Chapter 26 - City of Light

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Jaylina gazed at the spherical City of Light, and her shoulders sagged. The exalted city lay as a pale shadow—decayed, desolate, dying. Its once great white walls were stained and crumbling.

"The armies of Darkness heaved mightily against this last bastion of the Light and left it broken and nearly deserted," said Grandmother Yatokya. She explained that swarms of shadows hunted in packs, looking for secret ways into the city, beaten off by pockets of noble souls that remained to defend what endured.

Where else could they go except perhaps to flee into the Celestial Sea? Some of these souls had been robbed of their essence—tainted—and became shadows themselves. Others were carried away to the Isle of the Dead.

In the war of attrition, the Light is fading, defeated, thought Jaylina. We are much too late.

Grandmother, said Aiden in despair.

"We must enter carefully, my children," said Grandmother Yatokya, and she wrapped them in the cloak of her essence so they became invisible to all but the most pure of heart. Those few that could see them took strength that all was not yet lost and fought on with renewed vigor. Thus, the trio entered the City of Light.

They carefully picked their way through abandoned causeways and gathering places. Jaylina led, her intuition taking control, moving her in the direction she needed to go. Her mind expanded, giving her new senses she was not aware she possessed. She felt compelled to take them forward, to see this through. There would be no stopping now.

They came to the remnants of a white palace of high columns and arches, now stained with gray and black. Shattered crystal tinted with different colors hung at odd angles in the frames of colossal windows and these painted a kaleidoscope of illumination on the floor where the surrounding suns of soul-light shown through. Vestiges of light drew patterns in the air like hot cinders that never faded. It had been a house of love once. A house of hope. Now it was abandoned and dim. But something about the place, some inexplicable presence, drew Jaylina in.

"This place is important," she said. "I've seen it in dreams."

"Lead us," said Grandmother Yatokya.

Jaylina led them through the great hall where the sounds of the universe echoed in their ears though their own footsteps were silent because their feet never touched the ground.

They came to an unremarkable stairway that led down into blackness. No sound emerged from its depths. Jaylina looked about her. Something was calling her like a whisper in a half-remembered dream.

With all her being, she knew they must descend.

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