1998-12-21: The Mysteries Within

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Baja Edition

The Mysteries Within

Author: Jared Siffom Published: December 21, 1998

I cannot explain why I returned to that abhorred site this eve. Suffice it to say, the image of the burning celestial stone had haunted me since I left it two nights ago. I could not sleep, knowing I slept beneath the same sky that had spawned that vile rock. Whenever I closed my eyes, attempting to catch a few minutes rest under the folds of the gypsy tent where I had collapsed the night before, I saw the glowing meteorite. Fear wracked my body, weak and weary from lack of sleep. I had not touched a bite of food since the evening I first spied the streak of fire passing over Minoc.

And yet the evening came, the appointed time. The Seer had told his followers to reconvene at the site where the meteorite had hit ground, to divine its secrets, to crack its crimson shell.

I could not say why the image of the stone troubled me so, why it haunted my every waking hour - but I knew, nay, I felt, with every fibre of my being, that I would not rest again without discovering what secrets the celestial stone kept hidden within its burning armour.

The journey from Minoc seemed to pass in mere minutes, so absorbed was I with my ultimate goal. Soon enough, I heard the clamor of what appeared to be a sizeable army gathered at the site. And there, in their midst, stood the Seer, Mythos, and his haggard friend, Darius the Astronomer. As I pushed my way through the crowd, I could hear Darius in what amounted to a frenzy of excitement, regaling the splendor of the meteorite. E’en Mythos seemed taken aback by the intensity of Darius’ agitation. The Astronomer spoke of cracking open the stone, indeed, it seems he had a strange mixture of chemicals already prepared for that very purpose.

Before any question could be put to him, however, a cry was heard from the edge of the crowd. A group of Ratmen approached the site at a steady pace. Noble warriors did press forward to meet their assault, but this was no mindless band of creatures. Their leader cried out to the crowd in his abnormal tongue, asserting that he had come to claim the meteorite for his people, that it had fallen in their land and was, by rights, theirs to carry back to their secret cache. The assembled warriors seemed to have little patience for the furry beast, and they instantly struck at him, their swords and maces glowing in the light from the smoldering meteorite.

The initial battle did not last long – the ratmen had too few in their number, and our human army, far too many. Their leader chirped and twittered, swearing revenge upon the humans who bit at his heels before he disappeared into the night.

Attention was focused back upon Darius and his words. The Astronomer bathed the meteorite in the elixir he had concocted, speaking of a field of energy that protected the stone from harm. With Darius’ potent mixture sizzling and spitting from the heat of the meteorite, the mad Astronomer quickly asked the assembled mages to work their magicks upon the stone. Cries of “An Ort” filled the air, mystical energies flying out to encircle the stone. A flash of light blinded all nearby – and when their vision cleared, the stone had broken, revealing at last its dark secret.

I spied the ebon orb before the crowd pressed too close. So black it seemed, indeed, it seemed to pull any surrounding light into itself. T’was all I was able to see. As men pressed closed to reach for the stone, Darius himself snatched it up, speaking in crazed riddles about procuring the ‘key’ he had so long sought.

The Seer took his companion aside, parting the crowd as best they could, and began to plead with him to bring back news of the stone as quickly as he could. The Astronomer shrugged off the questions put to him, so enamoured was he with his new find. I stepped forward to interrogate the man myself, but he disappeared before I could reach him.

I suddenly felt e’en more weary than before, empty and lifeless, a pure void, mirroring the image of the black orb. For a moment I thought of approaching the Seer with my questions, but then the screeching cries of ratmen filled the edges of the forest, and I knew the battle had returned to this site. Quickly I gathered my thoughts and headed back towards Minoc. I’d had enough of that loathsome stone, enough to last a lifetime.

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