Excerpt from: To Those We’ve Buried

Ney’rha was coughing before she woke up. In fact, it was the coughing that finally made her come to. The sand was being blown about with such force that she could hardly breathe, and her skin felt like it was being ripped off a grain of sand at a time. She couldn’t see more than the outline of her hand in front of her, and tore off her cloak to wear as a mask so she could breathe enough to be able to seek shelter.

The last thing she remembered was the sword coming down on Toreph’s neck as he lifted his head enough for his eyes to meet hers. She was crying and screaming at his captors, as he had been unconscious. As their eyes met a light flashed and suddenly she was waking up in a desert sand storm.  What happened?  As her mind raced, she had hopes of seeing Toreph again, that somehow he was still alive.  But first, she would have to survive.

It was so cold. The air felt thinner here.  Even with the cloak protecting her face from the sands, she found herself short of breath as she tried to pick a direction and move. Her eyes were squinted, shut as tightly as possible while still allowing her to see, not that it really mattered, but it brought some form of calmness to an otherwise precarious position.

She noticed the sands blowing in every direction, which struck her as odd, as there was no real directionality to the winds. She found a boulder and sought shelter within what small shadow it cast, but the winds would have none of her seeking respite. There was no telling what time it was, or how long it had been. Perhaps minutes, maybe hours.

She decided to press on in the general direction she had initially set out on. But soon realized that there was no way to stay on a trajectory, and it seemed the very sands themselves were guiding her, as if she had a choice whether to follow or not. She had only ever heard stories of this place. She knew where she was, and it had been relegated to mythology long since passed. Dalara. If Toreph was to be believed, this was where the Immortals were, but also the end of the world, the passage to the afterlife.

There was nothing for it, she was spent. Ney’rha had been wandering aimlessly for a time beyond count, her breaths only coming in short gasps anymore as she struggled to get enough to continue. But the winds would have none of it, continuing to push her along.

She fell then, stumbling over her own feet in the thick sands, and hit her head on stone. She looked up, and there was a wall. It was immense. Even in the odd shadow of the shifting sands the edifice was impressive, well beyond sight. With a new found hope, she prodded along the edge of the wall, seeking an entrance. A door, a window, anything to get out of this storm.

Suddenly, the ground began to shake, a rumbling coming from the foundation of the world itself, when a massive hand grabbed her by her head, lifted her up, and punched her with a force she’d never felt before, her body a rag doll under the power. As she fought to keep her sense about her, the already thin air was forced from her body again and again with blows so powerful she had never felt its kind before when finally, mercifully, Ney’rha was thrown across a massive courtyard, crashing into a tree back-first, her body shattering, and she felt every bit of pain, her very soul breaking as she fell headlong into the floor.

She couldn’t make a sound, couldn’t move, each breath more shallow than the previous. And the last thing she saw was the massive being, blurred from her failing eyes, grabbing her lifeless body in his hand and all she felt then was a final crushing of what was left of her.

Aedrick

“Is that any way to treat our guests?” his voice was genuine, but he held a sarcastic gleam in his eyes. He went over to her body, now laying on the ground and could see that she yet lived. He had a surprise in his smile as he slammed his staff into the floor, which emanated a field from the point of impact encapsulating her body and lifting it gingerly.

The small shape then went walking toward the west wing. She wouldn’t die before arriving, he knew, for she was in a static moment, a stasis of sort that held her being as it was when she was wrapped in the magic. He would save her.

After all, it was the humane thing to do. Why release her from her suffering when she can suffer more?

He climbed the stairwell, a massive stone staircase seemingly carved from stone. The bannisters were a polished marble, and light pierced from the high windows above to cast shadows and reflections alike. He checked on his new toy floating behind him and caught a glimpse of the entryway. He had stopped to enjoy the grandeur of it a time or two, but even having lived here for so long, it was quite impressive to take in.

The height of the room seemed to reach the heavens. It was well beyond anything any mortal could comprehend. The gardens all surrounded a solitary tree. It was the Blessed Tree of Da’al, a rare type of willow once burned and now healthy again. It still bore the scars as a reminder to those who could remember the tale.

He smiled as he thought about how the towers of this grand edifice met with the sunlight, high above the constant storms that raged within the kingdom of Dalara. Should one be able to see the towers from the outside, the cover stones held a mirrored polish – even the distant stars at night were held by the towers.

He turned then toward the wing, the gaping hallway swallowing him as his mere thoughts lit the torches lined against either side of the walls, the drifting body dutifully following his lead, the spell visible – appearing as a blue lightning enveloping her frame. Aedrick was already growing weary of the mortals coming into their domain. But this one was different.

As he had initially approached her, he felt the remaining taint of one who had been magically teleported. He couldn’t trace the origin, however; and this troubled him somewhat, though not enough to really care, it was more of a curiosity and he would be sure to get it out of her.

Another set of stairs to the right side of the hallway appeared, and the torches being lit as he walked along the hallway stopped, the torches along the stairs being lit up. The revitalization chamber was on the third level, just at the top of these stairs. From the way it looked, the main hallway could have gone into eternity, there was no judging just how vast or deep it was.

As Aedrick entered the chamber a great stone rose from the floor, a table for the human woman, who was at least twice his size, and quite impressive for a human, physically. She had answers to his questions, and she would answer him.

While keeping her in static moment, he removed all her garments, weapons and trinkets without touching her, and gently laid her on the great stone table.

“Rehirriq do pratif. Horrha gruf briakti,” the spell was cast, the static moment removed and he walked out of the great room, sealing it with another massive stone.

Fudra’am was waiting for him as he exited, “Another one?”

This one was teleported to just beyond the walls. The magick used was palpable but untraceable.”

“You think it may have been a human sorcerer?”

“Such a thing does not exist.” Aedrick searched the face of his elder, sensing a secret being withheld.

“It has happened before,” then without another word, Fudra’am walked into the abyssal dark, not even bothering with the torches, leaving Aedrick with more questions than answers. He had always kept that part of him silent, it was surprising that he said this much.

The girl’s body was literally crushed; it would take some time for the chamber and spell to piece her body back together. Unfortunately for her, while the body could be repaired, the mind would remember everything.

The torches at that moment all went out in unison, bathing him in darkness and the only light seen was the small bastion of light coming from the grand entryway beyond. Aedrick decided it a good idea to enjoy the sights some more, as he’d only recently returned to the Palace of the Immortals from his long journey.

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