Shard

Chapter 32 : Shard

“Did you know? The wayfarer’s crystal holds another feature.”

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Bracha led Katrin and Agni to the south western gate once more for a foray outside of the city. Katrin and Agni couldn’t hide their excitement, after all they were allowed to miss training for the entire day to go on their very first “real” adventure. What wouldn’t they have to be excited about?

She was currently showing them one of the many features of the wayfarer’s crystal — ‘Recall’. For a fee of either 100 or 450 Gols a single person or party could activate a one time spell that would teleport them back to the original point, the wayfarer’s crystal accessed to activate the spell.

Truthfully Agni had been dying to ask about some kind of transportation. For a world with magic she’d seen very little by way of quick traveling, thus she was pleasantly surprised to find a spell which allowed one to travel great distances in an instant.

“Recall is a spell that allows an adventurer to return to a specific wayfarer’s crystal. If, for some reason that crystal can’t be accessed or no longer exists, the player will spawn in their designated safe zone. Finally, if that place can’t be accessed– they will be sent to the nearest Tabernacle.” Bracha explained.

“This is really useful. Why haven’t we done this before?” Agni asked.

“Training. That and, there was never a need until now. Today we aren’t going very far from the city but precautions are needed. This is the only option.” Bracha said as she paid the party fee for the Recall spell. Katrin watched her Systema mark glow briefly, signifying that the recall spell had been loaded into her system. Bracha then made one other request :

“The area we are traveling to today is dangerous, even for me at times. With that in mind, I’d like you both to join my party so that I can better monitor your vitals.”

After acquiescing to Bracha’s suggestion the trio left the safety of Grenvale once more. To Agni’s surprise they seemed to be headed in the same direction as usual–towards the Lull Forest.

“So what’s this ‘shard’ you spoke of?” Katrin asked. Agni could tell she’d been dying to ask that question for quite some time. In fact, questions were practically Katrin’s favorite hobby aside from scribing.

“Shards are… hmm. Kind of difficult to explain without experiencing them. It’s probably best that I show you first.” Bracha said as she continued to lead the way. They walked much farther than usual, making the trip back to the Wilderness Tabernacle in one hike. Then Bracha led them to a pathway not far from the entrance barrier of the Tabernacle. The small, easily overlooked pathway led to a clearing with a hill which was dotted with less than half a dozen trees at the top. That and what looked like a large piece of floating glass hoving at the apex of the hilltop, or to be more precise a mirror.

“This is a shard.” Bracha said, motioning to the object as she and the others neared the strange phenomenon. Indeed, it looked very much like a mirror, save for the fact that it didn’t seem to reflect images. Instead, when Agni gazed into it she could see a distant place which resembled the forest in many ways. Trees, barren land with sparse grass patches and dead twigs– in other words an inverse version of the Lull Forest. Upon looking behind the floating construct Agni noticed that it looked like any other object–aside from the fact that it hovered several centimeters off the ground.

“What is this place?” Katrin mouthed , her hand covering both her lips and nostrils. She looked as if she was about to vomit, a clear expression of queasiness had overtaken her. Now that Agni thought on it, there was a strange scent which lingered in the air. Rancid, that was the first word that came to mind. The sort of smell that was subtle and unsettling to the nostril yet persistent enough that it simply wouldn’t fade away.

The more Agni stared into the mirror-like surface of the shard, the more she could feel a strange oppressive energy filtering out. With her upgraded Succubus Vision she could see a lack of warmth surrounding the object itself, this coupled with the atmosphere around the shard resulted in a sense of general discomfort.

“Some would argue that it’s much too soon to show you this. But more adventurers die exploring shards than any other activity in Adventia. I think it’s best for you to understand the true dangers of this place. Follow me.” Bracha said as she stepped into the portal, the surface of the shard rippled, distorting the image within as she did so.

Katrin glanced over at Agni, her eyes filled with apprehension — and for once Agni could relate. Her senses felt as if they were in complete disarray. Everything within her screamed *Do not tread further.*

Noticing the fear lurking behind Katrin’s gaze, Agni decided to go first. She stepped towards the shard and immediately took notice of how large it was. 2 meters wide and at least 3.5 in height, it was easy enough to enter but the sensation was unpleasant. As Agni placed her foot in first a cold chill moved around the surface of her skin until her entire limb felt numb. After a second she couldn’t feel anything — it was as if her foot ceased to exist. Agni quickly pulled her leg back to reaffirm that it was still present. After a deep breath she then stepped inside, summoning all of her bravery.

The feeling of cold numbness washed over her body, but only for a moment as all her senses blinked out of existence. There was a small moment in time where she couldn’t see, hear, or smell anything. She felt as if she couldn’t breathe either in the sense that she lost “awareness” of her own body on such a level that she wasn’t sure if she existed. This sensation was fleeting enough that the sudden occurrence was enough to jolt her body into shock.

The sight that awaited on the other side was, in a word, bleak. The desolate world from within the shard’s ‘reflection’ unfolded before her. What’s more Agni realized that she was now standing within a mirror image of the area she previously saw. Dried grass and cracked dirt, withered and gnarled tees and a dry breeze which seemed to have a life of its own. The geography of the area looked familiar, yet it was all very much different. What’s more, there didn’t seem to be any sign of life in sight. The sound of birds, insects or even the rustling of bushes — as if an eerie silence complimented the scenery.

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It took a few seconds for the feeling of numbness to wear off for Agni but then she felt the temperature against her exposed skin. Cool air, a chill more than anything really,swirled about as she walked over towards Bracha who awaited only Katrin at this point.

Agni now felt as if a weight was pressing against her from all directions, the only way she could describe it accurately was a sense of oppression. It was as if the atmosphere itself was heavy and foreboding. In fact, the dangerous energy Agni felt clung to her body like a clammy film which would not be loosened.

“What is this place? It feels like.. death..” Agni said, her eyes widened, as she struggled to shake the sensation of unease which was now growing in the pit of her stomach.

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