I await you.The voices pulled me back into the waking world. They never let me sleep long and I felt I was beginning to go mad.
Come to me. They said.
I crawled out of bed and set forth to find her.
The walls provided my support as I emerged from the room. I stepped into a grand hallway that might have rivaled the beautiful polished floors of Meldron were it not for timeworn neglect. The painted walls crumbled over the centuries of abandon. Dilapidated wooden arches supported the vaulted ceiling, upon which intricate designs were of trees, birds, flowers, and miniature dragons had been carved. One of the beams I passed, featured images of elemental sprites, looping about different limbs of trees whittled from the wood.
I continued down the hallway, studying the primitive art. As I advanced, the drawings gradually altered to depict beings of ancient folklore. Lithe elves, capricious merfolk, nimble unicorns, and other fantastic creatures graced the painted walls.
My spellbound journey through time was violently interrupted when I stumbled and crashed into a flight of stairs. My wounds flared and my cry echoed through the empty hallway. The fall had extinguished my candle and I groped blindly about in the darkness with a cool, disturbing odor as my only guide. A dim crimson light came from above the stairs, guiding me to the great chamber, the very same chamber I had seen in my first dream.
The room held the stench of rotten corpses, though the arched windows remained open to the evening sky, wafting the odor from my nose. Then I saw the bodies surrounding the stone.
There were dozens of corpses lying nearly in a perfect circle towards the center of the room. Countless withered bodies lay crushed beneath the rotting corpses of more recent deaths. One of them was a child, a little girl who couldn’t have been more than four years of age. Anger brewed within me. I hadn’t realized that I still clutched the candlestick until my fist curled around it. How could this rock be so ruthless and so without mercy, that it would kill a child? How could this stone have lured so many people to their deaths? So many - and still it wasn’t enough. It had devoured a forest and a city with thousands more, yet it thirsted for more blood, more souls, more lives!
I cautiously stepped into the cluster of corpses, wincing at the sound of crunching bones beneath my boots. I neared the center where the tiny stone lay, surrounded by outstretched hands. Some had swollen fingers, others had shriveled flesh about the bony fingertips.
I pulled my tunic over my nose.
The stone seemed strangely bright, pure, and clean. Although it lay among corpses for untold centuries, not a single speck of dust marred its scarlet brilliance.
At last, you have come.
I did not flinch this time, having built up my resolve.
How many lives have been destroyed because of you? I demanded.
They are still here with me. Their souls provide me with strength.
That thought sickened me. I should bury you beneath this mound you have created.
That would not destroy me.
I glared down at its mocking beauty, wishing I could shatter it like a mirror.
You are nothing but a mortal of flesh and bone, easily eliminated. How could you think of defeating something as immortal as I?
You have not been reborn. There is still a chance. There is a weakness you hold and I will find it.
The only reply I received was a mocking laugh of derision.