The heat beat against her forehead as Laura pushed on, struggling to find footing against the heaving ground and ignoring the fiery debris falling through the bush canopy, barely wincing as they struck her face and arms. She pushed on through the forest, she had to find them, warn them before he destroyed them all.
Beside her Emily coughed and stumbled, Kwan threw a worried look at the girl but Laura clung to her sister, using her own strength drag her through the burning air and raining fire. Willing her strength onto her sister as they pushed through the thickets until suddenly she was in open air, the track to the village below a few feet away from her boots, the path down to the village damaged, but do-able.
Emily gasped, and Laura followed the pointed finger to the mountain range. When they had left the tree house the sky was thick with ash and steam, the ground lurching so hard it was only sheer luck that they had jumped clear of the tree house before it had succumbed to the forces below and collapsed. But now the ground was still and the sky clear. The stars so bright it seemed as though Laura could reach up and take one. She shivered the movement foreign against the stillness that had enveloped the forest. The wind which had thrown the fire against them only moments before had gone, leaving the remaining debris to float to the ground. Sparks bursting to life then extinguishing. Beauty and terror wrapped in fairy dust. Even as she thought it, the acrid stench of sulfur invaded her senses. Without the wind, the air became as thick as any wall and Laura felt the acrid steam rising from the mud-strewn floor. Her shoulders sank. They were too late.
She turned to Emily, barely able to mouth “I’m sorry,” to the pleading eyes before throwing her arms around her sister and pulling her to the ground, covering her head with her arm and resting her own cheek against the top of Emily’s head. At the crack that burst the air around them Laura opened her eyes and followed Kane’s open-mouthed stare.
The ridge, once a barrier between worlds tore in two, sending pillars of fire vomiting from the mountain, into the heavens. Laura dropped her arms and started to rise, but the shock-wave sent the children reeling backwards, slamming Kwan into a tree stump and Laura against the track they’d just cleared, she regained her footing in time to witness the torrents of lava tear back to earth in a tidal wave of rage.
Sections of the range began to plummet into the lake below, the water rising against the violation, surging away from it’s attacker the only way it could. Laura looked at the village below for the first time noticing how it’s picturesque location also made it a death-trap. To the north the wall of water grew and surged through the channel, while to the east a tide of molten death began it’s descent to the inevitable. The village was trapped between the rivers of fire and water, the only possible escape the hundred feet of jagged cliff-face below where Laura and Emily crouched.
Laura screamed to the village, but the heat tore her words from her mouth as shock wave after shock wave tore through the village and up the bluff. Several of the homes were already swaying with the ground and Laura saw the tiles of the hotel roof lifting and blowing to the ground as if they were nothing more than tissue paper. Then hope surged through her as she heard the shout, followed by flare-light as villagers rounded the corner by Carter’s General Store and pointed to the cliff-face.
Laura stood up and waved her own flare, calling to the group, urging them on as they started running toward the cliff. She leaned over the side, ready to help the first climber when a tug at her arm called her attention back to Emily and her breath caught in her throat.
Clouds of steam rose from the forest behind them, several tree tops were alight but for the first time Laura noticed the small rivulets of mud streaming from the track they’d just descended. She placed the tip of her finger in one of the streams and snatched it back as the boiling mud grabbed hold of her flesh. She stared at the stream, then followed its course down the cliff-face and her heart froze. A few feet away a torrent of the steaming mud poured over the edge and ran along the path to the village. The path the villagers were headed down.
Laura turned and waved her torch through the raining ash, screaming at the crowd to stop, to turn, to go anyway but this way. Desperation overtook her as she looked for another escape to guide them to them, but every way she looked death stared back. Laura’s eyes flicked between the mud below and the raging lake, then stared at the molten river descending down the eastern valley, the golden glow mesmerizing and paralyzing. How could something so beautiful contain so much anger?
“They’ve nowhere to go.” Kwan’s whispered realization anchored Laura’s anguish and she threw him a warning look, then wrapped her arms tightly around her sister, leading her away from the ledge. They leaned against a rock and succumbed to the chaos around them. Emily squeezing Laura’s waist tighter with each new explosion and Laura pulling her sister tighter as each new shock-wave rained more ash and stars of fire upon them.
Between explosions she heard the coughs and calls of the people below, then the screams, then the earth became still, blanketing the group with it’s silence. In her pocket the pendant burned, through the layers of cotton and seared her skin, she pulled it out, wincing at the heat from the flame red streaks now entwining the artifact.
Laura raised her soot laden face and caught Kwan’s eye. “What did you do?”