|Favorite Wonder:||Guild of Hammers|
Garrim looked at the crystal that lay on the table before him. It had been brought in by the miners yesterday; at first mistaking it for silver, they had lost two of their number to its power. It had yet to be explained why. According to the disturbing tales of the other miners, the workers had simply died when they touched the substance, without it inflicting any visible wound on them. They'd merely fallen to the ground without a sound, their lifeforce disappearing completely. Finally, the miners realized the source of the threat, and one of them, unusually courageous, attempted to pick up the crystal with a piece of cloth, and so it was that they had brought it to him.
He was about invoke a basic spell of scrying when his apprentice, Haeris, walked into his study. "What have I told you about knocking?!" Garrim yelled, with a fury more motivated by his tension than by actual irritation. Haeris seemed quite startled at his master's unusual display of temper.
"Sorry master, but you'd just sent for me, I thought..." he trailed off.
"Hmpf...well, now that you've come, you might as well stay. Who knows, you might even learn something from this. But please be quiet!"
Haeris walked closer to the table in silence, but he appeared a bit sullen.
Garrim ignored him, and returned his attention to the crystal. It was quite beautiful, and he fully understood why the unlucky miners had felt compelled to pick it up. Lights sparkled within its surface, red, purple and blue. Perhaps it would have been wiser to dispose of it, to take it to one of the deep mineshafts that were scheduled for closing soon, but Garrim had always been very curious about magical artifacts, whether they were benevolent or harmful.
He raised his left hand, and started to invoke the spell of scrying. Surprisingly, there was no reaction whatsoever from the substance, he might as well have used the spell on a common rock. Puzzled, he looked closely at the crystal. It still sparkled with light...but it seemed the colors had grown darker while the light grew more intense...a truly unusual phenomenon to behold. As he watched, a dark mist suddenly started to emanate from the crystal, making a hissing sound somewhat akin to that of sulfuric acid liquifying metal. The mist started to approach Garrim, and soon it had surrounded him completely. The hissing sound became louder, and he realized it was actually a chorus of whispers: "You....binder of spells.....we need you...you need us...power...power beyond imagination....follow us...follow us...touch the relic...and you shall be free at last..."
Garrim felt himself drawn towards the crystal, and he was about to reach out and touch it when he suddenly pulled himself back through a sheer effort of will. His ears away from the whispers and his head clear once more, he suddenly realized what he was dealing with here. "Mammon..." he muttered under his breath. He leapt backwards as the mist approached again, made a complicated hand-gesture and invoked the most powerful defensive spell he could remember. A pillar of brilliant light appeared before him, and the mist moved backwards, the whispers now more furious than compelling. Garrim drew a breath of relief. That had been close.
Relief quickly gave way to terror, as Garrim suddenly saw Haeris on the other side of the barrier, and the mist that was rapidly closing in on him. It enveloped Haeris in much the same way as it had enveloped him moments earlier, but Haeris proved less resilient. He leaned forward and touched the crystal while Garrim watched, stunned by the sheer horror of the events taking place behind the wall of light.
Haeris let out a scream of anguish, as a shaft of light from the crystal struck him in the chest. It lingered on as a pulsating beam seemed to be sucking the life away from him. Haeris' face became increasingly distorted, his flesh was slowly drained of all colour, and his eyes gained a bluish hue. But suddenly the shaft of dark-red light subsided, and the mist dispersed with it. Garrim regained his senses, quickly dispelled the wall of light, and rushed to the side of his apprentice, who stood with a blank stare in his eyes.
"Are you all right? Haeris, speak to me!"
At first he merely stared blankly at the crystal in front of him. Then he eyed Garrim, and his pale face was distorted by a sudden sneer.
"I am perfectly fine, master... I can see clearly now..."Garrim was shocked to hear the contempt in the voice of his previously amiable apprentice. What came next would prove even more horrifying, however.
The battle had been rough. Garrim doubled over and coughed up blood, but managed to stay on his feet. Before him lay the burnt and disfigured corpse of his apprentice and friend, burned--and this was what hurt the most--by Garrim's own spells. Yet he had had no choice. The crystal still laid on the table, its surface now deceptively calm. The idea of throwing it into a deep mineshaft seemed much more compelling now. That thing had never been meant for daylight.