Deep Sea Embers

Chapter 621: Gathering
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Chapter 621: Gathering

The golden rays of sunlight that had previously enveloped the girl started to diminish. Nina’s gaze, filled with uncertainty, settled on Taran El, a distinguished scholar known among the elves for his vast knowledge. The air around her was heavy with apprehension as she examined him closely, trying to determine if he had genuinely snapped out of his trance-like stupor. After observing him with deep concentration for a brief period, she hesitated momentarily before voicing her concern, “Mr. Taran El, can you confirm that you’re fully present with us?”

However, Taran El appeared almost ghostly, lost in his thoughts, offering only a faint grimace that betrayed signs of discomfort.

Watching him, a troubling thought crossed Nina’s mind: perhaps the fiery explosion they had recently witnessed, which erupted like a gargantuan fireball, had left the scholar temporarily deaf or disoriented due to its sheer force.

Just as she was processing this, Taran El snapped back to the present. His movements were frantic as he gestured for Nina to stay back and hurriedly moved aside. Bent over, he appeared on the brink of retching, gasping for breath.

Nina, taken by surprise, wasn’t certain how to navigate the situation. With tentative steps, she moved closer and tenderly patted Taran El’s back, hoping her gesture might bring him some relief. As he gradually began to regain control, she asked, her voice laced with both worry and a tinge of awkwardness, “Did that explosion affect you adversely?”

Taran El shook his head, attempting to clarify amidst labored breaths, “It’s not the explosion…” He struggled to hold back another wave of nausea. Finally, after pausing to recollect himself, he said with visible effort, “I suspect it’s the medication.”

Confused, Nina’s eyebrows furrowed, “Medication? Which medication are you referring to?”

“The one that was administered to transport me into this dream,” Taran El expounded, trying to steady his breathing by thumping his chest. He looked around, a hint of panic in his eyes. “Am I the sole person here who’s awake? Have you encountered anyone else?”

Morris, who had been making his way towards them, caught fragments of their conversation. His expression grew more serious, “Others? Could you clarify what you’re referring to?”

Taran El’s gaze shifted to Morris, and then he took a few seconds to assess the unsettling landscape around them. Still grappling with his dizziness, he began to recount, “The respected Truth Keeper, Ted Lir, formed a specialized team, with me providing counsel. Before embarking into this dreamscape, we ingested a potion named the Blood Raven Potion…”

“Blood Raven Potion?!” Morris’s voice rang out sharply, his stare fixed firmly on Taran El, “That’s potent! Are you certain you haven’t taken things too far?”

Yet, amidst their exchange, Nina felt like an outsider, unable to piece together the details. She turned to Morris, seeking answers, “Mr. Morris, could you explain? What is this mysterious Blood Raven Potion?”

“The Blood Raven Potion is a formidable concoction,” Morris began, his voice heavy with the weight of his knowledge. “It is extracted from a blend of toxic mushrooms, and its danger cannot be overstated. When consumed, it primarily affects the human mind, creating a delayed response that plunges the person into a semblance of death. This places one’s spirit in a liminal space, detached from the body, and scrambles their senses. The intention behind the potion is to assist individuals in deciphering particularly treacherous kinds of knowledge. When one takes the elixir, it safeguards them from the potentially fatal stages of contamination or curses during this pseudo-death. But, due to the inherent hazards associated with it, the potion’s creation and use is strictly regulated by the academy. It’s only administered under dire circumstances, with stringent safety measures.”

As Morris delved deeper into his explanation, his gaze, filled with doubt, lingered on Taran El, “You must understand my skepticism. Are you absolutely certain this was the best course of action?”

Taran El responded with a hint of excitement, “It has been a success. My hypothesis has been confirmed. By purposefully invoking this profound ‘psychic dislocation,’ we’re granted access to the Dream of the Nameless One. Think of it akin to a punch-card machine rejecting mismatched cards,” he gestured illustratively. “Of course, another theory was that we would be entirely cast out from the Dream of the Nameless One and be brought back to our reality. But, judging by our current situation… this dream possesses a might we hadn’t accounted for. Despite being in a near-death psychic state, our awareness persists here. To truly depart, a different catalyst may be required.”

He paused, allowing a smirk to cross his features, “The ‘Sudden Death Method’ and its intricate applications were my creation.”

Morris, absorbing this, was taken aback. He struggled to find his voice, “How did you manage to convince Lord Ted Lir to endorse such a risky endeavor?”

“Admittedly, he did express a fair share of skepticism,” Taran El admitted nonchalantly, “But I presented a compelling argument about starting cautiously given the severe implications. Ultimately, he agreed to a more measured approach.”

Morris blinked, struggling to grasp the boldness of the concept. While he had always prided himself on his unconventional scholarly approaches, he was now coming to realize that in the elven city-state of Wind Harbor, located on the fringes, the elves, perpetually confronted with the unconventional, exhibited a touch more daring.

Taran El, perceiving Morris’s astonishment, said, “Your look says it all, Morris. I’m aware that what we’re delving into borders on the extreme, straying from what one might deem ‘conventional academic protocols’,” his tone became serious, “Yet, we might be running out of alternatives.”

“You might be aware of the recent epidemic termed ‘The Slumbering Sickness’. It’s been spreading like wildfire across various city-states, and it seems to be entwined with the growing influence of the Dream of the Nameless One. Moreover, outside my lab, a tree, birthed from this very dreamscape, has manifested in our world, with its branches overshadowing my rooftop and balcony…”

Taran El exhaled deeply, a determined glint in his eyes. “Given the urgent nature of our predicament, it’s evident that taking calculated risks has become imperative. This ever-changing world isn’t generous enough to grant us extended preparation or wait for us,” he commented.

Morris simply nodded, absorbing the gravity of Taran El’s words, choosing not to speak.

Casting a glance around the vast landscape, Taran El’s expression grew contemplative. A few moments later, he mused, “It seems the first order of business in this perplexing dreamscape is to reunite with our fellow travelers.”

Morris heaved a sigh, “The silver lining, I suppose, is that you all are bound to be somewhere within these sprawling ruins. However, the challenge lies in the sheer expanse of this place. From my own excursions into this world, I’ve observed that during an individual’s initial ‘dream-entry’, even if you embark on this journey with a group in the physical realm, the dream tends to scatter participants at random locations.”

Taran El’s gaze shifted from Morris to Nina, who stood a few paces away, attentively listening. Notably absent, though, were the other members of Captain Duncan’s retinue.

However, one thing was certain: these so-called “Vanished Followers,” who had ventured into the Dream of the Nameless One on several occasions, had garnered invaluable insights about this intricate and boundless dream world.

Seeking their expertise, Taran El implored, “Your knowledge of this realm might be the guiding light we need.”


A sudden flash and rumble disrupted the otherwise serene environment outside the confines of the ancient walls.

Deep within the encompassing forest, a cloaked member of the feared Annihilation Cult jerked his head skyward. His eyes widened, reflecting the dazzling light that had momentarily lit up the heavens. The radiance began to wane, and it was only then that he managed to whisper in sheer astonishment.

His fellow cult members, similarly garbed, were equally befuddled, their gazes glued to the point where the light had originated.

Just moments prior, an enormous fireball had shot upwards from the forest’s depths, not characteristic of the usual visions of the Dream of the Nameless One. With its intense luminosity, the fireball bore resemblance to a second sun, slicing through the dense cloud cover with ease. Its light was so intense it felt as if it could transcend dimensions. This unexpected spectacle caused a significant disturbance — plants experienced rapid growth spurts, the earth beneath shivered, and eerie, indescribable sounds resonated throughout.

The events unfolding were reminiscent of the dreaded “Erosion Phenomenon.”

But, as quickly as the anomaly emerged, it disappeared. The fireball’s departure was as abrupt as its entrance.

Two of the Annihilation Cult members, who mere minutes ago were engrossed in engraving symbols, now exchanged glances, a mix of confusion and awe evident in their expressions.

After a tense, prolonged silence, the disciple who had first voiced his shock finally uttered, “This doesn’t align with the prophecies of Atlantis awakening… It differs from the tales our emissaries recount.”

The other responded in a hushed, cautious tone, “An external intervention, perhaps? Such a grandiose fireball… Could the Suntists have orchestrated this spectacle?”

“I find that hard to believe,” began one of the Annihilators, with a hint of unease coloring his tone. “The Saint has kept a vigilant watch over the Suntists. They wouldn’t just impulsively embark on such a radical deviation from their established patterns. And even if the Suntists had hidden intentions ready to be unveiled, they’d certainly exhibit more restraint. The prophesied ‘final hour’ is yet to approach.”

As the gravity of the situation settled, the two cultists locked eyes, a shared sense of foreboding palpable between them.

One of them hesitated, then cautiously broached the topic, “Could the culprits possibly be… the followers of ‘Him’?”

The word ‘Him’ seemed to hang heavily in the air.

“You know precisely whom I’m alluding to,” the first cultist pressed.

The response was marked by disbelief and growing anxiety. “Are you joking?” The second Annihilator questioned, trying to steady his voice. “To cause such upheaval… such a display of raw power…”

He swallowed hard, gathering his thoughts before voicing his main concern, “We’re not prepared to face such colossal entities, are we?”

It was evident that even these devoted followers of the enigmatic Annihilation Cult were not immune to the unnerving fear brought on by such overwhelming displays of power.

Their intense discussion was suddenly halted by the unmistakable sound of footsteps crunching against the forest floor. Both cultists swiftly turned, their bodies tensing in anticipation. The sight of familiar faces caused their apprehension to ebb away.

Emerging from the forest shadows were their comrades — Dumont, Richard, and several others who had earlier ventured into the woods to lay down their symbols.

“That celestial blaze… did you also bear witness to it?” One of the initially startled cultists asked hastily, “Could the Ghost Captain’s adherents be behind this spectacle?”

Dumont, a figure of authority among them, replied calmly, his voice brimming with reassurance, “Yes, we too were spectators to that breathtaking display. But fear not. The force behind it is not something we’re slated to confront. Our path forward ensures safety.”

The two Annihilators shared a quick, meaningful glance.

“Are we strategizing a withdrawal?” one of them queried, his gaze settling on Dumont, “It appears our group is now complete.”

Dumont nodded, a comforting smile playing on his lips. “Indeed, our ranks are now fully assembled,” he confirmed, gesturing for them to move along, “We were merely awaiting your return.”

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