding light, averting her gaze from shattering stone towers and incinerating bodies. The stench of burning flesh filled her nostrils and a deafening eruption silenced countless screams.
Zammela huddled in the storm's eye. While intense heat shattered buildings and crumbled unprotected soil into the ravine below, her magic shield held.
She clutched the Stranger, redoubling latent power into her protective barrier. The sun’s rage clawed against her shield, devouring it, until only protected her.
Her focus dwindled and the shield fell away, scattering flecks of ice. She braced but the explosion had passed. Lingering maelstroms assaulted her, pelting her with loose debris. A flame ring expanded untold miles, searing the land as it moved, and faded.
Ash fell, settling against the soil, and granted her a glimpse of the devastation. A tottering inlet of land remained where the great city of Agellas once stood. Swathes of charred earth marked the area where her failed shield offered partial protection, leaving some stone intact and the land traversable.
She survived the destruction, clutching the Stranger to her breast. While he had defied everything for her, he lay cold and lifeless. His life and the lives of all the inhabitants of the city paid the cost of their failure.
Soon, death would claim more.
Power crackled in the air, the final magic used to spare her. The rest burned. Now she anticipated a slow death in a crumbling world as punishment.
Zammela brushed ash from the Stranger's black iron-silk robes. It did nothing to protect his heart, but it prevented her from seeing the gore beneath.
She peeled the cowl from his face to reveal a content smile on his lips. Seeing him at peace freed her of rage and sadness alike.
The relief fled with realization. Her failure to maintain her shield cost her friends their lives. Their faith in her ability provided them a swift death. Zammela stood, pausing to move the Stranger from her lap, and searched for their remains. No matter how futile, she had to try. She shed no tears. They dried up with the City of Water's fountains but she owed them this.
She focused the magic swelling within her, fueled by the bubble of comfort from the Stranger's body. Only she could draw strength from his private aura of nothingness. In death, his absence of magic stood eager to fulfill some unseen purpose. This same void played its part in saving her.
Zammela channeled the wind pushing away ash with a focused surge of air, widening visibility for a precious few moments. She lacked the endurance and the state of mind to maintain it.
Stirring the ash triggered a distant cough. There was life amongst this death. Zammela turned towards it, holding tight a ray of hope her friends had survived. The world spun on the first step; walking proved difficult. She gathered the shreds of her wits and pushed forward, eager to salvage any hope she could.
She followed the noise to a small cluster of rubble and pushed aside heavy stone blocks with shaking fingers. She coughed and sputtered against the gathering ash and her fingers bled. Her efforts rewarded with her first glimpse of the Protector, but it brought little joy. The woman suffered from severe burns and shattered bones under the weight of the falling debris. Ironically, the same stone spared her from total incineration. Zammela dug on to uncover her, spotting the familiar swords crossed at her back, which remained pristine and unmarred.
The Protector made her feel small, even crumpled amongst piled rubble. Zammela reached to her, earning a flinch in reaction. The Protector’s lips moved in protest, but no sound came out. The tiny motion drained her and her head sagged in exhaustion.
She hadn't recognized Zammela with her eyes blinded from the sun's kiss, so Zammela touched her cheek with gentle assurance. The tiniest prickle of magic reminded her. You’ll be all right. I’m here for you.
The Protector’s armor clung to her, holding her together better than any bone or ligament. Her strength dwindled with each passing moment, muscles left in irreparable ruin. Labored pulls, frail and desperate, struggled to keep her alive.
Zammela hurried over to the Stranger's body and dragged him, sculpting a trail of ash in their wake. The Protector waited wordlessly, resting with no motion beyond the gentle rise and fall of her wounded chest. Zammela propped him next to the Protector and joined their hands – it was the least she could do. The Protector's hand twitched and tightened; she seemed to recognize him at least. Perhaps his presence would give her the will to survive.
Her wandering gaze caught a flash of silver. She left her friends to their privacy and worked to clear stone from another pile. Her efforts revealed the charred remnants of the Priest. Some patches of silver thread endured, but had been warped and twisted by heat.
Nothing could help him now. Any attempt to move him would destroy his body. His wire frame glasses dangled off his skeletal face, threatening to fall.
She crouched closer and gently pushed her index finger against the glasses. With care, she managed to get them to sit flush against his face. Zammela smiled humorlessly at the small victory and stood. Maybe they will stay in place for good now. She turned back to the others, only to watch a sputtering puff of steam escape the Protector’s lips. Zammela stumbled towards her and fell, getting a mouthful of dry ash.
She coughed and struggled on hands and knees, and watched helplessly as the last strength fled from the Protector’s body. Her hand fell limp in the Stranger's lifeless grip.
Death brought true isolation, leaving her the single ray of light and life remaining in Agellas. The city lay silent and lifeless, turned into a crater surrounded by scraps of ruin. No aqueducts would flow, no stages would hold performances, and no towers would loom above the people below.
A distant fire-flash sparked in the distant horizon. Brilliant flames lit the sunless skies to the south. The distant explosion triggered a chain of events, spelling doom for the world. This second blast would bring a third until all of Pange lie in ruin. Worse, the fault rested cleanly in her lap. She curled her fingers in the ash in bitter frustration.
Without the warmth of the sun her magic could sustain her for a time, as it had granted the Protector precious seconds. However a question lingered in her thoughts: Why should I bother? The flame approached, seeking a second chance to finish the surviving half of the Two Destroyers-- she waited for the end, lamenting her part in Pange's destruction.