Continued from 19/366 – A Mother’s Love (Cont.)
Morn stood on the platform crying into his mother’s shoulder for a time while she held him in silence. He didn’t care about anything else in the world at that moment, not the slab of stone blocking the exit, nor the friends that stood there inspecting it, praying to the god for a way out. All that mattered to him was that his mother had come back, and he once again had a parent with him. He wasn’t ready to be alone yet.
“Morn,” his mother whispered, “I think it’s time to get out of here. Your father will be worried sick if we are stuck in here for too long.”
Morn felt the weight that had been lifted slam into his stomach once again. Master Scaine had said that he hadn’t told her yet. Morn shook his head, and more tears came.
“Dad’s gone,” Morn struggled to say, “H-He’s dead.”
“What do you mean he’s dead? What happened?” she asked.
“I-It was my fault,” he stammered, pulling away from her but keeping his eyes down, “I accidentally broke a statue on the wall surrounding the monastery. It broke an enchantment, and the zombies turned on the town.”
“It’s not his fault,” Master Scaine said, turning to look at them. “Breaking the enchantment, yes, but not your husband’s death. We warned everyone about the dangers of the zombies before nightfall. Your husband was caught by several of them on his way from the fields. Had he heeded our warning, he would have been fine.”
Morn’s arms dropped, tears streaming down his face. He waited for his mother’s reaction to the news. He waited for the sadness, and the anger he was sure was coming. He didn’t flinch when his mother reached out once more and pulled him into her once more.
“My poor son. So much sadness and loss. It’ll be fine now. I’m here. It’s not your fault,” she whispered in his ear. “We can talk about this after we work out how to get out of this room, okay?”
Morn nodded, pulled himself back once more, and wiped the tears. The knot in his stomach hadn’t gone away, but he still knew it was his fault. Nothing would ever change that fact. He turned to the door to see Celeste and Jaque in heated whispers going back and forth with each other and Master Scaine’s sad smile looking at him and his mother.
“I’m sorry, guys,” Morn said.
“There’s nothing to be sorry about,” Jaque said as he turned away from Celeste, who’s ear were bright red in anger. “Based on the little that I can tell about this door at this point, I doubt I would have been able to figure it out. The trap would likely have been set off regardless. Eventually, I would have told you to walk toward the coffin to test what the purple runes did.”
“They went out,” Morn said, looking at the floor.
“Yes,” Jaque nodded, “I’m not entirely sure about the purpose of this place. It brought your mother back, but also trapped us, and her, in here at the same time.”
“It does seem peculiar,” Master Scaine said, “I’m curious what the significance of all this is. Why did it never activate the runes for me?”
“Perhaps it had been too long since the people close to you passed?” Jaque suggested.
“What’s wrong, Celeste?” Morn asked. She still hadn’t moved from where she stood.
“I’m fine,” she snapped, “I just want to get out of here and get back to my house.”
“Okay,” Morn said, eyeing her. As long as they had known each other, he knew when she was upset and when she wasn’t okay. This was one of those times, but he knew better than to press the issue with her.
“Is there anything else about this room that you haven’t told us yet, Master Scaine?” Jaque asked as he approached the coffin slowly. “I can’t seem to break whatever code this is in the runes.”
“I haven’t stepped off the platform in here, so there could be more below us that I don’t know about,” he replied.
“The runes aren’t lighting up under my feet, so I’m assuming that this chamber only has one use, or perhaps need to recharge after it’s served its purpose,” Jaque said as he arrived at the end of the platform. “Can you explain exactly what you saw, Morn? When your mother came back.”
Morn explained in as much detail as he could while his mother listened carefully. Jaque pulled a vellum scroll from his bag and jotted some notes while Morn spoke. Morn watched Jaque begin to examine the coffin after he had finished, writing more notes.
“Can you tell me what you remember, Mrs. G’Lair? Do you remember seeing anything here when you came back? You spent some time down here alone, did you notice anything while you were waiting?” Jaque asked without looking up from the scroll.
“Nothing in particular,” she replied, “I’ve never been one for magic, so I wouldn’t know what to look for, to begin with.”
“Anything at all. We know that the purple runes were glowing. We know, from what Morn told us, about certain runes changing around the room, including on the coffin. Did you notice any pulsing, changing colors in the lights, any tremors through the stone? Anything at all.” Jaque said.
“There was a vibration through the coffin that Morn said I came out of. It was like a heartbeat trapped in there,” she replied.
Jaque set his quill down and placed his hands on the rune-covered box, closing his eyes. He stood perfectly still as though he were waiting for something. Morn heard Celeste shift by the door and turned to see her running her hands across the surface.
“Go talk to her,” Morn’s mother said, nudging him.
He nodded and walked up to Celeste before whispering to her, “I’m sorry I got us stuck.”
“It’s not that,” Celeste whispered back. “Sometimes Jaque can be insensitive is all. I’m upset with him, not you.”
“What happened?” Morn asked.
“He was arguing that it was foolish for you to run to your mother when we got down here, trapping us inside,” she said. “I don’t blame you at all. I can’t imagine what you’ve been through, yet it feels like he doesn’t care enough to even consider what you’ve been through.”
“Jaque has always been a little different from us, Celeste. You know that,” Morn said. “I know that he cares about us. He spends so much of his time locked away with the wizards that it’s not that surprising that he seems a little distant at times.”
Morn and Celeste stood there looking at the runes on the door in silence for a few more minutes before Morn turned to check on the others again. Celeste caught his hand halfway around.
“I’m happy for you,” she said, squeezing his hand, “really I am.”
“I know.” Morn gave her a sad smile. “I’m worried about my mother when we get back to the house. How is she ever going to forgive me?”
“You heard Master Scaine,” Celeste said, turning now so they could both see what was happening. Master Scaine and Morn’s mother were whispering now, pointing up at the roof. “It wasn’t your fault entirely. People like to put the blame of things on one particular event, but what about the guards in the town? They could have pushed the zombies out before anything bad happened, and yet they didn’t, so wouldn’t it also be my father’s fault?”
Morn shook his head, “but it all started with that statue. If I hadn’t-”
“A lightning storm could have struck one, breaking them. You weigh like a hundred-fifty pounds with a brick on your head and somehow managed to break a piece of stone with a rope. That statue was ready to fall apart already if you broke it,” Celeste cut him off.
Morn stopped talking while he mulled over what she had said. He hadn’t really considered the strength of stone versus his weight. She had spoken with such confidence and logic that it seemed to make sense to him, at least right then.
“Let’s go see if we can help Jaque, despite him being an ass,” she said, smiling at him.
continued 21/366 – The Gallery (Cont.)