The Black Plain

Authors note: a piece written (a surprisingly long time ago) as part of a play-by-email RPG, in which the party have a vision of events long years past:

You find yourselves watching a scene unfold before you. You stand on a low hill, looking out over a vast, grassy, plain. The sun is just beginning to rise in the east, its early rays glinting off the rooftops of a city on the northern horizon which, it suddenly dawns on you, is Alcar. Between you and the city is a vast, sprawling battle, men, elves and dwarves in desperate struggle against a horde of thousands of Lifestealers and other creatures of evil.

Directly in front is a small town, and between you and the town, a small knot of warriors, men and women both, struggle against some dozen Lifestealers and a score of men and orcs in the black and silver of the Lady. At the head of the group is a woman, white cloak over brief mail, hair like spun copper falling about her shoulders, in her hands a sword that flickers and dances like wildfire, angry red runes aglow on its dark blade, Lifestealers falling to almost every blow. Behind and to one side of her, a man in the robes of a priest of Kerila, tall, fair-haired and startlingly handsome, wields a staff. As you watch, the woman brings the sword up to parry a Lifestealer’s claw, and it flies away, knocked from her hand by the force of the blow, spinning end over end through the air and landing amid the group of men in the Lady’s colours, where it is lost from sight. She falls, clutching at the long wound another claw opens in her stomach, and the priest drops to his knees beside her, as another couple of warriors rush to plug the hole in their line, faces set and grim. You strain to hear the words that pass between them, but all too soon, one hand on the scabbard at her belt, the woman paladin falls silent. Then, just for an instant, her head moves, blue eyes intent on one of *you*, and she nods, calmly, an expression of peace crossing her face, before her eyes close for the last time.

Your attention is drawn away from the scene below by a knot of seven people that appear beside you. Each wears the symbol and colours of one of the Nine, though those of Tal and Sarak are absent. They link hands, and, for a moment, concentrate, and suddenly the plain is cleared of men, elves, dwarves, orcs… everything but the thousands of Lifestealers, you, and one of the seven, a tall, flame-haired woman in red, a gold sunburst pendant at her neck set with a fire opal. This she removes, wrapping the chain about it, and hurls it into the air in the direction of Alcar. You watch the fiery trail it leaves for a moment, then it disappears, stlll going up, and the woman turns to face the sunrise.

She says a single Word, and for an instant, she is the sun.

Lifestealers fall in flames, grass and trees turn to ash, and the rock on which you stand flows to black glass. . .