continued from 44/366 – Blackwater Lake
Morn and the others followed Master Scaine through the trees as darkness truly set in, plunging them into the inky blackness of night. The tree canopy above them blocked out any view they might have had of the stars as well as any small fraction of light the moon may have provided.
“This should help.” A flash of red light, followed by the crackling of fire as Archmage Koldian lifted his hand, holding a ball of spinning fire.
“Thank you,” Master Scaine said.
“I think we should make camp here,” Helem said, looking out into the darkness. “If anyone is out here, they should have a fire, even if it is a small one, we should see some evidence of it.”
“This wouldn’t be a good spot for a camp,” Master Scaine said. “This place has already been attacked by the looks of it. We should keep moving.”
“I agree with Master Scaine,” Koldian said, “I feel like something is watching us.”
Morn felt the hair on the back of his neck stand as an unseasonably warm breeze drifted past him. He looked around, searching in the darkness for where it could have come from, but saw nothing. He felt something pulling him away from the camp, in the direction opposite the water, and before he could stop himself, he was walking carefully over the roots and sticks on the forest floor.
“Morn?” Celeste asked, following him.
“I think they might be this way,” he replied. “Something is pulling me this way.”
“I don’t know-” Helem began.
“Go ahead, we’re right behind you,” Master Scaine said, cutting her off.
“There’s warm air coming from over here.” Morn walked forward, stepping around trees and small undergrowth in that direction.
Behind him, he heard Helem whisper, “I don’t feel anything.”
His mind blocked out the sound of the forest and the people following him and hyperfocused on the feeling of warmth he was following. The closer he got to it, the warmer it became. Twenty minutes into walking, he pushed through some bushes into a clearing, revealing a stone monolith standing before him. It looked foreboding in the moonlight. The warmth immediately washed away, replaced by the bitter cold of the night.
“What is that thing?” Jaque asked.
“I-I’m not sure,” Morn said. “This is where I was led.”
“It’s a traveler’s stone,” a voice said as a figure limped out from behind it.
“Gordean!” Master Scaine said, rushing to their side as they collapsed.
Celeste ran up as well, kneeling next to them. “Let’s see if I can do this again,” she said as she fished a necklace out from under her clothes. Morn recognized the symbol of Rashem just before she grasped it in her fist. He watched Celeste close her eyes and mutter a small prayer with her other hand resting on the initiate before her.
Bright white light filled the clearing and was gone in a flash. The initiate in Master Scaine’s arms looked up at Celeste with a shocked expression.
“H-How?” he asked.
“Rashem hears her,” Master Scaine said, pulling the initiate’s face to look at him. “What happened?”
“It came out of the lake, but there was something else. There was someone with it this time. A hooded figure I couldn’t quite see. We were already fighting the monster when they stepped out and fired their crossbow. I was hit in the side. I’ve never felt pain like that, even when I have been shot. Something was different about it,” Gordean said, “It felt like every part of me was being pulled into the bolt.”
“Where are the others?” Celeste asked.
“I-I don’t know,” Gordean replied, “We got separated when the monster picked me up and carried me toward the water. It was like it didn’t see them. It walked right through a guard, absorbing the poor guy completely before it tried to carry me to the lake.”
“It tried to carry you?” Master Scaine asked.
“I think it was the bolt. I think it marked me somehow. I got free from the monster’s grip and ran. I didn’t see what happened to the others,” Gordean said.
Morn watched the exchange between Gordean and the others with interest, but he kept feeling his eyes pulled to the stone. The runes carved into its surface were weathered and cracked, but he could feel a slight vibration coming from it. It came in waves, as though it were trying to get his attention.
“What is it, Morn?” Jaque asked. “Do you see something?”
“It’s vibrating,” Morn replied, walking over to the stone.
Morn lifted his hand and placed it on the stone. As soon as his skin made contact with it, the world disappeared. He knew he was still standing in the clearing but he could suddenly see more stones placed in a giant enclosing circle around the lake. He could feel a massive stone sitting deep beneath the water in the center of the lake. This feeling of the stone circle shifted and he could see a gap between two of them that was larger than the space between any of the others.
Sharp pain spiked in his right temple and he turned to see what had struck him and found himself deep in the lake surrounded by water. In the darkness, he saw bodies, hundreds of them, floating in the water, and staring at him with glassy eyes and slack jaws. One of the figures he thought he recognized.
The missing stone needs to be rebuilt. He heard it as though someone had said it to him, but he knew it was only in his mind. The floating dead began moving toward him, arms outstretched. He tried to close his eyes but couldn’t against the faces contorting into angry expressions as their fingers closed around his arms. Rebuild the stone!
“Morn!” Celeste was screaming, looking down at him.
“I-I’m okay,” Morn said.
“What happened?” he asked.
“You touched the stone, and you fell over like you had died,” Jaque said.
Morn saw everyone, including Gordean, standing around him with worried expressions. He felt like he did when he had been inside his mother’s elemental stone. His entire body felt pummeled.
“What did you see?” Master Scaine asked.
“Bodies. Hundreds of them,” Morn replied. A shudder went through him. “There was something else. A voice. It said to rebuild the stone.”
“What stone?” Celeste asked, looking back at the monolith in the clearing.
“There are more of these. There’s one in the lake too. I think they have something to do with what’s happening here,” Morn said. “I felt all of them, well, most of them. There is one missing from what I could tell. I think it might be damaged.”
“We couldn’t fix a gargoyle to stop the zombies, how are we supposed to fix one of these?” Koldian asked, looking up at the stone that towered above him.
“I don’t know,” Morn said, “I think I can do it, though.”
continued 47/366 – Blackwater Lake (Cont.)