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The Guardian
3. Welcome !

A figure came out of the storm and silently slipped into the cave.

Nlaminer grasped the knife and stood motionless, peering into the darkness. Rhissa slept farther back in the corridor; if there were an assault they would descend back to the shrine.

A figure, dark-robed and tall, was not armed. It entered the cave and stood looking around. Nlaminer tried to identify the stranger by smell, but found this smell was new for him. Some reptile, no doubt, but with human-like posture, and no tail... The head was hidden under the cloak and Nlaminer saw no eyes.

Suddenly the figure spoke.

"Nlaminer, come nearer. I would like to talk to you."

The words however were just in his mind. He heard nothing; Rhissa slept unworriedly, in spite of her good sense of danger. A vision, Nlaminer thought. This time subtle and detailed. Well, let's see what he wants.

He left his hideout and walked towards the stranger. His face, lit by lightnings outside, was reptile-like, indeed, with eyes deep set and red. He spoke with no hiss, his pronunciation was quite perfect.

No, Nlaminer corrected himself. He has telepathic abilities. That's why his "speech" seems so perfect.

The stranger turned with no precautions and walked away. The storm outside immediately ceased; stars shone coldly, wind also stopped. It was cool and wet here. Even the sea was more than quiet; there were no waves at all, as if all the sea had frozen.

"I would like to have you as allies," the stranger said and Nlaminer saw his eyes began to glow faintly. "I cannot tell you who I am, though you will find it yourselves."

Nlaminer waited. The stranger waved his hand and they walked to the Ladder. It was geometrically perfect now, a harmony of stone and mind. They walked to the top and passed through the tunnel.

A huge temple stood in the middle of the inner circle. It was inscribed with unknown runes, though Nlaminer saw the image of reptile-like creatures similar to the one walking at his side.

"You see ? There was a temple here; my temple, Nlaminer. I was thrown out of here; my people were destroyed. You cannot imagine how painful it was. Now, I will restore all that was broken." The stranger waved his hand, the temple blurred and disappeared. The lighthouse appeared instead; it was burning, its walls crippled and falling in great clouds of dust and embers.

"I was stopped," the stranger continued. "But you heard my call and you came. I will give you a choice. You can serve me and I will bless both you and all your people. In addition, I can grant you eternal life if you'd wish."

Nlaminer spoke. "And if we refuse ?"

"I will find another who will hear my call and will do that [do what?] <-- until my realm is restored." The stranger laughed, the sound being dark and eerie. "And you will feel the tortures I felt; and the death will never come, though you will crave it with all your hearts."

Nlaminer shrugged. "It's hard to frighten me." [I don't frighten easily.]<-------- The stranger nodded. "And I will not hurry you. You may try to prevent me from coming back; you cannot harm me. I hope I will persuade you - you both possess the brilliant abilities that would be very helpful for me. I am no enemy. But you CAN make me your enemy.

Beware that, for I can be merciless."

And the world around Nlaminer exploded. Lava came in rivers, winged demons flew around him laughing insanely and chanting weird and dark prayers. He ran, back to the Ladder that was falling to pieces, back to the entrance to the shrine. The hungry ocean waves tried to swallow him. Enormous beasts swam in the sea, roaring and splashing it. But Nlaminer ran and ran and heard the strange voice inside him. "I will wait, strangers. Choose wisely." And the wave fell upon him, and he swam upwards, to the air, but the whirlpool sucked him deeper and deeper. His lungs were aflame, he swam with desperate energy and was trying to leave this horrible vision.

He regained consciousness. He was trembling, the holocaust pictures still shone before his eyes. Rhissa stood near him, silent, as if intending to shake him out of his nightmare. He managed to take a breath and looked into her eyes. She touched his forehead and the dancing lights disappeared at the same moment.

"A sending ?" she asked, though the answer was obvious. Nlaminer nodded and looked at the cave exit. The storm was over, though it was still night there. Cool draught came for a moment. Nlaminer tried to stand up; his legs were still failing, but the fatigue was illusion.

"I talked to the one pursuing us," he explained. "He wants us to help him. And he threatens, too. Very strange creature, I never saw one before." He described all the events and Rhissa nodded. "I know this race. That's Akauff, for sure; I saw their crypts. You say there was a temple atop the island ?"

"At least he showed me that," Nlaminer put on his backpack. "I think it's time to investigate the lighthouse. Whatever answers could be found, they are somewhere there."

They quickly gathered everything they had and left. The air outside was as cold and still as Nlaminer expected. The storm was over, not even a wave crossed the sleeping sea. Under pale bright moonlight the landscape was both beautiful and frightening.

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-- mecenat --

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