16:40 Sun 24 Feb 2013. Updated: 14:57 05 Apr 2013
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There had been rumors of war, fears that the conflict raging to the south and east would reach out for us, but we didn’t expect anything to happen soon. As I went to bed that night, I felt a mild unease, a concern about what the next months would bring.

I dreamt that night. I dreamt of my parents, both long dead. They were in the Nightless City, and I was in their home there. They were trying to speak to me, but as they started to talk the room seemed to shake, and I could hear nothing. They started to try gestures, but the top of the house disappeared and I looked up to see a swirling vortex of strange colors. When I looked down again I saw that my parents were being pulled into it, their forms stretched painfully so that they were taller than the house itself, and then I could hear again. What I heard was screams, not just those of my parents, but screams from all around, and then the walls of the house, and everything in the city, were rent apart as they were pulled up into the sky.

I woke sweating, with a thundering heart. I knew I had to leave. It was not yet light, but I gathered what I thought I might need, pulling my money out of its hidden places. I was lucky enough to have a horse, and I saddled it and set out before dawn.

As I made my way through the city, I heard wailing and some commotions, and thought that others had had dreams like mine. These subsided, but as people began to prepare for their day I heard screams and shouts. I felt fear, wondering if somehow an enemy was already in the city and I was hearing them butchering the citizens.

Then I heard the shouts coming from the gathering crowds. They were around the temples, and the clamor was that all of the exalted ones were dead. The crowds were shocked, but I felt no surprise, just a confirmation of the hollowness inside.

My journey to the city gate slowed as the panic increased. Guards rushed from place to place, but their purpose was unclear and they seemed as panicked as the people. It was still early enough that carts did not clog the streets, or I would likely have been stuck. I reached the gate, and a lone guard barred egress. I cannot remember what lies I told him, or how large the bribe was, but he let me out.

The gate shut behind me and I did not look back.

On the road, when those going the other way asked me for news, I simply shook my head. I rode all day, stopping only briefly, and reached the mountains in the evening. The winding roads and switchbacks brought the city into view, but I averted my gaze.

Shortly before sunset, I heard a noise I cannot describe from behind me. I looked back, turning my horse on the road.

A gigantic pillar of flame impaled my city, looking higher than the mountain I was on. The city seemed to sag around the column, and flame rushed out from the center, followed by a flash that blinded me. As I covered my eyes, there was silence, then a low rumbling, and then a bang that knocked me from my horse and deafened me.

I could not hear anything for three days, but my sight returned within a few minutes.

My city was gone. A shallow crater was in its place, covered in rubble and dirt and fires. The ruin extended far beyond where the walls had been. The nearby farmland was blackened, the nearby forests flattened a burned. Black ash swirled in the air.

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