She stood in the shadow of the Lightspire as she had for time out of mind. Lightning lanced across the roiling skies; thrums of thunder bucked the ground beneath her. He took a special pleasure in meteorological taunts, doubtless as a subtle reminder of their shared elemental origins.
For a year or even briefer, she contemplated her gleaming wards, twirling steadily above the blasted mesa as he glided among them, hosts of creatures spurting from his slimy wake with anguished moans. Periodically he stopped, appraised the nearest, and casually lashed it with a crackling whip. Testing her defenses.
Careful if I were you . She folded her arms. Remember last time?
Indeed, I recall a much more violent reaction. Do you weaken? Or do you still expect relief from those little maggots in which Our creators misplaced so much energy?
His words stung. She thought again of the many visiting souls she had placed such hopes on, only to watch as he snuffed them out with careless ease before they even came within sight of the towering Lightspire.
The taking of such brief lives should not have affected her so deeply. Their grandest ambitions were as fleeting as breezes. Nevertheless, every casualty nevertheless withered her more deeply than the loss of all Eldan combined. Perhaps that itself was the reason. With each death, a spark of limitless potential winked out, nullified forever. Because of her.
Because she was too weak to take him alone.
Much as she dreaded admitting it, her wards were waning. The notion of admitting weakness before him appalled her, but maybe he was right. The universe was flawed and worsening rapidly. Perhaps the only way forward was to start over. The sooner she accepted it, the quicker they could rebuild.
Almost sadly, he signaled. His legions instantly fell to clawing and gnashing at the wards, dying in droves and ceaselessly replenishing.
Her vision blurred and dimmed. She opened her mouth to announce capitulation. And noticed he was frowning past her, at approaching specks in the distance.
Expecting guests? For once his tone was devoid of mockery. If I were you, I would compel them aside. An edge she didn’t recognize had crept into his voice. Doubt? These interruptions wear my patience.
Laughter rippled from her lips. Stop them, if you can.
You won’t oppose me?
Her replying smile instantly incinerated his legions thousands deep in their tracks. I didn’t say that.
And her wards flamed back to life.