Cheers from the restaurant audience were deafening. Even the oldest patrons would not have watched Jackie Fisher and the combined Grand Fleets being sunk, the last time a serious effort had been made to recover the stone, but most had seen that defeat from period motion pictures. The chess player who fifty years ago had won three games, then quit while ahead three to zero, was viewed as exhibiting another of his fabled eccentricities. For this day, mankind had waited thousands of years.
Beyond the Sarcophagus were stairs leading up. Eclipse began a slow climb out of the Maze.
The sky outside the restaurant burst into bright daylight. Video split screens showed the same all around the world. From a total planetary eclipse, now there was total planetary daylight.
“This is Vera Durand on Atlantis.” Durand spoke without hesitation. “It’s suddenly full daylight again. It’s bright, the sky is blue from horizon to horizon, but there is no sun in the sky. I’m standing on a ledge close to the Grand Exit, waiting for Eclipse to appear. I’ll do my best to get an interview.”
A slight popping noise came in the distance. Twenty feet in front of the stairs, a tall, blonde woman wearing plate mail and holding a flaming sword now stood. “Richard,” Durand said, “that’s unmistakably Valkyria, lead persona of the League of Nations Peace Enforcers. I must be surrounded by her invisible teammates. Valkyria? Would you care to tell the audience how you feel at this historic moment?”
Valkyria ignored Durand. Her eyes remained fixed on the stairs, where Eclipse was about to appear. Kang wondered what Valkyria was thinking, but her helmet hid her face. There came the faintest sound of tearing cloth. Standing twenty feet to the side of the stairs was a short, solidly-built man dressed entirely in black: Black boots, black trousers and belt, black shirt and vest, and broad-brimmed, floppy, solid-black straw hat. His face was locked in a deep frown.
“Now a Lord of Eternity is here. That’s the Screaming Skull himself,” Vera said, not that any of her viewers did not already know.
A figure came up the stairs from the Tomb. Her hair was as golden as Valkyria’s. From the new camera angle, there could be absolutely no doubt that the figure was a tall young woman. The Namestone was not to be seen. Kang felt momentarily puzzled. Was this the person he had watched enter the Maze? The body builds were discordant. Momentary surprise crossed Valkyria’s face.