Since we didn't know what the dwarves called this place, we named it Falling Water. José said he was willing (perhaps even eager) to carry the Crystal of Water, and Miara was glad to hand it over to anybody else. She doesn't have the same aversion to them I do; I think she just thinks they are other, western, barbarian, and thus unconnected to her. She's wrong, of course, but wise in not wanting to wield it, for whatever reason. Yet, I'm sure that José has a lot of curiousity about the things, and I'm afraid he will fool with it more than Miara would have. Maybe I'm wrong: she isn't properly terrified of them, either. No one else here is.

We settled down for a long, hard winter. I searched for roots and herbs, with Bark's help, every day. The hunters just about kept us going. This will be a long and hard winter, and I'm not certain we will survive. José fulfilled my fears by immediately spending time studying the new Crystal. I split my time between trying to use the herbs I gathered to manufacture healing potions and meditating on my inner healing abilities. I'm sure I can find some way to improve how I do things. Carmella was quiet, as usual. I would like to see her settle down in Kreuzhofen very much. Perhaps in the spring.

One evening, after dinner, most of us were gathered in the dining hall, as usual. The fire is there, warm and friendly, and it's comfortable to gather with your companions. I was working on a potion and Carmella was watching me with disinterest. Miara had a little paddle out, with several inks on it, and brushes and a scroll. She was drawing something in her inscrutable but attractive script, and her brow was wrinkled, like she was having a hard time with it. Goldrim and Kyuskay were elsewhere; one of them was on guard duty. José was in his room with the crystal. Ashe was sitting comfortably by the fire whittling, and Bark was companionably working with a bit of leather next to him. Sun busied himself in the kitchen, cleaning up the dinner he had made for us all. He has become very handy since I first met him, cleaning and cooking for us all. Although Miara is his first priority, he takes care of the rest of us in little ways, too. In short, it was the usual evening.

Suddenly, I felt an odd movement in my pocket. As I placed my hand over the Crystal, it flew away from me, through the pocket and scraping my skin painfully along its way. I grabbed for it, but it was already out of my reach. I ran after it, not knowing what was happening, but being sure it was bad. It moved through the air much faster than I could run. Dimly, I realized others were behind me, and then Ashe was in front of me. He looked like he was being dragged at an impossible rate by an invisible being. The Zoggin' Rock, I was certain.

I stopped just short of the hole that led to the lower level, and saw my Crystal and Ashe and his vanish down it. Miara had overtaken me along the way, and she leapt down without pausing. José was already there, lying on the ground and peering down the hole. I gulped and jumped down the hole, too. It was only 10 feet, and I landed lightly.

As I stood, I saw Goldrim, Ashe, and the two other stone smash into each other. A blinding light filled the room, and I was blind.

Then I saw before me the crystals floating in mid-air, fused together somehow.

It all depends on me. The others let me down. They let everybody down, by putting those crystals back together. Now only I can save everybody. I have to throw the crystals through that little hole. It's like a pinhole, and it's so far away. And the wind is rushing through my hair, distracting me. The air is thin and hard to breathe. I'm cold, so cold, and my fingers, they seem like they're going to crack apart like icicles struck against a cold railing. Yet I must, I must throw the crystals through the hole; the hole is getting closer. And closer. And closer. And fire is raining all around me.

Oops! I dropped it!

That's strange. Must have been a hallucination. I hope my companions didn't notice me. I see that they're all looking strangely. But not necessarily at me, thanks to all that is good.

I blinked, and the world changed subtly. The crystals still floated in the air. There was no hole in the fabric of the universe. The others around me all had odd looks on their faces. It was a dream, not real. I hadn't dropped the crystal. I hadn't failed. I hadn't doomed the world. Yet I felt like I truly had. Was there some point earlier in our travels when I could have done something? Was there something I missed? Or, since my vision clearly involved the fused crystals presently floating before my eyes, was my failure waiting in my future? Could I do it right next time?

Goldrim, used to such things, recovered more quickly and told us all what he'd seen. "I was holding up a pillar of stone, barely keeping it from crushing everyone in the party. You were all standing under it and laughing at me, as I kept trying to tell you to move before it fell on you. The fused crystals were on top of the pillar, weighing it down. And you all just laughed."

He looked at Miara and asked what she had seen. That she had seen something was evident. She looked troubled, and there was an almost tangible darkness about her. She ignored his question and asked if I had seen anything. I told everyone about my failure. Perhaps when the time comes, they may see a way to succeed.

Ashe stammered that he had seen Carmella try to kill us all. That worries me. Is Carmella still a danger, even after having handed the Zoggin' Rock to Ashe?

Miara reached out and took the fused crystal. I belatedly realized that I should have done so. Another failure. She suggested we all return to the dining hall to discuss this, and she shouted up to José to meet us there. We walked the long way around, rather than wait for someone to send down a rope for us to climb.

I realized that Ashe and Goldrim were both scraped and bruised from being dragged along the halls and slammed together, the stones finally escaping their clothes. I reached out and healed each one, with little cost to me.

Everyone else was already in the dining hall. Wordlessly, Miara held up the fused crystal for everyone to see. Paying more attention to how it looked, I realized that the four stones fit together so closely I could not distinguish them. Obviously, they were designed to be fit together. To what purpose? To whose?

Kyuskay looked more disturbed than anyone else, and he had a wild look in his eyes. Before anyone said a word, he blurted his vision to Miara. It was very difficult to understand him, as he spoke quickly, and I couldn't make sense of all his words or sentences. It was not merely my imperfect understanding of Nippones, for Miara quizzed him closely. She finally gave up, saying worriedly that she didn't really understand what he was saying exactly. Kyuskay said that's because he didn't really understand what he had seen.

All I could make out was that, in his vision, he was the distilled essence of Tzeentch. The crystals having been brought together "ended" Tzeentch's plan, but he didn't know if that meant the plan was brought to fruition or ruined. At any rate, some other unknown being, separate from Tzeentch, was waiting to drink Kyuskay, the essence of Tzeentch. Then what? He woke up. I think Kyuskay truly believe he is the essence of Tzeentch in some way, and The Man will appear at some point to drink him some how. While the rest told their stories, I saw Miara give Kyuskay oddly appraising glances once in a while. I cannot tell what she was thinking; only that it was dark and gave her no happiness.

When Kyuskay and Miara finished trying to figure out what he'd seen, Ashe muttered, "Kill Carmella." Then he was silent again.

Againt Goldrim asked Miara about her vision, but she turned and asked instead what José had seen.

He toldus, "I smelled a terrible smell, and my vision dimmed. I was lying in my bed, and the sheets were soaked in my sweat. I realized I was the smell, I was disease and death. I had helped to bring about a terrible doom. Then I realized I was Yazeran, and I had to write down the doom that I had seen before I forgot it. But I was trying to write down the prophecy, too. If I got that wrong, it changed everything. I scribbled the prophecy down as fast as I could, hoping that I got it right. Then I tried to write the warning before it faded. 'Don't attune the last crystal because, because...'Then I woke up, and the doom was sealed. If only I knew what happened."

Then Bark volunteered his. "I thought everyone around me looked sick for a moment. I thought that was good, because it covered my own sickness. I'm never supposed to be sick. Mother said this would happen. I vomited all over my tunic. Did anyone else see me? But they were all distracted, too. And then the vision was over, and all was just the way had been a moment before."

Miara turned to Sun next, who had a rather stricken look about him. "I was fighting, and an old man was holding me down. I tried to fight him, but he was everything. He was old and corrupt and was everything. Every time I hit him, blood spurted out of me or one of you. Every time I hit him, he laughed and thanked me for what I have done for chaos. The stones made him this strong."

I couldn't wait any longer; I had to know. So I asked Carmella what she saw. She looked at me. "I tried to stop but I couldn't. Something pulled me away. I was gone, somewhere else. A heavily veiled gyspy woman sat across a table from me. The table was carved with runes, and incense perfumed the air. I thought she seemed familiar at first, but then maybe I was mistaken. It was so hard to remember. It was hard to remember who I was. The woman was angry. 'Fool, fool!' she shouted at me. 'Can't you see the message, the horrors that await you? You're fated to bring the stones of doom together, bringing chaos and destruction to us all.'" Better than I feared.

I repeated my own vision, and then Ashe told everyone what his was. He told us more fully this time. I watched Carmella as he spoke. "We're all fools. We put the stones together. Bad. The world is bleeding. We're fools, we're small. Caramela is bringing forces against us. She will kill us all. We will fail. She doesn't care." She winced and looked away.

Goldrim repeated his, as well, adding "You all laughed because there is no hope."

Goldrim asked a third time what Miara's visions was, and she couldn't dodge it this time. We all looked at her expectantly. She did not grant us with her story, but merely a warning: "It is possible that most of us will die before this is finished." What did she see? What terrible deaths await us? It must have been truly horrible to bring this dark cloud down on her. Very little moves her, and she speaks of death almost as a friend, not an enemy. What could have made her so unwilling to share what she saw with us all? Her hidden vision frightens me the most of all of them. She is hiding it for a reason.

Kyuksay pointed out to us that the wind was blowing. But from where, and to where? It started from teh entrance and flowed through the hall, towards the back of the cave. I remembered in my vision, that there had been a wind. I closed my eyes, and remembered the feel of it. The wind, it was blowing towards the pinhole. I opened my eyes and said we should follow the wind to where it was blowing: the back of the cave. Perhaps I could find the hole there, where I needed to put the fused crystal.

We reached the underground river, and the wind continued upriver. Without hesitation, Kyuskay walked directly into the water. Miara followed him in, of course. I hesitated for a moment, but Miara had the crystal, and if the pinhole was that way, well, I should be there. So I stepped into the swiftly flowing and cold water. Goldrim and Ashe followed me.

Once we rounded the corner, the downstream current caught us and dragged us under. It was so swift, we found ourselves in the lake in the cavern, spluttering but otherwise fine. We returned to the river. There had to be some way to get through the current. Kyuskay simply walked right back in, and was quickly swept away again. The rest of us stood on the bank, looking up the river. Miara observed that the tunnel was too wide for even Kyuskay to try to spider along, suspending himself between the walls.

By the time Kyuskay returned, Miara had an idea. She, Ashe, Kyuskay, and Goldrim formed a solid clump, with me in the middle, all of us holding on tight, them keeping me safe. She figured perhaps we could withstand the current with our combined bulk and strength.

It worked at first. We slowed with the onslaught of the water, but we continued forward. I think it would have worked, but the water filled the tunnel, dammed up in front of us, and finally washed over our heads. We kept going for a few steps, but we finally lost our footing and found ourselves in the cavern lake again.

Goldrim said thoughtfully, when he had caught his breath again, that the elements were merging. Kyuskay brightened and said we should bing in fire with us. Ashe could make fire, and we could merge water, air, fire, and stone. Ashe held his hand out for the merged Crystal, but Miara wisely refused.

Not that it mattered, Ashe looked aside and a pillar of fire appeared, delighting Kyuskay, but greatly worrying me. And Miara, from the look on her face. So, we no longer even needed contact with the damned Crystals to use them.

Kyuskay grabbed a torch from the temple, which was out for some reason, and lit it in Ashe's pillar of fire. He left the cavern, towards the river. Several minutes later he returned, swept downstream again. The wet torch was out, of course.

While he was gone, I considered something. Could I still breathe underwater, even if I wern't holding the Crystal of Air? I tested my guess in the lake, and discovered it was true. I said that José could probably just walk right through the water, unaffected by it as I am unaffected by the wind.

Goldrim dropped to his knees began praying desperately to his god for guidance. Asking for some hint, something, anything, that would keep us from destroying the world.

José was willing to try to walk through the water, so the rest of us, minus Goldrim, returned to the rier. He waded in, and the water parted, leaving a small canyon, almost, for us to walk in.

I glanced at Miara as we walked. She was looking at her cousin, who was looking ahead as we walked, and her look was speculative in a way that made my blood run cold. I quickly glanced away. What had her vision been?

We continued through this eerie underwater tunnel, and we realized that the wind continued to blow. Even through the water, although there was no sign of it in the water: no bubble, jets, or anything like that. Eventually, we reached a wall of solid rock. The darkness pressed all around us, and I held the lighted pebble in my hand out further so I could see. So the darkness wouldn't engulf me. So the things that lurk in the dark wouldn't get me.

We felt around in the murk and quickly determined we were in an underground lake. Except the water was rushing from somewhere, to somwhere. There had to be a source. Kyuskay floated up through the water, to try to find lake's surface. He tried several times, the last we barely pulled him back down in time. There was no surface: just water meeting the rock ceiling.

With the Crystal of Air, I could fly through the air, and I could breathe the water. Could I also fly through the water? Yes, I could. There was no air, no opening at the top, as Kyuskay found. In the walls, I found I few small openings that water was flowing in through, although not enough to account for the strong current. It was cold. So cold. My robes were coated with icicles. I pressed on, but I didn't find what I was looking for: the pinhole to shove the fused Crystal into.

Back in the air pocket, My robes began to thaw, the ice melting and creating a puddle around my feet. The puddle grew larger, and my robes grew smaller. And melted completely, leaving me standing in large puddle of water, shivering. My robes had actually turned into ice. They said my eyes were glowing a pale, icy blue. Not white, as usual. I was not using the power of the Crystal of Air, or at least not solely; I was also using the power of the Crystal of Water.

We were getting nowhere, in terms of destroying this thing, and I was cold and naked. We returned to the dining hall, and I put on my spare robe in the armory. we reported our activities, and the others told us what they'd seen.

Goldrim checked the trunk that held all our valuables. All its contents were fine, but the trunk itself was rotted away. All the fires and torches had gone out, with no apparent reason. They had re-lit everything without any problem. Goldrim also said there was a blizzard raging outside.

Worse and worse.

Ravenna, A Monk of the Biancan Order

Part the First:
Blood and Mud

Part the Second:
Murder and Mayhem

Part the Third:
Puzzles and Crystals

Part the Fourth:
Dwarves and Rocks

Part the Fifth:
Diplomacy and Daggers

Part the Sixth:
Crystal and Chaos

Part the Seventh:
Sheer Insanity

~ The End ~