Project ZEAL

Scene 13 - The Palace in Flames (Aitrus)

A cacophony resounded up and down the length of the hallway. Aias searched all around him, up and down the hallway, trying to figure out where the sound was coming from, but to no avail: he could see no one anywhere in the hall.


The cry made itself heard over the general din, and Aias' head snapped to his right. It was coming from deeper inside the palace. He still couldn't see anyone, but he started running that way. What's going on? he wondered. Wild theories popped up in his mind, but were just as quickly rejected for lack of proof. He rounded the corner and headed up towards the Old Quarter, as the original palace structure was called. And then it hit him.

Literally. A piece of the stonework in the ceiling fell lose and glanced off the back of his head. Aias ducked reflexively and looked at where the stone had come from, but kept going forward. When he finally looked forward, he was nearly blinded by smoke and flame. What? Where did that come from? He looked back the way he had come, and saw more fire, and people fleeing with whatever they could find and carry. He didn't understand what was going on. That hallway was clear a moment ago... He shook his head and pressed on, leaping through the flames and into the maze of stairs and walkways beyond.

"Help!" the cry came again, and Aias tried to figure out where it was. The throne room! He ran, avoiding the fire as much as he could, but still singeing his tunic. He finally bounded up the steps to the throne hall, when he saw that the entire door was on fire and inaccessible. But he had to get in there, had to save his parents, the King and Queen. He chanted a few words and began to cast a Water spell to put out the fire on the doors so he could bust through. What am I doing? he thought. He didn't have magic powers, so why was he chanting? The spell would have fizzled when he thought that, but it had never even formed. Aias stopped and stared down at his hands, the slender fingers pulling the brown gloves tight as he made a fist. Anger coursed through him. He refused to believe that he couldn't get to his family. He had to. If he didn't, they'd die, and that was unacceptable.

Exhaling slowly, he mentally centered itself, hoping that this final effort would work. Then he burst forward, hitting top speed on the third step forward, and slammed into the door with his left shoulder, hitting just between the twin handles on the split between the doors. Fortunately, they gave, and he fell into the antechamber instead of the flames. He still hurt, but he'd rather ache than burn. Pulling himself up, he went towards the doors, which luckily weren't burning this time. He grabbed the handles, and then threw the doors wide open.

He wished he hadn't. The entire room was in flames, from about two meters in front of the door to the back of the room. The twin thrones in the center of the room were still above the flames, but it was too late. There was no way he could get to them, and as the flames closed in from the antechamber, there was no way he could leave, either. All he could do was sit here and watch as not only he died, but as his parents died with him. Anger coursed through his veins, through his blood, and finally tore out of his throat, a primal scream which would have turned spines to jelly had anyone been present who wasn't about to die in flames.

He sat up and realized that the whole thing had been a dream. Well, except for the sweat, the terror, and the very real scream that had just escaped his throat. He threw off the sheets and walked -- well, stumbled was more like it -- over towards a table in the center of the room. He opened up a drawer and removed a pair of pills, and them took them with the water he had from the table. Before the sleeping pill took effect, Aias wrote a note to himself to contact one of Zeal's myriad of dream experts about this before the day was out. He'd had the dream before, but he hadn't woken up this violently before. I'd better get it checked out before it gives me an ulcer or something. With that thought he crossed back to his bed and fell asleep again, this time falling into a dreamless sleep.

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