14: From Plasma to Puss

The rope dug into his neck that blistered and bled plasma followed by blood and puss. His legs ached from walking for days on end in their march of madness. They only stopped after he collapsed and got dragged behind the horse tethered to the other end of the rope. He spent the night pretending to sleep while gnawing at the rope but did not break a single strand. They lifted him to his feet in the early dawn and continued their journey. When they came down under the clouds between the mountains they saw the white borderlands. Always to their left.

They disturbed the reflections of the moon in the lake’s mirror-like surface with their oars when they rowed toward the castle. Now and then bubbles surfaced and burst, releasing foul-smelling gas. The castle’s windows flowed with a pale yellow light. There was no movement, no sounds, no people. They let the boat glide through the half-submerged gate by inertia. A man stood waiting for them. They handled him the rope, and he tied it to a steel ring fastened to the stone floor. He remained quiet as he headed into the shadows.

They walked through a steel gate leading from the courtyard to a corridor lit by foul-smelling gas-torches on the walls. They climbed a large spiral staircase before going through a door onto the battlement overseeing the lake and surrounding mountains. The Devourer hyperventilated despite his superhuman capabilities, while the guide did not make a sound besides his feet shuffling against the stone. They crossed it the battlement before stopping before a door of thick oak. They knocked, and someone scuffed to the other side of the door and opened, a hideous looking man, with wrinkles upon wrinkles in his pale skin. He took a step aside and let the Devourer enter before closing the door behind him.

At last you came to visit us. We’re the Seekers, The man said as he limped toward the giant stone pot in the middle of the room. Many different plants and fungi grew in the soil around a tree with thin leaves and yellow flowers. A wine climbed from the dirt between the roots and up its trunk. Luminescent insects swarmed around the tree in the pale blue moonlight falling through the window in the roof. The man took a small silver spade in his hand and dug into the dirt between the roots.

I hardly came and visited you, The Devourer said.

I’m sorry for your inconveniences, but it’s critical that we meet. We’ve waited for millennia. We’ve longed to speak with you.

Then why didn’t you come and get me?

We couldn’t.

It’s about the Chronicler Sphere I presume?

The man froze in his movement. He set down the spade on the edge of the pot, and said, A chronicler sphere. Why do you believe this?

The Librarian told me.

Who else knows about it? The man said before he picked up the spade again and continued digging.

Only you, the Seekers.

The man swapped the spade for a knife and started shaving off pieces of root bark into his hand. A sweet scent spread throughout the room. He filled the hole with dirt again before he turned to the Devourer and said, You’ll stay until we’ve decided on a course of action.

The Devourer grew wearier with every day as the headaches came more frequent, and the sores on his feet and neck would not heal. He stood at the battlement looking out over the lake’s surface and the bubbles disturbing it.

A guide came to him and said, The elders are looking for your company.

This time they did not go to the tower. They went down into the dwindling depths of the castle. In the middle of a great hall burned a giant fire. A handful of robed figures sat on a block of black oily stone.