Hello everyone, this is Asclepius, with a wonderful story from Olthadir, entitled
The Darkness in the Waste
Background music by Smartsound
Chapter 1, “The Visitor”
When you see and experience what I have experienced I would wager you would not have done what I am about to tell you. I should have known not to have dabbled in the Darkness again, but as you will see, its pull was stronger than I fathomed.
Years after the events of Savenroc Timberland I again encountered the dark mysterious magic of the Obsidians. Even after being the sole survivor of my first encounter, I was still drawn to learning all I could about it. Perhaps I will never be rid of it.
It did take time. It may not seem that way to you, dear reader, poring over my records decades, maybe centuries later – if someone hasn’t already destroyed these volumes.
I returned to Ardoris after the terrifying events of the Savenroc Timberland. I busied myself with menial tasks of everyday people: cooking, sewing, shopping at the market, all the trappings of a regular life.
When I gathered a small amount of courage I went to the local library or bookshop and read some stories – simple pleasant stories. I cared not for the dark mystery of the Obsidians that engulfed my time months before. That is what I told myself.
I met a young, excited traveller there. She was a fiery woman determined to explore and learn. She reminded me of myself years before but she held much more confidence.
Her name was Sonya, and she told me of the Shard Falls. She told me of stories she had heard and books she had read. She was planning on going to one of these craters: Grundvald Shardfall in the barrens to the north.
I politely listened but my palms sweated at my side in clenched fists as she spoke. She was a young excited explorer fully engaged in her curiosity. She did not begin to understand the dangers she may unlock and unleash on herself.
I could not hold it in any more when she showed me an illustration of a Shard Fall in a book she carried. It was done in black ink. I looked at the crystalline chunks of floating obsidian and was taken back to Savenroc, the gaping void that drew in kobold and friend alike. I grabbed the book from her hands, slapped it shut and threw it down. I looked at the woman and pleaded with her to stay away. Whatever she read and learnt about was nothing compared to what she would learn if she went there. She had no idea of the danger she was getting herself into.
I was about to relate my tale to her. She shook her head and reached for the book. I told her there was a darkness beyond black that the Obsidians awoke and there would be nothing for her, a fate worse than death, something she could never come back from. She picked up her book and walked quickly away, muttering that I was crazy.
Time passed. Years. Colour returned to the world. I felt the echoes of happiness, I remembered warmth. The darkness returned to being a fact after the sun set, something that would always fade with the rising of the sun. My dreams became mundane and pedestrian.
Then she came back. Sonya. She looked for me, searched me out. She was clearly older, more than the years would have aged her. She had bags under her brown eyes. Her hair, once neatly tied, hung around her ears out of a messy bun, broken and dry. Her clothes were torn and dirty from long, long travel. She recognized me by sight, grabbed my arm and said: “You were right.”
Then it all came back.
The void, the emptiness and the nothingness beyond death. The screams of human and kobold as they were torn from reality. The scent of the forest air tinged with ozone and an odd unearthly scent of space and stardust.
She was helping me up then. I must have fallen – fainted. She propped my head up with a pillow from a nearby chair.
“Everything you said was right. And more. There is more magic the Obsidians used, it doesn’t just tap into the void, it does something else,” she said. She was excited.
I kept shaking my head and told her everything. I told her of the kobolds, the forest, the amorphous void summoned in the dark. She went pale, gasped, but her curiosity remained. Even after what I told her and what she already saw, she remained curious.
I told her then of her folly, of the very high chance that if she continued on this path she would perish. She risked the fate of my friends and the kobolds of being swallowed by the void. But she maintained that she wanted to learn more.
“No great discovery was without risk,” she said.
I’m trying to recall how I was convinced to accompany her. I don’t remember. Maybe the void was calling me somehow. Maybe I was connected or a part of it. Maybe it was the time since I last encountered the void. Maybe time healed all wounds and I wasn’t as afraid of it as I was then, or now. I remember thinking that all I would be is an observer, a guide. Someone who could warn of telltales and triggers to protect her and myself from the Obsidian’s magic. She was the adventurous one, I would be safe.
She took care of everything. Travel arrangements, food, lodging, all of it. She bought books and ink for me to use. I recorded our journey as we went through Soltown, across the peaceful village of Solace Bridge and through Eastreach Gap. We stayed in Desolis. Two more days and we would be at the Grundvald Shard Fall.
There were regrets I felt about being here following Sonya to meet what has become my biggest fear. Her confidence helped me. She was not afraid – not truly – no matter how much I told her. She wanted to see the void. She wanted to learn how these portals were made and what their true purpose was.
There was no purpose I knew. I doubt the Obsidians knew what they were doing or what they created, summoned or tapped into.
She believed she could find out.