Rephaim — Chapter 1
Time? Time for what?
It’s time for you to wake up.”
There was no light, only this strange voice.
“Did you have a nice dream?”
Dream? What’s a dream?”
There was a dull thrumming sound echoing from far off. It was oddly soothing.
“It’s time. Open your eyes.”
Heavy lids twitched, the movement was unfamiliar. Dim light filtered momentarily through the opened space.
New eyes were exposed to open air. The lids danced, unsure whether to open or remain closed. The air seemed uncomfortable.
“Welcome back.” The voice said, soothingly.
High above, forms shifted before the uncertain eyes.
“Where…” The word hung loosely in the air.
“Here.” The voice sounded pleased. “Now.”
With great strain an arm was lifted.
“Pace yourself. You just woke up.”
The arm rose towards the shifting forms above. Eyes gazed blankly out.
Light streaked through the shifting formations, jagged and meandering. Low rumbles sounded from all directions.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?’
Above, the forms in the sky danced with one another. White light lanced through the masses. Dark shadows were woven with colors of purple and orange.
“Here.” A hand reached forward and clasped the upraised arm. Slim, but strong, fingers wrapped themselves around the forearm.
With a single mighty pull, the view changed dramatically. The shifting images that danced high above were replaced by a level plane.
A cloaked figure towered above, its hand still wrapped firmly around the arm that had been raised to the sky. Vacant eyes wandered between he figure and the open field before them.
Tall grass glimmered before them, obscuring what lay across the horizon.
The hand released its grip and the figure crouched down. A hood darkly shadowed the figures face.
“Do you remember anything?” The voice inquired. A note of hope carried through the question.
Remember? The question seemed odd. What should be remembered?
The figure spent a long moment gazing into the questioning eyes. “It’s alright.” The voice seemed unconcerned.
Standing up, once more, the figure reached down with both hands. Taking the arm, with a firm grip, pulled until they were both standing.
The change in elevation provided a much broader perspective on the field they were in. All around them, loose mud and clay was bordered with the tall grass that shimmered in the dim light provided by the roiling clouds above. The occasional lance of energy momentarily highlighting the shifting grass. In the distance tall trees punctured the sky.
“There we go. Good to see that your feet work.”
Looking down, the legs and feet seemed somehow awkward. Overly large and bulky, relative to the slight frame of the robed individual.
“What…” The word trailed off. The question unformed.
The robed figure gazed at the now standing form. “You’ll be asking that for some time to come.” The voice answered ambiguously.
The new eyes turned up towards the robed figure. “Who… are you?”
There was a long pause after the question was asked.
“My name is Roland.” The figure responded, a note of pride carried through the man’s voice.
The fabric of the man’s cloak fluttered in the breeze. It appeared black, but as the fabric shifted it seemed the shade took on different hues. The man’s face remained obscured by shadow.
I’ve been with you for quite some time now. But, you were sleeping.” The voice reminisced from beneath the cowled hood.
The eyes turned from the mystery of the robed man and scanned the horizon. Turning in every direction, the horizon seemed bleak and uninviting. The sky shifted and alighted, the dark shades weaving a mesmerizing tapestry.
As the bulky form gazed out into the distance, the sky seemed to crack. The dark purple and orange shades that spanned the horizon seemed, in one area, to brighten. There, the sky took on blue tones as a pillar raised from the tree tops and ascended to the heavens.
The hooded face followed the line of sight that the new eyed figure gazed in. “The ascent.” The voice stated.
“You’re not ready to go there.”
“What is it?” The bulky figure found its voice. The pillar of light that rose into the sky seemed somehow hopeful in the otherwise foreboding gloom that encompassed the two individuals.
The hooded figure gazed forlornly at the soft blue light that colored the distant horizon. “It’s freedom. For those who are ready.”
“Come. We must be going.” The hooded figure beckoned as the man turned and began in the opposite direction of the blue light.
The curious eyes followed the retreating figure and, with a regretful glance at the distant blue light, began to follow the cloaked man.
The mud and clay clung to their feet as the pair moved into the tall grass. Clumps of mud and clay dribbled down the bulky body of the risen figure. The figure attempted to wipe the mess from its body, but more sloughed off in its place.
The hooded figure looked back to see the efforts of his partner. “Please don’t do that.”
The eyes looked up to see the man had stopped moving.
“Because that clay is you.”
The answer didn’t make sense. But, it sufficed to stop the bulky form from wiping the mud from its body.
“Come on. It’s not that far.”
They continued their progress across the shifting grasses. It rose to their waists as they left twin trails of crumpled grass in their wake.
Across the field a patch of grass would randomly bristle. It wasn’t the wind. The wind gave the entire field a gentle sway. The fresh eyes would be drawn to every dramatic shake that came to the grasses that surrounded them.
As they continued their trek across the field, the overbearing trees loomed ever closer on the horizon.
The cloaked figure led onward, unconcerned with the bristling grass that was becoming ever more frequent as they advanced on the tree line.
“What are those?” The bulky figure asked as they moved forward.
“Could e any number of things. They’re no threat. They’re just curious about us.”
So were the new eyes that scanned everything that surrounded them. Who was this Roland that was leading the man of clay through a shimmering grassland? What was happening to the sky that it danced so gloomily above their heads.
Unable to hold the question back the man of clay asked, “What is this clay?”
The hooded figure stopped his walking and turned back to his companion.
“The clay is you.” The voice answered. “You are a golem.”
What’s a golem?” The question hung in the air. Eyes sought, in vain, to penetrate the shadows of the hood.
The hooded figure took a long moment to decide how to answer the question. “A golem is a vessel.”
“Yes, a vessel. I found you here, but you had lost your body. I molded the golem around your soul.”
What the man was saying didn’t make sense. How could clay become a body? What was a soul?
“Who are you, Roland?” The eyes failed to penetrate the shadows that masked the man’s face.
“Hmm.” The voice hummed, pleased with the interest shown in him. “I’m your friend. I hope you’ll be my friend, as well.”
“Come. We still have a ways to go till we reach the vent.” The voice called over its shoulder as the man turned and continued to walk.
Vent? The golem gave up further inquiry and continued to follow the advancing man.
The bristling grass began to become less frequent. Whatever had sought to find out more about the trespassing figures had either gotten their answers or had ceased caring, content that the intruders were leaving their territory.
As they approached he tree line, the grass thinned and grew shorter. The tall trees climbed high into the air above the pairs heads.
A skinny trail cut through the undergrowth that grew up around thick tree trunks.
The duo cut through the undergrowth with greater speed than they had had in the grasslands. The well beaten trail offering little resistance to their advance.
Whereas the hooded figure had seemed unconcerned with the creatures of the grasslands now, among the woods, the hood was on a near constant swivel. Ever searching out an, as yet, undiscovered threat.
They continued their journey among the trees, the grasslands readily disappearing as they wandered the meandering trail. Rocky outcroppings rose up along the trail.
Every time they came upon a row of boulders that rose up along the trail, Roland would slow his pace and step a short distance off the trail to check around the rocks. The golem that accompanied him would wait until such time as the cloaked man would wave him on.
Their progress continued unabated for some time. The measure of time was impossible under the obscured sky. Whereas the grassland had been gloomy and unwelcoming, the forest was oppressive.
Occasionally a twig would snap or a branch would fall to the ground. Both of the individuals would tense up and turn towards the sound, stopping in their tracks. Every time this would occur, it proved to be a false alarm. Dark leaves that clustered on the ground at their feet crunched as they moved along the trail.
From beyond the tree line a red glow could be seen. The light cast wicked shadows through the tree branches. Roland slowed his pace as he cautiously approached.
The red glow became more and more pronounced as they moved along the trail. The under brush thinned out and the trees were steadily replaced by the rocky outcroppings that Roland was so cautious around.
“We’re here.” Roland whispered as he cautiously approached the glowing vent.
When they came out into the open space from which the light emanated Roland examined the surrounding space. Satisfied that they were alone in this new location he approached the gaping maw in the ground.
The soil had been sundered, and the rocks that jutted out from the hole bore scorch marks. Blackened soot littered the ground at their feet. A few fallen leaves still resembled their previous forms despite the oppressive heat that charred and blackened them.
“We’ll have to part ways here.” Roland said.
The golem was surprised by the cloaked man’s words. Eyes examined the pit before them. Red light flickered out from the vent in the earth.
“Because, you need to go down there. The clay that forms your vessel is wet, it needs to be baked.” Roland responded. His voice carried a note of tension and uncertainty.
“Baked?” The golem stared down into the pit before them. The heat of the vent scorched the air around them.
“Yes. Without the heat from below, your vessel will continue to crumble. The clay must be baked for your body to be completed.”
Despite the certainty of Roland’s words, the tension in his voice wouldn’t leave.
The golem stepped forward to the rising heat of the vent. “When will I see you again?”
The cloaked man placed a hand on the golem’s shoulder in a gesture of good will. “That I can’t say. But, I’m confident we will meet again.” The cowled head bowed before the drying golem.
“What do I do?”
The hooded face stared down into the pit below them before returning its gaze to the golem that stood beside him, “Take a leap of faith.”
The two individuals shared a look for a long moment before the man of clay and mud turned his face once more to the inferno below.
With a nod of its head, the golem stepped forward and approached the edge of the abyss.
“You’ll have to tell me your name when we meet again.” Roland called out from behind.
Glancing over his shoulder, the man of clay nodded. He didn’t know what his name was. But, somehow, the way Roland said it convinced the golem that he would find the answer before they met again.
A moment later the golem stepped forward into the fiery abyss and disappeared.
“Good luck, my friend.”