How long had it been since this disaster began? How long would it be until it would end? How long did each person have before their inevitable demise at the hands of creatures incomprehensible by mortal kind? Time was such a fickle thing. How could anyone have fathomed the answers? It was time that they wrenched and ripped to their needs to get answers, and it was time that worked against them every step of the way, and it was time that eventually became the enemy of it all.

*     *     *     *     *

A box, which upon a glance seemed simple enough, was much more than just a decoration or simple container. A further inspection had shown it to be a more intricate and mystical thing, bound by powerful magic incapable of being commanded by mortal hands. It was a box that sat in a study, overlooked at times, by those who studied great tomes and an ancient history.  In the dead silence of the room, when all these great learned men and women took their leave for rest, the box remained. The box sat alone in the room, surrounded by books, and artifacts, and other incredible objects collected with meticulous care. Silence claimed the walls and tones and all that were held within each, except for a beating. The thumping of a patient finger tapping against a table one might think, or perhaps a tapping foot, keeping rhythm for the drum beating a sad, monotonous pacing. It was steady, without fail. It pounded, without ever faltering.

Thump thump. Thump thump. Thump thump.

A most peculiar box contained a far more peculiar heart, that even of its own accord continued to beat as a war drum, announcing the warriors standing ready to battle.

*     *     *     *     *

The Magician, the Lovers, Death, Temperence. A man, seemingly normal in appearance, but brimming with dark and powerful magic, stared at the mystic cards in his hand, shuffling them back into a sinister deck. He sat in the caravan alone, while other common folk and hero alike rode in nearby wagons. The road ahead was dangerous, but he held no fear. The Great Rift lay before him. In solace, he pulled a vibrant purple gem from his pocket, staring intently. With a whispered incantation of foul magic, the gem swirled with black tendrils, and in this moment he heard it.

Thump thump. Thump thump. Thump thump.

Little hesitation followed as he hissed at the gem, “Yes, Lord Arcane.”

His task was now before him.

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