Silence. And darkness. But such a darkness! Not the darkness that scurries under a moonless sky nor even that which resides at the torn edges of the universe. This darkness was tangible. It flooded into every nook, into every cavity and scoured every crevice. It sought after light and devoured it. Life lay writhing and choking in its wake, still blinded by the shattering bolt which had ripped the sky asunder and heralded its coming; but even the jagged impression of that bolt, burning still in the minds of many, could not erase the profound and unnerving episodes that had preceded it.First had come the pounding. It had resounded throughout Isladoron until the very bedrock was reverberating to its tune. Slowly at first, but then an abrupt quickening, until its pitch mirrored the beating of several million hearts across a quailing continent.

To those on Djebal Doron had then come a terrible rending, an unnatural tearing, as the fabric of the pyramid at their midst appeared to disintegrate above them and searing beams of pulsing white light had burst at random through its ruptured sides. The night sky had been instantly transformed and the mystical city had burned phosphor bright, only to be plunged into darkness with the next jolting beat. Only to be rekindled.

Elsewhere, all eyes had been turned inwards as a flashing beacon lit up their horizon. Even as far south as Tarrak Kanga, night had been briefly day.

Then the pounding had ceased and the white Stone had drawn a final lingering breath. One extravagant inhalation as its aura imploded, to leave Isladoron exposed to all that would see it destroyed. It had held that breath as the seas bore down upon it; it had held that breath as the comet flashed its farewell; it had held that breath as suffocating blackness drew its cloak into ever tightening folds. It held that breath still.

 

As the planet’s surface had creaked and groaned and wrestled with the mantle below, so were islands born. Sulfurous fumes had mingled with flaming naphtha, with bubbling larva, and ponderous dark clouds had risen unopposed from the sea. Caught in their brooding bulk were the silicon motes of a thousand eruptions, as volcanoes new and old had spewed their contents upwards. Then downwards had come interplanetary dust, ensnared as the comet had unceremoniously shaken its tail. It had touched upon the spluttering silicon innards of the planet and recoiled, its refined crystalline form offended that such uncouth particles should aspire to its own exalted level.

But not so on Isladoron. With the implosion of its protective aura, particles from high and low alike had been sucked in to converge above the Inner Sea, thence to collide and hurtle upwards in a spiraling cylinder, where they had coalesced into mushrooming blackness. And had slowly descended.

 

Silence. In Khanju only the giddying peaks of Mor managed to stretch their tentative tips through the settling blanket as demons stirred and magic crackled once more across its writhing jungles and empty wastelands. So entwined were the towers of Chok Apûl with the festering canopy of bloated vines seeking to drag them down, that only its checkered plazas took offense, the excesses of their garish paving finally submitting to dark monochrome. The crumbling slate roofs of Zora-Rak barely stirred, nor the drab granite shells that supported them. Far to the west, the gnarled turrets of a lonely and forbidding castle were obscured with scarce a whimper.

Silence. The twinkling lights of Skorfjord were snuffed out one by one. Doors were jammed tight and shutters barred but still the insidious visitor crept in. Even in the bowels of Joel’s Keep people coughed and spluttered. The flares that marked the top of Haan’s Wall had long since been doused, but the stonework was as indifferent to the descending shroud as it had been to the wave that had just swept up the Great Strait. The noxious cloud that hung heavy over Robahar was finally smitten and the fires that had burned there were smothered. To the south of Kartha Nagal the boughs of the great forests creaked and many broke beneath the onslaught, but the tombs that resided there were spared a dusty sacrilege, for the oaks above were old and stout. To the north and east of the city no favors were forthcoming, as the steppe went from rolling green to featureless black in but an instant.

Silence. Those on the upper slopes of Skal had looked down upon that which was left of the lower slopes, most of it shattered and splintered and floating in the bay. But now their view was mercifully obscured. The trail of devastation that passed around the southernmost tip of their land and into Bunanga Bay likewise fell out of sight beneath the descending pall. Its final act was to cover the dunes that backed onto Kathustra Pavalorn so that they lay strewn like beached whales before its alabaster towers. Only the impervious heights of Tarrak Kanga had gone unmolested; its cruel lords surveyed the debris below as it washed up on their harsh territory, bloated bodies shredded on coral shores.

They were not alone in their observations.