As the war of the Gray Plane grows out of hand, those on the edges are tapped to help.
|Torien shook his head as he looked at the latest reports from the Gray Plane. The numbers of their fallen were too big for a single scroll to contain, yet the Lord General commanded more troops to be raised and send to archways.
He threw the disintegrating parchment towards the floor, even as it was consumed with golden fire. His subordinate, Kamiel, stepped forward with another such rolled up piece of paper, but Torien turned him away.
“We don’t have enough soldiers.”
“The Lord General –”
“Shouldn’t have tried to take the Crimson Gates. Now what do we have? No control of the Gray Plane and agents of the Deep knocking at our gates.”
The two of them looked up, the gate for their local archway opening before discharging a white-robed soldier. Torien shook his head at the broken sword at his side; too many of the old weapons were breaking, but what did the army expect? They’d lain in storage for millennia. The fact that they’d been whole enough to carry had shocked him.
Dropping to his knees, the newcomer reached inside his robe and pulled out yet another scroll. Kamiel took it, but hesitated at the seal.
“Where do you come from, soldier?”
“The Flame Cliffs, Domin Kamiel.”
Torien bit off a forbidden word. To think the Lord General had been beaten back so far. To lose at the Crimson Gates was one thing, and one Torien had expected of the ambitious fool. To have drawn the hosts of the Deep all the way to the cliffs, why, it was halfway to their end of the Gray Plane.
He held out his hand for the parchment, and unsealed it as soon as his aide handed it over. The news was as bad as he thought.
Standing up, he walked around the kneeling soldier and pressed his hand to the archway. The gate slammed shut, but through the golden rods he could see the destination shifting. The fiery red of the great cliffs faded, transforming into the still-calm white of the High Clouds.
Kamiel’s hand was on his shoulder before he could open the gate.
“You should go to the front.”
“Do not order a Sera, Kamiel. I go where I wish.”
“If you don’t, the war will be lost.”
“There are others –”
He blinked, turning away from the gate.
“What do you mean…there aren’t?”
Kamiel shook his head.
“The other Sera have departed.”
“That…that’s impossible. The Highest –”
“The Highest has left it in the hands of the Lord General. And he has dismissed the Sera from his ranks, for disagreeing with his plans. You…you’re all that’s left.”
Torien looked between the soldier on the ground – who had yet to lift his head – to Kamiel again. He shook his head.
“Then there is no one left.”
He turned to the archway again, and this time he stepped through.
The roads of the High Clouds were normally a soft, smooth set of pathways, leading over landscapes of puffy white-gold hills. Torien was used to the days when the Chera flew overhead, when the sounds of harps and flutes had guided travelers from one great hill to another. He remembered the great waves of sound that echoed like the seas that could occasionally be glimpsed through the ground of the Gray Plane.
Now, it was as he said. There was no one left. Torien looked to the skies, both the wing beats and the music of the Chera absent. No footsteps or voices wandered down the path to distract him. The only sound was the slow rumble of war in the distance, and even from here, he could see the flares of red against the sky where the battle continued to rage.
Torien shook his head, but the shakes had already started. He tried not to think of it, but it there, nonetheless. The images he tried to blot out every time that the reports came in, begging for help. Bodies of friends and familiar names, faces torn and bloodied, always came. They never stopped. Even the knowledge that they’d rise again was tempered with the surety that they would die once more under the Lord General’s command.
The shakes drove him to his knees as he slammed his fists against the clouds. They shook beneath him, the ripples of impact spreading as far as the eye could see.
I could stop it…
It was what the Lord General wanted. It was what they all wanted. The Sera turned his head to the sky, tears running down his cheeks, and he called out to the Highest, begging for instructions.
But, as he had been since the war had started, the Highest was silent. There was no guidance, no help from the once-bright King. Nothing came from above anymore. The only words now came from below. From the Deeps. And what they said was terrifying.
He slowly stood as he made his decision. It was not the only way. He wished it was, but to be a Sera was to be honest, and he knew it was not the only way. He could fight. He could let the war happen without his involvement. He could try and think of another way he could lend his aid besides his…ability. He had many, many choices besides using his authority to give the Lord General what was needed.
But all of that would take time. Time that he didn’t have.
For the first time in millennia, Torien looked past the High Clouds, past the edge of the Gray Plane, to the world below. He looked to the people that crawled on its surface. He saw their lives, their pains, their sufferings, their successes, their sheer inner brightness that the Highest had created them with.
And with but a word, he tore that brightness from millions of them, leaving the bodies to fall to the ground, empty of anything. With the voice of a Sera, the highest of singers and speakers, he sent them to the battlefield. The skyscape shifted, the red fading as it was pushed further away.
For the first time, the forces of Heaven utilized mortal souls for war. Torien had the feeling that it would not be the last.