Week 15 - Novel - Dreams Part IX - September 9-15

“You won’t have to worry about that. The portal stone ensures time distortion between our worlds. What time you spend here will pass only here, and upon your return home, you will find things exactly as you left them.

“As for why you should want to come here, it is because we need you, far more than you are needed in your own world. There, you may be forgotten, but here, we will not survive with you. Your friends,” Elvir said, spreading his arms to gesture towards Ardin and Tan, “will perish without your aid.”

Ardin looked up finally at this. “What are you saying? What’s going to happen if she doesn’t come?”

“The same thing that has already happened to Tach,” Elvir replied.

“And what happened with Tach? What happened after we left?” Ardin demanded.

“It was destroyed. The entire city has been engulfed.”

There was a moment of silence as everyone digested this news. Jo held a hand to her mouth. From their reactions, it didn’t seem like Ardin and Tan had been aware of the news. Ardin stood, jaw clenched, balling his fists at his sides. His entire body seemed taut, ready to explode. Tan, for his part, was slack-jawed, staring blankly and unfocused straight ahead. His shoulders slumped, but otherwise, he gave little indication that he had registered the news.

Tan was the first to finally speak. “How do you know this? Did anyone make it out?”

Elvir shook his head slowly. “No one made it out. I can show you. I have stones that watch and remember time for me. One moment.”

Elvir walked to a side of the cavern and paused for a moment, closing his eyes. The stone embedded in his forehead began to glow subtly, and there was a slight shift in the cavern wall, with a piece of stone peeling back to reveal a concealed compartment filled with a myriad of stones. He chose one of these, something that looked close to turquoise, and turned to return to Jo and the others, the compartment shutting as if on cue behind him.

The stone was about the size of Jo’s head, and Elvir lifted it up for all of them to see.

“You have not discovered how to harness seeing stones yet, and indeed it took quite some time before I myself found their secrets. That will wait for another time. Watch closely.”

Elvir closed his eyes again. Suddenly, the stone he held turned translucent, and began to emanate a soft blue glow. Slowly, the glow crystalized into a vague image. Jo could make out what looked like mountain ridges displayed on the edges of the stone, with a river running to the north. In the center of the stone was a circular city, ensconced comfortably between the mountain ridges and directly south of the river. Rows and rows of houses lined the outskirts of the city, and in the middle, she could make out the cluster of massive stone spires that she had seen so recently in the flesh.

“That’s definitely Tach,” Tan whispered.

As they continued to watch, Jo noticed minute shifts in the picture. One of the towers of stone pulsed light, and she could see the shadows of clouds passing through the scene. Then, without warning, the tower that pulsed light suddenly collapsed, shattering into shards as it toppled to the ground. Several of the other towers quickly followed, and almost immediately were swallowed into the earth as a rift began to grow from the very center of the city, spreading in a perfect circle outwards. It seemed as if Jo could see the earth itself shake as the crater in the center of the city continued to expand, engulfing everything in its path. The crater appeared enormously deep—as things fell inside, Jo failed to make out anything but darkness in their place.

In just a few seconds, the entire city had disappeared, having collapsed into the crater which halted its progress as soon as the last remnants of the metropolis had been consumed. The earth continued to tremble for a few moments longer, and then slowly settled into a somber stillness. Jo blinked, studying the scene closely for any trace of the city that had just been standing magnificently proud moments before. She couldn’t make out anything but blackness, now. Not even rubble could be seen in the crater’s depths.

Slowly, the light faded from the stone, and the picture along with it as it returned to its original turquoise shade. Elvir opened his eyes, lowered the stone and set it on the floor, and sat silently, watching the three of them.

Ardin had stopped pacing, and now stood still, hands still balled at his sides. He said nothing, but Jo could hear his breath coming in and out sharply and rapidly. He seemed on the verge of an outburst, barely holding in his emotions. Tan simply sat down on the ground and stared at the floor.

“Our family…” Tan said hoarsely. “Everything is gone? I don’t understand…what happened? What caused this?”

“I am sorry.” Elvir said solemnly. “I do not believe anyone escaped the destruction. As for what caused this tragedy…that is a long story. But we have a little time now, and I will tell it if you would hear it.” He paused and looked at Jo, as if to get her assent. She looked at Ardin and Tan, but both of them were preoccupied in their own worlds. Uncertain, she defaulted to nodding. Elvir looked at her carefully, then nodded in return.

“You are not the first human from Earth to have found your way to Eukaon. Indeed, so far as I am aware, you are the second. The first now goes by the name Aeon. I discovered him about a year ago, now. To my great surprise, he showed immense promise in stoneworking almost from the start, despite having never been exposed to it before. I decided to take him under my wing as a protégé, and he progressed quickly under my tutelage.

 
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