3.15 Glory and Light

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Light blazed through Alex's closed eyelids.

It's something nuclear, he thought. It has to be.

But when he sent his awareness downward, exploring the source of the light, all he sensed was a geodesic shape, solid all the way through. A crystal, as Jinishta had said. Gemstones always seemed strange to his Yeresunsa awareness, but this one had an exceptionally weird structure, and it was quite large; the size of an egg.

He forced himself to take another step down the ramp. And another. Tears leaked from his closed eyes, and light flared through the arm he'd raised to shield himself.

Jinishta and the other warriors would surely sense if he quit walking. If they could pass this test, so could he.

Can you? his inner self queried. They aren't cowards and failures. They aren't letting a friend suffer in a dungeon pit. They did not get a village of ummins slaughtered.

Light blazed through him, merciless. Even with his eyes squeezed shut, his world was white.

Another step. Did he deserve the honor of being a warrior? He wasn't even sure he deserved the honor of being alive.

The crystal consumed his focus, as if pulling on his awareness. Alex felt as if he was cascading into the thing, disembodied, swirling down the spiraled ramp.

He risked one more small step. But he needed to reevaluate why he was here, what he was trying to accomplish. He shouldn't risk going blind for Jinishta's approval.

One tiny step, barely a shuffle ... and something brittle exploded.

It sounded like the sky room window shattering. Alex instantly cocooned himself in solidified air, safe from shards of crystal or anything else that might fly at him.

Nothing did. His extended awareness told him that he was safe.

The light was dimming. The shattering sound continued, and as it grew fainter, the light receded.

Alex dared to lower his shielding arm. He was afraid to open his eyes, in case the light flared again, so he extended his awareness instead.

The suction source was gone. Instead of that tug on his power, Alex only sensed normal air.

The shattering noise dwindled into the sound of tiny pebbles grinding underfoot. Alex seemed to be in darkness, so he opened one eye with caution.

He saw utter blackness.

Both of his eyes fluttered open reflexively. Was he blind? Alex forced away panic and used his powers to scoop nearby air into a crackling orb of electric light.

His orb illuminated the ramp he stood on. Alex was tall enough to peer past the edge and see all the way down to the tiled floor below. Sparkles twinkled in the blackness there.

The last sparkles faded like dying fireflies.

Excited voices echoed in the darkness above him. Warriors leaned on the balustrade, staring down and all talking at once.

"It broke."

"He broke it!"

Alex felt like a giant oaf. He should have known better than to try to explore the crystal, or whatever it was, with his awareness. The thing had probably existed for longer than the Torth Empire. Maybe it had gotten brittle with age. Maybe he hadn't been gentle enough.

"The messiah will break traditions." Jinishta spoke in a flat tone, like a dutiful bureaucrat fulfilling her job. Everyone else quieted to hear. "There shall be darkness before the light."

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