Julia mistakes the first explosion for a cart crash.
“Baba!” she yells, leaning back from the forge and wiping the sweat from her brow. “Who let One-Eyed Hernandez drive again?”
These are the last words Julia Waxman Burnsides ever says to her father.
The second explosion tears through the support columns directly under the Hammer and Tongs. Julia lurches, the forge scattering burning embers everywhere, as the whole building shakes, sways, and collapses. She leaps backwards just in time to avoid a massive beam that crashes down where she was sitting, and also just in time to fall into the crack ripped in the floor of their home.
She swears and swings her hammer as she falls, catching herself just in time on the ragged wood, an inferno raging below her, dust and heat and flames roaring upward. Her eyes widen and she hoists herself back up into the ruined workshop just in time to save her legs.
She scrambles to her feet and sprints for the door, shouldering it open just as her forge explodes, the shock wave catching her in the back and throwing her out into the street and out into chaos.
Julia crashes into the wall, the wind knocked out of her, and for a moment, the screams of her friends and neighbors, the braying of panicked animals and the rumbles of more explosions, bleed together into a cacophony of sound. She imagines, for a moment, that it’s the rebellion all over again, and puts out a hand for her husband to help her up.
Magnus, of course, isn’t there, gone to Neverwinter for his showcase.
Julia has never wanted him at her side more.
Alone, she hauls herself up with her hammer, grunting as her ribs cry out in pain, and takes another precious moment to access the situation as the ground beneath her feet shakes and buckles.
“EVERYBODY HOLD!” she roars, voice at battle pitch.
Her friends and neighbors, their training still sharp for all its been months since their victory, turn and snap to attention at the familiar tone of their general’s voice.
“Julia!” her best friend, Shell, scrambles forward, their arms full of a miraculously still sleeping child. “We don’t know--”
“Kalen,” Julia growls, rising up to her full half orc height. “Shell, take the children. Tori!”
One of her lieutenants, the best glassblower in the whole damn city and currently holding up a collapsing house with Shape Water, flicks her ears back. “Right here.”
“Of course,” Julia mutters, a grin passing over her face in spite of everything. “Bo, Charm, evacuation routes C and F, now .”
“Yes ma’am!” Bo shouts, snapping out a sharp salute. The expert bookmaker and Charm, the best apothecary this side of the Teeth, rapidly corral the fleeing citizens as Julia turns back towards her own home. She strides forward, steady even as the ground rocks beneath her feet, fully intending to go back in for her father.
As she raises her hammer, the world goes red, heat searing across her body.
And then everything goes black.