Screaming at the Sky

[TT] I reached the summit, looked up at the sky, and screamed

The dwarves' attack was swift and entirely unexpected. Even the elves, as great as their magic is, were unable to scry the beginnings of war. We believed the land of Yrinx had finally entered into a time of peace. We were fools, every last one of us.

In their subterranean halls, the dwarves constructed war machines the likes of which none in our world had ever seen. Huge contraptions of steel and fire burst forth from the tunnels they'd secretly dug under the major cities of the free people of Yrinx. None of those attacked were prepared. The cities fell at an incredible rate. Within days the capitals of every race were raized to the ground.

It didn't take long for an emergency council to be called. Representatives from each race traveled to the only remaining elven bunker. It survived solely on the backs of the sorcerers pouring their all into its barrier. Everyone was accounted for: orcs, elves, fae, men, even the ents made an appearance. It would have been a beautiful sight were they not gathering for such a tragic reason.

The fae - my people - were the only ones with information. The dwarves had attained such power by extending their mining into an entirely new frontier. They had learned of rare minerals contained within the floating shards of Rin'zz. Rin'zz, the core of the world that was, that which was broken long before any of our time and now hovered above us all as a reminder of the evils war can bring. It had long served as a means of maintaining peace, a way to keep everyone in check by demonstrating what happens when a people go rogue. And now the dwarves were using it to cause another catastrophe.

The elves were skeptical. They questioned the fae, "How could the dwarves have possibly reached the shards of Rin'zz?" A subterranean people taking to the skies; the idea was simply preposterous. Or so everyone thought. The fae borrowed a scrying pan from the elves, and directed everyone's attention to the peaks of Mt. Kadahr. As the magical eye moved ever upward, everyone held their breath. Finally it settled on the summit of the mountain, its stopping accompanied by the combined gasps of all who were present. There, standing at the peak, was what could only be described as a massive sky excavator.

The orcs were outraged. "How could the dwarves construct such a device right under our noses?!" they demanded. The ents scoffed, "Because we allowed ourselves to become complacent." The men were bloodthirsty as always, "If they want a fight, let's give it to them!" They argued for hours. It was a fae who offered forth the final solution. "We'll send a party to destroy the source of their power!"

The plan was simple, but incredibly risky. Each race would be allowed to send one of their own to Mt. Kadahr. They would travel together, a true hero's party. Once there, they would destroy the excavator by any means necessary. It would be challenging. Should they fail, the dwarves would likely conquer all of Yrinx. But in the end, what choice did they have?

The group was gathered with great urgency. I was one of them, the chosen of the fae. We were all tasked with giving our reason for undertaking this task, as well as our greatest fear. They said it would help us bond.

Gro'duum, the orc, "I fight so that my people may never grovel under the boots of any tyrant, let alone a dwarf. My greatest fear is seeing my people in chains." Mossneck, the ent, "I embark on this journey to ensure the mighty forests of this land forever stand tall and proud. The dwarves do not care for trees, and I shall not take root in some cave. My greatest fear is the uncontrollable rage of flame." Salnoriel, the elf, "I seek to restore Yrinx back to its glory days, when the dwarves and the elves crafted alongside each other. My greatest fear is that the land shall be poisoned by the toils of the mortal races, for the magic and life of my people is tied to the life of Yrinx." Ingrid, the human, "I accept this quest to restore glory and honor to the kingdom of man. Long have the free races of Yrinx looked down on my people. By fighting for our freedom, I hope to earn your respect. And my fear is that I may not make it back to my husband and child." Finally, it was my turn. Cedar Oakheart, the fae, "I accompany this troop to establish connections. The fae have long kept to themselves, and I... I want to change that! There's no reason we can't all work together, and what better step than saving the free world? And... and my biggest fear, is being alone..."

With that we set out. We knew it would be an arduous journey to Mt. Kadahr. But all of us would regret underestimating just how arduous it truly was. Mossneck was the first to fall. As we traveled the open planes toward the mountain, the dwarves opened fire. Large, flaming tarballs struck the ground all around us. We ran as fast as we could, but one of the tarballs struck Mossneck square in the back. As the fire enveloped him, we tried everything we could think of him to save him, but to no avail. Within minutes he was gone, a burning heap on the path we would soon leave behind.

Next were Gro'duum and Salnoriel. We entered a pass through a narrow valley. The elf was stricken with grief at the sight of the land. Its essence was nearly gone; the dwarves had ravaged it. She did not have long to grieve, though. We were rushed by a troup of dwarven slavers. They came at us from tunnels hidden in the walls. We all fought valiantly, but none moreso than Gro'duum. I've never seen one person fell so many foes in one battle. Salnoriel stood at his side, using her magic to augment his blade and protect him from blows. But it would not last. The dwarves were numerous, and before long they overwhelmed us. Gro'duum and Salnoriel demanded we flee. Ingrid and I left in tears as our friends kept the dwarves busy long enough for us to get away.

Ingrid and I made it all the way to Mt. Kadahr. As we scaled the fearsome mountain, Ingrid told me about her family back home. Oh how she bragged about her child. She was so proud of that boy. That made it all the more painful when the dwarves dropped the boulders down upon us, dragging her away with them. I was able to dodge away, my small size proving useful in avoiding the rolling stones. Ingrid was not so fortunate. Her cries shrunk away as she was carried down the mountain, and I can only assume she didn't make it.

In the end, only I remained. I couldn't help but sob as I scaled the last of the mountain. The pain was simply unbearable. At last, I reached the summit, looked up at the sky, and screamed. I had made it to the excavator, but at what cost? Those who fell, my friends, had become dear to me. And now, as I stood in front of my goal, a realization hit me with such weight that I fell to my knees. Here at the top of this mountain, I was not just facing the end of my quest; I was facing my greatest fear. For now, at the end of it all, I was completely, and truly, alone.

Long moments of pure agony passed as I struggled to fight against the crippling fear that was doing all it could to suffocate me. How could I go on? Was it even worth it? That's when it happened. The flash of clarity that would change my life forever. I wasn't alone. I would hold onto the memories of my friends forever. Only when I gave up, only when I let those memories die, would I be truly alone.

I steeled my resolve and got off the ground. It was time to end this. I took the small pack of explosives I'd been sent with and made toward the excavator. When they were all placed, I stood back and admired my work. This was it. I wouldn't be able to leave. There was no way I could descend the mountain in time on my own. The original plan was to leave behind an escape route, but that required us all to have made it here together. But I wasn't afraid. For in that moment, when clarity shone bright in my eyes, I realized something: I would soon be with my friends once again. With a smile on my face, I lit the fuse, and waited for our reunion.

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