I awoke with a jolt where I had fallen asleep; on top of the ruined tower and not buried beneath its fallen stones. The sun was bright and despite the slight chill in the breeze as it came down from the hills to the east, my fur was matted with sweat and my heart was pounding fit to burst. I rose, my feet unsure, and looked over the edge. Everything was how it had been before the… well, dream I felt I had to call it, although it was unlike any dream I had ever had and was far closer in feeling to my recent meetings with the Elders and the Elemental.
I took a few deep breaths, packed my gear and made my way down the rope to the base of the ruined tower where I looked out to sea as I re-coiled my rope. That’s where the boat hung, I thought to myself. That’s where it hung and here is where they murdered all those people. I shivered and began a very sombre walk back along the ridge and off towards the wooden lookout.
The weather was turning by the time I had climbed through the forested foothills to the base of the lookout, and I knew I was in for a soaking if I didn’t make the final climb quickly. Still, from down here the wooden structure above me looked a most improbable sight, like a timber crane fly clinging to the cliff face – and what a cliff! Fifty metres or more below me the sea rolled into a natural circular harbour and the cliff that rose from the waves almost vertically to a height way above me. I set off over the plateau and began the trudge up to the very top of the hills to where I could get into the lookout itself.
The rain was really coming down hard by the time I got there so I was more than glad to find the wooden structure solid and waterproof (if not windproof – not for the last time since I had become part gazelle did I thank my stars I had fur). The afternoon was giving into evening and the light was starting to fade. I found a lamp and lit it, more to ward off the elements than provide illumination, and heaved my wet backpack onto the floor to start unpacking my sleeping things. I surprised myself as on some unconscious level I had obviously made the decision to stay here overnight without ever consciously discussing it; how strange.
The lookout was obviously in use as apart from the lamp, it also contained chairs, table and notebooks – all seemed to point towards someone researching the forest and ruins I had passed through. On the wall hung a black and white photograph of an old man with pointed ears and kindly eyes. Maybe he owned this place, I mused?
Sleep came easily and quickly, though I dreamt of the strange and frightening vision I had experienced on the tower and when I awoke to a bright new day, the sight of the burning boat falling from the sky was fresh in my mind.
“What?” I fumbled.
“The creatures you saw, the creatures in the flying boat, were, or rather are, Formorians and they are never good news.”
“What were they doing here?”
“Here is a subjective term,” he answered mischievously “here and there are both the same and not depending on where you stand.”
I eyed him slowly, deciding how best to answer, before swallowing down my rising anger at his evasiveness and asking simply “What were they doing?”
“Attacking. I would have thought that was obvious.”
“Attacking who?” I persisted.
“The people who lived here – or there – many years ago. What you witnessed took place in the final days of the last great war. By that point powers had been unleashed that could not be contained. Soon after the destruction of the tower and the death of the druid Kail, these lands fell and Lachlan’s people were either killed or turned to slaves. Laclan was the lord here and his kingdom was the last of the free and its fall saw the end of hope here for years as those druids mad with power ruled over it all with cruelty and terror. The Formorians were mere tools, but dangerous and effective tools.”
I was stunned and for the longest time could not speak. “And you think this is happening again? Here and now?” I asked eventually.
The old man put the leaves down on the table and rose to his feet. “Come. Look at this,” he said and walked over to the lip of the look out. I followed and stood shivering slightly in the cold breeze. “Out there,” he said pointed out to sea, “is the seal and it has been broken.”
“The seal? What seal?” I asked squinting against the glare from the waves.
“The seals were made to stop another war from ever erupting. Inside each an Elemental volunteered to reside, locked away forever as living guardian of the treaty. But this was so long ago now and such things are forgotten, especially considering what happened to this world. Here the seal is a stone obelisk; once proudly regarded and honoured, now half buried and all but forgotten, it lies broken.”
“”Broken? How?” I asked him.
“A question I can not easily answer,” he said, “for it should not be possible and therefore no one knows who has the power to do so and how they could do it. You must go and see for yourself. See the obelisk and seek answers. Your journey is beginning in earnest.”
I cupped my hands over my eyes and peered out to sea “How the hell do I get out there? Swim? And what do you mean when you said ‘considering what happened to this world’?” I asked. When no reply came my way, I turned to ask him again only to find the lookout empty with the crashing of the waves below the only sound I could hear…
To be continued…
(Note: You can read the previous posts here)