A Tale of the Fragment Worlds
Copyright Marc Gilbert ©2001
Edited by Suzanne Campbell for The Guild Companion
Chapter 6 - Terror from the Sky
The sun was already high in the sky when the companions awoke the next morning. They ate a light breakfast and were soon on the road again, still following the small stream flowing in the once-full riverbed. There were two floating fragments above their heads: one behind, and one before them that seemed wreathed in shadow.
After a few hours of walking they noticed that the stream had dwindled and was only two feet across. "The stream will not provide us water for long," said Siltis. "We'd better drink what we can now and refill our water skins." He drank a bit and added, "We should also cross over now instead of walking up the road to the bridge. The town of Feranor lies on the other side of the 'river' and crossing now will shorten our way by a few hours."
"Well, I'll follow your lead," answered Dazrii. "You have a better sense of direction than I do. And road or not, it's all the same now. You're the only one who can tell we're on a road. All I see is a desert of baked and cracked earth, some hills, burned trees and the mountains far away. Lead us to Feranor if you know where it lies."
With this said, they finished refilling their water skins, left the road and crossed the much diminished river. Having quickly accustomed himself to the new rotation of their fragment, Siltis was able to lead them north according to the position of the sun. He explained that Feranor was located near the mountain chain ahead of them and that he knew upon which foothill the town lay. He said that they would have to walk all day and a good part of evening to get to the town where, according to Master Frolmir, a portal was located that led to Caliros.
The companions all discussed what they would find in Feranor. They hoped to find the portal still intact and to see some other humans in either one of the towns. They also hoped that they would find any fellow humans unaffected by the magical mutations that had altered the animals they had encountered thus far.
They trudged onward towards the mountains, ever so slowly it seemed. It had been a few hours since they had left the river and there hadn't been anything to break the monotony of the land, just a plain desert with no trees, no hills, and no water; just dry earth. Overhead, however, a change was eminent. The shadowy fragment had reached them, eclipsing the sun. It had appeared so dark as it was covered with black clouds.
Chala remarked on the clouds. "I hope it'll rain. Our land is so dry and dusty... It would be good to have fresh water." The healer in her spoke again, "Maybe fresh, life-giving rain would heal some of the wounds left by the cataclysm."
Distant thunder answered her hopeful comment and rain fell on the fragment-world above them. It didn't reach them because they were under the stormy fragment, but they could see the rain falling along its sides. After a while it became very dark. Direct sunlight was blocked by the fragment-world above them and rain shadowed the rest on the far sides of the fragment. They couldn't see it but they knew that the rain was falling harder now. They could hear clearly the song of the thunder, hammering the world over them and the rain clashing at its sides. Gradually they heard a more ominous sound, the sound of rocks falling and exploding on the earth, released by the rain above and eroding the jagged sides of the continent above them.
"What do you suppose that is over there?" questioned Dazrii, pointing to an area close to the edge of the floating fragment-world. The spot she was indicating was less dark than the other areas. As they stared at it, almost directly over them now, they saw that it was a fissure in the fragment-world above them, and that muddy, debris-choked rain was cascading through. They followed the path of the downpour with their eyes; it seemed to be coming closer to their position. Slowly came the dawning realization that the fissure would be passing directly over them, and that it would reach them very soon!
"Run!" shouted Siltis over the growing noise of the thunder. He turned sharply to the left and began to run as quickly as his injured leg allowed, Chala following. Dazrii was last, still tracking amazing sight with her eyes.
The fissure above them was not very large but was approaching fast. They could now feel the tremors made by the falling mud and rocks when they impacted the ground. Dazrii stumbled on a rock that she hadn't noticed and fell to the ground. Siltis and Chala continued to run for their lives, not having seen Dazrii fall in the confusion and the darkness.
They reached a place a safe distance from the path of the falling mudslide, but when they looked back they saw that Dazrii was not with them. They could not see her in the darkness and it was too late to run back as the fissure would pass in just a few seconds. "Dazrii!!" they screamed in anguish at the thought of their friend being caught by that deadly downpour.
Dazrii picked herself up and looked back. Rain, mud and rocks were falling and coming toward her at great speed and she had no time to get out of their way. She began an incantation, drawing the signs in the air and shouting the ritual words she had seen performed a few days ago. A blue translucent sphere began to expand outwards from her body. The muddy deluge would be upon her in ten seconds! She spoke the words faster and moved her hands rapidly. The sphere expanded, creating a small dome over her, offering seeming insubstantial protection. She stopped speaking and gesturing when the falling rocks reached her and everything became dark; she fell heavily to the ground again and lost consciousness.