Varra’s sword was out in a flash. Bolting out of the infirmary and into the thoroughfare, she was met with a battle of dark and light. The streets were cloaked in darkness due to the Shadow, but several torches illuminated doorways and signs, carts and wagons. Most people stood stock still, a wreath of horror painted over their face. They all looked up, towards the direction of the palace. When Varra turned around to see it, it was hard to mask her own fears.
A pillar of blue light shot directly upwards, impossibly high as it faded into the distance. The ground was still humming, but it was accompanied now by the sound of murmurs of trepidation and shouts of worry.
“Stay calm!” she shouted to nobody in particular. “Get to shelter immediately!” Few noblemen would be out during the Shadow, Night Seal or not, so most of these people would be servants, but they were still her people. It was the Hand of Defense’s duty to protect all of Tebrein.
She ran through the palace gates and then into the entrance hall. She passed no guards on her way, which didn’t ease her fears. The council would be meeting upstairs in a room overlooking the courtyard. The council she should be at. If anyone was hurt, the blame would be hers alone.
When she stepped back outside into the inner courtyard, nearly two dozen palace guards were surrounding the Spear Gate, which glowed with a brilliance rivaling the sun. The entire courtyard was bathed in a dull blue light, illuminating the otherwise dark garden. The long shadows of the guards shifted slightly back and forth as they shuffled around, prepared for anything. Varra shielded her eyes as she approached. The humming was loud now. It was the tone of an enormous bell that didn’t quiet with time.
“What’s happened?!” she yelled towards the nearest guard, a grizzled man with a beard that didn’t meet regulation.
“Don’t know!” he replied, fumbling a salute before returning to his defensive stance staring at the Gate. “It just started glowing and making that sound!”
“Go g—” as soon as she started voicing her command, she recognized Eathe ahead of them, moving purposely and directing guards with hand signals and shouts. She brushed past the guard without another word and ran up to him.
The guard captain stood a strong contrast of everyone else in the courtyard. He was calm and calculative. His sword remained in its scabbard.
“Exalted One!” he bowed as deep as always in greeting. “I suppose you’ll want to take command of the situation? I believe I have it mostly handled, already though.”
“I’m… uh…” Varra found herself speechless. “I thought you were still on the perimeter running checks on the constructors?”
“Not really necessary for the Guard Captain to be doing something like that. My being here was actually a happy coincidence, actually. I had been looking for you, and then… Well, this happened.”
Time and time again, he had more than earned his title. She swallowed and nodded, sheathing her own blade, despite her fears. A leader should always be in control, and even if danger did come, there were still plenty of guards here. “Very well,” she stated. “You’ve sent for reinforcements from the outer wall?”
“And you’ve made sure the civilians in the perimeter are safe?”
“That was my first order,” he smiled.
“What about the other Hands?”
“Half the palace guard are protecting them as we speak.”
“Good. Your assessment of the situation?”
Eathe frowned, glancing in the direction of the glowing obelisk. “Hard to say. It doesn’t seem to be threatening anyone, but I’ve never seen anything like this. I was planning on pulling double duty and making sure security is tight everywhere until we figure out what’s going on. Do you have any ideas?”
Right. Eathe had no idea what the Spear Gate really was. Nobody did, outside the Hands and their seconds. That information was locked tight.
But at the same time, that put the city at even more risk. Eathe had already handled the situation exactly as she would have hoped. Better than she could have dreamed. How much better could he do his job if he knew the real threat? For all anyone knew, a thousand men could come pouring out of that brilliant light at a moment’s notice. Tebrein would fall within hours.
Even as she thought about telling him everything, though, the light seemed to dim. The humming began to subside. The two of them turned to the Spear Gate to watch as the pillar of radiance weakened into a beam, and soon it was dim enough to see the obelisk itself, now impossibly shattered into a dozen shards, levitating into the shape of a doorway. As the humming faded, the shards gravitated towards each other and snapped back into place and reforging the familiar and unnerving form of a large spear pointing straight up.
The courtyard was left once more in stillness and shadow.