The coast was dazzlingly bright, opalescent sands reflecting the long sunlight like a million minuscule crystal mirrors; the light sprayed in all directions, creating an exotic glow that outweighed the luminance of the distant sun.
The water did not lap at the shoreline, did not foam and froth in the surf, but receded steadily from the gleaming beach; waves rippled the midnight-dark surface of the water as the ocean poured steadily away from the land.
Rai Gerring stood at the edge of the world and wondered how the hells he’d managed to find himself here, blinded by the refracted light, captivated by the darkness of the waters he knew to be ice-cold and stinging with salt. A man would sooner freeze than drown if he tried to swim this sea.
He knew. He’d seen it happen.
The sun was a brilliant point of light far behind him, its slanting rays reaching across the entire disc of the world before igniting the sand to radiance. Between him and the sun, the sky over the world was reddening, a bloody smear left in the wake of the sun’s descension.
The wind brushed him, spitting hard grains of sand against his black cloak and sweeping them from beneath his slippered soles. Rai tucked his hood lower and stared at the empty horizon where the sea dropped away into the void of space.
When he looked up into the ebony sky, away from the shoreline’s glow, he fancied he could see the distant glimmer of sparks so far away from any of the worlds that no one knew what caused them. Perhaps another universe, not quite within sailing distance; perhaps shimmering demon-fires from all the layers of hell that existed above and below the worlds.
Quietly, forcedly calmly, Rai stepped forward, eyes unfocusing as he reached himself towards the darkness sleeping so potently within the retreating water. If he could but bring enough shadows from the depths, he could leave; he could get out of here before anything stupid and fateful happened.
The darkness didn’t budge, latent beneath the surface, heedless of his increasingly insistent tugging. He had never felt such stubborn shadows; he had never been refused even a gentle request before.
I shouldn’t be here, Rai hissed to himself, thin hands slipping from his sleeves. His skin was as pale as the sand, fingers and palms etched in black and red runes. I can’t stay here. This place is a myth. No one reaches the edge of any world. Destiny can go to its favorite hell for all I care.
I want gone.
Since he was alone, Rai figured it wouldn’t do any harm to pull up every pulse of magic he could command and unleash it in a bid to return to the bedroll he had so innocently left behind. He drew a breath, caged it in his lungs, and tilted his head to the black sky of the void above him.
The last time he had used his full power, he had killed a hundred people and destroyed the world magic for miles in every direction.
Rai exhaled. The sky dropped like viscous ink, severing the stretched rays of sunlight, drowning him in shadow. His cloak billowed, outstretched wings made of simple cloth, buffering him against the now-freezing wind as it gusted wildly, shoving at him, trying to make him stop.
Slowly, the darkness crept out of the water, a roiling layer of intangible sludge, coiling dank tendrils around his ankles as it swept around him. I should not be here, he hissed, bringing everything he could command into an oval sphere around him.
There was a thunderclap loud enough to obliterate a mountain–
–when Rai opened his eyes, he was laying in his bedroll, muscles weak from deep sleep rudely interrupted. Nearby, Brandon let out an erratic snore.
Rai let himself breathe and tried to still the shaking in his limbs. The visions were getting worse.
[Author’s Note: This is a longer short story, set in Gurhai, and one of few such things that I’ve actually finished. I’m notoriously bad about capturing an entire story arc in less than ten thousand words, but this one is only 6600-some. I wrote it in four parts, hence the sectioning-off. Also, the title is … unofficial, but true to the story contents . Enjoy!]
Arista Reenla opened her eyes and stared into the shadowed rafters, which were untouched by the light thrown from the open doorway. “Report,” she growled, propping herself up on one elbow and squinting as she tried to peer past the torch to identify the man who’d woken her.
“Milady,” the man said, his very tone begging for forgiveness for his intrusion, “we have sighted an unknown ship off the port bow. The ship’s captain requests an audience with you immediately.”
She tried not to sigh as she recognized the face of one of her newest men, a knight named Padryk Vessus. “Where is Captain Keng?”
“He’s– well, right now he’s up in the observation nest, but he said he’d meet you on first deck, milady.” Padryk hovered nervously in the doorway. “Shall I tell him…?”
“Yes, yes,” Arista muttered. “I’ll be up momentarily. Leave me be to dress.”
“Milady!” the knight acknowledged sharply, drawing his shoulders square in a bodily salute before stepping backwards and shutting the door, leaving her in welcome darkness.