Chapter 10 Scene 5

by Richard Perkins
This entry is part 38 of 65 in the series Doormaker's Fall

The tribesman insisted on crossing the White Sea at night.

“To be caught on the White Sea by the sun is certain death. Do not forget this warning.”

They rested at the T’kulpa until a few hours after sunset. Simon took no chances. He had Gunther send a drone to the Citadel. The message tube carried the tribesman’s cryptic words about the White Sea, the Island of Black Glass, the Tears of the Sea and the T’kulpa. The report was thorough, including detailed locations, descriptions and observations he had made along their route. Simon knew that the High Mage would not return the drone to them. He also feared that the report might well be his last.

The handler had released his lizards from the wagon traces when they arrived. Now they roamed around the T’kulpa, foraging for whatever they could find to eat in its empty spaces. They scrambled into the stone shelters with sinuous ease. They darted among the descending shadows like children at play. One of the pair approached a steeply inclined stone face. With no hesitation, it scrambled agilely up to an exposed span of rock high above the shelter. Here the beast settled down facing west, catching the last rays of the setting sun on its golden scales.

The tribesman called to Simon and Gunther, leading them toward a huge shelter tucked up against the towering sandstone bluff. An enormous stone arch dominated the inside wall of the natural cave.

It was draped with shards of crystal, lizard scales, and small bones from a variety of animals. These were all suspended like beads on lines woven of coarse twine that hung vertically from ceiling to floor.

The sun was slanting through irregular gaps in the stone high on the western wall of the cavern. The reflected light provided a soft glow in the cavern that did not penetrate into the archway. Beyond the curtain of macabre beads, the floor of the cavern sloped up before being lost in darkness.

The tribesman looked over his shoulder at Simon and Gunther, who stood just inside the cave. He held aside the curtain and motioned with his head into the darkness beyond.

“Your goal lies beyond the veil. Come. We will watch the sun set on the White Sea.”

Simon reluctantly followed as the handler passed under the arch and plunged into darkness. He heard Gunther stumble behind him as the ground rose steeply underfoot. His eyes adjusted to the darkness slowly. The walls of the passage they traveled came into focus. There were faint glimmers embedded in the stone that caught at the corners of his vision. Simon found himself reaching out to touch them without realizing it, only to be brought up short when the tribesman grabbed his wrist.

“Careful Magus. They may shine, but the crystals in these walls are sharp enough to shred cloth, rope, or leather. To break the skin with one brings fever and sickness.”

Simon’s eyes widened.

“Thank you for stopping me. The desert truly has many dangers to the unwary.”

“Don’t thank me Magus. I only deliver you to the high desert. You may yet find your death in her arms. Come. The sun is setting quickly now.”

They threaded their way through the natural tunnel in the sandstone bluff, climbing ever higher. The tunnel widened and narrowed by turns but remained large enough throughout for a wagon to pass with care. At last the floor leveled  and they rounded the last curve to see a blinding light ahead of them.

Simon held his hand up to shield his eyes from the sudden glare, stumbling until the Tribesman steadied him. He led Simon and Gunther out of the mouth of the tunnel where they caught their first glimpse of the White Sea.

It was the so called sea itself that blinded them. It was a salt flat of staggering dimension. It spread away to the southern horizon, a blinding mirror of scintillating white that dazzled the eye with reflected light. Within moments, Simon’s head was throbbing and his eyes streamed with tears.

The sun’s rim was barely above the horizon in the west and setting fast. The glare was still blinding even in its diminished light. It was impossible to see very far across the stretch of white. If there was a far side, Simon could not make it out.

“I see now why crossing the sea by sunlight would be ill-advised.”

“Not just ill-advised, Magus. Death. Watch.”

The tribesman scanned the ground at the mouth of the tunnel until he found a chunk of loose stone small enough to pick up. He hefted it in his left hand, passed it to his right, and then threw it far out into the salt flats.

The three men watched it soar, squinting as they tracked its progress. It landed with a puff, and a cloud of white rose up from its impact. The plume swirled in the hazy air. A shimmer of scintillating lights sparkled from within it for minutes before drifting away and dissipating in the slight breeze. The handler turned to Simon and Gunther.

“Remember the shards in the tunnel walls that bring fever when they cut? The flashes you saw in that cloud are the same, but ground fine enough to hang in the air. Fine enough to breath. If you get those shards inside you…” The tribesman thumped his chest with his right hand, shaking his head.

Simon was dismayed.

“But then how will crossing at night help?”

The handler looked to the west where the last rim of the sun was slipping below the horizon.

“We will use the Tears of the Sea. I will show you later. But look there just as the sun drops and you will see the Island of Black Glass rise from the White Sea.”

Simon held his hand over his eyes to shield them as he stared in direction the handler pointed. He saw nothing but a wavering haze on the southern horizon. He squinted, his eyes watering.

As the setting sun transmuted the color of the salt flat from white, through golden, to orange, he saw a miraculous site. Darkness formed on the desert floor far to their southwest. The spot climbed upward as the sun slipped below the western rim of the world. Just on the edge of hearing, he detected a sound, like the last gasp of a dying man. Or the groan that a sheet of ice makes just before it collapses under an unwary animal trying to reach the water underneath. The vision resolved into a jagged spire of obsidian and black crystal, pointing skyward from the sands like a weapon aimed at the stars.

Gunther’s breath left him in a gasp.

“Mother of Mirrors!”

Simon shared his sentiment. “What is that?”

The handler nodded, clearly pleased with the effect the sight had on the Doormakers.

“It hides from light. Touched by darkness it is revealed. I have been told that the most powerful Prophets can find it by day if they need to. But I have never known any desperate enough to try.”

Simon felt a strange tingle in sensitive skin behind his knees and elbows. The hairs on the nape of his neck rose like the hackles of a dog scenting danger. But he could not place the sensation.

Could elemental earth energy actually be lifting a crystal spire  from the bowels of the desert every night? What mage could channel such power? Simon was baffled.

“What is it?”

“The Island of Black Glass Magus. It rises from the White Sea with the setting of the sun. It subsides with the coming of dawn. For the worthy, a guide will open the way to Ten Fallen Stones. The unworthy are left to the mercy of the sea. Come. It is time to go to the Cave of Tears. We must not waste the night.”

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