Phantasmagoria - Chapter 12
Like leaves in a storm the three stunned companions were hurled backward by the rippling blue wave. Kelloran who had been lending Chells a hand up the hill tightened his grip on the gravetender’s arm, keeping them together. The ground writhed below their feet, toppling them. At first Kelloran thought the energy of Archeo-Locus was tearing the land apart. He was so battered by snow and vegetation that he could not tell which way was up or down. Only his death grip on Chells’ arm offered any solidity during the onslaught. Even that was lost to him when the Believer seemed to be ripped away. It wasn’t until he felt Chells climb across his back did he realize his friend had pulled free on purpose.
“Use your mittens to protect your face! The grass growths are shredding you”, Chells shouts over the roaring maelstrom.
“HUH?” Kelloran grunted through the chaos even as he covered his stinging cheeks with his hands.
“Time’s pouring backwards. Just after the snow packs down the grass, it whips up at us. Ymir’s huge coat is shielding me but you almost lost an eye.”
The wave enveloped them for an eternity or perhaps just a minute more. Time truly had no meaning.
Finally it ended. The noise of a hundred storms and creatures receded. The field slipped from spring, through winter, and stopped with long dry grasses and fading field blossoms of autumn. Kelloran lowered his hands and sighed heavily. The flesh on his face erupted in pain as the adrenaline stopped blocking the agony of a thousand grass cuts. Instinctively he scrunched up his features only to have the pain double. Before he could scream, a rush of warmth swept the torturous slices from him. He opened his eyes as Chells let go of his face.
“Sorry that took a sec. My hands were in as bad shape as your face. You ok?”
“Fine. Thanks for the heal.”
“No problem.” He replied flopping onto his back. “Gods I’m tired. I could sleep for a week.”
“Oh no. Where’s Stone?”
“Lost in history somewhere like us I’ll bet… though I’ve never had the Locus move me before so I could be wrong. Usually it just carries the past to us.”
“Do you think he’ll be alright?”
“Evar would be a better person to ask. Right now I think we had better try and figure out when we are and how to get back. Any ideas?”
“Well sitting here is not going to get us any answers. Let’s go see if FallenStar is up there.” Kelloran replied rising.
With a grunt Chells pulled himself to his feet and followed his friend up the hill.
Stone’s trip through the Archeo-Locus was just as disorienting and painful as his friends'. He realized quickly the slicing grasses were due to time’s rapid march backward. At first he attempted to quiet the blades whipping around him but found that impossible as only the roots remained the same. Each slashing stalk appeared and disappeared before he could bring his will to bear on it. He abandoned that tact quickly and simply wrapped himself in his cloak as tightly as he was able.
When the buffeting finally stopped he uncurled himself. After tending to his wounds with the healing magic stored in his blade, Stone scanned the area. He was alone, somewhere on the Great Fields. Sweat broke out on his brow as the hot summer sun beat down on him. Unsure of how far back into the past the Locus had carried him, the druid decided it would be best to attract as little attention to himself as possible at first. For the most part FallenStar should be safe but there were a dark times when strangers were met with arrows as matter of course. Showing up in town wearing his winter gear on such a sweltering day would draw too much attentions as well as questions he would be best avoiding.
He cut across the hillside heading for the woods. There he could stash his heavy clothing before entering FallenStar and finding out when he was. The shade of the forest was a blessing. The heat was cooking him to the point of making him dizzy. The coat, gloves and cloak came off immediately but he still had multiple layers on his legs, feet and torso. Knowing he was going to have to strip down to near nothing before redonning something appropriate for town, he kept heading deeper into the trees. The thought of someone stumbling across him in his underwear was something he’d rather avoid.
After a quarter of an hour he felt he was far enough from both the road and the field to be safe. He dropped the bundle of cloths and quickly began to shuck his tabard, tunic and undershirt. He pulled the tunic back on and began to unlace his breeches when the twig snapping tread of someone approaching reached his ears. Whoever it was must have been heavily armored as Stone could make out the heavy thud of footfalls among the sound of breaking sticks. He grab his cloths and searched the area quickly for a spot to hide. Caught in the wrong season, the druid swore to himself. The white cloak, perfect camouflage against the snow pack fields he had been snatched from, would stand out like a banner in the bright green woodlands. None of the rest of his gear was much better. The light grays might pass for rock but would still call unwanted attention first. He ducked down in a small gully and quietly tried to roll the bright white cloth and fur small enough to keep it from view.
Just before the forest walker came into view, a dark shape leapt onto him. He barely caught a glimpse of the man when a stranger’s voice whispered in his ear. “Shhh Stone. It’s Thomas. There is a giant coming this way.” The ‘Thomas” figure swirled his dark cloak over both of them just in time. Stone was caught between fighting off the man he was almost positive was not his friend and the huge figure that trudged into sight. One glance and he decided a possible knife in the ribs was better that attracting the newcomer’s attention. It was not giant but a troll. He had seen the troll that had taken up residence in the cave near Melcynda’s Peace and to say that it had been a sickly runt compared to this monstrosity would have been a gross understatement. It must have had stood a foot taller than Evar, with shoulders twice as broad as his own. It dragged an uprooted tree in one huge fist easily thicker that the posts Chells used at the gates of the WhiteStone. It lumbered past them. Thanks to the concealment offered by the man on his back, the brute did not spot the pair. Unfortunately trolls more often use their nose to hunt than they do their eyes. It stopped shortly after passing them and began to snuff the air. As it began to turn, Stone reacted with all possible speed. He quickly reached out to the forest and commanded the plants to begin to thrash farther down the path the troll had been heading. The huge brute turned and began to plod towards the spot. The druid dropped the connection and used his third and last plant control gift to repeat the effect as far from them as he could. The trashing flora caused the troll to charge away at an incredible speed, giving him and the man with him a chance to beat a stealthful retreat.
“By Allhan that thing was huge. Good thing I managed to reach you. Did you see how fast it was? I’m not sure if I could have out run it.” said the man beside him. Stone was finally able get a good look at the figure accompanying him. It was definitely not Thomas, but there was something very familiar about the man. His features were those of an older man with dark hair mixed with gray. Stone tensioned eased when, even though he could not quite place how he had encountered this man before, he was sure he knew him and on a amiable basis too.
“I hate to break this to you but you are not Thomas. Or at least physically you are not him.”
“There is usually a mirror at Natinia’s Fortune Grove. Let’s head there and you can see for yourself but trust me, to me you look like an old man, half a foot too short and with completely different features.”
“Hey you’re right. You are too tall all of a sudden. Really though. It’s me.”
“Somehow I know it is. I also know I have met the body you are in. I just can’t put my finger on who it is specifically.”
“Well there’s the Fortune Glade. Let me see what I look like.” As Thomas bent over the mirror, Stone saw his recoil with shock. “Oh Gods. It’s the Forgotten Alchemist.”
“That’s is! That’s exactly who you look like.”
“But how come you are still you?”
“Maybe because your soul is tied to his. Since nothing of me exists now, I was carries back fully. You on the other hand have a part of you here so only your spirit was transferred.”
“You know what this means. There might be someone here who knows him. Come on! Let’s get to town.” He turned and rushed across the field. While his pace was by no means as rapid as Thomas’ would have been, Stone had to jog to catch up. Even before they reached the buildings on the horizon they came across a woman carrying a large basket heading generally towards them.
“Good morning Alchemist. Who is your friend?” she greeted them.
“You know me?!” Thomas barked.
“”Why… Of course I do.”
“What is my name?!”
“Easy Thomas.” Stone warned.
“Thomas? I don’t understand. Your name is not Thomas.”
Thomas took a deep breath. The Forgotten Alchemist had had given his life new meaning and here was a chance to find the one thing that person wanted more than anything else. Stone’s warning barely registered when faced with the possibility of returning home with spirit’s lost name. Thomas pushed on unheeding of the woman’s distress. “What is it? Please tell me.”
“But… Why it’s …. Wait why do you not know your name?” She began to back away sketching the air with an ancient sign of warding. Then her eyes, which had narrowed in suspicion, suddenly opened wide. She stared, open-mouthed, at a something behind the two. The pair of friends whipped around to see a wall of blue energy bearing down on them.
“Oh no! Not yet!” breathed Thomas. “Please my lady. My name?”
Her answer, if it was given, was unheard as the Archeo-Locus snatched him and Stone from the land.
Instead being dragged backward across time, the pair of heroes where tossed forward into the deep winter of the present in a flash. Stone was immediately frozen to the bone. Pulling himself out of a drift, the second in the same day as far as he was concerned, Stone’s teeth immediately began to chatter. Luckily he could see the lights of FallenStar just up ahead. Of Thomas there was no sign. Trudging through the snow as quickly as possible, Stone dove into his home, grabbed his second best winter cloak and rushed back out into the cold air. He could hear Thomas swearing long before he reached the yellow alchemy shop. “Man! What do you say to someone who just has a golden prize like that yanked out from under him”, Stone thought as he reached the door. “The Fates sure have a twisted sense of humor.”