Felix’s day was not going well. He had fairly simple goals in life:
1. Go along with this crazy scheme so Mom and Dad would be safe
2. Keep Jenna out of trouble
3. Protect Sheba
and, most importantly,
4. Don’t let anyone get killed
He was currently failing spectacularly at goals one, two, and four, but if he had any sort of luck at all he still had a chance at achieving number three. He’d forced his way to the top of the lighthouse just in time to see everything go wrong, and now he stood at the edge of the central platform with one hand holding Sheba’s and the other clutching his sword, wondering whose side he ought to be on.
It should have been finished when Saturos lit the beacon, but the unleashed power was greater than he could have imagined, and Isaac - stupid, stupid Isaac, showing up just in time to make a mess of everything - was too reckless for his own good. He’d barely won, the first time, and even with the beacon lit, and Saturos and Menardi fused together into some kind of fire-breathing abomination, he’d decided to fight again.
The tower trembled beneath his feet - Mother Gaia - and Felix swallowed thickly. He hadn’t known Isaac was this strong, or this persistent. Someone was going to die. At first he’d thought it would be Isaac, but now he wasn’t so sure. He didn’t know if that should make him happy.
As purple lightning split the sky, he bit his lip and tried to make a plan. The beacon was lit. Sheba was still alive. If he were really lucky Jenna might even have done the sensible thing and gotten out of there before it was too late. That was something.
He could fix this. Somehow. He hoped. Saturos and Menardi wouldn’t trust him again. Jenna - naive, eternally-optimistic Jenna - thought that Isaac could be reasoned with, but as Felix watched him fight he wasn’t convinced. Isaac could beat him, easily; he had nothing compelling him to listen. And even if he did, what then? Would they invade Prox with seven people? Would his parents be allowed to live that long? With half the lighthouses active, would the world even last until then?
Isaac leapt forward to attack, and Felix cursed under his breath. Ignorant child.
Sheba tugged at his sleeve, looking worried. He supposed his thoughts didn’t make a very pretty picture. He turned to her, and tried to act like he knew what he was doing. “Come on. Let’s go.”
“It’s not safe up here. Get under cover. When they’re done… I’ll sort it out.”
She nodded, staring up at him with big green eyes, and he wished she weren’t so trusting. He looked away, quickly, and began leading her down the steps, out of the way, even as the battle started in earnest again above them.
They huddled against the outside of the tower, barely protected underneath a decorative overhang, and waited for it to end. With each new volley, ancient dust shook free from the craggy walls, and he didn’t trust the hallways not to collapse. He prayed to any power that was listening that the lift would still be functional when everything was said and done.
The battle raged on, air and water, fire and earth, and Felix’s heart sank. Isaac couldn’t win. Not now. Not against that…thing. Jupiter and Mars would be lit, but at the cost of four people’s lives. His too, maybe. He was wondering how he’d explain it all to Jenna when a piercing shriek rent the air.
He waited two heartbeats, ten heartbeats, for an answering attack, and heard only silence.
And then - voices. Isaac’s voice.
They couldn’t have…
He sprang to his feet and dashed up the steps, Sheba close behind. They reached the top in time to see Saturos and Menardi fall, lifeless, into the lighthouse well, and he’d barely had time to make sense of it when the tower began to shake. Next to him, Sheba stumbled, and a blinding light flashed from the beacon. Felix flung his arm up in front of his eyes and was thrown to the floor, a sound like a million shattered lifetimes thundering in his ears.
The impact knocked him dizzy and for too many agonizing moments he lay with his face pressed against the brick, coughing dust and hoping it wasn’t the end. When his vision finally cleared, a gaping chasm yawned open where the steps had been, and Sheba -
Behind him. He turned, and saw nothing but crumbling brick, and heard her cry again. “Felix! Help!”
He didn’t see her, until he looked down. There she was, dangling by her fingers from the aerie’s edge.
He dropped to his knees. “Take my hand!”
She let one hand go and with a terrified yelp flailed for his, barely brushing his gloves. Her other hand slid farther down the brick, and she slapped her free hand back into place, clinging for her life.
He willed his arm to stretch farther, to reach her hand - but it wasn’t enough. Please, he begged silently, and wondered if she heard it. “You have to try! If you don’t, you’ll fall!”
She stared up at him, tears in those big bright eyes, still trusting him to save her. He watched her fingers slipping and knew it couldn’t be done. The tower shook, and she slipped some more, and looked down, all the way down. “The foundations of the lighthouse are crumbling,” she whispered, and looked back up at him.
She knew he’d failed her.
He stretched his hand out farther, and tried to pretend his heart wasn’t ripping in half. She was counting on him. They’d all been counting on him. Why did he always -
He gritted his teeth. No time to dwell on that, not now. “Don’t let go! You can’t!”
Her arms shook like mad, fingertips gone white. She smiled, sadly. “Goodbye, Felix. Thank you.”
“No!” He slammed his chest against the stones and reached for all he was worth, but his hand met nothing but open air. Over the edge he saw her, so small already, tumbling through the dusty sky -
For half a crazy second he wondered if maybe Wind Adepts knew how to fly, but she just kept falling, falling -
His vision blurred, and she was nothing more than a gold-and-white speck plummeting past the ends of his fingers. He’d lost her, too.
He hauled himself up on the heaving brick of the aerie, and swayed, dangerously close to the edge. He’d lost them all, and she was still falling. He’d failed, hadn’t he? He’d failed everyone. Another broken promise in a long litany of the same. But maybe -
Maybe he could do something. Maybe there was still a chance.
He stepped back, to give it a running start, and tried not to think about the ocean at the bottom. With his heart beating a desperate staccato in his chest and a wordless yell screaming from his throat, Felix sprinted forward, and jumped.