It begins with a book.

The hiker who finds it has no idea of its importance.  High in the mountains, where the air is so thin it hurts to breathe, she scoops it from the cave and tucks it into her backpack.  Perhaps she has always been a curious kind of person.  Perhaps the book itself whispers to her as she picks her way through gorse and scree and emerges, breathing heavily, at the edge of the tarn.  Either way, the compulsion is growing stronger, the desire to examine the treasure she found, the need to meddle with fate.

She perches on a rock, one foot dangling over the water, and pulls the book out of her bag.

The leather cover is scored with markings she has never seen, markings that seem random at first but which soon begin to weave themselves into a pattern.  If she had had a spark of Magic in her, she might have recognised the warnings woven into the leather.  If she had known the language of the Gods, she would have understood then what she was starting.  Her fingers drift over the clasp, and almost unconsciously she releases the bindings.

She can almost feel the book’s sigh of anticipation.  At last.  A rush of dust envelops her and she coughs, half of her straining to drop the book into the tarn, the other half refusing even to entertain such a notion.  When dust dissipates she turns her attention back to the pages, lips sounding out words written in a language she has never seen before.  The air shivers around her.  At her feet, the earth trembles, and the water’s surface is broken by ripples.  She can smell sulphur and fire and ash and she is frightened now, scrabbling to close the book once more, but her words have given the book power and she cannot stop the incantations she has so lightly invoked.

Steam rises from the water.  The flowers that grow on the bank wither.  All at once the woman screams as the words she cannot stop reciting gain power and burn her throat, even as she speaks them.  Her scream bubbles and breaks, and though it is terrible, the sudden silence that follows is worse.

 At last everything is still.  The book slips from her hands and falls to the ground, the water lapping at the leather.  Its task is complete and so it simply melts away, leaving no trace but a silver clasp clutched in the fingers of a once-strong woman.  Sightless eyes stare up at a darkening sky. 

A single breath stirs the air and somebody steps out of nowhere into being.  He glances around him, takes in the scene, and bends to retrieve the book fragments.  The woman’s fingers are stiffened in death and so he snaps them to release the clasp.  Leaving the dead, he starts down the mountainside, eager to escape before his fellows emerge from their long slumber.

Today is the day that the Gods return.