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A short story by

Cameron Dayton

Light. A trembling, coursing whiteness. Teredal blinked, saw nothing but streaks of light that trailed wet radiance across his vision.

Such beauty. Is this the Khala? Have I…?

No. There was light, but there were no voices. Silence. Tradition said that after death, the Khala was an unending chorus of minds woven in harmony and joy. But… the zealot felt only pain. Teredal rubbed the heel of his hand against the scar where his left eye had been; it had begun to ache.

How long have I been lying here?

Teredal rolled over.

The light?

Stars. Falling stars. Saalok was passing through a meteor shower, and the cascading light brought a pale and liquid texture to the canyon walls. The brilliance had woken him, and Teredal now felt all the sharp agony of his broken body. Two ribs had been cracked in several places; his arm was a blaze of pain where the infection had taken hold; and his skull still echoed with the crash and roar of the beacon.

But my hearts no longer hurt. And these shadows mean that the dawn has not yet come.

Teredal shuddered and twisted to his side. He felt the final beacon, still bound at his waist.

Even the smallest measure of an arc fulfills the greater circumference.

Now stand, zealot.

He leaned forward, wincing in pain as he crawled to his feet. Stumbling to the side, he collapsed against the fleshy, shapeless mass that had once been an overlord. It was cold in the damp sand. Teredal pulled himself up, resting against the gory thing for a moment and then stepping away. The meteor shower grew faint overhead, the last few streaks of fire disappearing into a horizon that was growing slowly lighter.

Now run, zealot. Run for Aiur.

And Teredal ran. He stumbled after a dozen steps, tripping into the sand. But he lifted himself up again and kept running. This final bit would be little more than half the distance of his last leg, but already his hearts were aching. And Teredal could not shake the blur from his vision.

Run.

The shadows began to slowly creep away from the base of the cliff he followed. Teredal urged himself to run faster, and his legs stretched into that steady, timeless pace for which the zealots were known. Sand became gravel became rock became sand again.

Faster.

He ran faster. The pain dimmed, and Teredal knew that this was the numbing taste of death as it drew near.

Faster.

His footfalls sounded heavy against the sand. They echoed off the rock walls. Echoed and grew, magnified into pounding, crashing waves of noise. Ultralisks. Screeches carried through the thin air. There were zerg behind him, hungry beasts hunting the creature who had evaded them for so long. Now his path was known, his cover vanishing as the sky lightened.

Faster.

Rocks tumbled down from the canyon walls on either side. Zerglings were running parallel to Teredal's course, matching his speed as they searched for a way to descend and attack. The rumbling was louder behind him. He could see light rimming the top of the mountains. Dawn approached.

And then Teredal was through the canyon and out into an open patch of gravel. His destination lay ahead: an ancient crater, a circular mark on the face of Saalok discernible from Aiur. There would not be any more cover. No more hiding. Only running.

The noise was louder now. Teredal could hear the quick sound of claws on stone, the zerglings sprinting for the last stretch. The creatures were fast.

But they are not zealots.

Faster.

A final burst of speed, energy coming from reserves Teredal did not know he had. The crater grew larger ahead, and he pulled the beacon from his belt.

The ambush lies there. If I can just deliver the beacon before…

An ultralisk appeared at the lip of the crater. And another. The pair he had seen patrolling during the night. They clashed their wicked scythe-talons together and stampeded down the crater's edge toward him. The ground shook. Behind them, the sun rose. Dawn had arrived. Teredal ignited his blade and charged.

For Aiur!

Teredal's call rang through the Khala, strong and clear and undiminished. And was joined. Voices echoed Teredal's cry with a fury that matched the ultralisks' roar.

For Aiur!

Bolts of blue energy cut through the dawn, blasting the ultralisks apart in a shower of blood and bone. A trio of protoss void rays spun through the gore, followed by a dozen scout fighters. They thundered overhead, lancing the air with a tempest of superheated particles. Teredal turned, saw for the first time what had followed him. It was an army of zerg: hydralisks, roaches, and zerglings without number. Ultralisks bellowed in the searing heat, defenseless against the aerial onslaught. The zerg were caught in a firestorm, and only those nearest to the canyon's edge were able to escape into shelter.

Teredal fell to his knees, the numbing darkness taking hold of his body. He felt no pain in his arm, and his chest seemed empty. The zealot tipped over into the sand, saw the final beacon roll from his limp fingers. Aiur rose on the horizon next to the sun. It was beautiful. Golden and green and perfect.

As he watched Aiur climb into the sky, more voices wove through the Khala around him.

Yes. You were correct, Executor. The zealot is here.

Teredal is here?

I do not know how, but he is here.

Teredal struggled to respond. His body would not move, and his voice felt weak, a quiet gasp trembling through the Khala.

Recall… the fleet, Executor. Recall the fleet.

There was silence, and then a response echoed down from the sky.

We have seen your marks, zealot, and the executor shall consider their meaning. Meanwhile, the fleet is being recalled. Aiur shall wait for another day.

En taro Adun, zealot.

Teredal nodded, the white sand cool and brilliant against his cheek.

En taro Adun.

He imagined for a moment that he was standing on Aiur, standing next to his master as they watched the moon overhead. The light was almost blinding.

Saalok… is bright tonight. So very bright.

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