Deep Sea Embers

Chapter 622: The Howling Shadows
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Chapter 622: The Howling Shadows

In the desolate region covered with ashes and dark soot, at the very place where the remnants of the once-great World Tree were found, a group led by Morris, Nina, and Taran El embarked on a mission. They were successful in locating several Truth Guardians who had finally awakened from their illusions, a state of deep trance or dream-like condition.

Morris had always suspected this outcome. Many of these Truth Guardians, who seemed like they were just coming out of a deep sleep or experiencing their very first dream, were scattered randomly amidst the ancient ruins of Atlantis. Fortunately, the majority had not ventured far from the ruins. When Nina sent a brilliant fireball into the sky, which was almost impossible to miss, these Truth Guardians, drawn like moths to a flame, quickly converged on its location.

However, there was one noticeable absence.

Returning to their temporary camp, a Truth Guardian dressed in a short robe, clutching a scroll in one hand and a revolver in the other, announced, Sir Ted Lir is still unaccounted for. Theres no trace of the predetermined marker, and the psychic call has yielded no response.

Taran El looked troubled, wrinkles forming on his forehead, Why hasnt he awoken? The amount administered to him was substantial. Even for a Truth Keeper, who is typically resistant, it shouldve taken effect.

Ninas eyes shifted between the slightly perturbed Truth Guardian and Taran El, deep in thought. After a moments hesitation, she inquired, Is there a chance that the dose was overly potent?

Caught off guard, Taran El quickly dismissed the thought, That cant be. Im meticulous in my preparations. I would never make such an oversight. Furthermore, Sir Ted Lir has an extensive background in pharmacology. He wouldve recognized if the dose was excessive

He paused momentarily, his voice growing quieter as he added with uncertainty, At least, I think he would.

Both Nina and Morris exchanged glances, their faces displaying a mix of confusion and worry.

How much of the Blood Raven Potion did you make for Ted Lir? Morris pressed.

Taran El hesitated momentarily before using his hand to demonstrate a size, Roughly the volume of a standard bottle

Morriss eyes widened in shock, You allowed him to consume an entire bottle of that mixture? People typically use a dropper for dosing!

Taran El defended, Sir Ted Lir isnt an ordinary individual; hes a Truth Keeper. Inducing a dissociative pseudo-death state in him is a daunting task. A dosage that would be fatally excessive for the average person might barely affect him. Moreover, Sir Ted Lir even refined the mixture to ensure he could safely consume that quantity.

After absorbing this information, Morris responded with a hint of amusement, I remember a time during my school days when this particular Truth Keeper wasnt portrayed in such an exaggerated manner

Put the blame on our venerable elder, Taran El gestured nonchalantly, He began by drowning his woes with liquor, then turned to potent neurotoxins to dull his anguish. Now, I shudder at the thought of what concoctions he might be adding to his drink post-lecture But Im certain, the Blood Raven Potions dosage isnt where the fault lies.

A concerned Truth Guardian chimed in, trying to redirect the conversation back to the matter at hand, Perhaps Sir Ted Lir is ensnared deeper within this dreamworld, in a realm so distant that even our psychic summons cant penetrate. He paused, his expression growing graver, This place is unsettling. In our collective exploration of the adjacent ruins, venturing beyond certain points led to disorienting symptoms like vertigo, brief amnesia, or even temporary lapses in consciousness. Our psychic bonds became sporadic and inconsistent

Another Truth Guardian echoed the sentiment, Indeed, during our search, Serlanie shared that she momentarily lost her sense of identity. It was as if she had been born in this strange world and felt a compulsion to remain anchored here for eternity.

Nina, absorbing their testimonies, wondered aloud, Are we certain these experiences arent side effects from an overdose?

Taran El, evidently perturbed, responded before the Guardians could, I assure you, Im unerring in my dosages! Trust in the credibility of a top-tier pharmacists certification. Besides, I devised the Sudden Death Method; no one is more well-versed in its intricacies than me

Morris couldnt help but mumble sarcastically, With a name like Sudden Death Method, perhaps the Academy of Truth should reconsider your certification. He paused, reflecting on the shared experiences, However, these anomalies seem less connected to the potions side-effects and more akin to the pervasive influence of the Dream of the Nameless One itself.

Nina, bewildered, pointed out, Yet, weve journeyed through this dream for an extended period without experiencing such phenomena

Morris, after contemplation, looked up towards the looming remnants of the once grand treetop canopy and the ephemeral mirages that flitted amongst the debris. Maybe its because we arent of elven lineage.

The implication resonated deeply with Nina. Both Taran El and the elven guardians around exhibited dawning comprehension.

In the ensuing quiet, Taran El slowly rose and gravitated towards a gigantic boulder, his gaze introspective and distant.

The panorama before him depicted an expanse of scorched remains. Grand treetops, once standing tall, had crumbled, morphing into the terrain to create hillocks and depressions. A grey ash carpet blanketed the land, and the skeletal limbs of trees crisscrossed amongst the grey.

The scene resembled a fallen metropolis, with its once majestic constructs scattered haphazardly. The lingering, sorrowful memories of a long-lost epoch seemed to meld with the very air, twirling with the eddies of ash and dust.

Taran El stood still, taking a moment to close his eyes, making a conscious effort to conjure the splendor that was once present in this very spot.

Eons ago, where now there was just desolation, a rich and abundant forest sprawled expansively, flourishing under the benevolent shade of the mighty World Tree. The terrain was alive, pulsating with energy as massive tree roots meandered and intertwined over the surface. Crystal-clear streams, sparkling in the sunlight, wound their way gracefully through the hills and valleys. This verdant haven was home to a myriad of life forms. Birds with vibrant plumage danced across the skies, myriad animals grazed and played on the fertile ground, and elves, ethereal and captivating in their elegance, lived in harmony with nature.

He was trying to visualize a world hed never seen firsthand, a time of legends when his ancient forebears thrived.

The liveliness and opulence of that era were such that it seemed almost mythical to those of the present age. What was even more astounding than the sheer life force of the place was its pervasive serenity and unity.

It was rumored that distant realms like Pland and Frost had achieved a semblance of this tranquility. However, as Captain Duncan once observed, even the vaunted serenity of present-day Pland and Frost paled in comparison to the peace reigning before the cataclysmic event known as the Great Annihilation.

Yet, Taran El felt the limitations of his own imagination.

Regardless of how intensely he tried to mentally reconstruct the world, the images he conjured were faint, nebulous. Fragments of descriptions from old texts hed studied rushed into his mind, giving rise only to pale shadows of that once-majestic world. While he had an inkling of what a forest might appear like from his encounters in the dreamworld, he struggled to truly understand how various creatures lived, thrived, and interacted in such an expansive green canopy, especially the elves with their mystical ways. π–‹π–—π–Šπ–Šπ”΄π–Šπ–‡π”«π–”π–›π–Šπ–‘.π–ˆπ–”π–’

It was widely believed that the ancient elven manuscripts, complemented by the communitys oral histories, provided the most authentic and detailed account of that time. And if archaeologists ever succeeded in recreating a snapshot of the world before its tragic demise, such revelations would likely be unearthed within the revered halls of the Wind Harbor and Mok libraries.

Yet, as Taran El reflected, he recognized a painful truth that vivid image of the past was irretrievably lost.

It had faded into oblivion on that fateful day when the oceans rose in fury, consuming the world and causing the proud civilization of Atlantis to crumble.

But what remained was an unresolved enigma: What led to Atlantiss downfall? What were the harrowing events that culminated in the Great Annihilation?

Suddenly, a fierce and blistering gust, its origin a mystery, swept through the area. This was no ordinary breeze; it was laden with eerie, ear-piercing sounds not the occasional whispers typical of ancient ruins, but a tumultuous storm infused with an overwhelming sense of foreboding as if threatening to drag ones very soul into an abyss.

This unexpected phenomenon jolted Taran El from his profound reverie.

With its formidable intensity, the wind felt like a living entity, trying to uproot Taran El from the very ground he stood upon. Bracing himself against its force, he managed to find some semblance of footing. However, when he opened his eyes, a world of shadow and turmoil greeted him. It seemed as though the very essence of light had been abruptly and violently extinguished from the world around him. The towering ruins of what were once magnificent trees had been transformed into grotesque silhouettes. From these looming figures, thick tendrils of smoke billowed upwards, eerily reminiscent of the historic inferno that once consumed the World Tree. To his alarm, Taran El realized that Morris, Nina, and the fellow Truth Guardians who had been by his side just moments ago had disappeared.

In the midst of this tumult, a sandstorm, dark as night, surged through, adding to the conflagration that appeared to be reigniting the remains of the World Tree. Unprepared for the onslaught, Taran El was thrown off his perch atop a large rock. He went tumbling, the world spinning around him until a jarring impact with what felt like a gigantic branch a mammoth limb reminiscent of a gnarled, ancient spine brought him to a stop. Shaken, he forced himself to raise his gaze skyward.

Above, the heavens were in turmoil.

Taran El beheld a vision so bewildering and terrifying that it defied comprehension.

An ominous, blood-red hue punctured the dense cloud layer, casting an unsettling glow. The very fabric of the sky seemed to be warping and collapsing as though a monumental force was bearing down upon it. The darkened clouds contorted, and even the scant beams of light entwined within them seemed to twist in unnatural ways. It was as if some gargantuan, malevolent entity was descending, intent on crushing the realm below. The sheer magnitude of this spectacle pressed heavily upon Taran Els chest, and he found himself gasping for breath, his thoughts a sluggish mire. Amidst this all-consuming dread, a soft, ethereal luminescence caught his attention.

Faint, ghostly motes of white light emerged from the charred ruins, gradually joining together to form gleaming streams that danced and intertwined. This radiant cascade wound its way through the scorched remains and, as if drawn by some unseen magnetism, began to gather before Taran El.

His eyes, wide with a mix of awe and trepidation, tracked the lights every movement. As it swirled and solidified into a luminous orb, he felt a warmth emanating from its core. But alongside this comforting sensation was a profound unease that tightened its grip around his heart. The orb, though amorphous, seemed to exude intelligence, and it circled Taran El as though sizing him up, probing.

Suddenly, it came to an abrupt stop.

A scream, chilling to the bone, rang out a sound so piercing that it felt as if it was endeavoring to penetrate the very core of his being.

The cry, heart-wrenchingly young, resonated with palpable fear and a hint of unhinged anger.

Wrong! You are not of elven kind!

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