Scene 7: The Last Dawn

The days grew shorter and the nights colder, forests were felled and mountains leveled. Messengers traveled south and returned home, some with armies at their backs others with letters filled with false sympathy or empty promises. Weeks past and the snows piled up the sea began to freeze. All the while in the distance, an ever increasing number of flickers of fiery light. Hope, burning in the distance as three companions ventured deeper out into the ice flows. At first two, then three and as the days grew colder and shorter it took longer and longer between the lighting of each Lighthouse.

Weeks spent out on the ice in blinding sunlight and crushing darkness finally led to the hidden fortress built so many centuries ago, now covered in snow save for the highest tower, the Bastion's Great Lighthouse. Unoccupied save for hallways full of snow and rooms packed with ice. Weapons are turned excavation, furiously driving deeper and deeper into the bowels of the fortress hoping to find the mechanism that will light the beacon and lead the way towards the hidden weapon, Endless Dawn.

It takes days to break and batter through the ice and snow that pack the fortress, until Greil brings his hammer down on a ice covered door, it shatters and he is blasted in the face with scalding hot steam. Venturing inside he finds that the lower levels of the Bastion are not only free of ice, but are blistering hot. An orange glow comes from deeper within the fortress and the Warden follows it downwards until, after prying open a great metal door that burns his hands, he finds the secret heart of the Bastion. The Fissure.

In a great hall, so massive whole villages could be housed inside a great scar in the earth spits fire and clouds of steam, pouring forth enough heat to keep the ice at bay. Working the sweltering heat is difficult, if preferable to the biting cold outside. It takes some time, but the beacon is lit and Greil climbs to the top of the Lighthouse to keep watch as Orion and Rune search the fortress for clues to the great weapon said to be inside.

It takes days of research but finally one evening over a meager dinner a breakthrough is made. The Lighthouses do not just hold the darkness and ice at bay, but they form a great sign that can be used to harness the vast energy of the Sun. The Endless Dawn is less cryptic than it appears, Rune reveals to his friends that it actually hold the Sun in place and bathes the frozen wastes of the Arctic in sunlight, melting the ice and eliminating the source of the Ice Trolls strength, the dark of Winter. Reading on he explains the ritual involved, which must take place at Dawn. Greil's face goes dark, he's the only one who's been outside the bowels of the Bastion in over a week. Daylight lasts for mere minutes now. There may be only one Dawn left before the darkness of the Long Winter, where there will be no sunlight at this latitude for almost half a year.

Scraps remain uneaten as bowls clatter to the stone floor as Greil, Rune and Orion realize they must rush to be ready for the coming dawn. Much of the preparation is done, the Beacons of the Thirteen Lighthouses are the key to the ritual but an arcane caster must harness the power of the Fissure and channel that power to the Beacons to catch the Sun as it rises. Orion helps Rune to prepare for the ritual as Greil returns to the Bastion's Lighthouse. Looking out into the darkness he see the lights of the eleven other Lighthouses flickering in the distance. All looks right, but something feels wrong. He counts the Lighthouses, eleven and the Bastion makes twelve. Twelve. One of the Lighthouses has gone out. It's nearby, thank the Gods.

Grabbing his axe Greil sprints down the stairs, taking half a dozen at a time. He finds Orion and Rune discussing where they'll find the mass of arcane energy needed to open the Fissure and start the Ritual. The Goliath utters only a few breathless words before rushing out again, running into the darkness to relight the Lighthouse before dawn. They will never see him again.

Dawn approaches, Rune and Orion are no closer to finding a source of Arcane energy powerful enough for the Ritual. Rune tells Orion to climb the Lighthouse and see if Greil has managed to light the Lighthouse. The sky is beginning to change to a lighter shade of blue as Orion reaches the top of the Lighthouse, looking into the distance he counts the Beacons in the growing light, eleven. The last Beacon remains unlit. With a sigh the monk sits on the rampart to watch the last Dawn. As he centers himself and tunes out the wind and cold he see a flash in the distance. He's on his feet in a flash, he counts again, thirteen! He made it! Greil has lit the Beacon, just as Sun has broached the horizon. Victory at hand the Monk returns to the Fissure as rapidly as he can. As he disappears into the Bastion he thinks he can hear a howl of victory in the distance.

Inside Rune has found a source, he stands at the center of a circle drawn with ash, the runes on his metal body glowing blue. The light emanating from the sorcerer grows brighter and changes to purple then white. Orion hears the sound of metal bending under strain until suddenly the light flickers, at first brighter then not at all. Rune writhes on the ground, power coursing through his body. Orion feels a draft on his neck, turning he see what must have doused the last Lighthouse, the Ice Trolls. Without a garrison to defend it they've come all the way into the heart of the Bastion. A great blue-painted War Chief hoists a crystalline blade as his warriors rush towards Orion and the helpless Rune. The monk flies into action, running across the backs of Trolls twice his size, plunging fists and legs into them and sending them crashing to the ground. But there are too many, he cannot stop them from reaching Rune. They quickly scatter the ash and rend the Warforged limb from limb, he flashes white again for a moment letting out a piercing metallic scream before going silent.

Despair briefly flits over Orion's soul, he's failed and now the Long Winter will give the Ice Trolls their conquest. But something prevents him from simply giving into his fated doom. The Fissure still boils and a final idea comes to him. Drawing deep the Monk centers himself and takes his last breath in this lifetime. The hairs on his arms turn grey and his bones calcify as he forces all of his life energy into a single final blow as he ducks and sidesteps around the swings of the Ice Trolls surrounding him. With barely a flinch he leaps high into the air, the top of his head grazing the high ceiling above the Fissure. Like a meteor falling to earth he plummets, his fist coiled. As the slams into the ground of the Fissure he lets all his energy loose into a single strike. A blast of air staggers the Trolls and they stand in bewilderment as the ground begins to shake and rock falls from the ceiling. The Fissure begins to sit greater and greater gouts of flame and the floor rumbles violently. As the Ice Trolls run from the Fissure Orion sits down, now an old man, folding his legs beneath him he sits and waits for the eruption.