Crystal of the Woods
Chapter I: Time
The woods are a nice place to get away from your problems until they give you a whole new set of issues to handle.
Or does this sort of thing only happens to me?
It was a Thursday afternoon in the middle of October when it started. The fall colors were in full flame, and the wind carried just the right amount of chill to demand a jacket for outdoor expeditions.
I have a few paths through the woods behind my apartment I trek through when life gets to be too much. That day, I was tempted to hike all of them and forget the world for a while.
Fate had other plans.
As I crossed over one of the creeks at a narrow point, I noticed something shimmering and blue in the riverbed. (Er, would that be the creekbed?) Bending down, I tried to pick it up, but found it to be larger than I first thought. Scooping aside some of the dirt and mud, I saw it was at least the size of a basketball.
Not wanting to catch hypothermia, I dug a small work-around canal for the creek and dammed it up in front of my mystery treasure. Thirty minutes later, I had a far-drier work area to excavate my finding.
A basketball was an absurdly small estimate.
The shimmering thing was some sort of massive crystal, at least two feet in diameter. As I worked to discover how far down it went, it began to hum and crack. As it did, it shook its way free from the muck of the creekbed and began to rise out of the ground, exposing its massive size — at least six feet tall.
At this point, of course, my phone was out.
As I attempted to take pictures, though, my screen flickered and fizzled in time with the crystal’s hum. After a few seconds, the screen went black.
The crystal was now airborne, rotating slowly. I could see some sort of mass in the middle of the crystal, but it was too dense for me to make out exactly what it was. The crystal picked up rotational momentum and hummed louder, rising further in the air, still cracking, still floating, now emitting a blue light from within it.
At this point, of course, I was cowering behind a tree a hundred feet away.
The light from the crystal was blinding; I closed my eyes and ducked behind the tree. The humming reached a certain ear-piercing pitch and stayed there; a few moments later, I heard the crystal shatter.
The humming stopped.
I opened my eyes.
No more blinding light.
I looked up at where the crystal was and saw a young woman with bright blue hair floating about fifty feet in the air, dressed in what I would describe as an elaborate Ren Faire costume: a robe, covered with intricate patterns and designs, made of some luxurious-looking material.
I was about to pull out my phone again when I noticed she was drifting towards the ground. I ran underneath her to catch her; she’s surprisingly light as I hold her in my arms.
She opened her eyes and looked up at me.
“Oh… truly, have the centuries passed by already?”
“Uh… I guess?” I said.
“Forsooth, I am glad to see the world is still intact,” she said, smiling. “But prithee, what is your name?”
“I’m Roger,” I said. “Who are you?”
“I am Emilia, Sorceress of the Noble Order,” she said.
“Do you mind if I set you down?” I asked. “I mean, it’s no trouble for me to carry you, but…”
“Oh, of course not,” Emilia said. “I do desire to rest my feet on the ground again.”
I lowered her onto the ground, taking care to catch her if she lost her balance; being stuffed in a crystal must lead to some serious muscle atrophy, after all. To my surprise, though, she immediately stood on her own two feet with no trouble.
“Roger, tell me, are you a member of the Noble Order?” Emilia asked. “A squire, perhaps?”
“I, uh… I’ve never heard of it,” I said.
“Truly? Perhaps our members have gone into hiding. I shall attempt to locate them.”
Emilia closed her eyes and clasped her hands together in front of her. After a moment, she frowned.
“I cannot detect any of them,” she said.
“Maybe you’re just getting bad reception down here,” I said.
“Bad reception?” Emilia said.
“Yeah, like… Ah, that’s a long story,” I said.
“Roger,” Emilia said. “Although you said you are not a member of the Noble Order, I sense no malice within your personage. Would you be willing to assist me? I fear our time is short before The Dark One awakens from his cage.”
“Hang on, Dark One? How long do we have?” I asked.
“Well…” Emilia said. “I was sealed away in the Year of our Lord 1611, and since the two-hundred-year seal on my crystal is now broken, we should have…”
“Hold on,” I said. “1611 plus 200 is 1811.”
“Yes, very good,” Emilia said.
“Emilia… it’s 2016.”
“Tell me, Roger, that creek… was it covering my crystal?”
Emilia nodded. Then, after some thought, she said, “Well. It seems we have time for your story about this ‘reception’ you spoke of, Roger.”
End of Chapter I