The peak of the tower was less than ten feet away. If Elias were to look over his shoulder, he’d see a whole city splayed out around him, the buildings shorter and shorter the farther they got from the central tower, until the crumbling walls put a sudden halt to all buildings. What was once a proud ancient city had been in ruins for years before the current people swept across the land.
Starting several years ago, the city had made no more progress in its march through time. No bricks had fallen, even in precarious places. Scholars couldn’t approach to discern why, and even those immune to the sleep spell couldn’t find the true cause.
Elias was probably the most informed demigod on the continent when it came to time. Despite not being an Oracle himself, it fell to him to investigate the Sleeping City.
The eaves at the top of the tower might have posed a problem for a less experienced climber. As it was, it only took a second of tension and calculation before Elias could leap away from the wall. His hands grasped the edge of the roof and he hoisted himself up in one fluid movement, not minding the buzzing near his ears as Eral had to take flight again.
“Keep close to me, buddy,” Elias warned, and then grunted with the effort of hoisting himself up onto the slope of the roof.
Eral scoffed. “I know,” he complained indignantly. “I’m not falling asleep again.”
Elias waggled his eyebrows. “Long way to fall if you do,” he pointed out helpfully. Then, more or less gracefully, he was on the roof. Tiles made of colored glass splayed all across the top of the tower, twinkling in the starlight. In the sunlight, the towers of ancient cities like these always had a colorful glow about them, thanks to the glass designs.
Elias plopped himself down to a seat on the stylized glass pattern of a flower petal and dug around one of the inner pockets of his jacket. While he searched, Eral turned to view the city around them. For a being so small, everything around them outsized him, but from up there the houses looked miniature.
“So what’re we-” he turned back to see that Elias had retrieved a worn reed flute from his jacket. The pixie rolled his eyes. “What are you doing with that? Is this really the time?”
Elias brushed a hand back through his flame red hair, a contrast to his brown skin. Once he was suitably mussed, he pointed the flute at Eral. “It is exactly the time, my friend. Believe me, I know time, it’s all mum ever talks about if anyone’s listening, y’know.”
Eral shot him a flat look and kicked at the flute. Elias, predicting the move, pulled the instrument away and snickered when the miss threw Eral off balance. “Fine. What’s the plan?”
“For now, Mageslayer,” Elias began with a smirk in his tone, “you just listen to the show. When I’m done, stuff can happen.”
Then, without more setup, Elias closed his eyes and started to play.
It was a slow tune at first, like he was testing out the sound of the instrument he’d had for years. Eral drifted in the air near the wandering bard’s head while he played, admittedly captivated by the husky sound of the flute. Even he could tell when magic was weaving into the notes, slowly and carefully.
Elias was about to work something huge from the top of that tower.
The sky was brightening on the horizon, and the tune slowly picked up momentum and volume. When the sun finally peeked over the curve of the earth, the music picked up much faster, and Eral paused to watch closer.
It was like a heat haze rippled outward from the demigod as he worked. Elias opened his eyes again, watching the same haze reach out over the city. His eyes sparked like storms, and he didn’t register anymore that Eral was there.
Eral drifted down until he landed on one of the glass roof tiles, staring up at his friend. Elias always seemed eerie when he decided to dip into his more powerful abilities, and this was no exception. There was the faintest grin in the part-human’s features as he glanced over the array of rooftops.
Eral definitely didn’t want to become the focus of a hyped-up demigod of mischief and storms, so he waited silently while Elias did his work. He’d been advised on this many times before, and this was the first time he really saw it in action for any length of time. From climbing the tower with ease to weaving a song that was about to blanket an entire city, Elias had been drawing on his reserves a lot.
The song died down eventually, but like any magical tune it lingered in the air. Eral found himself inching towards the edge of the roof, watching for the effect. The sun crept higher, and he squinted at the ground down below.
There was motion. At first he thought he imagined it. Then, the sun spilled into some of the streets, lighting up the sleeping forms of the citizens.
They were waking up.