Week 22 - Novel - Dreams Part XVI - October 28-November 3

The first thing she noticed was that her belongings did not, unfortunately, appear to make the trip with her. Indeed, she was naked besides the blanket covering her. She looked over and saw that there was a change of clothes lying next to her on the bed. The clothing was simple and plain, similar to what she had seen Ardin and Tan wearing. She put it on in a hurry, terrified of the off chance that someone would come in and see her stark naked.

Now dressed, she stepped out of bed and studied the room. It was clear she was no longer in the cave she had found herself in the last time she stepped foot in Eukaon. The sunlight shining through the windows showed her that she was above ground, at least, and in all other respects the room seemed to be a part of a simple wooden cabin. She made her way to the door at the front of the cabin and opened it, stepping outside.

She found herself in a forest, surrounded on all sides by thick groves of trees, with only a small area in front of the cabin having been shorn and maintained as a grassy field. Sitting in the middle of the field was Elvir.

“Feeling better?” he asked.

She nodded. “Much better. You didn’t tell me it would be so painful.”

He nodded apologetically. “I am sorry for that. I must admit, I was not sure you would make the journey over, and feared any additional cause for hesitation might jeopardize the odds you would make it. I also knew that you would recover quickly from your journey, and so I hope you can forgive me for the omission.”

Jo appreciated that he was, at least now, being forthright about his withholding. All things considered, she could understand why he had held back. “It’s okay,” she said. “So…what do we do now? Where are we?”

“This is where the portal stone in our world lies. The stone you found yourself on last night is our portal stone. I built that cabin over it to better mask its presence here. As for what happens now, I believe it is time we get you trained on some stoneworking. Ardin and Tan are already training now. If you are ready, we will go join them. Come, just through these woods.”

Elvir stood up and headed out through a narrow path in the woods that Jo had missed earlier. She ran to catch up with him. Perhaps half an hour later, they finally emerged from the woods, and to Jo’s surprise, came out into a completely open valley—the very same valley she had visited in a dream a few nights back, when she first met Elvir.

Immediately, she looked for signs of the village she had seen that day. In fact, she didn’t even see a trace of the greenery that had been so abundant on her last visit. Now, the valley stood dead and barren. The river had become a stagnant, turbid rivulet.

“I remember this place. There was a village here, wasn’t there?” Jo said.

Elvir nodded. “There was. You saw its destruction. I could not show you much, then, but I wanted to show you something. This was Aeon’s doing, one of his precursor acts before Tach’s destruction. I still don’t know why he chose to destroy this village and set it on fire. It’s possible that he was just experimenting with his abilities, but also, it seems like a suspicious coincidence that this village is so close to the portal stone. This is also precisely where Aeon began his training.” /* He was trying to destroy the portal stone, but coudln’t with Elvir’s half control over him still in some way - he set all the surrounding area on fire in the hope that it would destroy the portal stone as well, but of course it didn’t and it was a futile hope */

“So what I saw was real?”

“More or less. I am not entirely certain exactly what you saw, and it was only a memory, not the event in its present moment, but yes, this place did burn, and you did witness that, in some form or another. Now, let’s go meet your friends and begin your training.”

Elvir produced a stone—from where, exactly, Jo couldn’t tell—and tapped his foot. At that moment, the earth shifted beneath them, and Jo realized that no, they hadn’t in fact gone far at all from the cavern. It was right here all along, under them. A tunnel led deep into the caverns, and Elvir descended. Jo followed, and the tunnel closed again behind them.

The tunnel opened up into the same large room lined with torches Jo had found herself in last time, and she spotted Ardin and Tan, huddled together, seemingly lost in concentration. They were wearing identical sets of gloves that had a connecting strap that tethered the two of them together, and each glove held a marble stone.

“Okay, one more time. On three,” Ardin said. “One, two, three.”

As he spoke, both stones glowed in sync, as did the tether connecting the two of them. Then, the air above the tether began to crackle, and Jo could see small sparks of electricity begin to dart between the two boys. Ardin opened his eyes. “Holy crap, we’re actually doing it!” he said. As soon as he spoke, the tether abruptly snapped and the two boys were flung backwards.

Ardin got up from the ground first. “Ow. Okay, let’s just pretend that last part was planned and call this an unmitigated success. Our first synchronization ever. At this rate we’ll probably be harnessing the Heartstone ourselves by the time we face Aeon.” He turned around, and saw Jo and Elvir.

“Whoah, hey! You made it back! You’re here for good, this time?”

“I think so. I went through the portal stone, if that’s what you mean.”

Ardin ran up to her and gave her another hug. She hugged him back this time, albeit still a little uncomfortably.

 
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