Historian’s Note: What follows is a translation fragment of an eyewitness to the Ve Cataclysm.

I don’t doubt that in the days to come many will say that the sight of Halsen, the floating city, plummeting towards Farren was the first sign that something was wrong. But they wouldn’t be quite correct. Yes, watching the lotus shaped piece of granite begin its inexorable descent towards my home was the first sign of just how bad things were, but the entire city had taken notice when the boilers, the elixirs, the float carts, and just about everything else had stopped working that morning. It was as though the magic that flowed through them had simply stopped.

It was my first time seeing Halsen, first appearing through a break in the clouds, its hanging gardens glinting emerald against the blue sky. It was like something out of a painting. Halsen, the floating city, the ruling city, seat of power both political and martial. Who would dare oppose something so overwhelming, so awesome?  I suppose that was the point.

It hung in the sky, appearing weightless, suspended by the marionette strings of divine providence. Its physical proximity to Farren only served to underscore its distance. Where we were a place of industry, trade, and agriculture, Halsen was a place of drama and influence, the source of culture and order. Until it all crashed down.

I had been told that everything in Halsen was magical, that the amount of energy they drew was equal to the rest of the empire combined. All of which meant that when the magic failed, even the tiny remaining fraction was enough to protract the city’s doomed battle with gravity, enough that I could run.

I would like to say that I was noble, that I tried to help my neighbors when I realized what was happening, but I don’t want to dishonor the memories of the dead with lies. No, when I saw Halsen from under the cafe’s awning and realized what was happening I didn’t hesitate, but set down my carafe on the nearest table, customers forgotten, and walked away from it all.

It did not take long for the rest of the people of Farren to realize what was going on. Some supplicated themselves in the streets, praying in vain to some higher power. A few looted. Most ran in a panicked mass that went all directions at once. By then the animals of the city had become aware of the impending doom; dogs, cats, birds, and vermin fled the city alongside the people. Seeing them, I thought of the cat that shared my apartment, but it was too late for that, and it was probably better able to care for itself than I was.

The thought of my cat led to thoughts of my friends and family. I would have to choose. I could leave without them, and lose every person I knew along with the rest of my world, or I could go and find them, in all likelihood condemning myself to die with them. I had no answer, so in a daze, I simply walked. At first I had no plan, no goal, but one settled on me nonetheless.

History saved me. It was clear that I would never be able to outrun the falling city, as it was much larger than humble Farren. So I went to the museum, where in my youth I had sat through a lecture on Farren’s origins as a mining town and the warren of tunnels that perforated the ground underneath, some going down almost a mile.

At first it was terrifying, with darkness as thick as mud and the sounds of the ground shifting above me as Halsen settled onto my former home. I tried to focus on the sounds of the buildings being ground to dust rather than the thought of people being caught between the two cities like wheat berries under a millstone. I stumbled on an ancient emergency station not far from the entrance, where I found lanterns and water but no food. My blind wandering through the tunnels felt like it lasted months, with me trying to stay close to the surface and always walking towards fresh air that guttered my flame.

When I finally resurfaced it was nighttime, or perhaps the sun had stopped working too. The thought made me hate myself. I thought of all the people who had been praying for salvation, for loved ones, for forgiveness of whatever wickedness they believed had prompted the impending cataclysm. In retrospect, it seemed almost noble, the idea of solidarity at the end. But my mind had held no such thoughts, I had simply saved myself.


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Author’s Notes: [spoiler]So this story originally came about when I was at work one day and thought about the similarities between oil and magic. Or, more specifically, that we live in what is effectively a science fictional world, in that most of us have no idea where things like our electricity and water come from, and that they might as well be magic. So that led me to think about what would happen to a world completely dependent upon magic if that magic ran out. Of course, the metaphor is not perfect, as I do not believe that we will suddenly run out of all oil, but the sharp break made the story work better.[/spoiler]