I curled up near a tree and then looked over at Undir. “I’m going to rest for a little bit here. Wake me when Risgar and Drarak arrive.”
Undir looked concerned at me. “Are you sure you want to rest now. You look fairly injured. If you don’t wake up then we might not be able to bring you back with us. If that happens then you might die.”
I shook my head, “No there is something important that I need to do now. If I don’t do it now then it might be too late.”
“Too late? What do you mean?”
“I lost somebody important and if I do not find them now I might never be able to find them again?”
“Somebody? What do you mean?” She rushed over to my side and I could see concern in her eyes. However I was already beginning to drift away. I was closing me eyes and soon I had drifted into dreams. It was a real dream too, not just a pretend dream that I could cause if I closed my eyes and concentrated right.
I could feel the dream body as if it was my real body. I felt a pain in my shoulder and could tell that it was still injured. Normally the dream world reflected what we wanted it to but seemed that I had brought my earthly expectations along with me. I was standing on the stage, the lights were on and the theatre was empty. I ripped part of the curtain down and used it to make myself a makeshift sling.
Once that had been done I looked around the stage again. The coffin was there but it was still empty. I hadn’t expected the Slayer to be there but I had hoped. The left the stage out the back and found myself in the plains. The flowers swayed in the breeze and I could see the Slayer’s small cabin off in the distance. Since our journey through the dreams that had happened during my long rest our two dream worlds had been connected like this.
I made my way across the field until I was at her cabin. I knocked on the door but there was no response. I opened the door and walked inside. The place was dirty, uncared for. That was very different then the first time I had been there with the Slayer. I looked around to see if there was any clues but I couldn’t see anything. I had hoped to find some clue that might lead me to her here but I seemed to be without luck.
I didn’t really know where else to look so instead I tried to reach out and feel for her presence. It was somewhat like when I had found a way to talk to her without the conduit. I imagined her how I remembered her. Every little detail that I could picture. It was difficult because I had never seen her with my real eyes only in these dream worlds. Finally instead I concentrated on her voice. That was the part of her that I was most familiar with and knew the best.
I imagined her calling out for me telling me to come to her. Before I realized what had happened I found myself at a lake. It was dark and black like no water on the earth. There were no boats and the waters roiled and moved like the river spinning and swirling around. I knelt down and peering into the water but I could see nothing through it because it was dark as pitch. Yet I felt like I could hear the Slayer’s voice off across the lake into the darkness.
I needed to find a way across the river. I reached out toward the water but pulled make as I felt a stinging sensation just from getting my hand next to the river. Swimming across certainly wouldn’t be an option. I tried to use the power I was most familiar with. I called upon the power of cold to make myself a boat to cross the river. However a strange sensation swept into me. It wasn’t the power of cold that entered me but something different, yet familiar.
As it poured into me I recognized it. It was the part of the domain of death that Zillk had control over. Now freed from his personality it was like a journeyman willing to show me the way. As it seeped into me I realized where I was, the edge of life and death. Beyond here was something that I did not know anything about.
I stood there and a boat of white wood rose out the lake and drifted toward me called my the the guiding power of death. As it reached the bank I stepped into it and sat down. The boat began to drifting through the waters until I could no longer see the bank anymore. Then I could not tell what way I was going. Was I going closer to the Slayer, farther way, I could not tell. I could only try to listen for her voice and try the guide the boat in that direction.
Finally I saw something off in the distance. It was small island. Barely big enough to even be called an island. There as only a archway where I door might be placed. I could see a form of somebody sitting there near the doorway. I pulled the boat up close to the door and stepped off onto the island. I reached out my hand and said, “I have come for you.”
The Slayer looked up through her tangled hair and she spread her lips in a pained smile. “You’ve come for me. I’ve been waiting.”
“I’m sorry I broke you link.” I only understood what I was saying as I said it. The deathly power that filled me was making me understand things that I hadn’t understood before. “It was Zillk that kept you bound to our world and when I broke apart his power it also broke your connection to the world of the living.”
“No, you have nothing to apologize for. You did something that I wasn’t capable of doing. Having the wait for you out here is nothing compared to that. However I would like to thank you for coming back for me.” She said.
“I couldn’t just leave you out here. After everything you have helped me with I would feel a bit back if I abandoned you.”
I reached out my hand and helped her up. She was wearing plan dirty clothes. Once I had helped her up she moved over toward the boat and climbed in it. She said, “I will be glad to be out of here. That empty archway gives me the chills.”
I nodded, “Passing through it would probably be the end. I don’t know everything but I can tell that those who go through it will not come back.” I climbed into the boat after her and then directed it back toward the bank. It was slow going and I felt that the boat seemed weighted down. Not with me but with the Slayer. It had trouble bringing her beyond the realms of death because she was no longer bound to the realms of the living.
I reached deeply into the limited powers over death that I had control over. I grasped at the power that I sought. Finally I reached down toward the water. I could feel a sharp pain as my hand burned badly from the water that seemed to eat into the life force of my hand. As I pulled it out there were black lines tracing my veins. And in my hand was a dark cloak. I handed it to the Slayer who looked questioningly at me.
“The best that I can manage. It should keep you bound to the world of the living. So that you not be brought back to this place.”
“I see.” She opened the clasp of the cloak and sling it around her shoulders. As the clicked shut the weight on the boat lighten and the metaphorical speed of the boat increased. As it did she said, “This feels weird. Once I put the cloak on I can not feel something strange, grim and dark but not evil.”
I looked at her with my strange senses. I could see the same power in her that was now filling me. “It is one of the fragments of Zillk’s power. The power of guidance, the journey toward dead. That cloak was created using that power.”
“Is this what it feels like to be an Apostate?” Asked the Slayer
“No, those who are Apostate’s feel the overwhelming pressure of the dead god’s former personality. Or at least I did. What you are feeling is the power in its pure form, untainted by the former gods. I’ve been trying to think of a new name for this type of magic. All we have know is the Gods and Apostates but this is something different.”
“They are free, unbound. How about you call them Keys?” Said the Slayer.
“Keys?” I pondered the word. “I rather like that. Then I have just show you how to use one of the Keys of Death. Zillk had command over six of them. However I plan of freeing more of them. I have a couple of conduits of the others gods. When I have time I plan to break them apart too. If I can do it with one of the major gods then I should be able to do it with the minor gods.”
The shore was in sight. I pulled the boat toward the shore and stepped out. The Slayer followed me. Once on this side of the shore I could feel the waking world just outside of my reach. There was muted voices coming from that direction. “You should be able to make it the rest of the way without me. I seem to be being called.”
She nodded, “Yes, I’ll be able to dnano that.”
I then opened my eyes. My first sensation was that I was extremely cold. I had let go over the Key of Winter while I was sleeping and with it the cold had been affecting me body again. I pulled in the Key of Winter again and felt the cold decrease. I could hear the voice of Drarak saying, “He isn’t waking up, what should be do? Leave without him?”
“No need, I’m awake.” I said as I pushed myself to my feet. My arm still pained me but I managed to do it. As I rose I noticed that my other hand had black lines running down it like my veins were full of black blood. It seems that reaching into the river of death had effected me more then I had realized. Still it had been worth it.
The three turned and looked toward me surprised. Risgar said, “Nick, your awake. A moment ago nothing we could do would wake you up and now you wake up just from the sounds of our voices. What happened?”
“I finished what I was doing. Now that I am done it is time for us to leave.”
The watched me, finally Drarak said, “Fine but you have better explain yourself later. A lot of strange things had happened tonight and I’m sure all of them are your fault.”
“Very well. I will explain everything.” I began walking toward the capitol. I could hear sounds from the camp behind us which sounded like the chaos and confusion of a leaderless army. “There is a lot to explain so I hope you will be willing to spend the time to listen. Also a lot of it will sound impossible so I hope you will believe me.”
They followed and Risgar said, “It would take a lot for me not to believe you. After all you did some impossible and crazy things out there tonight.”