The Prism Path: a short Story
By Josh Vogt
In my travels in the north, I found myself wandering the crystal forests of Aevum in rapture at their beauty, at the impossible nature of their creation. They stretched for miles between towns, between cities, surrounding isolated villages. The large pillars of naturally formed crystals had been puzzled at for centuries, but I believed, as some scholars before me, that they came from us, from those that came before. I intended to prove once and for all that these crystals were people, that they should not be harvested for their beauty, but honored.
So, I found myself arriving in the north, through the Theuros pass, and stared down at what lay before me. For miles to my right and to my left, rose countless translucent, reflective blue spires, anywhere from five-to-thirty-feet tall, scattered in such a nonsensical, natural order. The sun shined off them and nearly blinded me for a moment before I adjusted to the sight. The path before me was carved of these very crystals, but there was something different about them. Instead of blue, they seemed purple, and were smoothed into dozens of fine circular shapes, arranged almost like a sea of bubbles. Along either side of this path were golden poles jammed into the ground every five feet or so. Atop these poles hovered similarly purple crystals, though raw and uncarved, sitting in place with no particular support as though by magic. I was about to step forth when I saw a sign to my right that read, “Do not leave the Prism Path, especially at night.”
This certainly put me on edge, but nonetheless I had to push forwards, for the sake of this book. I pressed onwards, taking care not to step off the path, and found the crystal forests appeared to be endless. The further I got past the mountains, the colder everything grew. This was made worse when it began to snow and the path grew harder to find, the flurries obscuring my vision. Of an interesting note, however, the snow appeared to be shades of blue and purple, rather than the standard white of home.
After wandering for several minutes in no certain direction, I looked around to find no sign of the posts that fenced in the path, and I grew concerned, dear reader, that I might meet a most grisly end. I searched in my pack that I had loaded with everything the shopkeep had recommended, finding after great effort a torch to light the way. After managing to light it in the diminishing flurry of snow, I realized night had also fallen during my stumbling about like a fool. My heart was racing as I turned to retrace my steps the way I’d come, but I could no longer see the footprints.
Suddenly I heard a sound from far off behind me, a scraping and sliding as something moved across the snow. Whatever it was sounded immense and I slowly turned around, shifting over to a crystal tree in a very poor attempt to hide from whatever was approaching. I could hear the occasional clank like glasses in a toast, but on a much grander scale, and wondered what could impact the crystals hard enough to elicit such a sound. These sounds grew closer at a rapid rate and I found myself running in the opposite direction. I struggled not to trip through the snowy landscape as I did so, catching my leg at several instances on a crystal growth hidden beneath the surface. As I reached a larger clearing I found myself with nowhere to hide, and the sounds were almost upon me.
I turned and surrendered, sure of my fate as I dropped my bags and held out my arms. I had lived a full life, and I welcomed the cold embrace of this majestic land, though I regretted not seeing more before the end. As this form burst from the trees, I felt a massive rush of wind blow towards me, displaced by its impressive form. The ground rumbled slightly beneath my feet as it slid across the space, and I could almost feel it mere feet from my body. The rumbling moved past me and then back around, looping to surround me, and my body began to shake uncontrollably, no longer so resolute and prepared. As the movement stopped, I opened my eyes, shocked to be alive.
Looming over me was a massive serpent, longer than the crystal forest was tall and about as wide around as any given crystal, perhaps ten feet at minimum. Atop its nose was a large crystal horn glowing a bright purple, not unlike the posts on either side of the path. The scales of the creature were made of the variously colored crystals, warping from blue to purple and back again in every variety, in patches and rings down its length. Two fins jutted from behind its jaw, splayed out crystals that cracked as it moved, but never broke its beautiful blue. The beast’s massive blue eyes stared down at me curiously, and looked down at my pack expectantly. I began to move quickly to find something to offer it, but it hissed so loudly it could have shattered the spires around us.
I continued, slower, and it relaxed to my great relief. I swallowed and did my best to ease my shaking enough to grab something without breaking it. This serpent, or whatever it was, wouldn’t settle for something simple. I knew immediately I only had one chance here, and pulled out something that I had been hoping to bring home to my wife in Kasau. I laid before the crystal snake a large effigy I’d found in my journeys, something that I had intended to return to my wife for her studies. It was carved in the shape of a human lain prostrate, holding what I had assumed to be a poorly carved animal sacrifice, but now understood to be none other than this very serpent. As the crystal creature laid eyes on this offering, it rose to a taller, more alert state, and nodded intelligently.
“You can understand me?” I demanded.
The serpent simply nodded and turned its head towards the left, closing its eyes as its horn grew bright beyond belief, forcing my eyes closed. When I opened them again the serpent and the effigy were gone, as was the snowstorm. Turning to look for the beast, I saw the path, just a few dozen feet where the serpent’s gaze had been, glowing brightly unlike before. This encounter opened my eyes to the impossible mysticism of the north, and it only gets weirder from there.