Two men faced each other in a field beneath a yellow sky, the tall purple grass bowing before an unfelt breeze.
Random showed his hands - empty. "It's not too late, Martin," he said. "Let's figure a way through this."
He took a step, stopped. Hands hidden in the grass gripped his ankles. As he kicked free of one, others pushed through the crumbling dirt and scrabbled at his heels.
"No," Martin drew his blade. "It was always too late."
Behind him, the sky shattered - crazing into a thousand shards, pieces of elsewhere. Sudden squalls of rain, hail, and tiny fish fell, fitful and confused, to evaporate or die wriggling among the purple grass. Blood bloomed on Martin's shirt front.
"Even that!" Random cried, struggling forwards. "I can help you!"
Martin pressed a hand against the old wound. "Oberon couldn't help me," he fell back a step, teeth clenched. "Nobody can! Brand couldn't undo it. His own son couldn't, nor his whore. The Lords of Chaos, his masters, they couldn't fix this. You know why?" Blood seeped out between his fingers, thick and dark. "The Pattern's broken. Everything's broken."
"We repaired the Pattern once-"
"Oberon lied, you idiot!" Martin screamed. "Do you understand? He lied!"
The purple grass withered at his feet. A thousand winds howled and shrieked from the broken sky. Flakes of ash and burning roses whirled about them.
"Yeah, we figured," Random said. Fingerbones crunched beneath his heels. "Listen, there may be another way…"
"No," Martin continued backing away, leaving in his wake a trail of shrivelled grass and black dirt. The light from the shattered sky cast odd shadows about him. "There's only one way to end it."
Random kicked off the last hanger-on and ran at Martin.
Martin raised his sabre – in defence or in farewell Random did not know – and stepped backwards inside his own shadow. It hung there a second, an after-image in negative. Random's fist closed on empty blackness, stingingly cold, and he swore.
Beneath his feet, the dead grass lay rotting on the black earth. Random observed that Martin's dozen or so steps had been enough to scar the place. The Black Road had taken hold. Above him, the broken sky tore at his vision and senses. Something flapped out of one piece of sky and fell into another. His inner ear was beginning to itch –
"Ah, wonderful. You're not dead," Bleys' voice sounded in his head. "Which means…"
"I didn't kill my son," Random said. "Now get me out of here."