Tero V: Descend
“Oi, Tero-Ka, can you create me a star in the night sky?” “No, Solace. Not yet…”
27th Day, 9th Month, Year 117 of the third age
In a world like Sasillion, many people never saw the endless wonders, scattered everywhere. One of those countless, mysterious things was the pouch, Tero wore at his belt, ever since the age of fourteen. The small, black piece of leather seemed unimpressive at first, until its user pulled out, whatever was inside.
The bottomless pouch was the entrance to something, that was fittingly called a ‘pocket dimension’. It could store anything, that was no larger than a house. Only Tero knew, that this pouch was one of the most valuable objects on the entire planet. The results of two hundred years of collecting artifacts were concentrated in this bottomless piece of leather.
This time though, he did not pull out the axe of a daemon, the ever-burning essence of a fire spirit, or the tear of a goddess.
He pulled out a rock.
The night in Maruunal was beautiful. Nowhere in the world was the sky as clear as here. The naked human eye could spot hundreds of thousands of stars. Nonetheless it was to dark for Sonya. Especially in the narrow, natural valleys of Neeshtaar, which seemed like a labyrinth between the mountains. It did not help, that it was almost new moon.
Therefore, Tero pulled out a small pebble from his pocket dimension. He enclosed it in his left fist, held it to his mouth and whispered an old elven spell. The stone began to glow, bright, white light emitting from the small pebble.
Sonya squinted her eyes, to get used to the sudden shift of illumination. Tero mumbled another part of the spell and he stone began to float over his head.
Admittedly, there was not much to see in the long, twisted, empty valleys. The mountains were impressive, being multiple kilometers high, while in average only having about a kilometer in diameter. They seemed surreal, like absolutely oversized, dark orange spikes. Even Tero had never seen anything like this before. Surprisingly, the paths between them were not too inaccessible, unlike everything he had read about this place in the Maruun libraries.
“Why are you here anyway?”, the girl with the slightly deeper voice asked behind him. He turned around, waiting for her to close the distance. “How much do you know about magic, Sonya?” “Not a lot. I know, that it comes from the gods.” He nodded. “Yes. But it must come from somewhere specific. The magic must emit from something.” “Isn’t this, what they call the fabric of magic?”, she asked interested.
He smiled slightly. “Well, yes. That is the simple explanation. The fabric of magic is often depicted as a weave, that runs through everything, visible only to those, who can manipulate it. But the fabric is less the cause of magic, than its result.”
The way in front of them split up at the base of a gargantuan mountain, its four-kilometer-high tip barely visible against the stars around it.
He pulled a perfectly straight, wooden stick out of his belt pouch and balanced it on its tip. He then spoke a magical blessing upon the wood and waited. After a few seconds, the stick tilted and fell towards the right path.
Tero picked it up and followed the guided direction, Sonya next to him.
“As I was saying, the fabric of magic is not truly natural. It rather is the consequence of certain objects existing in this world. These things have no real names, because nobody knows, what they are.” “You think, one of them is here?”, she asked with a skeptical look. He nodded again.
“The power, that gods bestow upon this world is too much, for us to channel it raw. It needs a catalyst, something to filter it. Something, called a ‘shard of the world’.”
His heart skipped a beat.
He had not felt this level of excitement since a long time. Sonya’s eyes would not pierce the darkness ahead of them, but his would.
And he saw it.
Years of preparation, half a year of studying in Maruun, and the difficult journey. All of it had paid of in this moment of confirmation.
About two hundred meters in front of them was a wall.
But it was not a dead end. “We found it.”, he whispered. Sonya looked confused.
They reached the wall, which was the extremely steep base of yet another mountain. Tero held his breath. He laid a hand on the — by now — cold stone. Magical energy coursed through his hand, infusing the wall with the power, that had vanished a long time ago.
A deep ringing noise emitted from the wall, a lot like a large gong.
A circle appeared on the stone, made of dim, red light, four meters in diameter, formed from countless, tiny glyphs. Slowly, it began to spin, getting faster and faster with every rotation. The red whirl ate through the stone, rotating so fast, that it was just a blurred, red ring of light. After roughly five minutes, it had burnt through all of the wall, fading in an instant.
Tero stepped back.
The carved out, round, massive stone slab did not fall, rather hovering in its position. Slowly, it started to move, gliding in their direction, then suddenly losing its magical properties again and slamming onto the ground with a trembling crush and rolling to the side.
“What is this?”, asked the girl next to him. “It is the first security measurement for the shard. It might seem simple to you, but not a lot of people know how to open this door.” She looked at him with curiosity. “So, this is a vault?” He smiled again.
The entrance led into a cavern. It was more of a shaft, perfectly circular, with seven meters in diameter.
Their steps echoed in the tunnel, which seemed like a part of a large formicary. The tunnels were leading down ever so slightly, only being interrupted by empty, large caverns every few hundred meters. The paths were partially curved.
If Tero’s sense of orientation was correct, they did not leave the area of Neeshtaar. He was not sure, if these caverns were natural or not. Wide parts of Maruunal were drawn through with underground tunnels, but that was mostly in the north.
“So, what is it about this ‘shard of the world’?”, Sonya asked after a while. He remembered, where he had stopped telling.
“To call a shard like this an artifact, would be a huge understatement. It is hard to describe it, because nobody knows, what it is like. Only a few antique writings of the Maruun feature accurate information about it. Everything else is a tale or legend.” “What makes it so special?” He smiled over her curiosity. “The name is quite fitting. It is a piece of the world itself. A fraction of what holds everything together.”
They entered the largest cavern yet. Tero would guess, that they were approximately half a kilometer underground.
“There are many shards. Although this one is special. It is a quintessential stabilizer for magic. It defines, what magic is.”
She scanned him skeptically. “Then why are you after it? If it is that important, shouldn’t it rest here, hidden from the people? How would I know, if one should trust you?”
Tero stopped as well, smiling at the strong-minded woman. “I can see, why you would distrust me. After all, we do not know each other.”
He sighed, still smiling. If only this young woman knew, what he had seen. “The world is not as simple as we often think. Some say it is fate, some say it is the guidance of the gods, but I am certain, that the world itself has a will. Do not see this, as me, trying to find this shard. See it as if the shard is trying to be found by me.” “But why would believe all of this?! It does not make any sense.”
Tero was about to answer, when he felt it.
He grabbed Sonya with one arm around the waist and laid her the free hand over the mouth, shifting back about fifty meters through the large cavern within a second, simultaneously ending the spell, he had cast on the stone. As soon as he had reached the back wall of the underground dome of hundred meters’ diameter, he whispered to the girl, “Stay quiet. Something is ahead of us. Something alive.” She stared through the darkness in his direction with fury and surprise, still being muted by him.
He let go of her, but she had the reaction time to realize, that she better should listen to him. He sensed the life aura through the walls of the tunnel on the opposite side of the cave, coming closer quickly.
“I will cast a spell on you, that lets you see in the dark, but whatever happens next: Stand behind me.” “Why didn’t you cast that earlier on me?”, she hissed with disbelieve. He raised an eyebrow in honest surprise. “Not many people like it, when I cast a spell on them.”
She did not have an answer to that.
Tero covered her eyes with on hand, whispering a short incantation. When he could see her eyes again, the eyeballs had turned to a dark red color entirely. The spell had a different visual effect on every person.
Sonya gasped. At first he thought, it was because of the new gained sight, but then he realized, that she saw, what had entered the cavern.
Seven small birds swarmed into the room.
Tero’s mind went numb.
He knew, what they were.
He stepped forward, pure, flaming hatred in his heart. “What the hell are you doing? Those are…” He snapped a finger. Both he and the girl went deaf.
His speed increased, as he stepped towards the one meter high birds, who had probably been attracted by their voices.
Dense, blue burst of energy emerged from his clenched fists, themselves powerful enough to kill any being, that would come in contact with them, except maybe a minor god or Tero.
With a blinding flash, he blinked next to the linearly aligned, unprepared birds, spoke a hateful curse word he could not hear, raised his brightly glowing, overcharged arms, and slammed his wrists.
When he undeafed Sonya and himself, he did not want to look at her. He could not look at her. “I’m sorry. I wish, you did not see this. I think, I am in control of myself again.”
When she hit him, it did not hurt.
He wished it did.
“What were you thinking?! You could have killed both of us!” Her screams echoed through the room, fading in the gaping hole in the destroyed wall. “Are you insane?!”
He mumbled, but it seemed louder than her screams. Somehow, he felt as tired as he hadn’t in a while.
“I hate them. You do not need to understand why, nor do I expect you to forgive me, for the danger I put you in. Just know, that I hate them.”
A surprisingly strong hand grabbed him by the chin and forced him to look into energetic, passionate, dark red eyes. He was ready for her to abandon him at any moment. It would not surprise him. So many had left him at a similar point before.
“What are you?!”
Only crumbling rocks disturbed the quiet, falling from the ceiling in the fifty meters diameter, two hundred meters long hole, he had blasted in the wall.
You know, I have never asked this question before…
A thin tear ran down his left cheek, as the soft sentence and the imagery flickered through his mind. He did not want to remember. He did not want to feel these emotions again. The girl just did not know.
He held his breath for a while, not knowing, what would happen next.
She turned away, staring at the still glowing rock of the hole, where the wall once was.
“Why do you hate them?”
His mind drifted back into the past entirely.
“They killed my first true family.”