[This post is from Matt’s point of view.]
The rumble came quietly at first, a faint sound, lost beneath the thunder and the lightning and the screams. Matt felt it before he heard it, felt it because it was his doing. As he poured more power into the lines, the rumble built, the world trembling slightly around them, though the wall held firm.
Phelan put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed. Matt exhaled slowly, took another breath, and then redoubled his efforts.
Just a little more.
There was a loud crack, then another, and the earth geysered upwards at the far end of the field, sending rocks and dirt and bodies sailing up and into the air, erupting up from within the mists. The screams grew louder.
The drums echoed, louder, followed by the blast of a horn, loud and long.
Matt’s heart shot up and lodged in his throat. His fingers curled, nails and fingertips scraping against the concrete and brick of the wall. He knew that sound, knew it well enough that it made him sick to his core.
Once upon a time.
A shudder shot through him and he swallowed bile.
Breath hissed through his teeth. His hands curled into fists, ragged nails digging into his palms.
The ground exploded again deep in the mists, rolling deeper into them. He could sense someone at their heart, someone familiar. It was hard to breathe all of a sudden and he leaned forward, jaw tightening.
Stubborn through. You can do this. Damn it all, you can do this—you’ve got to.
His heartbeat roared in his ears, vision growing shadowed at the edges—Matt wasn’t sure if it was from exertion or something else. It could be anything. Anything.
Across the field, shadows loomed above the mists, lacking form briefly before they took shape—dirae on the wing, the worst of their kind. Matt sucked in a breath, lifted a hand. It felt heavy, too heavy, as if his limbs were made of water and his hand was made of lead.
Remind them what fear is.
The thought chilled him even as it crossed his mind. He set his jaw, teeth grinding. Was there another choice?
Matt closed his eyes.
A torrent of magic shot from his hand, less a warning shot than a final warning, gold and silver and copper and green all woven together in a single, seamless sheet that spread like a banner on the wind over the field, rippling out toward the dirae that had taken wing.
He had forgotten how terrible their screams could be.