Book II - Chapter 15

Chapter 15

 

Fire.

Dark, deep red, among flashes of something worse.

It burns.

Heat that threatens, no matter how quickly I heal against its touch.

There are the voices.

Swimming freely about the red: I can hear their screams, howls and laughter all mixing into one horrible symphony of the damned.

Elven… human… beast… others.

“Blood had been spilled.” They say. “Blood has been paid.”

So many voices… so many voices…

I can’t block them out.

No matter how hard I try, I can’t keep those voices out of my head.

"Servant of the world... no..." Quiet as a whisper, heavy as a mountain shifting. "No... something else..."

This amuses them.

My skin is burning now, scent of brimstone mixing with the taste of iron. Scales peeling in the heat.

"False one..."

The chaos is all around me, swirling like an orb beyond the barrier as faces and eyes turn within it.

They’re cackling.

"Outsider..."

The tempest shifts, massive forms passing by in the shadows of fire and death.

Things I should not see.

I am broken before them, to stare is to seek death, but no matter where I turn there are more. If I close my eyes, it makes no difference.

They are there.

All that protects me is the thin barrier.

What was once a prison is now an unintended act of protection

"Impersonator..."

The whispers worsen, clarity of their words rising above the storm of madness.

"Creature, but not so simple..." The chorus grows. "Divine, but not yet of Gods..." Their song captivates my thoughts until there is nothing but a rising note of tragedy. "A lost soul, but not of fate...”

“An intruder?"

The pressure suddenly crashes, heavy waves against a hollow stone as the voices answer. Like the clapping of thunder, deafening a question to the core of whatever place I've come to witness.

"Usurper... or mistake?"

Alone, the question stands within the fires and blood, the smoke and darkness of deep shadows and abyss. It stares at me, with rows of fangs and teeth and splinters of reality, lips turning towards a terrible grin.

"All and none!" It shouts back at itself, laughter twisting on the noise. "Mind and body! Both, and neither!"

Perhaps the joke is at my expense, for I can only watch helpless as the currents around my prison stretch on forever. An abyss below, and an abyss above, to either side: I am lost in an endless ocean of writhing chaos, and yet I feel it in my bones: the pressure of silence.

The voices have stopped, but that red of deep and dark grows still.

Eyes and faces, contorted visions within the roiling madness withdraw, to leave me amid its vastness of quiet nothing.

Nothing but the color of blood.

Silence.

Alone, once more.

I turn my body, I twist to stare- seeking something, anything. Instinct within me no long speaks, only screams, and my mind feels itself moving not far behind. This thin barrier, meant to hold its contents, now the only thing keeping them from danger.

Is it enough?

Would anything be enough?

My body shakes.

I feel the tremble of a force beyond mortal knowledge, summoned up with a distant sound of violence that rises, and rises, and rises. The quake before an eruption: a last warning for those to make their peace with the coming grave.

The orb cracks, splinters breaking and resealing, breaking and resealing: but is it quick enough? Is it strong enough?

The scent of blood and madness is creeping in towards me, but no matter what flames I throw back, they simply reform. Crawling like insects, clawing inside towards their chosen prize.

Power is beneath me, and I see them now in the distant depths of a dark red ocean. The maw of their entirety: with jaws of doom opened for one final howl.

"TRESPASSER!"

AHHHH-

-SSSSSSSSS!

[RESTRICTION – LOCK IN PLACE] [!]

I’m awake!

[CONDITIONS NOT MET] [!]

I swear, I’m awake!

[PROGRESS 0/100]

Only a dream! Only a dream…

I remember fire, and blood, and voices, and… and…

What was that?

Just a nightmare?

God, it was horrible, whatever it was.

Deep breaths…

It’s gone.

I’m okay.

That was just a messed-up dream. Nothing real, nothing to worry about.

We’re okay.

Everything is fine.

Imra is quietly sitting in that pose of hers and I’m curled up in a warm patch of sand, where nothing bad has ever happened.

I’m still curled up.

Nice and safe…

Sss…

That’s right, I remember now. Imra was tired from all the running, and I wanted to see if we could find a decent spot to settle down, by the road.

We stopped here before we tried to get to…

The wall.

Ah.

Morning hasn’t come yet, so it’s still dark, but looking closely: I can still see the outline.

It’s insane.

Still at least a mile away from it, but that thing has got to be a couple hundred feet tall, and I don’t even know how far it goes for. Ten? No, fifteen or more miles, in either direction?

Unnatural behemoth of a structure.

Probably good we stopped short.

Intimidating.

Sss…

There were more signs of people, along the road. More humans, I’m assuming. Nothing useful, but traces of them seem to be pretty much everywhere.

Ragged lumps of abandoned clothing, worn to shreds by the sun and wind. Odds and ends of broken things, like pottery, or pieces of wood. Animal bones scattered around, near burnt pits beside the road. There are even a few clusters of what were once, probably buildings of some kind. They’re all broken down and half buried by sand, but they’re noticeable.

I think there was a small town.

Little unnerving, really.

So many signs of people, but no actual people.

Not even dead ones.

[Voice of Gaia] you listening?

“…”

I guess there’s no chance of mystic insight, anymore, is there?

“…”

Apparently, I won’t be getting any answers, but I feel like [Voice of Gaia] is listening. Giving me the silent treatment, almost. Passive-aggressive… or close to it.

Sss…

Imra won’t be ready to move yet.

She needs to rest, and she’s so thirsty that I’m feeling thirsty. Which is quite uncomfortable, especially because I really don’t ever get bother by that sort of thing. I’m not used to it.

But, that’s fine.

We’ve still got plenty of time before the sun starts coming up.

If Imra’s recuperating, I’ll be productive.

Time to scout ahead.