Sanctuary (Part 1) by Tim Keyes

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SUMMARY: The world is over, those that survive head to the Sanctuary, the last hope of survival, and of salvation.

Fire, radiant, powerful, all consuming. It brought light to the nighttime sky, turning it brighter than a midday sun could ever hope too. The earth rumbled, shook, and split apart. Magma, white hot and blinding poured from the wounds in the ground. The keep began to shake, great stones from its tower and battlements broke off and fell to the ground. Men screamed as they were consumed in fire. The walls split apart with a thunderous roar; monstrous hunks of masonry fractured and rained down, and crushed those few who had managed to flee the structure.

The white hot blood of the earth erupted like a geyser, showering down upon everyone and everything. The grass burned, the training yards burned, the livestock burned, all of it burned. Fire spread throughout, consuming the fields, the forests beyond the wall, even the walls themselves, yards thick of stone that had stood for a hundred years, burned. The timbers within the towers burned, the men upon them burned.

As the wooden skeletons of the towers burned, and the outside of the walls began to liquefy, the towers crumbled and collapsed. While the men upon the walls were consumed in the inferno, in chambers beneath the towers some survived. Others writhed in agony, awoken from their slumber by the floor coming apart and releasing a torrent of molten rock into their quarters.

Within one such barracks Marcus rolled from his cot. The earth rending itself apart had woken him, the screams of his brothers dieing in droves drove him to action. He grabbed for his belt, grasping the hilt of his sword and drawing it free. He rose to his feet and looked about the room, sword in hand, ready to fend off the foe.

None came, the room shook again, cracks started to appear in the floor. Marcus started to realize this was no attack, and he donned his belt, thrusting the sword back into its scabbard. The three others who had shared his patrol were awake as well, grabbing their own weapons. The world sounded like it was coming to an end around them; they had no time to grab everything. Spears were close to hand and they had time enough to throw on their boiled leather and head to the stairs.

The soldiers approached the stairs and could smell the smoke wafting in from on high. The air grew hotter as they approached; their skin felt like it was starting to burn as they tried to the first step.

"Whatever's happened, we can't get out get this way, we have to head to the tunnels," Marcus ordered as he turned back to the barracks and headed for the door that would open to the underground passages linking the wall's towers.

The others followed and they opened the door, only to be greeted by heat even worse than the stairs. They could see the source before them. The corridor leading to the keep was awash in white liquid, the air shimmered above it and the walls were starting to glow a faint red. They had no choice but to turn and hope one of the other corridors would lead to safety.

They turned east, heading towards the next tower, hoping its stairs wouldn't be blocked off.

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