49/366 – The Broken Monolith (Cont.)

continued from 48/366 – The Broken Monolith

“Have you been feeling the same thing?” Helem asked.

“Not like that,” Morn said, shaking his head. “I can feel something vibrating beneath us, and I can feel the magic coming off the stones we pass.”

“Interesting,” Master Scaine said.

“Azariah said that you weren’t a sorcerer though,” Helem said.

“That’s what I said,” Morn said as they continued on their path.

“If you’re not a sorcerer, what could that mean?” Master Scaine asked.

“I don’t know,” Morn said with a shrug, “I can just feel the stones.”

“There is definitely something special about you,” Master Scaine said, “and I think everyone here knows that. You always find yourself in a position where things could go horribly, but work out in the end.”

“I don’t know,” Morn said, his father’s face flashing in his mind, “it doesn’t always work out in the end.”

“What do you mean?” Helem asked.

“Dad,” Morn said, “he’s gone now. If it wasn’t for me, he would still be here. I feel like bad luck follows me everywhere.”

“I don’t know that luck has anything to do with it,” Celeste said, placing a hand on his shoulder.

“You heard Jaque right before he almost died,” Morn said. “I’ve been thinking about it, and he’s right. Things keep happening around me, and it seems like there’s a purpose, but I can’t figure out what it is.”

“Maybe it’s not luck, then,” Master Scaine said, “but fate instead. Maybe it’s destiny leading you down this road for purposes we can’t even fathom. Why else would it be you that freed Azariah, or was able to touch the elemental stone?”

“I think I’ve had enough of fate,” Morn said, shaking his head as he stopped. “I don’t want to deal with all this anymore. I feel like I know how to fix the broken stone, but I don’t even know how I’m going to do it.”

“I think we should try,” Celeste said. “You might be able to fix the stone and save the town.”

“But then what happens?” Morn asked. “What if the stone has nothing to do with locking whatever is in the lake away? What if this is all just some cruel joke that will summon something bigger and harder?”

“There are a lot of ‘what ifs’ in the world,” Master Scaine said, “we can’t let them stop us from moving forward.”

“I-I don’t want to anymore,” Morn said, sitting against a tree. He could feel his chest tightening as his heart raced, and his face felt hot. Tears were streaming down his cheeks. “I don’t want to be responsible for more death and destruction.”

“You’re not responsible for any of it,” Master Scaine said. “We talked about this before. The blame you hold on yourself could as easily be mine or my master’s. We could find fault in the guards that didn’t see you sneaking around. Many things could have altered the course of events as they happened.”

“But none of that happened,” Helem said, touching his cheek. “My baby boy. I love you so much, and I am proud of everything you’ve done. You shouldn’t hold all this weight yourself.”

“Everyone in the village is in danger because of me,” Morn said, burying his head in his arms.

“We are only aware of the thing in the lake because of you,” Master Scaine said. “While it’s true that some died the night of the zombie attack, that was due to poor planning on the parts of the guards, the monastery, and the mayor. None of those deaths are because of you. If these stones are what lock the entity in the lake away, and you can fix it, you have the chance to save everyone and their home.”

“He’s right,” Celeste said, sitting next to Morn, “you can’t keep holding all this in.”

“I-I’m not strong enough,” Morn sobbed.

“You don’t have to be,” Celeste said, putting an arm around him, “That’s why we’re here. We want to make sure that you’re safe and that you’re okay. You don’t have to be strong, you just have to keep moving.”

“Why, though?” Morn asked, looking up at her. “Why keep moving when it hurts so much? I’m not ready for this.”

“You are stronger than you think,” Master Scaine said. “Think of everything you’ve been through. You’ve come out the other side stronger each time.”

The sound of crashing trees echoed far off in the direction of the lake. Everyone looked up and listened for more. The noise happened again a moment later, only closer.

“We have to move,” Master Scaine said, turning back to Morn. “What do you want to do? I will follow you to the broken one, or back to the town, but you have to decide now!”

Morn got to his feet, wiping the tears from his eyes as another crash came much closer. Celeste grabbed his hand.

“Let’s go,” Morn said, pulling her toward the broken stone.

The group only made it a hundred feet before the spot where Morn had been sitting exploded, shattering the tree he had leaned against, sending debris flying in every direction. In the crater, a massive creature stood. Black ooze running down every side of it, as it turned toward them.

“Run!” Master Scaine said, his already pale skin looking as though he had lost even more color.

Morn watched as his mother spun, her hand flying through the air rapidly filling with a screaming fireball. When her arm stopped, the flame flew through the air toward the creature. The detonation created a wave of fire in every direction from its center point to encompass it and everything within ten feet of it.

When the smoke and flames cleared, the creature was still standing, sockets sitting in the tar substance of its body flared with an amber light as it roared, shaking the trees around it.

“Let’s go!” Master Scaine said, grabbing Helem’s arm.

The four of them dodged between trees and bushes, running as fast as they could. Behind them, they could hear the creature in pursuit. It sounded like an earthquake following through the forest.

Five minutes later, they entered into another clearing adorned with a marker. The creature behind them still close behind. The four of them ran around the monolith and put their backs against the cold stone.

“Gordean said that the things didn’t follow him to the stone,” Master Scaine said.

“That is what they’ve been fighting at the lake?” Celeste asked.

Master Scaine nodded and put his finger to his lips as the creature got closer.

Morn leaned around the stone so he could see where it was coming from. The amber eyes of the creature locked on him in an instant and charged straight for him. Morn felt his stomach do a flip as Celeste pulled him back behind the stone.

“No,” she said.

From what Morn could tell from where he stood, what happened next was another explosion, but this time it was made of black slime and ichor. He watched as the material the monster was made of cascaded past the stone, and the noise stopped.

“What happened?” Morn asked.

Master Scaine stepped around them cautiously, looking around the stone in the direction the monster had come from. His eyebrows went up in surprise before they furrowed in confusion.

“I don’t know,” he said as he stepped out from behind the monolith. “but it’s gone.”

Morn stepped out and looked at where the creature had been. Where it had been standing, the black footprints it left lead into the clearing a single step before it looked like it had exploded. The ooze that had comprised its body dripped from trees and shrubs.

“Look at this,” Helem said from behind them.

Morn turned around to see what she was talking about. The stone was completely clear of all of what remained of the monster.

“Whether you believe in fate, or luck, or nothing at all,” Master Scaine said, “I think we’ve figured out what these stones at least protect against.”

Continued 50/366 – The Broken Monolith (Cont.)

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