A Light In The Darkness The sharp Dezolian wind cut at the aged bishop. Two thousand years of life, it seemed, had done its work in reducing his share of the natural resistance of the Dezolian race to their planet's cold climate. Perhaps he should have stayed out of the elements, in his subterranean chamber, but he had wanted to see the work being done above him, the rebuilding of the Gumbious Temple. "Is it not fine, Your Holiness?" asked one of the priests. Nominally they were supervising the work, though in truth it was the architects and the masons who were actually in charge. "Yes, it is. It reminds me of the first time it was built. Of course, then the Corona Tower was already here to add on to." He smiled at the junior priest. They all seemed so young, these days, young and upstanding and full of righteousness. There was that one High Priest, who ran the temple south of Ryuon--Raja, his name was--who seemed to have the right attitude if perhaps an overly developed sense of humor, but then, he was eighty-five years old now. Perhaps that was all that was truly important in such matters, the time necessary to balance out the passion for truth and holiness with tolerance and calm. The bishop had been like that too, once, a young man with fire in his heart nearly two millennia ago. A time when there had been no Gumbious Temple and when it did not seem like there ever would be. It was odd, he thought, how memories from five or ten years ago could quickly fade, while those of more than nineteen hundred years ago were as sharp as crystal. * * * * * The siege had lasted for over three weeks now, and it was clear that the tide was turning. Unfortunately, it had turned against the tower's defenders. The monsters and once-men that swarmed into Corona's passages seemed endless in number, and the Dezolian defenders were most definitely not. They'd done their utmost, rigged traps, fought with blades and guns and the power of the holy litanies, but step by step they'd been pushed back. One by one they'd lost the tower floors from the ground up, until all they had left was the last level of the main tower and the spire above. Prelate Ngangbius was sure that they were about to lose that, too. He was the highest-ranking priest left in Corona Tower. High Priest Moraya had died early on, defending the first floor. Archpriestess Baratir had left long before the siege began in a desperate attempt to rally her people. Ngangbius was afraid, though, that her quest would be in vain. Their people were scattered; the wintry climate had always encouraged independence in the various towns. More than one village had been forced to relocate underground to keep out marauding creatures. The folk of Abara had fled to the Great Cave, but even those were under a bitter siege. Then, of course, there were the guraasejpaa^oTireepmoo. The so-called Society of Free Defenders of Dezolian Life were so obsessed with their mission of driving Palmans off Dezolis that they wouldn't bother with the real threat. guraasejpaa^oTireepmoo--Evilheads--really was the right name for them, blinded by their hatred. A heavy banging on the door broke the Prelate's concentration. A warrior slid back the viewing slot in the heavy, barred portal. "Let us in, quickly; they're right behind us!" The door was thrown open and a dozen battered fighters and priests dragged themselves in while two temple guards fired their guns down the corridor to keep the pursuers at bay. A sorcerer hurled a fire spell back at them, and a warrior staggered back, clutching an injured arm, before the door could be slammed shut and barred again. Lestain, a warrior monk and captain of the temple guards of Corona, sighed bitterly as the wounded walked or were carried up the stairs where their wounds could be looked at with medicine and holy power. "This is it, then? One tiny room in the highest level of the tower and the spire above? This place is barely more than a landing. About the only reason we have to even dignify it by listing it is that it's one more door between us and them, and because of its defensive use." He pointed at the murder holes inset in the ceiling through which arrows, boiling oil, and gunfire could be rained down on enemies from the spire. "If this keeps up, it's only a matter of time," Ngangbius agreed. "Couldn't we use the holy flame of the Eclipse Torch to burn those fiends out of the Tower?" The Prelate shook his head grimly. "Some, perhaps, but not all. The purely de

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