We cannot call upon the God-King’s beneficence again,’ protested Vandus. ‘The others look to us. We must show strength, not weakness. And how are we to speak to the heavens?’
‘Call upon the Great Drake instead,’ rumbled Thostos. ‘This dais was raised to honour him.’
‘But… I know not how,’ said Vandus, ‘I am no drake.’
Below the Lord-Celestants Calanax roared, leaping up the stairs to join them atop the dais.
‘My son!’ boomed the Great Drake Dracothion. A ripple in the sky resolved into a smiling reptilian face, its teeth the glimmer of stars and its coils the swirl of nebulas. ‘How fare the wars of men?’
Calanax roared, his dragon-tongue inscrutable.
‘We have a boon to ask of you, mighty one,’ called Vandus, after the two drakes had concluded their private discussion. ‘We must find the Eldritch Fortress that once crested the Shattered City.’
‘A dark place, yet with a heart of light,’ said the zodiac-beast. ‘I saw it rise. It bathes within the Crucible. You seek to reach it? To claim the Hammer of the Stars?’
‘We do,’ said Lord-Celestant Vandus.
‘Then the sea of silver must cool,’ mused Dracothion. ‘It has been long since I dared the wyrm Argentine’s fires. Go swift, then, whilst his will is diverted. May the heavens shine upon you, noble Calanax.’
A million shooting stars streaked across the sky, shimmering into the west. Vandus watched as under the Crucible’s dimming disc, constellations writhed. Slowly, impossibly, the Argent Falls slowed, solidified, and cooled into a solid, lumpen mass of precious metal that stretched all the way to the vaulted skies above.
A silken song haunted the silence that fell across the valley. With ethereal grace a hundred of Celemnis’ flying swords flew to embed themselves in the silvered mass like the rungs of a ladder.
‘We climb, then,’ said Thostos.
‘Aye,’ said Vandus. ‘We climb. All of us.
- The Quest for Ghal Maraz.