Kang stared at the screen, unable to help himself. All activity in the kitchen ground to a stop. The screens showed a long, grey marble corridor, illumined by two rows of unblinking cressets, flames that burned without pause or flicker. A figure could be seen limping away from the camera, whatever the Maze used for cameras, toward an open door. Who was it? What was going on? By now the Maze must have killed the challenger, but that was surely the challenger, if barely on her feet. Kang held his breath.
The figure crossed the threshold. Instantly, the room beyond was flooded with sunlight, sunlight visible nowhere else in the world. The point of view shifted.
The challenger stood in the Tomb of the Martyr, the final resting place of the man who had brought the Namestone to Earth. There was the Martyr himself, lying in state atop his sarcophagus, hands crossed, his corpse unchanged over the thousands of years he had waited. Above his fingers floated a glowing sphere of crystalline sky, the brightest of royal blues. He held the Namestone, The Artifact That Grants Every Wish, The Key to Paradise.
The challenger walked slowly across the polished stone floor. She was indeed a woman, Kang decided, very slim, but decidedly not boyish in her build. Her garb was torn and stained with blood. She’d lost the stocking cap in a fight. Sweat plastered her hair to her scalp. When she approached the Martyr, stains and rends in her garb’s fabric disappeared. Her hair fluffed out, revealing short, perfectly cut golden curls. Down from the ceiling floated a pale grey cape. It folded over her shoulders, draping perfectly, its fall extending almost to her ankles. She reached down and tugged at the cloth. The cape flared, revealing a sigil, a solid circle overlapping a sun in glory. Kang had a near-perfect photographic memory. The challenger’s sigil, indeed any sigil including even a part of Lord of Eternity Solara’s sun-in-glory sigil, he had never seen.
She reached the Martyr. “I am here,” she announced. Her voice, Kang thought, was an upper soprano, its tones brilliantly clear. “I have read The Copper Book of Harvest Stars and obeyed its mandates. I’m here for the Namestone.”
“Are you here to take the Holy Namestone, the Key to Paradise?” The voice came from everywhere and nowhere.
“I am here to ask you for the Namestone, if I’m worthy. So speaks the Copper Book,” she answered.
“Speak your name,” the voice commanded.
“Eclipse is my persona. I am glory herself.”
“Then reach out, Eclipse, and take the Namestone.”
Eclipse cleared her throat. Someday, Kang thought, her children will cower in terror at that sound. The restaurant was dead silent. Every conversation had stopped. Diners sat, forks paused in mid-air, staring at the video screens.
“Then reach out, Eclipse, and I will give you the Namestone,” the Martyr announced.
Eclipse leaned forward. The Namestone rolled from the space above the Martyr’s hands into Eclipse’s. The Martyr lay back, his hands now clasped together.