There was no roar of flames, no superheated blast that raced through the open corridors of the ship. There was no massive lurch as countless tons of force were suddenly unleashed upon a small internal chamber of the Umbral Eclipse.
There was a flash of light, and then silence. It was an unnatural silence; the silence of unexpected deafness, of a heart suddenly stopping. It was the silence of two lovers parting ways after countless years, but without having the chance to say goodbye.
The Umbral Eclipse shuddered, a thick and slow vibration that stole balance and bruised bodies. It happened once, lasted for a few seconds, and then ceased. Any sound that could have come from the vibration was choked out by the oppressive silence.
This all happened in an instant; a singular moment of time sliced from the chronology of creation and frozen for what felt like an eternity. Then it was done.
* * *
The component vessels that made up the Umbral Eclipse did not break. No, they separated. After millennia of being forced to consume one another in a twisted form of fusion, they were finally allowed to just let go. And they did.
The outermost vessels detached first, the strange demonic flesh-steel that held them together evaporating in the blinding light. The strange stuff was almost entirely magical, and the anti-magic wave racing outward from the central chamber negated its existence.
Some of these were modern Legion vessels, collected from allies and rivals and fused into the greater amalgamation that was Sraath's fortress flagship. These continued to hover in the unreality around them, drifting away in the space above the Outer Gate.
Some of these were temples or prisons from races and worlds recently extinct. Some were from races still fighting. These structures had no method of sustaining their altitude, and so they fell away towards the featureless surface below.
The structures further inward held on a little longer, refusing to let go as the flesh-steel melted between them. The eerie light of the Outer Gate pierced the darkened corridors as gaps began to open deep within the ship, forcing the stubborn components apart against their will.
* * *
"Well, I think it worked!" Araatris said as she got back to her feet. The violent vibration had taken her balance, along with that of almost everyone else around her. "We got everyone?"
The young huntress looked around at the gathered faces and did a quick mental count. She noticed a few missing, but that was expected. She could not afford to lose herself in the worry right now.
"Where's Tal?" she asked, noticing at least one more missing than her last count. "Shizu?"
Shizukera was distracted, looking with an expression of worry down the corridor they had just come down. She turned to Araatris with her ruined eyes and shook her head as if to say "I don't know..."
Araatris frowned. Well, Tal could take care of himself, right? Right. He knew what he was doing. Now, however, they had to find a way to get to safety. This vessel was coming apart under their feet.
"Come on!" she shouted. "He can catch up!" She then turned down another open corridor and pointed. "This way is the way we came. Maybe we can find something down here!"
The group followed her lead, running down the corridors and leaping over fissures that opened between the deck plates where one component vessel had been fused to another. Each new corridor added to the confusion, however, strengthening the feeling that the Umbral Eclipse was purposefully trying to trap them. What had likely been a matter of seconds felt like hours.
A curtain of sickly light tore through the hallway ahead of them, just in front of a door. The nauseating sensation of the Outer Gate outside spilled through, and the doorway began to drift away with the rest of that section.
Araatris cursed and skidded to a halt at the edge, feeling for a brief second that she could still make the jump. It was not that far, in truth, she could make it to the other side.
But many of the others could not.
She had sighed and turned back to the group, opening her mouth to tell them to go the other way, when another fissure ripped open behind them. The section in which they stood lurched as it separated from the whole entirely.
* * *
"The Eclipse is coming apart, lord," Shazadi said to the larger eredar standing next to her. "We should get out of here."
"It is such a shame, is it not?" Malfias mused. "So many thousands of years, so much history around us. Only to be lost here in this damnable place."
"You can collect it all when you return, I think," Shazadi's voice, while still maintaining reverence, was becoming impatient.
Malfias chuckled. "Be at ease, Shazadi, we are not in any danger."
The eredar sorceress raised an eyebrow at her superior, but did not respond.
Malfias continued in her silence. "You realize that the Eclipse was not just made up of ancient ships, yes? That Sraath added vessels from across his entire reign, including during his recent descent into madness? What do you believe happened to my own vessel, dear Shazadi?"
Shazadi frowned, looking around the chamber once again. They were inside a Legion vessel, for certain, one that looked more modern than some of the more ancient constructs towards the center. She recognized the artifice as matching that of her own, much smaller, ship, but configured differently.
"We are on the Mindslayer?"
Malfias's grin could not be seen from behind his high collar, but the shape of his eyes changed to satisfaction. "We are, indeed."
The eredar demon lord waved his hands, and the consoles around him awakened from a deep slumber. Glowing runes and diagrams ignited in the open air around them, the chamber itself bursting into brilliant life.
One display caught Shazadi's attention, a hovering model of the Umbral Eclipse in its death throes.
"Lord," she began, pointing to a specific place on the slowly rotating image. "The demon hunters are still aboard."
"Ah, yes. I see them. They do appear to be somewhat...scattered, don't they?"
Shazadi turned to look at the psychomancer. "They are vulnerable."
Malfias's eyes still grinned. "Yes. Yes, they are."
* * *
There was no sound of rushing wind. That is what she noticed most. Like the immediate aftermath of the blast, everything was unnaturally silent.
Araatris looked down from both of the edges that trapped her and the rest of the Netherbane on their fragment. The ground, unnervingly flat and featureless, was leagues below them, and the structure upon which they were stuck had no means of propulsion. In fact, the architecture made it look like it had once been a temple to Elune. Ironic, she thought, that they would die out here in a temple dedicated to the night elven goddess of the moon.
"We're beginning to fall faster." Poeryth's voice. She seemed strangely calm, almost accepting. Analytical.
Fethas growled, the noise almost sounding like two people instead of one. Araatris was keeping her distance for the moment.
Elithe peered over the edges as well. "Well, this will probably be uncomfortable very soon now."
Shizukera and Zadera remained silent, both repeatedly glancing back, and now up, to the central cluster of ships that still made up the bulk of the Umbral Eclipse. It was too far away for any of them to reach, now. Or for anyone to reach them.
Then a shadow fell across the group, casting them into a deep green darkness. A noise flooded around them, shattering the unnatural silence of their fall--a rumble, as if some great cosmic mechanical beast were snarling at them.
A Legion vessel descended nearby and stopped, hovering mere feet from the torn opening of the temple fragment. Its twin pronged prow glowed brightly with fel energy, casting long shadows from its helpless targets. The demonic lightning crackled around the front of this ship, and it was pointed directly at them.
"Really?" Zadera shouted in frustration. "We're already dead! What're they trying to do, kill us twice?"
The glowing ball of energy exploded, and a beam of searing demonic light lanced through the temple fragment's opening.
* * *
Araatris blinked. Or, rather, that's what it felt like. It was difficult to blink without actual eyelids. She had looked closely at her sockets once, since her own flesh-shaping under Eraelan's hands. They were not burned out or cut open as the others, as she had never gone through that ritual in this body. Her eyes were just... empty. Naturally empty. Filled with felfire, of course, but, otherwise, void of any scarring.
"I think I'm getting tired of dying," she muttered to no one in particular.
"We should cease meeting this way, Araatris," came a female voice. Familiar. She would have thought it draenic, but she knew better. It was from an eredar.
"Shazadi?" Araatris sat up and looked around. She was in a large chamber with glowing runes etched into the ground. The others were here, too. Some groaning and sitting up, and others unconscious. "Where are we?"
The eredar sorceress stepped out from a nearby doorway and smiled. It was not warm, but it was also not threatening. "The Mindslayer. The vessel of the Sovereign of the Eastern Gate." Shazadi extended a hand down to help the demon huntress to her feet.
"I am surprised Malfias has a ship of his own." Araatris responded, taking the sorceress’s hand.
Shazadi raised an eyebrow. "I am surprised that you assumed someone such as he would not have a ship."
Araatris paused. "Yeah, you have a point."
"Gather your others, Araatris," the sorceress said as she turned and started walking away. "This is not over. The Eclipse has broken apart, but there is still a strong energy signal at the spire."
Another sigh escaped Araatris's lips, and she slumped a little. "After all that, Sraath's not dead?"
Shazadi paused and looked over her shoulder, her other eyebrow raised now, too. “I am further surprised that you would think it that easy.”
* * *
The small crystalline vessel hovered in the nothingness, having been pulled into and out of the dimensional shift when the massive fortress blinked itself to one of the Outer Gates. Ahead of them that very fortress hovered, slowly crumbling under its own weight.
The two passengers sitting in the golden craft looked at each other, then the female one pushed the controls forward, determination on her face.