Clark Gillian

The Devious Dragon and the Fall of the Emperor


Chapter 13.
Heaven and Earth Splitting open.

The City of Sheets stretched before them, a vibrant tapestry of bridges draped over river-like streets. Boats instead of wagons glided down waterways, while the distant mountain cast a majestic yet crumbling shadow over the city.

"There she is," the Bard intoned, gesturing towards the mountain's weathered peak. "The Crumbling Mountain."

A moment of awe settled over them, the beauty almost eclipsing their urgent mission. But the peace was brutally shattered.

A monstrous crack tore through the earth, ripping open the very road beneath their horses' hooves. The beasts reared in wild panic, scrambling for purchase on the crumbling ground.

But their escape was futile. The chasm yawned wider, a hungry maw splitting the City of Sheets in two. It surged towards the mountain, its relentless hunger culminating in a deafening crunch as it tore the behemoth from its base – a sound ripped straight from a nightmare.

"Ho!" the Bard choked out, terror seizing his voice.

The Knight of Spears echoed him, his grip tightening on the pommel of his sword. They were helpless bystanders to the unfolding cataclysm.

The Crumbling Mountain, now an unstable giant, began its agonizing descent. Dust clouds erupted from its wounded flanks, obscuring the sky as boulders cascaded down like a macabre waterfall.

"Good heavens," the Knight whispered, his breath ragged.

The Bard remained rooted to the spot, mute witness to the devastation. The mountain, fragmented and unstoppable, hurtled towards the city, its aim a lethal embrace.

On one side, it met the harbor with a thunderous impact, shattering piers, crushing boats, and sending precious cargo flying into the churning sea.

The crumbling mountain, fractured and unstoppable, carved a path through the City of Sheets. On one side, it met the harbor with a thunderous kiss, shattering piers and crushing boats in its relentless embrace. Precious cargo rained down upon the churning sea, a macabre offering to the hungry depths.

On the other side, the city streets succumbed to a stony cataclysm. Bridges groaned under the mountain's weight, collapsing into the canals with sickening crunches. Houses, mansions, schools, and watchtowers crumbled under the avalanche, their screams of shattered brick and timber swallowed by the rising dust.

But the earth's wrath wasn't sated. The sea, having devoured a mountain, turned its fury on the land. Roaring waves surged forward, consuming the city piece by piece, claiming panicked citizens in their icy grasp.

From their vantage point, the Knight and the Bard watched, horror etched on their faces. "It's coming this way," the Bard croaked, his voice barely audible over the approaching roar.

No need for spurs. Fear was their whip, propelling their horses into a desperate gallop. Yet the waves were gaining, swallowing the land with monstrous hunger.

"What in the heavens is happening?" the Knight cried, the wind whipping his words away.

The Bard, speechless, struggled to comprehend the unfolding nightmare. Their ears were filled with the thunderous advance of the waves, growing ever closer.

Seawater lashed at their horses' hooves, a chilling reminder of their precarious reality. The Bard, with a desperate cry, leapt onto the back of his steed, raising his wand towards the approaching wall of water.

"Source of light, protect us!" he roared, his voice swallowed by the storm. Jumping again, he landed with a heavy thud, planting his wand firmly in the ground.

A brilliant bubble of light erupted, enveloping them in its shimmering embrace. Just as the waves crashed down, they were completely submerged, the world outside replaced by an eerie silence broken only by their ragged breaths.

Through the bubble's membrane, they witnessed the devastation – shattered homes, uprooted trees, and the tragic remnants of lives swept away. Drowned animals and people alike bobbed helplessly in the gargantuan current emanating from the obliterated city.

The Knight, watching the Bard, saw the strain etched on his face. With every fiber of his being, the Bard held the bubble against the crushing weight of the sea.

"Hold on!" the Knight bellowed, his voice laced with urgency.

The Bard offered a curt nod and a fleeting smile. With each passing moment, the light bubble strained his arms, forcing him to his knees moments later.

"Look!" he gasped.

The debris whirled in reverse, revealing the receding water. Once the torrent subsided entirely, the Bard shattered the bubble, collapsing into the Knight's arms.

"Come," the Knight grunted, hoisting the Bard onto his horse. "We'll find the nearest inn. You need food to regain your strength."

The Bard sputtered, struggling to speak. "Where's the nearest inn?"

"The Proud City of Flowers," the Knight replied.

"That far?" the Bard wheezed. "I can't hold on…"

"You will," the Knight declared, snatching the reins of both horses.

They navigated the washed-up boats, flattened trees, shattered tiles, barren fields, and collapsed houses, finally reaching dry land near the Proud City of Flowers. Onward they pressed, until the Knight deemed a quiet inn close enough for the Bard to secure a nourishing meal and water.

Alas, the Proud City of Flowers wasn't flooded by water, but by humanity, a surge of refugees escaping the catastrophe at the last minute.

Despite the throngs, the Bard and the Knight secured a table within the thick city walls. Over a simple meal of cheese, soup, and barley water, the Bard observed the constant flow of weary travelers seeking lodging, only to be turned away.

"Spear," he rasped, "these signs aren't good. We need to move, and swiftly."

"You need rest," the Knight countered firmly. "Stay put and rebuild your strength. These, Bard, are not mere signs. These are catastrophes."

Shivering, the Bard nodded while slurping his soup, the tremors from the earlier flood still wracking his body. Even with his meager repast, his prophetic words proved chillingly accurate. Before they could finish their meal, a chorus of terrified screams rose above the city's din.

"What's happening?" gasped the Bard, a sliver of strength returning thanks to the warm broth.

The answer arrived with a terrifying spectacle. A comet, ablaze with celestial fury, carved through the inn's roof, splintering the timbers like matchsticks. With lightning reflexes, the Knight yanked the Bard out from under the collapsing table. They scrambled outside, joining the throngs who hadn't been buried alive under the debris. Chaos reigned in the streets - some citizens ran in blind panic, while others stood frozen, pointing at the apocalyptic scene above.

Jagged cracks split the heavens, unleashing a torrent of shooting stars that rained fire upon the city. The Bard watched with gut-wrenching agony as the Count's grand castle, once a symbol of unwavering strength, crumbled like a child's sandcastle. Its legendary stones rained down amidst the deafening explosions, adding to the symphony of destruction.

"The world is ending!" the Knight bellowed, hauling the Bard towards safety.

"Indeed," the Bard concurred, his voice barely audible over the pandemonium. "A new power is wanting to reign over ashes."

No refuge remained. The city fractured around them, buildings splintering under the celestial bombardment. The Knight of Spears hoisted the Bard onto his shoulder, urgency driving his steps. Nearby, a gaggle of children huddled under a crumbling pergola.

"Run, children, run! The stars fall, and nowhere holds safety!" Tears streaked their faces as they scurried past collapsing houses and erupting streets.

"Staying is no haven!" the Knight roared, dodging an inferno that consumed a nearby stall.

The Bard, still gasping for breath, rasped, "This task... We cannot share it anymore, Spear."

"What then?" despair tinged the Knight's voice.

"Below. Seek the caverns beneath the earth."

Hope flickered in the Knight's eyes. "Indeed!"

They raced through the maelstrom, dodging explosions and showers of debris. Their goal: a facade adorned with eleven steps and a weather-beaten rooster with five feathered plumes.

Finally, the Emperor's Cellar came into view. With a burst of relief, they plunged inside, seeking sanctuary and finding more than just safety. Within the dimly lit cavern, flickering with candlelight, they discovered companions.

"How can we serve the Emperor when the heavens shatter?" the Knight's voice echoed in the hushed chamber.

Silence descended, punctuated only by the distant groans of a dying city. Outside, the cacophony began to ebb, leaving behind an unsettling stillness.