Y'Zark the Apprentice Ch. 3byrexfelis©
My fright was terrible, falling, and unable to breathe except to exhale into this scream that had long ago stolen the last of my breath, and then ripped itself from me still. I felt myself powerless to it. Madness crept upon the edges of my mind, preparing to pounce and claim me completely in one fell swoop.
And then, just as suddenly, I found myself upon the ground, unhurt, and gulped huge breaths of air to fill a need that my lungs suddenly no longer knew. In a moment, I had come to my senses, shaken, but unhurt. The ground was ashen gray, now, and no plant grew. The sky too was a graying blue, and it was as if the very life force had been ripped from the world and replaced with deadness. I saw Yaaron standing a ways off, and stood to make my way to him. The ground seemed to be covered in fine ash, which crunched softly underfoot.
"What... what goes on here?" I asked, none too sure of myself. Where have we come to be? What is this madness I am continually subjected to in your presence?!"
"Great spells require great amounts of magic, my boy," he said in a now ancient, half whispered voice as he turned to me. He seemed to have aged thirty years in that moment! "As I said before, the magic is what keeps the life, and I have drained this area almost completely of it's life to power the spell I have brought forth. But there is no time for talk now, we must be off."
Yaaron tried to walk toward me, but his form was too weak, and even his two legs and staff did not hold him steady. I rushed to catch him as he began to fall. So surprisingly light was he that I jerked him upright with enough force to jar him a bit.
"Careful! Careful. I have not passed on my secrets just yet," he scolded in a half whisper. I apologized. "I am light with my weakness, now, so take me on your back and carry me. I will not be able to walk or glide here."
I did so, and we were off. It felt odd to have this old man on my back, and odder still to have him there with such ease. He pointed the direction he wanted me to go, and I went that way. As far as the eye could see, there was light gray ash upon the ground, light and finely powdery, so that footprints were extremely obvious, and deep. In places, as we went, there were larger piles of it, and he seemed to mourn each of these as we passed, always saying in a single word what the pile of ash had been in life. Oak, ash tree, bear, horse, deer... At length we came upon a large expanse of what seemed to be gray pudding by it's look and consistency.
"This was Crystalmist Lake," he intoned. His sadness grew more and more evident as we traveled. "Oh, what have I done? May the gods be merciful on my soul."
Skirting the edge of the new lake of mud, we continued on for quite a ways until I grew too weary to continue. I set Yaaron down. With his staff, he produced a bundle which he unwrapped, and as he did so it became a picnic blanket with a basket in the middle!
"There is still much power in the Staff," he said, "but we must conserve it. No fancy lodgings for us this night."
We ate and drank, the contents of the basket being something similar to a kind of sweet water and flat bread, but they were filling and refreshing, and we continued on. I do not know what distance we traveled that day, or the next, but it was into the third morning when I saw the first hint of anything that was not gray ashes.
"Look!" I cried. In the distance was the burnt remains of a tree stump.
"We are approaching the edges of the area that was drained of life from my spell," he replied.
"What was that spell for?" I asked. "I see no other effect than to have destroyed miles of land."
"The spell was to alter a few things about the world, my boy," came his saddened reply. "Not everything is visible to the naked eye, and even those things that are visible cannot be seen at too great of a distance. Just as you cannot know the happenings in many houses at the same time, you are limited in your perception of the world. Worry not, things are as they should be."
After a moment, I heard him quietly say to himself, "So far."