Project #2 – Act 2: The Torch of the Shard Pt6

I awake with a pain in my eyes, not the result of blessed sunlight or some beaming ray of artificial light, no, this is self-inflicted pain. I spent much of the sleeping hours very much awake, working away at something that came to me like an implantation in my mind. I had had the idea, but it felt like it wasn’t ever really mine. I have been an artful inventor for years, but even this, this is beyond what I would have been able to imagine.

I have lived in this hell my entire life. My selfish parents, along with everyone else’s on this forsaken landscape decided that it was a suitable state of things to raise a child. Many never make it beyond single digits, and the few that do eke out a terribly bland, worthless existence. Their lives are far better served, and tend to be longer living, once they pass over to the influence of a darker master.

I scrape the tight lip of my eyelids with the backs of my knuckles – they are rough and sore from a not so insignificant amount of work with my hands. I fell asleep at my work station again – if you can call it as such. My work with tools is a somewhat important trade among a population so reliant on prolonged use and recycling. I had dreams of being an esteemed inventor, but those dreams were quickly quashed when the realisation that the procurement of food was more important than personal education. I have delusions of being an artful inventor, I lie to myself frequently, and I am little more than a fixer of scraps. Those lies have slowly become closer to truths as I work on this alien idea.

The work is not entirely mine however. I was given a base from which to work from, delivered from the skies into a smoking heap of perfect pearlescent godliness. I remember the day, as grim and as lifeless as any other. I rarely venture outside the walls of this place, or I am more than likely liable to join the endless ranks of the undead that roam of their own volition. The Necromancers of these parts vie for control over their green mist, battle one another for domain over small parts of dead and worthless rotting ground, though that doesn’t stop them from having quiet periods. They leave their armies to doze on the ground, or wander the bogs and set upon unsuspecting travellers. The most valuable thing a man has is his own life, but here on Grixis, even than worth is little compared to the life force floating around in the air and the treasure to be found in abandoned necropolis. Most find they’re rarely actually abandoned, simply not well lived in.

I ventured out into the dead wilds in search for metal scraps, something to cut and hammer – something to keep myself busy in between repair jobs. I just wanted to hammer out a sheet and cut it to pieces for some kind of relief. Make a box, make a lock, anything to keep my already endangered creative juices flowing. I needed to show myself I could still create. It was also fairly useful to have spare sheet metal to do patch jobs with. I took the safest route, the path that has been worn into the ground by the hundreds of doomed travellers that place their faith in its safety. It winds around the forest and runs alongside the Dregscape, the land of the unending death. You have to skirt along the border of the Dregscape and the coast to the lost Isles in order to reach the Glass Dunes. The coast was where I was headed – that’s where so many sailors are washed up in their ships, though their bodies rarely remain at rest with their cargo. Necromancers are seldom interested in the riches you’re washed up in when there’s a perfectly fresh (albeit bloated) corpse to make use of.

I kept myself on the beaten path with cliffs and water on my left and the dead shifting landscape on the right. I had yet to cross the pass of someone heading in the opposite direction towards Torchlight; fresh living visitors are a rarity for Torchlight these days. I’ve made this journey enough times, but the Dregscape never ceases to terrify me. I chanced a quick look every minute or so as my mind saw a shifting shadow amongst the haze. The undead may not move quickly, but the summoned demons do. After an hour my neck already hurt from shifting it left and right, but I was close to the break in the cliff that leads down towards the rocky shores.

The wind was bitter, and I tugged my father’s old coat tighter around me. I could run a finger over two square inches and find at least a dozen areas where it’s been repaired over the years. My mother used to weave sack cloth into the holes because it was stronger, and by a certain point my father began to refer to himself as a scarecrow on frequent occasions. My mind flashes back to tugging it off of his corpse and my grip on it loosens. Mother had grown strange in her middle ages, as many do when you make it that far without having been buried six feet under yet. She took regular trips out of the hermitage unannounced, return unscathed but empty looking. Eventually she had returned one evening with such emptiness in her soul and blackness about her skin that I knew it was not her anymore, but she was not dead. No, she was possessed. Because the undead don’t lift shovels with murder in their eyes and club a man’s head in so violently.

It was a nasty trick, because whatever possession was over her, it had been released on completion of her task. As she immediately came to her senses she fled in horror of what she had done in front of her own son. I have not seen her since, although I sense that these cliffs had become her end. I recall looking down on this path for weeks thereafter expecting to see her broken body brought back onto the rocks by the waves. I have seen bodies down there, but never one I recognise. This time the rocks are uninhabited, but there is never any shortage of wrecks scattered across the great stones.

I reached the steep decline and took a last cursory glance to my rear to ensure therewere no devils following me or some opportunistic mouth breather. After brief consideration I descended my usual route, the hill providing some mild shielding from the wind. I could tell the hour was late at that point as the tide has begun to creep back up the long rocky shore. I had an hour at most to pry some metal banding from a mast or rob the holds for what little metal tools remain. I shifted my sack across my hip and hurry the pace, being careful not to slip on this already heavily eroded path.

Then a crack of thunder drew my head up to the dark and empty skies and I saw it fall. There was no lightning to follow the noise; just a projectile falling from the skies like a titan had discarded some inconsequential debris. My eyes followed its trajectory, making note of its perfect spherical nature on its way down. Within moments it smashed into the rocks, just meters away from the already encroaching tide. There were no explosions or fragments indicating destruction. I snapped to attention. I would not get this chance again. Recounting my experience I had less than twenty minutes before the tide engulfs the location of its crash.

I can make it down in fifteen. I thought.

I charged down the slope, feet slipping after nearly every step. Within two minutes I could hardly believe I hadn’t fallen to my death after the amount of near misses I had narrowly avoided. Dirt and rock crumbled beneath my feet and sprayed off into a cloud over the edge, like a spectral history of my route hung in the air for a brief moment. As I thundered down the hills irrespective of my high chances of death I simply thought to myself I do not care. For once I feel the rush of life and I carried on in my blind haste. After ten minutes of thoughtless movement I was almost near the bottom of the cliff and ready to dash across the rocks, but in my panic I realised I had barely allowed myself to breath. My chest was tight and the wind picks up but I charged on. Gods, I cannot miss this opportunity.

I dived off the last two meter stretch and onto the larger rocks at the base of the cliff, my worn boots losing all friction and sending my legs sliding forward as my rear end slammed to the ground. A sharp pain shot up my spine but the adrenaline allowed me to ignore the real damage. I slipped a few more times in my rush to stand and then eventually made it onto two feet and began hopping from rock to rock. The rocks began to get smaller and smaller as I made my way towards the tide, the results of hundreds of years of erosion. I could see the great wide pit that the object has blown into the shore just a few hundred meters ahead and started pumping my arms and timing my breathing. My body was utterly exhausted, my brain and legs were begging for air, and my heart was nearly exploding through my rib cage.

The tide is a mere meter away from filling the basin in which the sky object sits and I internally screamed for it to leave my treasure alone. I leapt into the ditch as splatters of water began to stream in, but I stopped stunned and could only stare at the beauty of the object that sat so perfectly unscathed in its centre.

Like an opalescent gem from the sky it is a perfect sphere, not a single piece of grit speckled on its dancing metallic surface. To my eyes it looked solid, and yet the surface of the metal flows with excitement. It made no noise, it had no smell, but its imperious beauty is enough to take hold of my soul. Like a slap in the face I stood to attention as the tide waters rushed in. The object is no bigger than a child, but I had no idea how much it could possibly weigh. I hurried up to it and seized it with both hands.

I see your face. It was a brilliant face, one made of concrete certainty and a bizarre caring indifference ingrained into that heavy brow. It simply gazed at me in hidden curiosity, cataloguing my features, my reaction, my existence. Those eyes probe my mind and fill it with an inquisitive thread that weaves itself around in my head, sampling my memories, inspecting my knowledge and supplanting it with its own.

I flashed back to reality as water rushed into my boots and soaks my toes. My brain felt scarred but my sense of urgency had redoubled. This object weighed little and I tossed it into my sack, taking care to cover it as I jogged back out the crater it has left in its wake. The tide fills it and washes it to and fro until rocks and sediment have entirely masked it’s footprint from ever having existed.

Only I know of your arrival, just you, me and the sea.

I wandered back to the base of the hill and sat on one of the larger rocks beneath the cliff. My body had been under severe duress, my mind was fractured, but I could not feel any of it right then. I sat down on my father’s coat and revealed what I had rescued from the forbidding elements of Grixis. I sat and recovered for half an hour as the tide reaches its peak, simply staring at my new found charge in life.

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