The city of Speandal still reeled from the events of a few days ago. The riots in the Lower City had been minor at worst, and the Immaculate Monks led by the great Father Downpour had quickly ended the rabble in the streets below. However, the city was far from at ease. Anathema had been seen within the city and people in the Lower City had chosen to follow this heretic.
Iselsi Faron never had to deal with anathema before the riots, and even then she hadn’t seen any. All she really did was get those loyal to the Realm to safety while Downpour’s favorites dealt with this Ascending Phoenix. In the end he had escaped, and the Monks weren’t even sure if there was only one Anathema in the city. Faron shook her head as she went back to sliding scrolls onto shelves. She couldn’t do much about it now. All she could do was work hard and hope that….
“Iselsi Faron?” a voice came from behind her.
“Uh, yes. That’s me.” Faron said, sliding down the ladder and turning to the young man who just entered. His uniform and satchel full of scrolls told the monk that he was a courier.
“Message for you from… Kalak of House Sesus.” the courier said, handing her a small scroll. Faron took the scroll, eyes wide. For the last five years, she had thought that her betrothed had died in the Siege of Thorns. Now after so long, he appeared in Speandal like nothing had ever changed. Slowly Faron broke the seal on the scroll and unrolled the message…
I understand that you must hate me for never attempting to contact you in the years since my house pronounced me dead. For that I apologize. I wish to speak to you about those lost years. Please meet me at the Gardens of the Spiral Topped Manse at sunset tonight. There you will know the truth.
Kalak of House Sesus
It wasn’t hard to leave the Temple that evening, Faron had finished up all her book keeping an hour beforehand. Faron quickly left the temple, running past the painter Ledaal Venet as she headed to the Sesus estates. She wasn’t entirely sure what Kalak would wish to talk about. The last time they had spoke it seemed that he had wanted nothing to do with their betrothal. However, Kalak had been gone for five years, the least she could do is let him talk.
The Gardens of the Sesus estates were always a beautiful place. Flowers from all over the Blessed Isle had been arranged around the canals and fountains that snaked around the Spiral Topped manse. Usually there were Dynast nobles discussing politics, fawning over young maidens or simply enjoying the beauty of the gardens. This evening, however, Faron found it surprisingly empty. She sat down at the edge of a fountain depicting Daana’d, the Immaculate Dragon of Water. The gardens remained empty as the sun started to vanish on the horizon, the mirrors on the ground below dimming and casting the Lower and Upper city into darkness…..
Suddenly, a blinding light appeared, a second sun appearing just above the city. Faron covered her eyes, making out the figure standing atop one of the taller buildings in the Upper City.
“People of Speandal…I am the Ascending Phoenix and the true Emperor of the Realm!! A booming voice echoed across the city, seeming to come from the very stones of Speandal themselves. “The Immaculate Order wishes to kill me and keep the people of the Realm under the boot of the Scarlet Dynasty!! They wish to see those who would achieve greatness put to the sword and forgotten!!” Faron had begun to run from the gardens, sprinting as fast as she could back for the temple. Father Downpour would need her assistance if the anathema turned violent!
“I tell you now, the Ascending Phoenix is the voice of the Unconquered Sun,” the booming voice of the Ascending Phoenix continued, “And the Unconquered Sun deems the Immaculate Order heretics!!!” As Faron pushed through the crowds in the streets of the Upper City, she saw the shining figure extend a hand towards the Immaculate Temple. Faron listened in horror to the Ascending Phoenix’s words, “Let me show you what happens to those the Unconquered Sun deems to be heretics…
Everything seemed to happen in slow motion. There was a second flash of light and a loud roar, followed by screams and gasps from the mortals in the Upper City. Faron braced herself as a large force seemed to blow everyone back. Faron stood and stared in horror at the source of the shockwave, feeling her heart sink in her chest.
The Immaculate Temple was a blazing inferno, completely consumed by flames. There was no saving it now, somehow the Ascending Phoenix had turned a centuries old monument to the Order into nothing more than a bonfire in seconds. All her friends, her work, her faith were all in flames.
She turned away from the fire, unable to look at the destruction of the place that had once been her home. Involuntarily, she found herself looking at the Ascending Phoenix, still standing atop the building and shining like a second sun. However, Faron was much closer to him now and she could now make out the features of the anathema. She felt her breath catch in her throat as she looked upon the monstrous figure. The shining golden armor was unfamiliar to her, but Faron would recognize the blood red hair anywhere in the world. She felt her hands shake in fear, barely able to utter the true name of the Ascending Phoenix.