…After the Wars of Extinction, the Cleansing Wars, the Champions of Rajaat became the all-powerful sorcerer-monarchs of Athas, overthrowing their master when it was found that they, too, would become victims of his desire to return Athas to the near-mythical Blue Age…
“So, do you think we did the right thing?”
“Destroying the world?”
They looked out upon the barren dust, the heaped corpses their armies were piling onto a massive, smoking funeral pyre downwind. Carelessly tossing bodies of comrades and enemies alike onto the blazing, stinking pile. The billowing black column of greasy smoke could be seen for miles. Centuries ago, such a scene might have disturbed either of them.
The dark-skinned man frowned, “I am not so certain.” He shaded his eyes and stared out at the sun, burning red as it moved down the olive-colored sky towards the horizon.
His companion, the lion-maned Champion once most favored of Rajaat remained silent, and after a time the dark man spoke again, “What now?”
“The world is dying.”
“So, you are saying Rajaat should have been allowed to continue, to complete this mad quest of his, that we all should have died on his sacrificial altar?”
There was a great snort of derision from the lion-maned man, “Hardly. I don’t know that it would have been worth the price. I have my people to protect. Rajaat was as much a betrayer as Myron.”
“Some might say the same of you,” the dark-skinned man hinted slyly, looking sidewise at his companion.
A brief moment of rage worked itself across the strong, handsome features of the Champion who had taken up the mantle of the Troll-Scorcher, who had driven that race to extinction and slain their king, Windreaver, burying his body within the smoking crater of a volcano raised by a terrible act of sorcery; the Champion who had been the most favored of the First Sorcerer, Rajaat, and who had become the First Sorcerer’s greatest enemy, the betrayer who had buried his blade in the back of his one-time master and friend.
“Rajaat proved himself the betrayer before I ever struck a blow against him. I did not slaughter the trolls for him so that Rajaat could slaughter my people in return.” He spit into the dust.
The murdering blade hung now at his side, a gift from Rajaat to his favored Champion at the beginning of the Wars, forged in magic to help him slay the trolls and the other enemies of the Restoration, the most powerful of a triumvirate of legendary blades, and the one that had dealt a fatal blow to the First Sorcerer.
More silence passed and the thick cloud of black smoke billowed up from the field below and into the ash-choked sky. How many had fallen in this last battle? How many countless thousands? Millions, perhaps? Rajaat’s loyal servants and terrible creations against the full might of the Champions’ armies. Of them all, only a fraction had survived the devastation of that day.
“We take the survivors to the old places, and guard them until the end comes. What else is there to do? We guard humanity, and those others of the Reborn who will let us, from the end of this world. Guard and protect them even as we did today, from Rajaat.”
“There seems little hope in that course, to sit and wait for the world to die, and clutch onto what little life remains.”
“All things die,” the lion-maned warrior responded, staring off into the distance.
“All things except us,” the dark-skinned man countered.
Another long pause passed between them as they continued watching the survivors of the armies collect bodies and burn them on the great pyre. Insects scurrying across the black fields of battle, whose lives were only brief flickers in the grand pattern of ages.
The warrior knew the names of some below, but he could not remember them at the moment…too many names over the endless years. Men who had come and gone, had fought and died, or fought and lived, only to die later in their beds of age or disease. Men whose names he had once called in the heat of battle, and now could no longer summon up from the depths of his long memory.
“Protecting my people is all that I know. It is all I am,” he said, looking out upon the faceless mass of scurrying men below, “I would not abandon man now.”
The red orb of the sun savaged the sky with the colors of nightfall, purples and pinks streaming through the black mass of distant smoke that filled the air, like the souls of the dead shining as they drifted into oblivion.
“There is no salvation here. We cannot build from ashes. We will protect what little we have left, and continue on, guarding the few acres of life left to us. We will not let Rajaat destroy us, even from beyond the grave,” he finished a few moments later.
His thoughts had turned to the devastation wrought upon the world, of the vast lands ruined and turned to ash and sand, of the dying sun above that even now was aging too rapidly and would one day flicker and go out. If they were careful, they could make it last.
The dark-skinned man stood quietly nearby, watching the sun’s descent, keeping his quiet thoughts to himself. Hammanu, the warrior, suddenly smiled at the other’s serious reflection and turned, extending his hand to the other, “Thank you for talking with me, Keltis, my friend.”
They clasped one another’s forearms and parted as the dying, red sun set beyond the horizon, never to rise upon that age again, for tomorrow’s dawn would mark the beginning of a new age.
The Dark Sun setting, and all its characters, are copyright Wizards of the Coast. No infringement upon WotC’s ownership is intended or implied.
Copyright (c)2005 Raven Daegmorgan