continued from 32/366 – The Dark Place (Cont.)
The passage turned and opened into a massive cavern that was dimly lit. Stalactites hung from the roof like great jagged teeth. Dim light flickered from the center of the room where a small pool of molten rock swirled, seemingly of its own accord. Koldian stepped forward with Morn, Jaque, and Celeste in tow, carefully avoiding cracks that spread out from the center of the floor.
“That’s where it is,” Koldian said, pointing to the pool. His tone had gone from excitement to one of seriousness.
“How are we supposed to get to it?” Morn asked, “There’s lava around it.”
“That’s not the concern right now,” Koldian said, “there are other things in here with us.”
Morn pulled his eyes from the pool in the center and saw creatures flitting around the room, hiding behind the stalactites. They were small and quick things that reflected the light from Koldian’s staff and the pool at the center.
“What are those things?” Celeste asked.
“Fire pixies,” Jaque replied.
“Exactly right,” Koldian said with a nod, not letting his eyes leave the flying creatures. “They don’t look like much, but they are more dangerous than you know. They don’t normally like to be inside, but with the elemental stone here, I’m not surprised they would be attracted to it.”
“Okay, so let’s get the stone and get out of here then,” Celeste said.
“Move very slowly,” Koldian said as he took a step forward. “I’m sure they’ve seen us, so be on guard. We may have to move very quickly if they start attacking.”
A pixie flew toward them at a rapid speed, seemingly aiming for Morn’s head. With a quick swipe, Celeste batted it, and it spiraled away from them. In an instant, before Celeste connected with it, Morn saw more than he wanted of the creature.
Its wings looked like a dragonfly, split into two layers, but they were attached to the back of something that looked like a tiny naked red-skinned human. It had sharp teeth and black eyes that were contorted in a look of hatred.
“Thanks,” Morn said, “That was terrifying.”
“It’s not over,” Jaque said as a small group of the pixies grew closer to them.
“Watch out for-” Koldian began as a ball of fire suddenly flew at them from the pixies. Everyone dodged to the sides, but Morn found himself suddenly outside the protective sphere of Koldian’s staff. The temperature rose by what felt like fifty degrees making it hard for him to breathe. The air smelled heavily of sulfur and made him cough.
“Morn!” Celeste yelled as the group of pixies moved between them.
An arrow shot between them, snagging two of the pixies out of the air and pinning them to a wall. Morn turned to see the Deep Dweller he had spoken with as well as eight more, all with bows, fire more arrows. Most of the arrows missed, but the pixies began to scatter, hiding once more.
“Come here quickly, Morn,” Koldian said, his eyes darting between the pixies and the Deep Dwellers on either side.
Morn ran for his friends as best he could. His vision was beginning to blur, and he felt dizzy from the lack of oxygen. He fell into them as fresh air hit his lungs. He gasped for air, enjoying the sweetness of it.
“What do you want from us?” Celeste said, stepping forward.
“Why have you come here?” a new Deep Dweller said, stepping between the archers with bows ready.
This new Deep Dweller wasn’t like the others. Their skin was darker, almost black. It wore clothes made of strips of gray and brown. In its hand, it held a spear unlike anything Morn had ever seen. It looked like ivory with an obsidian head. Around the tip was a series of small items Morn couldn’t make out tethered to it.
“We’ve come for the elemental stone in this room,” Koldian said. “It belongs to a friend.”
“You’ve come for the fire rock?” it replied.
“Yes, the fire rock,” Koldian said. “It doesn’t belong here.”
“Go on then,” the creature said, motioning for the pool in the center. “Let’s see you move what a dozen of us have tried to move without dying.”
The Deep Dwellers didn’t lower their weapons but also didn’t advance.
“I don’t know what’s happening,” Morn whispered. “Why aren’t they attacking us?”
“I don’t know, but I’m not about to die here today,” Koldian replied. “This is the first time I’ve ever spoken to a shaman from one of their tribes. We should do as he says.”
Koldian moved closer to the center until the heat began to penetrate the safe space he had created. Morn watched as Koldian planted his staff once again and waved his hands, muttering something under his breath. The air in the sphere grew cold suddenly and a spectral figure emerged from the ground at Koldian’s feet.
“Fetch me the stone,” Koldian commanded.
The figure turned away from them and drifted out of the sphere over the pool. It reached a ghostly arm into the lava and pulled out what looked like a tiny piece of incredibly bright stone from it. As it turned, the stone dimmed and flashed, causing the spectral figure erupted into fire, vanishing as its cargo fell. The stone fell onto the solid ground next to the pool and a circle six inches around the stone began to glow as well.
“Okay,” Koldian said as he motioned again. This time water droplets from the stalactites floated out in front of him until they formed a sphere two feet in diameter. Koldian moved the sphere down until it touched the stone. The stone, still shining, moved toward the center of the ball of water.
Koldian turned, still waving his hands, “Someone grab my staff, I can’t stop pulling more water into this or it’ll evaporate.”
“Got it,” Jaque said, lifting the staff.
“We should go,” Koldian said.
Morn, Celeste, and Jaque walked next to Koldian as they walked back toward the Deep Dwellers, who had still not dropped their bows.
“You are resourceful,” the shaman said. “Do not come back.”
“You will be punished,” the first Deep Dweller cried as he loosed his arrow.
Morn watched as the arrow cut through the sphere of water. Koldian reacted quicker that Morn thought possible, diving to the side, but in that instant, the water turned to steam and the stone fell. Morn dove forward without thinking and his left hand closed around it.
Pain. Morn was only conscious of searing pain shooting through his body, blinding him of everything and everyone. There was a pulse, and the pain seemed to triple. His body felt like it didn’t exist at that moment. There was no cavern, friends, deep dwellers, or pixies. Just this searing world that had become existence.
continued 34/366 – The Fire Stone (Cont.)