Favoring his uninjured arm, he held Rhoslyn against him while the two talked. He tried to make out what the two were talking about, something stupid about books, but he was able to catch the man's name. Azrael. Two words flooded into his mind, the forgotten, and then vanished almost as quickly. Sikil wasn't caring too much for these strange thoughts and images that flooded his mind, almost as if an alien presence was pushing itself upon him. He tried to hold onto himself, fortifying the sense of self. Falling through that hole would not cause him his own identify.
"This place is a few days ride from what used to be Acadia, the Kingdom of Illusion," he whispered to himself, not sure where the knowledge came from but knowing it for truth. He frowned. "I hate to bring this up, but we could use a place to rest. Camping on the dead wasn't too good for sleep."
Azrael listened to Toph in earnest. All the while his mirrored eyes would glimpse at the other man favoring his arm. He was not yet sure what to make of him. He knew it wouldn't take time to discern his intent. When Toph finished speaking, Azrael opening his mouth to respond, but before he could the other man, now known as Sikil, spoke first about their location. Azrael focused his mirrored gaze intently on Sikil. He narrowed his eyes and let the silence grow for a moment. He then gave a thin lipped smirk and nodded.
"Indeed, as your friend here states, we are near what was Acadia, upon the western shores of Mo'Pri. The coast is less than an hour's walk from here; from there my tower stands upon the Isle of Winds which is a short boat ride across the bay. You can find adequate shelter there. I cannot confirm the readiness of the guest rooms however; considering there the tower has not had a staff for centuries and its master has been dead." Azrael smirked again. This whole situation was still laughable to him.
"As to your questions Toph, I am afraid there are very few answers I can provide you at the moment. All I can tell you is this. As you should know, I also made the transition to Maxim after the fall of Mo'Pri. My arrival there was later than most; I was somewhat...detained. However I did arrive there, thrived there for a short time, and then took my leave of this life for I was tired of Gods, Prophets, and the Voices who fashioned themselves as such. I did not witness its destruction, this is indeed news to me, and I should say I am not at all disappointed. The hegemony of powers that controlled the heavens of that realm were more petty, and less impressive that the Gods of Mo'Pri. As for the Sidhe, there were very few of us to begin with; even less from the old world. If you and I are indeed the last, to me it is a surprise there are even two."
Azrael turned his attention to the pillar Toph mentioned. He walked up to it slowly and placed a hand upon it, stroking its surface. It was made of obsidian, dense, hard, very difficult to crack or damage. His eyes went to the carved runes next. He ran a thin finger along them, his eyes narrowing as he translated the inscription, lips moving silently as he read. His lips pressed firm together when he completed the translation. It was as he thought. But how? He thought silently. He spun around quickly and came up to Toph face to face.
“You must explain every detail now Toph! Where was this lost city? What realm did you come from? What is the situation there, are there Gods? Don’t leave out anything, no matter how inane it may seem to you!” Azrael paused, his breath coming quickly. He looked over at the stone again and shook his head slowly. He sighed and looked back at Toph, his voice less harsh. “That stone, is not Acadian, it does not belong to any race or nation. It is a travel stone, used by the earliest clerics to the old Gods, before the murder of Olander. They were used ages ago by the clerics to travel from temple to temple. The runes you see inscribed are in ancient Vedic Sanskrit, the language of the Gods. Basically, this should not lead to anywhere outside of Mo’Pri. The implications of there being one of these stones anywhere other than Mo’Pri…” Azrael’s words trailed off.
He sighed again and looked to the sky for a moment. There is no possible way You still exist, then again nor should I. Is there never any escape from this madness? He looked back at Toph after his musings, his eyes narrow once again. “Tell me.”
"I- I... Very well. Do you remember how, even in the days of Mo'Pri, and continuing into the days of Maxim, we would hear stories of wars fought on distant shores, in a place known as the Guildlands? East of there, across a tall mountain range lies what remains of civilization, divided as always. There was a brief time, just after we all arrived, us fleeing from Maxim, they fleeing from the Guildlands, that we hoped for peace, but it did not last.
As for Gods... that is what caused the destruction to begin with. As we understand, or are at least led to believe, a great War in Heaven was fought, and in the aftermath, no one answers the priests' prayers. Of Foret, Isonia and Darden, there has been no evidence that they live for many years. However, there are currently living three leaders with... familiar... names: Angelique, Barnabas and Leto. The rumors claim that they are the mortal remnants of the victors of the War... the ACTUAL Gods reborn and striving to be the first to reach Heaven once more. I remain unconvinced and unconcerned. I grew tired of those fights after we lost so many fleeing Maxim."
Toph paused for a moment to catch his breath.
"As for the City, it lies in the far north of the Empire, ruled by the 'reborn' Barnabas. But this was not the only stone we know of. There is another, far to the south, although I have never seen it in person. The description is the same, however. Disturbing rumors cling to that stone... rumors of finding drowned bodies lying near it in ages past. Regardless, it implies that there are several of these, and that they definitely extend beyond Mo'Pri."
Toph squinted at the stone.
"I think there's something different at the top. Can anyone figure out what those dots and lines are?"
"Don't forget that something took out a bloody wampyr and also a horde of undead before we were able to leave that city," he added in. "If this thing can transport us anywhere, I would rather not go back to see if its still waiting for us."
A grunt and he laid Rhosyln gently on the ground and stretched. His arm throbbed but it was bearable. Mostly. Sitting down next to her, he rested his head in his hands and took a moment's respite. Knowledge still swept into his mind, but slower, giving him time to filter it away. No more did he get images of the past but now it was creating images out of nothing. My heritage, he thought with a snort. Somehow, a LuSuoles had survived this cataclysm and what happened to the city. That blood, however thin, flowed through him. The knowledge that he was now nobility over noone helped ease some of the discomfort of that knowledge.
"By the bastard gods old and new, why am I always drawn into this?" He looked up to the travel stone again and narrowed his eyes. "There is apparently more to this stone than even my ancient texts provide me with. My knowledge is limited to the realm of Mo'Pri, and to an extent that of Maxim. The Gods kept us so cloistered as to believe those were the only realms to exist on this world at the time. This will require more investigating and data." He drew his attention to the far top of the stone and squinted. "You say you thought you saw markings at the top as well Toph?"
Azrael drew from his many hidden pockets a piece of thin parchment and black coal. He closed his eyes and let the Art flow from freely in his veins. He felt the telltale tingle as it coursed through, the power caressing him like a lover. His lips parted in softly spoken and spidery arcane language of the Sidhe and his feet slowly lifted off the ground. He hovered for a moment, and his brow creased in confusion. Clenching his teeth, he spoke the words more firmly and slowly he began to rise again. When he arrived at the top of the stone, he inspected the marking. His eyebrow arched for a moment. He placed the parchment over the markings and ran the coal over the parchment, leaving an impression of the markings upon it. When complete, he spoke a few words again and began slowly floating down. When he arrived about a foot from the ground, the power that kept him airborne, suddenly gave out and he fell with an audible umph. Shocked, Azrael stood abruptly and wiped off the dead leaves and debris from his robes while he stared at the stone up and down.
"If it is all the same to you, I'd rather not go about willy nilly like a bunch of drunken goblins, traversing the ethers through this stone until we know more about it. Considering at the moment we consist of a comatose dwarf, and man with a broken arm, and two Sidhes whose magic inexplicably is perverted and disturbed in the presence of these stones, I suggest we head back to my tower first to heal and become more educated. Nothing has ever interrupted my Art before, and it took all my effort to keep it in check around this thing, and if you left behind a wampyr at the last stone, who knows what could lie behind the next jump." Azrael looked down at his etching and arched an eyebrow again. "These marking look like constellations, constellations I remember seeing in a tome once before but cannot place at the moment."
In her mind she ran through the seemingly endless tunnels of Bergelmir, forced always deeper into the earth by the collapsing tunnels behind her. No matter how fast her dream-self ran she could not seem to get far enough ahead of the falling stones to be free of them. Her heart seemed to thud within her body, forced into an ever faster beat in an attempt to outrun the impossible. Terror twisted its black hands about her throat, choking her, sending all sensible thought fleeing from her sleeping mind. There is no escape, the fear seemed to whisper insidiously, There is no running away from this, no way you can outrun the earth.
Deeper and deeper, down, down, down into the earth, always and forever further from any possible hope of sunlight and open space. Through the tunnels, empty of all other life, she ran, never seeing any sign of other dwarvish life, it was as if the tunnels were all that remained of the world and she was all that remained of the living. And now the earth was trying to crush out even the last faint spark of her life, burying her deep within itself, claiming back everything for itself.
In the waking world, Rhoslyn whimpered and held onto the pouch containing the glass flower as if she was drowning and it was all that could save her.
Toph looked down at the hasty sketch that Azrael had made.
"I recognize that. You're right. This is known as the Shield."
Toph's memory raced back to his fateful climb of the staircase, just before the Wampyr had tried to take off his head. He caressed the memories, drawing his gaze slowly across the memory until he saw the stone pillar. What had been a blur of unclear lines before was now recognizable with the trigger of 'a constellation.'
"The tower's stone had a constellation as well... the Fallen Angel. Two of the ten symbols of the ancient Zodiac. If forced to guess, I would say that this means that there are a total of ten of these stones, of which I know the location of one other aside from the one guarded by the Wampyr and the Zombies. I would prefer not to go back there, if at all possible."
Toph gazed upwards at the stone, frowned, and eventually nodded to Azrael.
"I must agree, Azrael. We are in no condition to continue in our current state. Who knows where the other stones are, and I have no desire to find out without rest. Lead on."
This Azreal was a mystery to him as well, more so then either of his 'companions'. How had he survived whatever had claimed not one disaster but two? Was this the power of a Sidhe? Was this the power that, however thinly, flowed through his own veins?
Eyes widened. Where had that thought come from? He shook his head, trying to clear it. It was that bloody apparitions' fault! No, it was the hole. If it hadn't been there, he wouldn't have fallen through it and he would be on his way, delivering useless mail to pompous fools and earning a few coins for his troubles. He tried to place the blame on anything and everything but soon grew exhausted just trying to trace the source of it all.
"If we are going to go somewhere, I might need some assistance with sleeping beauty here," he said with a soft chuckle as he straightened. The area behind the dwarf woman shimmered for a brief moment and a shadowy form of a stretcher appeared before blinking out of existence all together. Sikil rubbed at his eyes and looked again, still seeing nothing there. Gods, I must be tired.
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