Continued from 33/366 – The Fire Stone
“You really did it this time,” Azariah said, stroking Morn’s hair.
“What?” Morn asked.
“You grabbed the stone,” Azariah replied, their eyes shifting from color to color as Morn looked up at them. “I don’t know that it was really a great idea.”
“What stone?” Morn asked.
“Your mother’s elemental stone,” Azariah replied. “I don’t know if you have enough of her in you to withstand it, but you’ll find out soon. This should help.”
Azariah’s sad smile was the last thing Morn saw before they touched his forehead. Memories of the cavern flooded into Morn’s mind. He could see everything as though it were a painting. The Deep Dwellers stood in formation, expressionless except for the shaman who looked to be relieved, and the one he had encountered first its face contorted into pure rage. He could see Koldian’s surprised face with the arrow perfectly still next to his head. He could see Celeste’s worried expression as she reached forward. Jaque was crouched, covering his head. Morn also saw himself, suspended in the air, his fist bright red from the stone contained in it, his face a mask of agony.
“Are you worthy?” a whispered voice asked.
Morn turned to look for the source but saw no one.
“Are you worthy of my power?” the voice became clearer and more forceful.
“Who’s there?” Morn asked, his voice echoing through the cavern.
“I am the element in which you sought, I am both the savior of your kind and the destroyer of all,” it replied.
“You’re the elemental stone?” Morn asked.
“In a manner, yes, but also no,” the voice replied. “Do you seek to take me within you, to control me, to bend me to your will?”
“No,” Morn replied. “I-I don’t know. This isn’t for me. I don’t want this.”
“You touched me. You brought me to you. Now I’ll bring you to me,” the voice replied.
The light in the room vanished along with the scene he was seeing. A deep cold washed over him in the darkness. He wrapped his arms around himself to stop the shivering. As he looked around in the dark, he spotted a small flickering flame in the distance. He forced his legs to move despite the cold. He knew he wanted the fire. The warmth of it. It called to him silently. Before he knew it, he was running toward the flame, desperately seeking it.
The flame sputtered and flashed brilliantly for a moment. The cold darkness vanished for a moment, warming him through and exposing the red gleam of the place in which he found himself. When the light vanished, the cold returned. It felt worse than before inside him. He found his body stiffening as he struggled against the cold.
Morn tripped over his own feet and landed on his stomach, sliding on the freezing surface of the floor. The tiny flame returned once more. This time only feet from him. He scrambled to get closer to it. To warm his hands and face. To warm his body.
“What do you seek?” the voice asked. Morn could hear it from the fire. “Do you seek to be that which allows life to thrive or that which destroys?”
“I need to return you to my mother,” Morn replied. “I don’t want your power.”
“Interesting,” the flame replied. “You’ve felt my power, yet you don’t seek it?”
“No,” Morn whispered as the cold crept up his legs. He could feel his muscles seizing.
“I don’t believe you,” the flame said, “your kind always seeks power. Now answer truthfully.”
“He speaks the truth,” Morn heard from over his shoulder.
“You tricky deity,” the flame said, sounding as though it were laughing.
“Hello, Fire.” Azariah stepped into the light. “I couldn’t find you before, but he led me to you.”
“You expect me to believe you? You who have caused so much pain and suffering?” the flame retorted.
“This boy is special,” Azariah replied. “I don’t expect you to believe me in the least. I expect you to really consider what he is saying.”
“He has gripped me as thousands have before,” the flame replied, “he has the same choice I gave them.”
“He is not a sorcerer,” Azariah said.
The flame grew suddenly into a vaguely human shape. With it, the heat spread, warming Morn’s body through.
“If he is no sorcerer, how then is he here?” the flame asked. “How then was he not destroyed when he touched my spark?”
“I may have bolstered him slightly, but he would have made it here on his own,” Azariah said. “He freed me from my prison. I brought his mother back in return for this favor, only I didn’t anticipate her connection to you.”
The face of the flame looked down at Morn. He couldn’t see an expression, but he felt as though it were studying him.
“I am impartial-”
“Don’t lie to me, Fire,” Azariah said. “I’ve known you for far too long for you to try that. You’re not impartial in any case. I’ve witnessed you burn through vast forests, leaving only ash behind you. I’ve seen you slow your burn to keep longer for those relying on your warmth for survival. You’re as prejudiced as the rest of us.”
“You always were my favorite, Azariah,” the flame replied, its voice having an entertained tone to it. “So, you speak the truth, boy?”
“Y-yes,” Morn replied.
“Then I would ask you to stand,” the fire said. “I’ll give you the power to carry me, but not to use me, do you understand?”
Morn rose to his feet and turned to face the deity and element standing before him. He took a deep breath and nodded.
The element walked toward him, wrapping its arms around him. He expected the pain he remembered, but instead found a warmth that glowed deep in his stomach. The fire faded, slowly pushing itself into him, and with the last of the flickering light, Morn saw Azariah’s smile brighten.
Morn landed on the floor of the cavern, suddenly aware of the fact that he was back in his body. Celeste’s scream echoed as the shaman before he spun and swung his staff. The Deep Dweller that had fired the arrow screamed in pain and fell to its knees.
“No one will harm them,” the shaman replied.
“Morn!?” Celeste said as she slid next to him. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” Morn said, pushing himself to his knees, the stone still clutched in his hand.
“Interesting,” Koldian said, looking down at him, “this is unexpected.”
continued 35/366 – The Fire Stone (Cont.)