Chapter 69: Chaos
Al l f a
l l s a
p a r —
One night, a couple of weeks into the winter, all was quiet. The White Faerie was on guard at the front and Sun was cleaning up from the evening's dinner. Hosei had gone to his workroom, and Kyosuke to the guardroom to rest before his turn at guard. The rest of us remained in the dining hall. There was a fire there, and some degree of companionship, if quiet. It was cold outside, and dark, and snow fell again. Ravena worked quietly in one corner with some herbs she had gathered. I was attempting to scribe a bit of poetry that had captured my imagination earlier onto a scroll.
Ravena gasped, and we all looked up to see the Crystal of Air floating in mid-air, moving very swifly away from her. She tried to grasp it, missed, and ran after it, up the tunnel towards the upper levels where Hosei and Baku lodged. Ashe had a strong hold on his, but it was dragging him in the same direction.
I ran after them. What now?
I reached the upper cavern to see the Crystal of Air vanish down the hole, and Ashe pulled in right after. I jumped down as well, and Ravena followed, after a short hesitation. Hosei remained above, peering down the hole after the Crystal of Water.
I was just in time to see the two free crystals, Air and Water, and the two that dragged their owners with them, Stone and the White Faerie and Fire and Ashe, all collide in a blinding flash.
When the crystals slammed together, Ashe, Ravena, the White Faerie, and even Hosei above me all looked as if they had gone insane for a moment. Their eyes rolled back in their heads. They shook. They quivered. They were clearly insane. I could take the crystals now, all four of them, take their essence into me. Lava, hot lava flowed through my heart. To protect them, to protect everyone, I may have to kill them. Kill them all.
My eyes cleared. The flash of light was gone, and I realized the vision that had passed was just that: a vision, not reality. Still, I could not shake its hold on me, and I looked at my companions a little differently now.
The stones were fused together, floating in mid-air, glowing slightly. The other three looked at me with slightly odd looks as well.
The White Faerie, used to such things, immediately said he'd had a vision, and he described it to us. He was holding up a pillar of stone, barely keeping it from crushing the rest of us. We were standing under it and laughing at him, as he kept trying to tell us to move before it fell on us. The fused crystals were on top of the pillar, weighing it down. Will this happen in the future? I was certain everyone else probably had visions, too, since I had. Would all our visions become true? How terrible if mine did. I suspected some might conflict with each other. What, then?
Ashe stammered that in his vision, Caramela tried to kill us all. So yes, the visions did conflict. Perhaps that meant she had to be my first kill. I glanced at Ravena: she looked sad.
Then she explained her vision. "I had the fused crystals, and there was this tiny hole. I knew that if I could just throw the crystals into it, everything would be fine. I tried so hard, but I the hole kept retreating away from me, and I failed. I failed everyone."
Before anyone else could take it, I reached out and placed both hands on the fused crystal. It simply came away in my hands, as if it had simply been placed on a shelf and not floating of its own volition in mid-air. I must keep it safe from everyone.
I suggested we go back up. I shouted up to Hosei to meet us in the dining hall. The way around was easier than climbing back up, since we hadn't gotten around to making a ladder yet. The four of us walked through the temple, the captain's room, the guardroom, the front hall, and back to the dining hall. I did not see Kyosuke on guard, which I expected, since the White Faerie had been dragged from his duty. Still, Kyosuke must have been wildly startled, and was probably searching for him.
I was right: everyone else, including my cousin, was in the dining hall. Hosei had given them the short story before we got there. I held out the crystal clump for everyone to look at, but kept it firmly in my grasp. My vision was clear: I must not let anyone else take it.
Kyosuke told us about his vision, but I even I could not understand it. He was very confused and confusing, and simply kept repeating the same words to our questions. He believes he is the very essence of Tseench. The Man (no idea who that might be) is waiting to drink him. The crystals having come together mean the end of Tseench's plans. He could not say whether the end meant the fruition or the ruin. I am worried for my cousin's sanity, and his place in this mess. Perhaps I will have to kill him even before I kill Caramela.
Ashe muttered, "Kill Caramela." I looked at him, startled. But he was not reading my mind; he was merely remembering his vision.
The White Faerie had already asked twice about my vision, and I had ignored him and changed the subject. I headed him off again by asking about Hosei's vision.
He said, "I smelled a terrible smell, and my vision dimmed. I was lying in my bed, and the sheets were soaked in my sweat. I realized I was the smell, I was disease and death. I had helped to bring about a terrible doom. Then I realized I was Yazeran, and I had to write down the doom that I had seen before I forgot it. But I was trying to write down the prophecy, too. If I got that wrong, it changed everything. I scribbled the prophecy down as fast as I could, hoping that I got it right. Then I tried to write the warning before it faded. 'Don't attune the last crystal because, because...'Then I woke up, and the doom was sealed. If only I knew what happened."
Then Baku piped up. "I thought everyone around me looked sick for a moment. I thought that was good, because it covered my own sickness. I'm never supposed to be sick. Mother said this would happen. I vomited all over my tunic. Did anyone else see me? But they were all distracted, too. And then the vision was over, and all was just the way had been a moment before."
I asked Sun, who looked somewhat stricken, and he quietly described his own vision. "I was fighting, and an old man was holding me down. I tried to fight him, but he was everything. He was old and corrupt and was everything. Every time I hit him, blood spurted out of me or one of you. Every time I hit him, he laughed and thanked me for what I have done for chaos. The stones made him this strong."
Ravena asked Caramela to share her vision. "I tried to stop but I couldn't. Something pulled me away. I was gone, somewhere else. A heavily veiled gyspy woman sat across a table from me. The table was carved with runes, and incense perfumed the air. I thought she seemed familiar at first, but then maybe I was mistaken. It was so hard to remember. It was hard to remember who I was. The woman was angry. 'Fool, fool!' she shouted at me. 'Can't you see the message, the horrors that await you? You're fated to bring the stones of doom together, bringing chaos and destruction to us all.'"
Ravena repeated her vision for everyone, and so did the White Faerie.
Ashe did, too, but he said it slightly differently. "We're all fools. We put the stones together. Bad. The world is bleeding. We're fools, we're small. Caramela is bringing forces against us. She will kill us all. We will fail. She doesn't care."
The White Faerie asked me again, and I could not put it off. But neither could I tell everyone what I had seen. I may have to carry it out, after all, and it would be better as a surprise for everyone concerned. I merely said, "It is possible that most of us will die before this is finished." Killed by me, I thought but did not speak aloud.
Kyosuke noted that a wind was blowing through the caverns. That has not happened before. It was flowing in one direction: from the entrance towards the back of the caves. Ravena said in her vision, there was wind, and it was blowing towards the pinhole. So we followed the wind.
At the river, the wind continued, upriver. Kyosuke walked into the water, and I followed him, with the crystal, of course. Ravena followed me, as did the White Faerie and Ashe.
Once we rounded the corner, the current became too strong for us. We were all dragged under and zipped quickly to the lake in the cavern, unhurt. We returned to the tunnel. We would not get anywhere without finding a way to counter the current. My stubborn cousin simply walked into the river to try it again. Of course he failed and was swept away from us. By the time he returned, I had an idea.
We cluster tightly together, Kyosuke, the White Faerie, Ashe, and I on the outside and Ravena on the inside. The four of us were strong, and I hoped our strength and combined bulk would make it possible for us to withstand the strong current.
It worked, to a point. But the water dammed up before us, and we ran out of airspace and so ended up in the lake again eventually. However, we had noticed interesting. The wind was flowing, although the passage was completely filled with water. There were no bubbles or air currents within the water to explain how that worked. The White Faerie believed that the elements were merging.
That gave Kyosuke the idea that we take fire with us, using the crystal to make the fire. Ashe held out his hand for the crystal, which I did not offer him. However, he can apparently use the crystal without possessing it, as he called down a pillar a fire anyway. Kyosuke busied himself playing with fire, lighting a torch and sticking it into the water, where it was immediately doused, of course.
The White Faerie, utterly at a loss, fell to his knees and began to pray to his gods for guidance. Ravena wondered if that meant she would still be able to breathe under water without carrying the Crystal of Air. She could. She suggested that Hosei can probably just walk through the water without even being affected by it. He was willing to give it a try.
Upon trying, he was able to carve a channel through the water, and Ashe, Kyosuke, Ravena, and I followed him. We walked through his tunnel through the water, and the air continued to blow past us, although it seemed to come from nowhere and go to nowhere.
I covertly watched my cousin. His vision seems to have affected him deeply. I am not certain he is still sane. Caramela's vision and Ashe's concerning her were also dangerous. They will probably have to be the first ones I kill, but I am not certain which should be the first. Kyosuke's perhaps tenuous grasp on reality may doom him to be the first. And yet, what was I thinking? Could I actually kill him, and everyone else? Did I have to? Would I?
We were stopped at solid rock. We could see very little past Hosei's tunnel, into the water that surrounded us. We felt around, and discovered we were in an underground lake. Yet the river has a very strong current; the water had to be coming in from somewhere. And yet ... the lake was calm, and the mysterious wind continued. Kyosuke tried floating up to find the surface, but reported the water went all the way to the rock over head. He nearly did not make it back to the bubble before drowning. Although relieved that we pulled him back in safely, I looked at him gasping for air on the ground with mixed feelings. Might it have been better if he had died? I shook my head. That would invalidate the vision, of course. If it does come true, I will be the hand of Fate, and I will need to kill him personally.
Ravena figured she should be able to fly through the water, in addition to breathing in it, so she took one of Hosei's lighted pebbles and disappeared.
After a few minutes, she returned. There was no air, and no opening at the top of the cavern. There were several entrances where water flowed in, but no air. Most of the entrances were about two feet across. Her robes were covered with icicles, which began melting in the air. Her eyes grew wide, and she said, "It was the Stone of Water, not the Stone of Air I was using." And I noticed her eyes were glowing pale blue, not white. Within moments, the icicles melted, leaving nothing behind but Ravena: her robes had actually become ice. We were carrying nothing with us, and Ravena had to remain unclothed until we returned.
We could think of nothing more to do here, and Ravena needed clothes. We walked back through the river and returned to the dining hall. Ravena joined us a few minutes later, dressed again.
The White Faerie said that, while he was praying, the trunk suddenly came into his head, and we went to check on it. With foreboding, I thought of the statue that lay within it. He said the trunk was rotten and completely destroyed, but all the items inside were untouched. The others who had remained behind said that while we were gone, all the fires went out, all at once. They had to no trouble re-igniting them, but it was strange. The White Faerie, who had walked by the entrance, reported a blizzard outside.
I am certain that our using the powers of the fused crystal caused all this trouble. How shall we destroy it?
Whom shall I have to destroy?