The two Protectors met in the square after the ninth bell. It was not quite winter yet, but the air was chilly enough where Yannin could see her breath as she walked quickly down the paths to the square. She was sure Anya was there already, waiting impatiently for her, looking around or pulling on the ends of her sleeves, which she always did when she was nervous. Yannin twisted her hair around her finger, but it was a bad habit and her great-great-grandmother berated her for it, saying that it wasn't proper behavior for a noble Protector, to be trotting around playing with her hair like a youth.

Yannin said farewell to all her relatives the day before. Anya insisted she did, worrying that they would both never Dream again and maybe never see Serenia, either.

Linking couldn't be that dangerous since Atrus and Yeesha did all the time. Anya insisted it was because they were meant to do that, but Yannin believed that since Yeesha…the true Yeesha, of course…could be a Protector and travel through the books, then they could, too.

"You're late," Anya said to Yannin when she arrived, even though she wasn't.

"Sorry," Yannin replied. It had become almost a customary greeting between the two for awhile now. Yannin pulled her shawl tighter over her shoulders, and wrapped her scarf around her neck another time. She didn't like the cold and didn't mind leaving late autumn, since Tomahna, from what Yeesha told them once, was warm most of the year.

"It's not that cold," Anya said, picking a loose thread on the scarf. "Who made this?"

"Mizara, down the street from my house," Yannin answered, pulling the scarf away from Anya. "And it's freezing! We already have the winter shades pulled down at my house."

"We don't do that until fall is over."

"Oh." Yannin glanced over her shoulder, and in the clearing nearby she saw a flicker of light. Her guide promised he would see her off, and looked forward to hearing all about Tomahna when she returned. She raised her hand in farewell, and for a moment the flame grew brighter before dimming away.

"Maybe it will be warmer there." Anya suggested with a small shrug. Atrus and Yeesha always dressed in light clothing.

"Maybe," Yannin agreed.

There was a long pause, a strange silence, and Anya breathed in as deep as she could. "The stars will be different there, and the plants, and the way everything smells," Anya said, half to herself and half to Yannin.

"I know," Yannin replied. "But we knew that already. The stars are different on the other side of the world here, and no one is worried about it. We should go, come on." This time it was Yannin's turn to be impatient. She wanted to go because they said they were going to, and they should. There was no sense waiting around. Zanika would also be extremely unhappy if she found out that Yannin was doing something this dangerous without consulting the spirits in Dream and the rest of the sisters first.

She could tell Anya was still reluctant to go. When they reached the cavern, Anya trailed her hand over the cold rock, and briefly swirled the pool of water with her toe.

She sighed, deeply, closing her eyes and breathing in the chilly air.

"Anya…"

"Do you sometimes think of not going?" Anya asked, tilting her head up towards the dripping of the water of the stalactites. Several droplets fell on her face, one on her forehead and rolled down, leaving a smeared trail of paint behind.

"Not really," Yannin answered honestly. She wandered over to the book and opened it, looking at the strange picture sitting there. "It's the only chance to save Yeesha." And Yannin had almost gone there once before. She heard the steady hum of her necklace but put it out of her mind, because now was not the time to look at memories, however useful they may be.

Anya followed her and stood next to Yannin, peering down at the book. "She is the spark that flies off the branch, eager to become a roaring blaze," she said to herself.

"What?"

"That is what Caradell always said about you."

Yannin tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. "That's…a nice thing to say,"

"It is." Anya reached for the book, and then jerked her hand away…then closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and placed her hand on the picture.

There was an odd whoosh, and Anya shimmered in the air before vanishing, leaving Yannin alone in the cave.

They were doing something. After all this time, they were finally doing something. Now was not the time to be afraid, now was not the time for hesitation, now was the time to run blazing in like they were supposed to and fix everything. Yannin put her hand on the panel.

She felt like she was going to be sick, that the entire world was suddenly condensed to a pinpoint in her vision, and then with a corresponding whoosh she was no longer in Serenia.

Anya was leaning against a wall, her hands clutching a table in front of her. Her face was completely white and she looked like she was about to vomit. Yannin reeled from the shock, knocking the book off its shelf. She put her hands out and searched for something to grab on to, and just before she fell, Anya put out an arm to stop her. For a moment they stood there, panting and disoriented, before the room stopped swimming and they could see clearly.

"Don't touch anything," Anya ordered. She lifted her hands up off the table and clutched convulsively at her glowing necklace. Yannin felt her own necklace heat up, but she refused to touch it. This place was full of memories that weren't her own.

"Then how are we going to get anywhere?" Yannin demanded, looking all around the great room, feeling the hairs on the back of her neck stand up in response to the electric buzzing. "We don't know our way around this place." She was recovering from the linking disorientation faster than Anya, and was already heading towards the only exit she could see. She walked through the door and then stopped, pressing herself against the rock face. The heat hit her in a blast, making her want to shed the outer layer of her robes. The sun glared in her face and off the…the…some sort of machine in front of her.

She heard Anya come behind her and have a similar reaction. "Spirits," Anya said. "It is so hot here. And they live here all the time!"

Yannin removed her shawl and dropped it on the floor. For a moment it was all the two of them could do, look around at the hot, dry landscape and the buildings of Tomahna all around.

"It is beautiful," Anya said after a time.

"Where do we go from here?" Yannin asked. She was used to Anya having all the answers. "We can't jump down there, we'd die." Yannin looked down and saw a river running into the canyon and shuddered. She never had the opportunity to be afraid of heights until now.

Anya nodded. "They have some other way to get around, I'm sure. Let's go back inside and look for it."

Relieved that Anya took the lead, Yannin followed her inside and began pulling open drawers and nosing around until she came to the Serenia book. It was strangest of all, seeing her home from a page on a book. And this is what these people did all the time. She wondered if they ever felt it strange.

"Here, I think I found something." Anya called. Yannin walked over and saw an open…some sort of lift. "Maybe this gets us out of here." Anya got inside, as did Yannin, and Anya pulled one of the levers. The lift went down too quickly, and Yannin had to shut her eyes and not look.

The next hour was spent pressing strange buttons and pulling unknown levers, and watching as parts of Tomahna detached from each other and then reattached. Anya looked around at the various dwellings attached to the cliff side, and told Yannin to check the one to the right, and Anya would take the one to the left. Yannin wasn't too sure of them splitting up, but she knew what to do nonetheless. Find Atrus, then find Yeesha. Together, they would be able to prove to Atrus what they knew. They would show him all the memories they'd stored in the necklaces, and the loose ones around Tomahna, and he'd have no choice but to believe them.

Anya watched Yannin walk away, and then she followed the bridge over to the smaller room. She found herself staring into a girl's room, and then saw Yeesha sitting on her bed, writing in a journal, then looking at her aquarium, then turning back to write again.

Yeesha looked up, then tossed the book aside and very nearly threw herself into Anya's arms. "Oh Anya!" she exclaimed excitedly. "I haven't seen you in forever! There's so much I have to show you! I wrote my first Age and it was so brilliant and then dad and I went to Releeshahn and there was this huge party! Anya, do you want to see my first Age? I wanted to show it to you because I know you'd like it, but dad won't let me back in Serenia anymore! I've got things in there that will remind you of it!" She wrapped her arms around Anya's waist, then looked up at her, her wide eyes shining in genuine admiration. "How did you manage to get all the way here?"

Anya unhooked Yeesha's arms and stepped back in surprise. "I used the book, of course," she said.

"That's wonderful! See, I thought you would, but I didn't tell dad because then he'd get rid of it forever, and what if I wanted to visit you when I was older and he couldn't tell me what to do?" Yeesha shrugged. "But does it matter? You're here now and I have to show you my drawings," Yeesha grabbed a hold of Anya's hand and tugged her into the room, over to the bed, and then held up the journal to show a carefully drawn fish on the page.

"Yeesha…"

"Is it bad? Oh, it is, I'm sorry!" she grabbed a pen and scribbled the top fin off. "Maybe you can help me? Oh, and tell me what's been happening on Serenia I miss it so much!"

These weren't Sirrus' speech patterns, Anya thought. They were too childlike, too much like…well, like Yeesha's. For a moment she wondered if she and Yannin had been mistaken about the whole thing. The memories could be wrong, couldn't they?

No, because Yeesha's spirit was still in Dream and had captured Tila, and maybe more.

"No, Sirrus," Anya said firmly. She took Yeesha's wrist and removed the pen from her hand. "I don't want to help you now, or any other time. Yannin and I have come here to end this."

A look of absolute bewilderment passed over Yeesha's face. It lasted for a long time, and the girl looked down at her notebook, her eyebrows snapping together in confusion.

"Sirrus…" Yeesha said, tugging at the end of her braid. "My brother…who…"

"No," Anya's voice was firm. "No, the girl known as Yeesha is far away, trapped in Dream and searching for a way out, and taking the spirits of Serenians with her. You, Sirrus, trapped her there, harming the people of Serenia and the spirits in Dream, and…" Anya was surprised to find how angry she was then, because she was not the sort to feel anger easily. She stood up from the bed and tried to calm herself, but she remembered the feel of losing Tila and the terror that more Serenians might meet that fate. "You took her away! You'll take them all away, and destroy this family as you destroyed Yeesha! We are not just Protectors of Serenia but Protectors of Dream as well, and your actions have spilled over into the spirit world, and it is our duty to protect that world from harm as well!"

Yeesha stood up, her mouth open slightly, her eyes glazed over. Then she clenched her hands tightly and looked with blazing fury at Anya.

"You came here," she snarled. "Father'd left Serenia far behind and you still came here!"

"Yes," Anya met her eyes.

"Why would you do that?" Yeesha threw her pen down and reached for the journal, pulling it out of Anya's hand and tossing it to the ground.

"I can give you many reasons," Anya replied levelly. "But instead will give you two. The first, that Yeesha is too troubled a spirit and in return harming the travelers in Dream, and that must stop before we lose more Sisters and more Serenians to such madness. And the second is that you are not Yeesha, and if the ancestors cannot bring such truth to Atrus, then it is our job to."

Yeesha's face contorted, mixed rage and confusion and fear. She stumbled towards Anya, reaching frantically in her boot. Anya grabbed Yeesha's arm, knowing where Yannin was, going to take this Yeesha to Atrus and give him no choice but to hear their story. Instead, Yeesha pulled a knife from her boot and drove it upwards through her ribcage. Anya shouted and shoved Yeesha away, trying and failing to grab the knife before falling to the ground, one arm still reaching towards the girl. Yeesha had gone dead pale, but cleaned the knife off on her skirt and stepped away from the dead Protector.

"I am very sorry, Anya," Sirrus said quietly. "It is almost a shame, as you had more intelligence than the rest of your sisters." It would take him some time to move the body and drop it away in the river, and he was reluctant to get on it right away. He felt faintly ill at the sight of the body and nauseated at the thought of touching it. Instead he reached around her neck and pulled off her necklace, putting it in his pocket and intending to destroy it later.

"Anya!"

Sirrus started at the scream, and looked up to see the other Protector standing in the doorway. Yannin looked down at the body and back up at Sirrus, and Sirrus was surprised to see her face switch from terror to rage in just one moment.

"You!" Yannin shouted. "How dare you? As if you hadn't done enough damage, filthy, lying, treacherous..." she stumbled over the hem of her dress towards him, her eyes blazing and her necklace humming in agreement. Sirrus bared his teeth at her and it didn't faze her in the least, nor did the bloody knife in Sirrus' hand. The only thing that surprised both of them was Atrus, who had followed Yannin to Sirrus' room.

"Don't get anywhere near," Yannin said, taking a step towards Sirrus, and placing herself between Sirrus and Atrus. "Stay back, Atrus, please. There's already been one death today, and one is far too many."

"No, stand aside, and let me see my daughter!"

"She's not your daughter, Atrus!"

"Then who else would she be?"

"I've already told you! We both have!"

Sirrus took this opportunity to bring the knife around and stab Yannin's back, then twist the knife as hard as he could. She screamed and for a moment, the knife handle grew searingly hot and fire lanced up Sirrus' arm and made him scream with her. He stumbled backwards and clutched his arm in surprise, and looked down at his palm to see the skin blistering around an even deeper black mark. His mind registered the pain a moment later and tears sprang to his eyes, and he bit back further cries of pain. Yannin fell forwards and Atrus caught her, cradling the dying Protector in his arms.

"You see," Yannin said, her voice already far off, the echoes of the ancestors whispering in the corners of her mouth. "We are right," Then she followed her guide home again, and left Atrus holding a dead girl, and Sirrus fallen on the floor near the bookshelf, clutching his arm and almost whimpering in pain.

The tears ran down Sirrus' face freely and his necklace glowed and hummed brighter than ever before. It made the pain in his hand worse, and it throbbed with every motion he made, even the smallest one to reach around to the bookshelf and grab the right linking book. This was all going wrong. He wasn't finished with his work yet. His writing was still heavy handed and awkward, and the worlds he linked to not at all what formed in his mind. He didn't know the people of Releeshahn as well as he wanted, and father was still…still here, still looking in bewilderment at the two dead women. Maker curse every one of those damnable Protectors! They ruined everything, and would keep ruining it, and Sirrus would take so much longer to write properly and do anything the way he wished.

He did not want to change his plans now, but it had to be done. He dug the corner of the book into his palm, the pain there distracting him from the pain in his other hand. He looked up at Atrus and let father see his tears.

"Daddy?" he said, his voice small and frail, and he was angry to discover the quiver in his voice was entirely his own. "Daddy, what's happening here?"

"I don't know, my desert bird," Atrus said, stepping over the bodies and almost falling down. His face was white and his eyes slightly unfocused. "I don't know. Come here, my child, we'll listen to nothing of…of what those…women…what they say…" He put his hand on Sirrus' shoulder, and Sirrus touched the linking panel the next moment.

It was cold on Spire, still, and would be cold there until the gravity holding the rocks together fell apart and they all crashed into the star. Sirrus' heart raced the moment he smelled the cold, stale air, and felt the rocks at his back. As soon as father materialized, Sirrus grabbed the linking book back to Tomahna and clutched it tight to his chest.

"You should have listened to them, father!" Sirrus shouted, his voice echoing off the rocks. Yeesha's voice. His voice. It was nearly the same thing now. "You should have believed them right from the beginning, when they learned it was not Yeesha's hand that rested in theirs, not Yeesha's mind who sat in the kitchen late at night and studied the D'ni writing!" He walked over the wrecked cage and out onto the ledge, feeling the tips of his ears freeze in the wind. "Your daughter is dead, father. I killed her years ago. The Protectors were right." He opened the book, showing Atrus the linking page, feeling all at the same time shocked and proud and victorious. "Do you see this, father? Look at it. Look at the page, now, because it is the last you will ever see of it. Close your eyes and remember what Tomahna looked like when you were happy, remember the warm wind on your face and the grits of sand between your fingers, and keep that in your memory long after the fire is out and the only thing you hear is the howl of the wind. This is your prison, father!" He smiled, and laughed, but the laugh was lost in the air. "Perhaps if you had never written it at all, you would never have to look at it now. But maybe you will make something of it, like I have, yes? Either way, I am finished with Spire now. I give it back to you. Goodbye, father."

Sirrus took a running leap and threw himself off the edge of the rock, plummeting down through the clouds and into his nightmare, one that haunted him for nearly thirteen years. Falling and watching the rock zoom past, knowing that he would die, knowing it was only a matter of time before the clouds parted and there, there…there they did, and he saw the green star fill his entire field of vision, and his breath came fast and his head spun from lack of oxygen. He fell, and fell, and kept falling, but this time he put his hand on the page and felt the thrill of linking.

When he arrived back on Tomahna, the last thing in his mind before he fell asleep that night was the book, falling endlessly through the stars until it met green fire and death.

*

Sirrus woke the next morning in mother and father's room, curled up under the blankets with his shoes still on his feet. He was slow to wake, terribly tired, and his left hand still throbbed where Yannin had burned it. He untangled himself from the blankets and stared at the hand, wondering if the burn was going to be there forever. How did that woman burn him outside of Serenia? Was there something in that world he missed, some strange ability to harness their elements outside of their own world?

He'd learn soon. He had to get back today. There was no reason to stay as Yeesha any longer.

There was still the problem of mother. He went to find the book to Tay, and tossed it in the river. He spent the rest of the day hunting out the other two linking books, then found the descriptive book and spent a good long time staring at it. He eventually decided to throw it in the river, too, and watched as the current swept it out to wherever Tomahna's river led. Out to sea, no doubt. I am sorry, mother.

He went back to Atrus' study and found the Serenia book. He linked into the cave and walked through the puddles and past the bubble fountain, and glared back at the wind spirit that rose up in a small tornado in the clearing. After that, the spirits left him alone.

It had been so many years that Sirrus almost forgot the layout of this place. He found his way to the courtyard and peered into the temple, and saw one of the sisters sitting down with the mask of her face. He didn't know who she was, but he was sure she knew about the dead Protectors back on Tomahna. He felt the hairs on the back of his neck prickle, and when he turned around there was a water spirit watching him, and it didn't move when he shooed it away. When he looked back inside, the Protector hadn't moved, but Sirrus had the most disquieting sensation of being watched.

He skittered out of the courtyard and down the path to the old memory chamber. If all went well (and who knew, after all this time), the stone would still be in its place, and he could make the transfer quick and hopefully painless.

There was no one around when Sirrus made his way down through the lake and past his colored lock and into the chamber. It was cool and dry here, except for the weakly beating heart in the center of the chamber. It was beating enough for his uses.

He walked over to the sarcophagus where his body rested, sallow and thin, breath still fogging up the glass. Everything was still on and working, and this was still a living body. This would still work.

But he needed the stone. Of course the Protectors had moved it back to its original location, and it would be difficult with Yeesha's weak arms to drag it here. But he'd have to make due. He hunted around the chamber until he found some rope, and tossed it on his shoulder and went back to find the stone. When he made it there he wrapped the ropes around it and heaved it to the floor. The necklace hummed and he absently brushed it.

"Stupid," Achenar's voice growled. "Dragging things around for my little brother, and what do I get out of it? Nothing, like always."

"Shut up, Achenar," Sirrus snapped as he dragged the stone along the floor. It scraped horribly, and Yeesha's body was still too frail to be pulling things that heavy. He had to pray the Maker was on his side and would clear the way of people so he could bring the stone back to the chamber.

"It's…the plan! Sirrus' plan! He's got Yeesha!"

"She'll be permanently dead soon," Sirrus replied. "I wouldn't worry about that anymore, dear brother."

"After this, I'm never going along with any of Sirrus' stupid schemes again."

It took Sirrus more than an hour to drag the stone all the way back to the chamber, and the Maker was kind to him and let him get there without anyone hearing him. It was exhausting, though, and he felt like he'd never be able to use his arms again. In a way that was correct, though, since he'd leave Yeesha's body here when he was done and it would rot away with the rest of this world.

He fit the stone in place, and then went back up to the machines. He climbed the stairs to the top and flicked the buttons in place, waiting for a moment while the dusty machine powered itself up again.

"Look, we have to set everybody's memories back right again," Achenar's voice said as Sirrus flipped the last switch. "The amber lever. Turn the amber lever to begin the process."

"Actually," Sirrus replied. "I believe the silver lever is the correct choice."

Sirrus pulled the lever, and the timer was set. Two minutes to be in the chair, then the transfer would begin. The time in Dream shouldn't take more than ten minutes.

Sirrus sat down in the old chair. The light flickered, the bulb dusty after years of disuse. Too many years. Or maybe not enough, depending on how much he wanted to learn. Yes, that was correct. Not enough. He would have spent longer, learned more, slept well in the warm Tomahna nights had the Protectors not come and ruined everything. Let them die. Let them rot. And when this was done, let all of Serenia rot. He'd destroy their ancestor stone, and Dream would fall, and the entire Age would deteriorate into chaos and madness, and there would be no one left to remember his name and what he had done here. It was deserving.

Four, three, two one…

The lights went on, and there was darkness. Absolute, cold, unnatural.

No more than ten minutes. But even that seemed to long, in this deep chilling cold, and the nagging whispers of other's memories at the back of his mind, eating forward, and he was suddenly afraid that perhaps Yeesha would be here waiting, her thin cry of alarm alerting all the other citizens of Dream that he was not meant to be here. Without a guide, it was said, wanderers in Dream would falter and die.

Then Dream was gone.

Sirrus opened his eyes and saw glass.

Glass?

Then the sarcophagus opened. Cool air rushed into the stale, old casket.

Sirrus gasped and sat up, breathing madly, clutching the side of the sarcophagus in disorientation. Everything was blurry and unfocused, and while it was slowly growing sharper, it wasn't clearing fast enough. This wasn't Dream, because he felt something solid under his hands. This was Serenia.

He stood up, stepped out of the casket, and managed about two steps before his legs gave out and he collapsed to the floor. A moment later the pain hit, lancing up his legs and his shoulder, around his neck, hand, even eyelids. It seemed there wasn't a bit of him spared from pain, and it was worse when he tried to move.

He closed his eyes and did nothing for a few moments. There had to be a logical explanation for this.

The transfer. Had something gone wrong? Had it even worked?

When the pain subsided, he opened his eyes again. He took a deep breath and pushed himself up into a sitting position.

Sirrus raised a hand and stared at it. It was longer, veined, calloused…yes, calloused from twenty years of working with rock and crystal. He lightly touched the back of his head, and his hair was longer than it was before, but not as long as Yeesha's, and not pulled back in the braid that trailed down his back for so many years.

He could move his arms now. It meant the transfer worked.

Sirrus smiled, even though that hurt his face. He stood up and managed a few shaky steps, then climbed the stairs, panting the whole way. How long would it take his body to get used to motion again? The sarcophagus was supposed to take care of that, sending electrical impulses through the muscles as well as keeping the rest of the body breathing and in stasis. He wondered if there was something he missed, but quickly dismissed that. He was sharper years ago than now.

Yeesha's body hung limp in the chair. Sirrus walked over to it and examined it, lifting up the hand that was burned by the knife handle a few days before. The scar was still there, but never on his hand, just hers. He took the necklace off her and put it in his pocket, not knowing what he'd do with it but keeping it on instinct. Her eyes were closed, her lips slightly parted in a gasp of death.

Were you ever my sister?

Only in name.

There was no time to be sentimental. The transfer would no doubt have alerted the remaining sisters, and they would be in Dream or on their way here to discover what had happened. He was sure that the spirits of Anya and Yannin would have too, and…no, the echoes of the Protector's cries remained firmly rooted in Yeesha's memories, and all he could see were images of their bodies.

Sirrus stood and looked around once more, feeling slightly nauseated and having a touch of vertigo from suddenly being taller. His loose hair fell to his shoulders and he shook his head in annoyance, promising to bind it back as soon as he made it back to Tomahna. But first he had to get rid of that stone.

It was quite simple. He had stashed several crystal bombs in the sarcophagus years ago in case anything went wrong. He took one of them out and tossed it at the stone, and a high whine and flash of green followed and then the stone was no more. He gathered up the rest of the bombs carefully and then left the chamber, walking as quick as his tired new legs would carry him back to the cave. He heard screams in the distance, followed by shouts of alarm, and the bell started ringing. Soon, he knew, Serenia would no longer be able to access Dream, and after that, there would be chaos, and madness, and perhaps people would start attacking each other, or tearing the memory flowers to pieces. He had seen such chaos a thousand times before on a thousand other Ages, and usually…the bell rung harder and louder…and usually around this time he and Achenar would link out, back to Myst, and smile grimly at their accomplishment.

"I kept up the dream, brother," Sirrus said. He waited a moment and then linked back to Tomahna.

He wished he had more time. He wished he thought about it more. He wished he didn't have to make half a dozen decisions like this in the span of only two days. He wanted to stay in Tomahna for a few more, because it was such a beautiful place, and he wanted to write the crags of the cliffs and the bugs that flew around the lights at night.

You can, idiot, he told himself. You didn't spend the last six years learning to Write for nothing. You could link to an entirely new Tomahna, one that is completely yours and doesn't have memories hanging around it. You can write warm breezes anywhere and find an Age with eternal summer nights.

Possibilities, Sirrus. You didn't come this far just to not use them.

The Great Tree of Possibilities. That is what father called it.

Sirrus would have to train his new hands to write. They were not used to the careful, elegant D'ni letters. But he knew he could do it.

One last thing to do. He walked through Tomahna, pulling the levers and making his way across it until he came to father's study. He tore the pages out of the Serenia book and left them scattered about, finally tossing the cover somewhere to the right. He ripped open the drawers and broke equipment and tore levers out of their sockets. Such a terrible tragedy to have befallen Tomahna. He took the crystal bombs and threw them around, watching as they exploded and bits of Tomahna fell into the water. There were cracks and canyons and destruction.

I had come back from Spire, he would tell the people of Releeshahn. Achenar had trapped me on a distant rock island and linked away, having every intention to kill Atrus and Yeesha and Catherine. I finally managed to get back to the linking chamber and link to Tomahna to see what happened, and this is what I find! How long has it been? What sort of terrible things happened here? Oh, if only I could have escaped sooner, I could have stopped Achenar from hurting these people! Oh, my family, my poor sister, my dear mother and father, what has happened to them?

Sirrus felt the tears spring to his eyes, and let them course down his cheeks. Then he pressed his hand to the Releeshahn panel.

He linked into the great hall where several people were milling about. They all turned to look at him, and he took several steps and then collapsed, sobbing on the ground. The people all ran to him, and one of them lifted up his face and gasped in surprise. Sirrus knew the people from Releeshahn knew what he looked like, for father kept a picture of him on his desk in Releeshahn and showed him to the people here, his dear son Sirrus, lost in Spire too many years ago while fighting off Achenar.

"Tragedy!" Sirrus cried. "So much death! So much destruction!" he clutched the robes of the person nearest to him desperately. "Please, help me!" he sobbed. "Please!"

"Whatever is the problem?" said an older guild member, and Sirrus recognized the symbol as this person being from the guild of cartographers.

"I found Tomahna," Sirrus gasped. "It's destroyed. All of it. I don't know where everyone is. I just managed to get back to it, and there's death, nothing but death and destruction and…and…"

"I know you," said a different guild member. "Atrus' son. Sirrus. But you died!"

"I almost did…there was a struggle…years ago…Achenar was on Spire…left me there…went back to…to…" And now he wasn't faking anymore, because he could hardly catch his breath and was sweating profusely. "Please help me," he begged the guildsmen and the other people nearby. Perhaps it was the shock of the transfer finally catching up to him, because he was dizzy and nauseous, and his hands started shaking madly. Blue spots popped into his vision, and his mouth stopped forming words, and he felt the last vestiges of consciousness dissipate as he collapsed on the stone floor, hearing words of confusion and bafflement from the people around him.

Welcome to Releeshahn, Sirrus, he thought he heard a voice say.