He watched the sky intently, eyes fixed on the endless darkness, and then, just as he had expected, Killeen’s lightning began to strike once more, revealing the Manta Rays that flew through the sky. They dipped and weaved, gliding between the jagged bolts of electric blue light. The world had changed a lot since Jacob had been reborn. He had expected much of it, he’d even foreseen some of it, but as he stood on the beach, digging his bare toes into the wet sand, he knew that something had gone horribly wrong.
Instantly the rolling clouds above were joined to the thunderous waves below by uncountable strings of otherworld electricity and the bridge flashed into vision. When it had first been built, the ground folk had believed it to be nothing more than a pier. They had never known its higher purpose.
Walking along the shore, Jacob watched as the iron legs of the bridge grew closer, revealing the rusty entrances to the hidden homes of the Trolls of Shadow. Tales of these dark souls had crept even into mortal folk lore but, for centuries, they had remained hidden, even from those with the gift of fire-sight.
He trudged up to the top of the beach and onto the pier and turned to look far down the bridge’s length. He looked past the huts of the watchmen who posed as candy floss salesmen in rotting wooden kiosks, past the palace of the golden prince who masqueraded as the mere manager of an amusement arcade, and right into the dark abyss itself. And then he knew. He would never be able to return.
As he stepped forward the waves grew fierce and began to hit at the bridge with such ferocity that they rode right over him, leaving him dripping with the cold tears of the ocean. The sea was giving all she could to turn him back, but he could not relent. He pressed on, striding forward towards the darkness. With every step the bridge grew two strides longer until, nearer to the horizon than to the land itself, Jacob could see nothing around him but bridge and sea. But still he continued.
It was three days and eight nights walk to the land of Killeen and, by the time the bridge’s end came into view, it was clear that Jacob had come too late. Instead of a kingdom of green rolling hills, trees of golden leaves, and rivers that ran with sparkling cerulean sapphires, he found a dark and wounded land. The trees were burnt and broken, the rivers dried up or set ablaze, and even the ground itself was scorched black, dry and lifeless.
Jacob paused for a moment, inhaling the ash filled air and breathing out his white rage. And then, throwing off his torn and sodden rags, he stepped off the bridge and marched forward into the darkness. The final day of Killeen’s reign had already begun.