Continued from 46/366 – Blackwater Lake (Cont.)
“You think you can fix the stone?” Helem asked.
“Have you seen my father?” Celeste asked, looking at Gordean.
“Who’s your father?” Gordean asked.
“The captain of the guard,” Master Scaine said, “Last we knew, he was heading this way to help as best he could.”
“I did see him, but as I said before, I was separated from everyone. He could still be somewhere out there. He is a ferocious warrior. I don’t think anything would have gotten the better of him,” Gordean replied.
“We should look for him,” Celeste said.
“We’re losing light,” Gordean said, “I’m not sure that’s the best plan at the moment. We could search for him in the morning.”
“You’re not going to search for anyone,” Master Scaine said, “You are going to go back to town and make sure that everyone is evacuating fast enough.”
“You’re evacuating the town?” Gordean asked.
“We have to, we learned more about what’s happening in the lake since the last time you checked in. There’s something powerful at the bottom that was bound there a long time ago. There’s no way to stop it that we know of, so our only course of action is to get the people out of harm’s way,” Master Scaine said.
“I move faster in the dark,” Gordean said. “Since I was healed, I can go now if you prefer. I’d rather not stay here any longer than I have to.”
“Have you seen anything since you arrived at this stone?” Koldian asked.
“No, I had some things chasing me initially, but when I got here, they fell away and turned around,” Gordean said, “I don’t know where they are now, but I made it the day without being disturbed.”
“That sounds good to me,” Koldian said. “I can set up some other magical protections so we can rest. It’ll take me about ten minutes, and we will be good for the rest of the night.”
“You can head back now,” Master Scaine said, looking to Gordean. “We’ll be fine. Make sure that you give the lake a wide enough birth to not provoke anything that may come out of it.”
“Yes, Master,” Gordean said bowing. “Thank you again, young lady. I’m not sure how much longer I would have been able to hang on without your help.”
“Thank Rashem,” Celeste replied, “They are the ones doing the healing. I’m just here to ask for it.”
“Either way, I’m thankful that you were here for me,” Gordean said as he stepped out into the shadows.
Morn watched as Gordean stepped into a shadow, and a dark mist grew up to surround him. As soon as it covered his body, it fell away leaving nothing in the space.
“It’s a special technique that only some initiates can learn,” Master Scaine said as Koldian began to draw a circle in the soil around them.
“Could I learn that?” Morn asked.
“Maybe,” Master Scaine said. “It takes years of dedication to the monastic traditions to learn something that advanced.”
Morn thought for a moment, “I want to learn it. I want to join the monastery.”
“I would be happy to take you in,” Master Scaine said. “I was getting ready to offer you a place, but then your mother came back.”
“The two aren’t mutually exclusive, are they?” Helem asked.
“No, he would just be busy with most of his time. He would also live at the monastery, provided that it doesn’t move in light of the new information, and train with us there,” Master Scaine said.
“Would I still be able to spend time with Celeste and Jaque if I go?” Morn asked.
“Not as much,” Master Scaine said, “We maintain a rigorous schedule.”
“I’ll be heading off next year to a wizard college if everything goes well,” Jaque said, “So, I think spending time together may not work out well soon.”
“You didn’t tell us that,” Celeste said.
“That’s what wizards do,” Jaque said, “We seek higher learning and undiscovered secrets about magic. Even if none of this happened, we would likely part ways soon enough. You have been given the attention of Rashem, so you’ll probably have to do some training with the clergy soon, if not go elsewhere to staff a temple or something.”
“What are you talking about?” Celeste asked.
“Cleric Josten was assigned to our town. He didn’t grow up there,” Jaque said. “I’m not trying to be mean, but we are almost done with school, and it seems like life is going to take us in different directions.”
“If we survive this,” Morn said.
“We’re going to survive,” Jaque said, “Things have been falling into place since all this started. Whether we can save the town or not, we’ll survive and ultimately go our separate ways, at least for a while.”
“Nothing is written in stone,” Helem said, “Take it from a woman who was dead. I assumed that it was over for me. I was somewhere else. I can’t remember it as clearly now, but I was there until Azariah pulled me back.”
“That was a god intervening,” Jaque said, “I’m not sure that applies.”
“What are you doing out here?” A deep, resonating voice boomed from the woods just before the massive form of Celeste’s father stepped into the clearing. He had blood splatter all over his skin and armor. Morn thought he looked like he had been through a war.
“Dad!?” Celeste said, running to meet him.
“Loran!” Master Scaine and Koldian said in unison.
“Why have you brought my little girl out here?” Loran said, looking furious, and due to the large ax in his hand, extremely dangerous. “I told you I didn’t want her going anywhere dangerous. This is the last place children should be.”
“We found out what was at the bottom of the lake, and Celeste insisted on coming with because we hadn’t heard anything from Gordean yet,” Master Scaine said. “She wanted to make sure you were safe.
“Have you seen him?” Loran asked.
“He just left to go back to town,” Master Scaine said.
“And that’s exactly where Celeste and I are going,” Loran said.
“No, Dad. I’m not leaving,” Celeste protested.
“Yes, you are,” Loran said, reaching for her.
Morn thought an explosion went off. Suddenly, there was light everywhere, Celeste’s armor was a beacon in the darkness surrounding them. Her eyes matching the brightness and absence of color.
“I will not leave my friends in danger,” she boomed. Her voice echoed by something else. It seemed as though she were channeling some other, more powerful being. Loran backpedaled away from her as his ax left his hand, sinking deep into a tree.
“W-what is this?” Loran yelled.
“Rashem is with me, they will keep me safe from harm as I keep the others safe,” she said, the light dimming slightly. “You cannot make me leave.”
“What the hell is happening to her?” Loran said, turning to Master Scaine, “This is your fault.”
“No,” Master Scaine replied, shaking his head, “this is the path Rashem has chosen for her, and she has chosen for herself.”
Loran closed his mouth and looked at the brilliant display put on by his daughter. Speechless from what he was witnessing. After a moment, he closed his eyes and nodded slowly in acceptance.
“Rashem’s way is the right way,” Loran said. “I knew eventually I would lose you. I just didn’t think it would be this soon.”
The light faded, and Celeste returned to her usual self. “You haven’t lost me, Dad. I’m just doing what you taught me. I am protecting the people I care about. I wanted to before, but until Rashem chose me, I didn’t think I had the power to do it.”
Morn looked at the group. They all looked tired from the ride out to the lake, and it had only compounded when they had to hike so far into the woods to the stone.
“The circle’s done,” Koldian said, standing inside an opaque dome. “You can stay if you like, Loran. There’s enough space in here for everyone.”
“How’s your mother?” Loran asked, ignoring the wizard.
“She’s alright,” Celeste said, “She was a little worried after you left, but I think she’s alright.”
“She’s probably a mess right now,” Loran said. “With both of us gone, she has no one there.”
“The town is being evacuated,” Master Scaine said.
“Evacuated? Why?” Loran asked.
Master Scaine explained everything that they had learned and had happened, since the day before. Loran listened intently, nodding at spots and asking questions at others. By the end of the tale, Loran had pulled his ax from the tree.
“I should go take care of your mother,” Loran said, looking to Celeste. “I think you’ll be okay with Master Scaine and Koldian.
“What about me?” Helem said.
“I haven’t seen what you can do yet,” Loran said, “I wasn’t thinking, I’m sorry.”
“We should get some rest,” Master Scaine said. “Whatever you decide, there are horses there if you want to take one back to shorten the trip, or you can stay. Either way, tomorrow is going to be a long day.”
Loran nodded, “I’ll take a horse. I’m proud of you Celeste. No matter what happens.”
“I love you, Dad,” she said, throwing her arms around his neck. “Be careful on the way back.”
“I’ll do that,” he replied, turning to Master Scaine, “and I’ll make sure to join the effort to move the people out of the town. I’ll leave word with an initiate where my wife and I are going for Celeste to follow when she’s ready.”
“May Rashem watch over you,” Master Scaine said.
“And you,” Loran replied as he released Celeste and walked into the darkness.
“Everyone in,” Koldian said. “This thing will keep us comfortable and dry for the next eight hours. Nothing can get in until it drops, or I leave.”
Morn felt a wave of exhaustion wash over him as he walked through the barrier that Koldian had set up. He found the softest piece of ground he could and laid down, facing the sky. The stars blinked in and out, and before he knew it, he was asleep.
continued 48/366 – The Broken Monolith