Chapter 11 Scene 1

by Richard Perkins
This entry is part 40 of 65 in the series Doormaker's Fall

Chapter 11: Desperate Times

“Plagues are not the only thing to come out of the Great Desert. The shamans of the reclusive Desert Tribes are rumored have cures for disease and treatments for health conditions that surpass the understanding of the Healers Guild. Unfortunately, they do not often share their knowledge with outsiders. Those who gain enough of a desert shaman’s trust to be taught are highly sought after.”

Almanac of the Healers Guild

Without recalling how he had gotten there, Tor found himself stepping out of a field of sparkling crystal nodes into a dark void. It was the blown sand he had landed in earlier. Suddenly he was falling upward as the void expanded around him. His breath left his lungs in a rush and he lost the shadow vision he had so carefully woven for himself in the chamber. He was blind.

For a moment, panic seized his heart as dark laughter echoed through his head. Then he surfaced from the shadows into the low rays of the setting sun. It dazzled his eyes again, and spots danced in his vision, a ghostly reminder of the starscape of crystal nodes in the Shadow Chamber below.

Was the sun setting already? How could he have spent the entire day in the Shadow Chamber? He heard whispers on the desert wind, and then the laughter returned. Though he walked in sunlight once more, Tor carried a greater darkness within.

He had carried shadows from the chambers before, but each experience was different. This rider seemed stronger somehow, more entrenched. It haunted the depths of his mind, probing thoughts and sensations better left buried. It was an elusive guest. It fled from any direct approach into dark recesses where he could not follow. But the presence was undeniable.

He stood in the crevasse. But instead of falling into its fathomless depths, his feet rested on coarse sands. The shallow depression was only calf deep, but filled with inky black shadows that chilled the skin of his feet.

Tor was dazed. Why were his feet so cold? He stepped up onto the warm desert floor to discover that he was barefoot. Even more disconcerting was a strange doubling of his vision that showed inky shadows dripping from his feet and running slowly back into the crevasse like warm tar. What was this?

He heard the sands shift behind him and turned as Stephen Silver-eye and Meena approached him.

“Brother Tor, You have returned! Meena, summon the others.”

The lithe tribeswoman clenched her shardspear in a firm grip across her body, ready for anything. Her eyes danced as she as she glanced at Tor.

“At once Father.”

She sped away, as Tor stood dumbfounded. His vision doubled, and then split again and again until he saw countless identical warriors superimposed in Meena’s sprinting form.

No, that wasn’t right. They were not identical. He saw differences now, like the distorted reflections glimpsed in the facets of a crystal. Some were small, others horrifying.

In some aspects she ran hunched over in fear, pursued by something she could neither see nor escape. In others she ran fierce and proud, arrayed in magnificent robes that shimmered like liquid crystal. In a handful of visions the shardspear dragged at her right side in one hand, and blood sheeted down her left side where her other arm should have been. And in some of the visions she simply was not there. He tore his gaze away from the dizzying spectacle as Stephen Silver-eye addressed him.

“Brother Tor, are you well?”

Tor looked at Stephen, and his vision split as it had with Meena. His head throbbed. The facets continued to multiply before his eyes, so he closed them. He felt so weak. Why did he feel so weak?

“I will be in a moment Silver-eye.”

The voice which issued from his raw and cracked throat did not even sound like his own. Tor cautiously opened his eyes. His multifaceted vision remained, but as he watched many of the facets dimmed and faded from view. What was this?

“Why did you leave the Shadow Chamber entrance?”

Tor could not trust his voice to ask more. Stephen Silver-eye bowed his head and swallowed.

“I am sorry we failed you my Prophet. We stayed here for two nights before seeking shelter to the north. Even then we left a scout here at all times to await your return. I sent Surya and Jorgen back to the cache for supplies last night while the rest of us took turns keeping watch.”

Tor’s head spun and his multi-faceted vision danced. As he grappled with his senses, several facets of his vision faded and new ones flashed into existence. The whispers in the desert wind that were his constant companion intensified. Dark laughter echoed in the recesses of his mind.

“Keeping watch? How long…”

But his voice cracked before he could continue. Stephen Silver-eye looked up in alarm.

“You disappeared three days and two nights ago, Brother Tor.”

The laughter welled up in his head, combining with the whispers in a deafening crescendo. His fragmented vision exploded into sparkling stars that blossomed like darkness.

“Water…”

It was his last word before the darkness reached up to pull him down. Before the alarmed shard warden could spring to his aid, Tor fell to the sands at Stephen Silver-eye’s feet.

Comments are closed.