Simon had spent months running, planning, fighting to be free. His people had been feared, hunted, and enslaved for centuries. The deaths of so many were branded into his mind, for without his success, history would repeat their punishment for eternity. It was better for them to all die fighting for this cause than to return to the indignity that they had suffered under.
He remembered the small boy, but a child, hunted down and murdered for stealing bread for his family. He remembered the old man, driven out of his ancestral home and chased to exhaustion before being brutally stabbed to death. He remembered his mother as he had found her, lying in the crimson-stained dirt with a dozen jagged rents in her skin, slaughtered in her home in the dead of night. And he remembered the infant — his baby brother — who had lain beside her, his head bashed in. He had put his hand on his brother, to lift his body and cradle it, and had felt a heartbeat beneath his hand. And yet when he had turned the body over, glazed eyes stared up at him from within a mangled and crushed skull.
And so, while his brothers slept around him, Simon remembered the dead who had led him to this point, the living he fought with, and the yet unborn he fought for.
He had finally found a way around the weakness of his people, a way to fight back without living in fear. A wizard had promised him protection on this day, that he might overrun his enemies where they stand. It would be a small victory, to be sure, but it would be a victory nonetheless. As a sole victory, it would be a great one, to be sure. A fort to defend. A land to call their own. He whispered these words to himself, dreams he could not even fully comprehend. But beyond that, there was more.
His men would be inspired to greater deeds of glory. Those in oppression would hear news of the day he had dared to fight back, and they too would rise up. His people might someday be free, to live their lives without fear.
The sky began to lighten as night faded. But he trusted the wizard. First, the stars began to fade away as the sky changed from black to charcoal to an ominous grey. But he trusted the wizard. The sky slowly became saturated with tinges of blue. But he trusted the wizard. The blue warmed to a grey-purple. But still he trusted the wizard.
When dawn broke, he knew it was all over. He was caught by surprise, briefly, as he saw the beginnings of light from below the horizon. He had trusted the wizard. He had been wrong. The children of the Erutar could never be trusted. He spread his arms and faced the skies, howling in rage to the heavens, as the edge of the sun crested over the horizon. His grey-purple skin faded to grey, crusting over with dirt and then hardening to stone, leaving behind only a statue, a mere image, a symbol of the rage of a dying people.
Enthasar, the first wizard of the stars, the first of the Afterborn to aspire to be as the Ulmari and succeed, lay weakly on the ground, his back resting against the smooth, hewn rock of his greatest creation. Warmth seeped from his side, draining into the point of searing cold in his gut.
He closed his eyes slowly, then forced them open again. The shaft of the arrow still protruded from his gut, just below his ribs. He looked up weakly at the barely unfinished ritual and slowly lifted his hands, chanting in tongues long-since lost to the races of this world. And then the second arrow thudded into his chest, knocking the air from the lungs. He collapsed to the ground.
Rough hands grasped at his hair and jerked his head upwards. The shadow of pain lanced through his body, but his mind was too far away to notice. His head was pulled back and something dragged across his throat. He fell back and saw his blood spreading down his chest as his vision of this world faded away.