The din is incredible.
People scream as they run, lifting shrieking children, abandoning frightened horses and donkeys, heading for the trees.
I have Siri and Horin with me and we run as hard. I pray as I race, all the while knowing trees will not save us. Our hope lies now with Lyra, and she has mere minutes left to do something. I wonder where she is. Is she as desperate as we are right now?
The fireball grows in size overhead. We are out of time.
I notice a woman on horseback, galloping towards us … from inside Arc. Amidst the frenetic activity, I come to a halt. Horin does as well, and I have the distinct impression he ran only because I urged him to. The boy who is no longer a boy gazes with expectation towards the approaching woman.
Siri swirls around, having realised we have stopped, and hastens back. “What?” she heaves.
I point. “That is Hanna. She is Lyra’s guide.”
Kay barrels into me from behind. “Damin Mur, why are you not running?”
I glance at the man and notice Manuel is with him. I also see Mirlin further back, bent over, heaving like a winded horse. “I think she brings news.” Again I point.
Moments later Hanna falls off her horse before us. “Stay on the rim,” she gasps. “Lyra says to stay on the rim! I will explain later.”
Mirlin and I look at each other, and then both of us look to Horin. He extends a hand to Hanna to lift her to her feet. “Where is my sister?”
She gazes at the boy. “Hopefully inside the Spire. She asks for you.”
Horin smiles and nods. I realise he already understands this summons. I say, “There is not time for Horin …”
Abruptly the light changes and everyone looks up.
Massive flames skitter across the sky … and then all turns to red.