With all that had happened in the last week, it’s no surprise that the people of Haven almost forgot what day it was. But as the sun rose over the wreckage of the Lonely Inn, the sound of a single drum began to echo in the empty streets. Then, one by one, it grew. People stepped out of their houses, carrying whatever they had handy to make music with. The sounds of drums, flutes, pan pipes, harps, and a thousand other instruments and improvised noisemakers mingled in the air. A snatch of beautiful song here, a cacophonous riot of noise there, but all met with the same bittersweet joy that had come to define the character of Haven.
Carl perched on the rooftop of the eastern watch tower, as had become his routine. The climb up wasn’t as easy as it used to be, but it gave him a view rivaled by no other in the little town. He winced gently at the sight of his beloved inn crushed beneath the ship that had fallen out of the sky, but shrugged it off. Only time, and a bit of coin. He had both to spare. Life was long, and wood was plentiful.
The milling villagers quickly coalesced into a parade that wound its way through town, stopping in each district to sing the song of summer.
The seeds are all planted and safe in the soil
And the rains have made way for the sun
While we wait for the fruits of our task and our toil,
Let’s rest and rejoice at the work we have done
The song drifted up over the houses, and Carl smiled. A crow flapped its wings, leaving the rooftop of the guard tower empty as it fled its perch.
The procession came to a halt in the town square. A figure in a white robe, covered in disheveled white feathers, stood alone before them. The music faded, and the singing died down.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
And Haven burned.
She reached one withered hand into the air, and the ground shook and fractured. Gouges ran together like rivers, tearing the town open, jets of green fire lancing upward and twisting around groups of townsfolk. A thousand different voices screamed in unison, and then fell silent, as the coils of solidified fire held them in place.
Thunder cracked, and beams of light shot down from the sky above, but as each Talon moved to strike, they too were snared by the tentacles of seething fire, until no more came, and all of Haven was held in her thrall.
Elinda stared at the ground, tears dripping onto the ground. She shook her head, then steeled herself.
“What was your first offense?” It was a whisper. Nevertheless, a deafening chorus answered, “Complacency.”
A ring of golden light limned a figure in gleaming steel plate as he emerged in mid-air barreling straight for her. Time seemed to slow, and he pressed through the distance like the air had become molasses, his great gold and silver maul shining, holy light tracing its runework, his voice a beacon of pure defiance.
“What was your second offense?” She croaked softly. The chorus answered. “Cowardice.”
The armored figure grit his teeth, roaring with divine might as the maul traced its arc toward her head, time slowing further inch by inch, his knuckles cracking with the strain, his golden eyes shining. “This is not your moment, witch!”
Elinda looked up, and stepped easily out of the path of the arcing maul.
“Tell me, Carl, what do you think you can do about this? You hung that rusty old hammer up centuries ago. You can’t even hit me. Now then,” she continued, addressing the crowd once more. “What was your final…”
Carl’s hammer rang on the ground like a church bell, and a ring of golden light washed over Haven, radiating outward, freezing the word on every pair of lips. The aura strained for a moment as it surrounded the last of the town, then it came rushing back in, and as it flowed over rooftops and through fields, time ran backward. Years flickered by in an instant. Buldings were restored to pristine condition, then dismantled, their beams sawn back into trees and planted, then the trees shrunk back into the ground. As the circle closed around them, Carl smiled, and wept.
“I wasn’t aiming for you,” he whispered.
Years ago, a retired paladin of the Order of Kalos, God of Time, stood in a clearing in the woods. A road wound its way lazily through the forest from Lake Moontear west toward Araxia. Situated at the center of the Realm, it was an undeveloped link that might one day be a major route between the Elven lands to the east, the Human lands to the west, the Sand Sea to the south, and the Dwarven and Gnomish holds to the north.
It seemed like a very fine place to build an inn.