I turn left and sprint through the narrow refuse-cluttered space between two buildings toward the Wall. On the other side, I break out into a narrow alley and run down it until I find another gap. The tenements lining the street beyond are ramshackle, mostly abandoned. I run on through a skeletal frame of rotting wood and in a gap next to a collapsed structure beyond that, breaking out into the empty area between between the Lydia and the ruined Hall of Law.
Holy goddess of the northern forests.
The Hall of Law is a dusty pile of rubble, completely destroyed. Beyond it, a large section of the Wall has collapsed outward into the human city and lies there, broken, over the human buildings it crushed in its fall. Large chunks of the Hall’s exterior walls stick out at odd angles from the muddy ground between me and the ruins, thrown there by the force of the explosion that destroyed the Hall.
When Mýldir lit the blood rune on fire, the resulting explosion must have blown the Hall of Law and the Wall behind it apart. That’s why the he never finished the job. He and his guards were killed here, blasted into ash by the destruction of the rune.
Destroying the rune wasn’t part of the planned burning of Elftown. Mýldir did it for me, as a favor.
Three more deaths on my head.
There is a fissure in the wet earth, running from the ruins to the row of houses to my left. When the House of Law exploded, the force collapsed the underground tunnel and the secret underground chamber. If Mýldir and the others had fled back down the tunnel, they would have been buried alive.
I liked Mýldir. The guards who accompanied him were decent enough elves, too.
For once, the anger doesn’t come.
I stand in the rain staring listlessly at the rubble. I feel nothing. Just cold. Cold and wet.
I don’t know how long I’ve been there when a voice interrupts my nothingness.
“Hail! You there!”
A sense of impending danger pulls me to action. I whip out my scythe and crouch, ready to strike, and I turn toward the direction of the voice. Humans! A pack of guards!
“Be at ease,” says the armored figure at the head of the group, and I realize that it is a woman. She is beautiful, for a human, with long blond hair coiled in braids piling high upon her head like a helm. Her armor is shiny and clean, and in her hand she holds a staff, the head of which is encircled by warm yellow-white light. The sigil of one of the human gods is emblazoned on her staff and on the mace hanging from her belt.
She is a priestess.
“We will not hurt you,” she says with a gentleness that belies her martial attire.
As I look closer, I see that this is no party of guards. There are two guards flanking her, but they do not have the look of an Elftown patrol. They are likely her personal temple guards. The other humans behind them look like simple townsfolk, of varying ages from barely adult to elderly. What the hell?
“We’re here to help,” she continues. “Come with us and we can lead you to safety and heal your wounds. Or, if you are well and strong, you can help us rescue others and put out the fires.”
I stand up straighter and slip my sickle back into my belt.
“You’re too late, Priestess,” I say with as much gentleness as I can muster. I have not one single memory of an act of human kindness. Presented with one now, I am at a loss.
I spread my hands out in a confused gesture of nonaggression.
“The elves are gone, under the wall and far away by now. I am the last one, lighting the last fires. We want Elftown to burn. We’re done being prisoners here.”
She stares, as surprised by my words as I am by her presence. She opens her mouth, but I speak first, quickly.
“I thank you for your concern and the generous impulses which brought you here. But I will not go with you. I am going with my people, if it is not too late. If you would still help, you may wish to make your way to the docks. There may be others there: nameless humans, merchants and sailors fled from their burning ships, maybe a few elves who hid rather than flee. Save them if you can. As for the rest-“ I gesture toward the buildings behind me. “-let it burn. This was an evil place. Let it die.”
I turn away and slip between the buildings the way I came, running for Rien’s warehouse.