continued from 40/366 – A Little Truth (Cont.)
“You called?” Azariah said, stepping out from a shadow.
“That was fast,” Morn said, moving to a seated position on the bed.
“For the most part, I wasn’t too far from you. When I needed to change things, I just went somewhere else for a moment. They are having a fun time dealing with a new king a few kingdoms over. That was fun,” Azariah said, chuckling, “I put a sword in a stone and enchanted it so only an idiot would be able to pull it. Told the entire kingdom that only the true king would be able to pull it.”
“Really?” Morn asked.
“Nah, that’s just a story from another dimension,” Azariah replied, waving their hands at him. “So, you’re heading to the lake tomorrow?”
“Master Scaine thinks that what’s happening there is because of a sorcerer being born here. My mother told me he thinks it’s Jaque,” Morn said. “They think he might be a sorcerer.”
“I don’t know about that,” Azariah said. “That lake has been a bad place for a long time.”
“They said it started eighteen years ago,” Morn said.
“Maybe when they noticed,” Azariah said, “The wards at the bottom must have fallen away.”
“Wards? Against what?” Morn asked.
“The normal stuff, you know. Corrupted magic, undead, and the like. I had a friend a few millennia ago that insisted that I help her lock whatever that thing is away,” Azariah said, sitting on the floor. “I did what I could, but in the end, I couldn’t stop whatever that thing is.”
“You don’t know what it is, and you couldn’t stop it?” Morn repeated.
“Yeah, it’s rough out there,” Azariah said. “I don’t know that anyone should be out near there if the wards are failing.”
“Everyone says that they’ve kept it at bay for this long,” Morn said.
“If the wards are failing, it’s not being kept at bay. It just hasn’t come out itself. The people near there are only helping its cause if they are fighting the things that come out of the lake,” they said. “That thing thrives on death.”
“What are we supposed to do then?” Morn asked.
“My advice run. You don’t want to deal with that, trust me,” Azariah said.
“What about the village?” Morn asked.
“It’s just brick and mortar. It’s not like you need to stay here. I’ve already been convincing people to leave,” Azariah said, inspecting their nails.
“Why?” Morn asked.
“They wanted to anyway,” Azariah replied. “All I did was give them a push in the right direction. This place isn’t safe, and everyone knows it, whether they know what’s going on at the lake or not.”
“Did you talk to Celeste’s father?” Morn asked.
“Just a little. He’s a stubborn guy. He doesn’t like the idea of leaving, but it really is in everyone’s best interest,” Azariah said.
“But this is our home,” Morn protested.
“Homes can be destroyed, and then rebuilt. I’m not pushing anyone in any direction they don’t already want to go. This village and the monastery was built around my prison. There’s no reason for you all to be here in the first place,” Azariah said, leaning back on their elbows.
“Why don’t you talk to that monk friend of yours and convince him to leave,” Azariah said. “You don’t want to be here when the thing at the bottom of the cake comes out. It’ll be worse than you could imagine.”
Morn thought for a minute about everything Azariah had said. The deity waited patiently on his floor as though they were simply a teenager having a slumber party.
“Would you help us seal it again?” Morn asked.
“There it is,” Azariah said, a smile spreading across their face. “I knew it would come. No.”
“What do you mean, no? You won’t help us or me?” Morn asked.
“This isn’t about not being willing to help you,” Azariah said. “It’s simply a matter of what I can do to help you. That thing has gotten stronger over time. I won’t be able to slow it down this time.”
“What about Rashem?”
“What about them? They think death is a natural part of living, which it is by the way. They won’t help you either, I can promise you that,” Azariah said.
“Rashem helped Celeste save Jaque,” Morn said.
“If death was a part of life, why would Rashem help her save him?” Morn asked.
“Rashem is a weird one, for sure, but I’m telling you, they won’t interfere with people knowingly running to their death. People do it all the time. Wars, sickness, and adventure. Humans are such a weird species, constantly running around putting themselves in danger when they could be running from it and making a home elsewhere,” Azariah said.
Morn felt his ears getting hot again. He could feel something different in the way Azariah was talking to him. Everything about their conversation was off somehow.
“Are you acting like this because I yelled at you?” Morn asked. “I shouldn’t have done that, I just wasn’t ready for that big of a change yet.”
“Acting like what? Like humans are humans?” Azariah said, raising an eyebrow, “I came when you called, didn’t I? I’m not sour or anything, I’m just trying to be honest here. That lake is bad news. For you, and for me.”
“So, we shouldn’t go tomorrow?” Morn asked.
“I’m just saying that you might put a dent in whatever is coming out of the water, but you’re not stopping the problem. It will keep coming, and it will keep feeding on death. You should all accept that and move away from here,” Azariah said.
“I am grateful for everything you did for me, Morn. I really am, but this is a problem that you can’t solve. I’d prefer it if you took the people you cared about and left the village for good. There’s a really nice one up north. There’s no undead, no lake filled with darkness, and no need to die senselessly defending something that doesn’t really matter,” Azariah said.
“I appreciate your advice,” Morn said. “I think I still want to see it. At least once. Maybe, if you’re right, I will try to convince the others to leave, but I can’t just let people keep dying out there while they protect the village. Not when there might be something we can do about it. No one knew about the thing at the bottom, or the wards, so maybe that will give them a chance.”
“Alright,” Azariah said, raising their hands. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
Morn watched Azariah stand up, brush off their bottom, and walk back into the shadow where they had come from. His mind raced with the new information as he rose from the bed and got dressed.
Maybe this information will change what we do tomorrow, Morn thought as he pulled his door open and ran down the stairs.
“Mom?” He called.
“Morn?” she replied as he heard the door to his parent’s room open upstairs. “What’s wrong?”
“I’m down here, Mom,” Morn said. “I think we need to talk to Master Scaine before tomorrow. Azariah told me some things that might help.”
“I’ll be right down,” she replied.
Morn heard the door close. He looked at his father’s chair again and felt the stab of guilt once again. He thought to all the fights he had had with his father as well as the jokes they shared. Maybe after all this was over, he would be able to convince Azariah to bring him back.”
“Are you still here, Azariah?” Morn whispered.
Morn heard the door open upstairs again, and his mother came down the stairs. He opened the front door for her and let her go out first.
“Should we bring Celeste with us?” Helem asked.
“I think she would be furious with me if we didn’t,” Morn said, nodding.
They walked next door and knocked. After a few minutes, Celeste opened the door.
“What’s going on?” she asked.
“Azariah told me some things about the lake that I think Master Scaine and the Archmages don’t know. There’s something down there that feeds on death and is getting stronger,” Morn said.
Celeste stepped outside, closing the door behind her. “Let’s go.”
Continued 42/366 – To Leave a Home