1726 GCE was the beginning of the end of the Great Cities Era, though few knew it.
The Great Fire of â€˜26 sweept through the Terminus districts of The Blight (now called Alrik) and Hollowdown in August of that year, displacing rich and poor alike, and ending the lives of many. This was the first, but not the last, in a series of assassinations designed to eliminate any possibility of resisting what was to come. Though the victims numbered in the hundreds, there was only one real target: Trantz N'tal. Infamous to some, unknown to others, the third brother of the House of N'tal would play a pivotal role in what was to come, and there were those who wanted him eliminated. Legardia N'tal recalls:
Both Legardia and her husband Trantz raced for the room of the only one of their three daughters at the house that night, Sophia N'tal. By the time they arrived, the thick smoke and flames had consumed the first two floors of the estate. Sophia N'tal awoke in her bed to flames, and to both of her parents overcome, unconscious on the floor of her bedroom. Unable to rouse or move her parents, and without anyone to help her, Sophia was forced to flee on her own. Only she had the small stature to escape through one of the estate's chimneys.What you call the Great Fire of `26 started as a small kitchen accident at our estate. Or seemed to. I awoke in the middle of the night to the screaming of the kitchen staff, to discover what seemed like a relatively minor fire. At first I wanted to berate them for being unable to manage a simple fire, but nothing could stop it. Not water, not magic, nothing. We had no choice but to abandon the house. By the time I'd reached my daughter's room, the smoke was everywhere, and the defenses designed to keep people out... had locked us in. Or home was about to become our tomb...
Flying off into the night on her young wings, Sophia would barely escape the fire that nearly consumed The Blight. By the dawn, the fire had simply stopped. Havren Ganthor of the Terminus Academy recalls fighting the fire:
By the dawn the N'tal estate was a ruin, the Drycan embassy burned to the ground, the great Cathedral of Kitteral gutted by fire, businesses destroyed, families left homeless, and two districts of Terminus would be scarred for decades. The ten year old Sophia N'tal would find herself cut off from her family, penniless, and without any means of contacting her distant relatives.Nothing we did would stop it. Our entire cadre of water mages tried water, they tried ice... nothing worked. Air mages tried to starve the flames, but they burned anyway. Disruptors couldn't negate the magic. The Navigators created an open portal from the river right into the blaze, and even that constant deluge did nothing but make steam. Hell, it made things worse. All that water flooded into The Dark, killing I don't even want to know how many homeless. And in the center of it, right where the N'tal estate was.. we saw two great figures fighting in the flames. We never found out who they were, but by morning, someone must have won, because the fire just... stopped. At the time, we let the city give us credit for putting out the fire, to keep from causing a great panic. But the truth is, nothing we did made a damn bit of difference.
It would be four years before anyone knew that both Trantz and Legardia had actually be sparred from the flames. And even longer before anyone knew that that was the night that a dragon had snuck into the city, that the Guild of Navigators was about to be betrayed, or that the goddess Tenebrae had just lost her avatar in a battle against an enemy bent on toppling the gods themselves. It would be even longer before anyone would realize that the Battle of the Abyss that concluded in the year 1730 had actually begun.
In our next installment: The return of the N'tal's to Terminus, Tenebrae's response to the slaughter of her avatar, and the civil war that nearly destroyed Drycas.