Lugh cursed the slippery magic that allowed his opponent to evade him. He felt through the soft soles of his boots the slight tremor as the Sidhe traveled beneath him. Lugh rushed to follow. As Jhaer reemerged from the ground, a great tremor rocked the courtyard. A crack climbed the outer wall like a growing vine, reaching ever higher.
“Trying to bring down the entire castle?” he snapped at Jhaer. “Danu is in there!”
The Unseelie stumbled backwards before catching himself; his wide eyes followed the crack in the wall. “Would I knock myself off balance? Open your eyes, Lugh! Something is wrong!"
Lugh rode out the next quake, but just barely. His feet remained under him only by his fey grace. Thunder rolled across the sky and then the sky itself flickered. Or rather the magic that gave the ceiling of the Mounds the appearance of a sky. Fractures like a spider’s web shattered the illusion. As long as Lugh lived, the Mounds would have sunlight, so even without the sky and sun illusions, the world was not cast into darkness. But without the magic the great bowl of rock overhead became visible for the first time in Lugh’s thousands of years of recollection.
“All-Mother…” he breathed. The dread stabbed him like a knife to the heart. Danu was in peril. And so were the Mounds.
Jhaer raised his hands, fingers curled as if clutching something invisible. The cacophony from the crumbling rock slowed to the rumbling roll of distant thunder. The ceiling caved in elsewhere, the echoes reached them across the expanse of the Mounds, but Jhaer’s mastery held the rock above them together. The Unseelie trembled with great personal strain. Sweat beaded along his skin and made his black hair glisten.
“Help Danu! NOW! I can't… hold it up… much longer!"
Cursing the magic that prevented him from teleporting, Lugh found his feet before Jhaer finished speaking. The rock wall Jhaer erected before the castle broke into chunks that slumped without Jhaer’s will binding its shape. Lugh bound over the debris and raced into the castle, even as all others scrambled to flee it. He dodged great chunks of falling plaster as it crashed from the buttresses arching high above the rotunda and grand staircase. The rubble shattered on the marble stairs. Plaster dust floated on the air currents like mist as Lugh cut through. Screams echoed from everywhere. Lesser fey scrambled to and fro, but Lugh paid no heed to any of them. He saw no Sidhe. Not one.
Heart pounding, he used the handrail to catapult himself as he raced up the long, curving stairwell to the second level. No one need tell him where to find the All-Mother. All fey connected to the Mounds possessed a sense of her. No guards manned the watch outside the throne chamber. No bodies strewn about to explain their absence. No blood. No dropped weapons. Fear for friends and lovers kindled behind the greater dread that brought him to a sliding stop on the dust-covered floor just inside the chamber.
In the center of the oval chamber… a lone woman curled onto her side on the floor. The fine layer of debris dulled the shine of the blond hair draped about her. Her slender back, decorated with premium fey brocade and lace, faced him. Like a finely crafted statue, she remained stone still. Unalive.
Part 4/7 of "End of the World" coming on 11/11/11!