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Zeydar awoke to the sound of screams, the magic against his skin scraping him like blades. Fear, warning, pain: his magic screamed. Wake up, was what it was telling him. Slipping from his bed, Zeydar moved across his room towards the window and balcony, throwing it open. He expected to be met by the city lights that would calm what ever panic had overtaken him. Instead, Arcadia was burning.
The gardens and parks were up in flames, like pillars of lights in the surrounding areas beyond the limits of Campus, but close enough to feel the heat. Sirens were screaming in the air. The tall sky scrapers were all dark or glitching out in flickering light and broken glass. He could hear the faint chants of people, chants that were moving closer to Star campus, along with the sounds of explosions. All around him a ripple raced along the air, damage to the barrier. And then he felt it break, a snap that made magic breath in anguish. There was yelling, spells flying, sirens, and so many alarms, all at once. His once silent living tower was thrown into the torrent of sound and light.
In the musk of the smoke and flame above, Zeydar could see the shadows of figures inhumane, casting their image to the dome overhead. Inhumane screams, the sounds of guns. More guns and magic, getting closer. Screams. Chanting. The campus was on fire and buildings were falling.
“Zeydar.” Tyler called from the door.
“Tyler what is happening —“ Turning to the door, Zeydar saw the one man who had always held his confidence, bleeding profusely. Tyler’s side was majorly wounded despite the pressure he tried to give it by holding the wound. Zeydar’s gut told him that if Tyler moved the hand, he’d die on the spot. Without finishing his question, Zeydar raced over to him as Tyler stumbled into the room. “What happened to you? Why is Arcadia on fire?”
“Monsters. The Project said the monsters would come and they came. They came in the riots. Everyone is in danger. The riots haven’t encountered the monsters, but they are here. You are in danger.”
“Why?” His tower was secure was it not? Even without the magic barrier? The alarms weren’t going off. But how had Tyler gotten injured?
His mind snapped to focus on the injuries that were making his floor a sea of red: healing.
Zeydar went to go find his Staff as Tyler stopped him. “The rioters. They still do not know of the monsters. We are repelling the monsters, but the rioters were trying to take the city. They are coming here. They are both inside. You need to move. Use the rioters as cover.”
“Let me help you.” Zeydar yanked his hand away, going to try to find his Staff in his room. The lights weren’t working, and he didn’t want to listen to the magic. It was telling him to run without the Staff, to give it up and not to care, to get somewhere safe. It was tingling at his palms saying he could heal Tyler without a Staff. But he would not leave Tyler and he would never risk using magic without a Staff. Searching for it, he heard the sound of moaning. Tyler had a Staff, Zeydar realized belatedly.
It was as Zeydar went to return to Tyler that he saw the light and the shadows at his door. He heard the footsteps and the sound of people intruding in the halls. Tyler was not moaning in pain, it was a spell words said in anguish, a destruction spell.
“Tyler?” Zeydar knew what sort of spell it was. “No.”
Tyler did not say another word other than to give him a look of mixed love and pain. He finished the spell and he became a blinding light. Zeydar dove beside his bed gripping the Staff that had rolled under. He cast a spell about himself as the explosion shook the tower, sending his room into flames. Tears poured from his eyes, knowing that there was no way Tyler survived with his injuries. He should have been able to help the Superior. Protection spell cast, Zeydar fell through the rubble as the entire floor was destroyed and the boarding tower that had been his home for years began to collapse in on itself. Instinct took over as he blasted a hole through a wall to help himself get out. Flight spell, Zeydar gasped feeling that his magic told him that it was not over. His magic had never hurt him like this, never pulled him like this. In the past he had ignored the little tugs, but this was pain, change, spells cascading in his mind as he felt his hands shake.
No. That wasn’t right. He had felt this way before, when he had gotten off the Dreams. When was the last time he’d had tea? Had he already breached too many days in his study and preparation to become a Superior? If that were the case it wasn’t his magic that hurt him, but the lack of Dreams. He–
Running the moment he touched to the ground, Zeydar’s heart echoed in his chest. Protocol. Protocol. What was protocol? Wiping the tears and snot from his face he tried not to focus on the fact that Tyler had killed himself in that explosion. Even Zeydar wasn’t childish enough to believe he could have survived. Yet Tyler was his father. Zeydar knew the spell as all Stars did, and Tyler had used it to save Zeydar. Survive. It was the protocol. Survive and get to one of the Star evacuation centers.
The world was hell, screams bouncing off the sky in echos as the entire world shattered and the chants ceased to exist. Had the rioters met the monsters? The Project was supposed to stop this, was supposed to save them, and now everything was falling apart. Zeydar sprinted across Star campus, Staff out and ready to be used as necessary. What was necessary now? He heard voices calling across Star campus, responding to the explosion. More Stars, more chaos, more horror.
Zeydar rounded a corner and was knocked to the ground, his Staff swiped from his hands before he could understand what was happening. A woman stood crying over him, dressed in black with a mask over her head. She tossed away his Staff and grabbed him. The magic spun around him whispering that he could reach it without his Staff, if he so tried. The action failed. She was with others, all X’s, once rioting, now bleeding and distressed.
“Please.” He begged them.
“Did they say that to you, when you destroyed them?” The woman hissed.
“They’re coming!” A man yelled to them. The last thing Zeydar remembered was a sharp prick and his mind becoming hazy as sleep took over, followed by no dreams.
From what Zeydar could gather, the plan had been to kidnap some Stars and Circles, to use them as ransom to achieve the betterment of the Xs in the Arcadian Tower. He was not sure it would have ever worked before. They had not planned specific targets, had they don’e that then perhaps they would have gotten their way. Not that it mattered, considering that the X’s didn’t seem to know that they’d captured him, and the monsters and disrupted their otherwise planned protest. He was a regular Star to them, nothing special. A regular Star who laid on the floor surrounded by only Circles who begged to be released. Apparently the plan had failed at getting more Stars. Or they were making it seem that way. Zeydar wondered that if, they had gotten more Stars, they were keeping them all separate because the Xs did not know how magic worked and were operating on story book knowledge.
Regardless Zeydar was alone with Circles and with each passing hour he understood that he was going to begin going through true withdrawal soon. They’d taken everything from him, and if he did not escape quick, they’d have to deal with him in a state that he couldn’t deal with himself. Tyler had — Tyler.
The thought of his father, the last glimpse he had gotten of the man had been that of love. Tyler had always loved him, had always cared, and had killed himself so that Zeydar would not end up in the situation that he found himself. He had failed to escape, which had been the one thing Tyler had wanted for him. Zeydar needed to make sure that the failure did not keep him.
Zeydar began to gasp out, his mind becoming sedated. When he blinked he saw the world oozing of colors through a mist fog he hadn’t realized had spread through the room.
They were keeping the inhabitants sedated. To keep them quiet. To keep them contained. Each time, Zeydar woke more and more ferocious. His body itched in pain and with such vigor, that he felt that he’d have clawed his arms off, had it not been for the restraints keeping him bound. They tried to get information out of him, and all he’d give them was that he needed Sweet Dreams. Even if it weren’t medical grade. He needed it. He’d never went full detox ever and something inside of him warned him not to. When he had gotten clean before, it had taken years of planning and carefully getting himself off the drug, and supplements with other energy fulfillment. He had read papers, and knew it was a more dangerous route with an high relapse rate, but he had known any other path would be destructive, and noticed. He could not detox here.
The warning fell on ears that who heard only the word, and saw the need or desire. They thought of what they knew and made a choice that may have been better for others. Those who didn’t think of what it would mean for a Star with magic. And then coherency stopped.
Shaking. Vomiting. Pain and so much sensation. Zeydar’s head swam in memories reliving moments and trauma, memories come to life before him as if he were Dreaming, but so much more painful than dreams. Screams of terror. Breathing hurt. He needed it. Needed it. Otherwise he didn’t have control. Otherwise, the world was on fire around him and he was a fright. Everything was driving into him, rushing to get in, trying to destroy him and what it did to his brain was secondary.
Light made him bleed. Noise made him blind. Magic dug at him, trying to pull his soul from his body. To disappear, to die, to make it all go away. It would be all that easier if it all went away. It never did. But it guided him, guided him to find more, to be filled more, to destroy more, and his magic latched on to whatever it could. People? He was not sure. Buildings? He did not know better.
In his moments of coherence he wondered if the Stars would know, if they would sense the disturbance.
It was less than thirty-six hours after Zeydar had been captured that the Tower of Arcadia collapsed.
Zeydar opened his eyes to fire. Fire and screams of terror. Another tremor, another hallucination. When would the Stars come? When would…
And the celling broke around him. Sitting up, Zeydar felt his magic, screaming at him, running rampage. And there were bodies. Not sleeping, mostly crushed by falling debris. Run, his body told him, but he could not move. He had nothing left. What an intense hallucination, he tried to tell himself. If only it were like Dreams and he could shape it to what he wanted. Then things would be easier.
They were not easier. Because, Zeydar realized with the pain, hurt and the excessive need to throw himself into a bath and drink it all down, this was real. The heat on his skin from the fires, was real. The screams of the dying and the blood that was all too close to him, real. The way that the world creaked and everything slid as if the Tower was tilting over, real.
“We won’t make it in time to evacuate.” He heard someone say. “They say the bottom floors were barred exiting.”
“And the City?”
“We have to try.”
Zeydar called out, asking someone anyone to help him. But no one heard him, because his voice made no sound. Standing, Zeydar felt his legs giving out. Magic told him to snap apart his wrists and so he did so casting a chilling spell to break his binds, and shattering them with whatever little strength he had. Leaving his wrists bloody but broken free. His magic was happy, happy he’d used a spell without his staff. His Staff…
Looking for it, Zeydar forced the room door open to see more destruction but no one in sight. His staff was under stolen items, calling to him. Into his hands, Zeydar took it and started out the house. His footsteps sending his head spinning, He was out of breath and ready to keel over, but he couldn’t let it die. Why was the Tower falling?
The Tower slipped again with an eerie crack, that was followed by a long break and then a snap. Zeydar felt himself falling, flying, screaming. More screams sounded. More destruction echoed as Zeydar cast the only flight spell he had. The sound of thunderous ear deafening explosions. So much more fire, and his body accelerated in the fall, faster and faster.
He followed what little consciousness he had left to find his magic leading him towards tunnels, tunnels for sewage as the world around him fell and the noise started to disappear. He knew he would not be able to crawl through it. And so he summoned all the strength he had, all the magic he had left and used his Staff to freeze the side of the Tower and destroyed it so he could be met by the open air of the outside world he’d never had. In the air, Zeydar gasped out. The air was thin and his head was screaming. The Tower was on fire, falling, imploding in on itself, collapsing downward. And so was Zeydar.
When Zeydar opened his eyes the next time, he was sleeping atop of glass, his body was sore and the sun in the sky blinded him. His Staff was broken and being taken from him as he groaned not to let it go, not to be taken again. He saw as it was discarded, broken in half and left for the scavengers.
“It’s okay Zeydar we have you.” He felt the soothing sensation of magic easing its way over his skin. He looked to the woman who held him a bottle, diluted in white. He gulped it down, and waited for the world to snap back into the dullness he had remembered.
“What happened?” He asked. For in many ways he didn’t remember. He remembered the dead bodies and the screams of the dying, but not what had caused it.
“The Catastrophe came for Arcadia and she collapsed. There were no survivors.”
But him, he realized as the Stars helped him, as they set fire to the remaining fire, to clear the way to find survivors. As he fell asleep on the grass, the vivacity fading and Dreams coming to him all too suddenly.
The Night of Oblivion had come for Arcadia and won.
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