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What markings can I use to describe it?

Tall trees, pools of chrystaline water, soft heather to sit upon—it continued for length upon length uninterrupted, no eye having espied nor hand turning its unblemished beauty before.

With hail hearts did we make our way down the cliff to enjoy that peace-filled land, with no thought for anything else. Ere that first passage was ended, however, we heard the shouts of the company of Aflatan.

We created a celebratory fire that absence of Gaal by piling the dead limbs of the trees. I will never forget the wonderous gaze of the Gaalians, whose lands do not normally support such large specimens of plantlife.

Over the dancing flames, Aflatan danced the thanksgiving to Atash for the beautiful gift.

The next three passages of Gaal were spent with nought but frolicking in mind, then Brindar—that loyal member of my Karkin, blessed be his memory—endeavoured to bring the rest of the company repairing Hal into our happiness.

I decided to accompany him up over the cliff and back across the smoking wall and the bad lands to the coast. It took us two passages to go and return—enough for Leel to write his great twist in our fate.

ΨΨΨ

Upon our return from the faithful Hal—now repaired and resting comfortably in the empty water—we expected it would be easy finding those who had remained. Skylings had yet to inhabit that place.

Although we searched and searched, we found nought but signs of their presence.

Calling for them returned nothing but silence, such that we began fearing an unknown threat.

Then Brindar let out a fearfilled shout, for he found the whole company, to all signs a group of corpses, purple stains on their hands and mouths, eyes like still water gazing at the sky.

–What madness fuelled this?—asked Brindar, pointing to the signs surrounding the corpses of frenzied combat, or of some dance, we knew not which.

Only one from the entire company was not there—Aflatan himself. But he was not far away. Hunched over in a pool of water he stared, swirling the water with a finger and muttering, immune to any form of disruption.

Fim, who more than any of our company was skilled in healing lore, perceived that the corpses were not really corpses, and so we set to caring for them, hoping that they may be revived.

We carried them and led the muttering Aflatan to the camp and set to caring for them, giving them from the clean water when they would drink it and feeding them on the white breadplant that grew from the trees.

After a passage, the majority of the company began to twitch uncontrollably, shouting and calling at phantoms in their dreams. The next passage, as if a shroud had been removed from their perception, they woke up. All except one dancer, who remained still and eventually died.

It is my belief that Aflatan came to his senses long before the others. Perhaps because he was overwhelmed by what he had seen, or because he wished to be left in peace, he remained for a long time silent and still, asleep. When he did speak, it was only to ask for more breadplant and some heated water.

None of our company returning from Hal dared be the first to ask what it was or how it had come to be eaten by them. There was little doubt it had been Aflatan that introduced it, and that it had some desirable effect—at first.

However, the others were eager to share their experiences upon waking. They spoke of tremendous energy, enhanced hearing and smell, the ability to move quickly and without tiring. But the thing they spoke of firstly were the Markings.

–They are there all around us, but we don’t see them.—I remember Kut saying. He went on to enword in his direct manner that the Markings would come from and melt into the environment, and even between members of the company.

The weed-eaters felt a reverence to these Markings as for a powerful Authority. And this reverence was only magnified by what they say happened next: The markings began to take control.

–It was a terrible thing.—said a dancer in his native tongue.—They moved and covered me, directed my movements, enveloped my sight. Then nothing. Then I remember nothing.—

In the midst of this conversation Aflatan spoke his first meaningful words since the incident.

–Many an absence of Gaal have I seen the Markings, but when his light appeared, they receded. Only with the help of this Tu’Shech, the gift of Dinar, have I ever been able to see them clearly in the light. I say to you solemnly, we were meant to find this gift. We are meant to use this gift.—

Then Brendar rose. Out of habit I joined him, though I said nothing. Brendar spoke thus:

–I have no mind for what you have seen. But I know what I have seen, and any mere plant, a gift or not, is not good to take if it holds such power over man. For what that weed gives is living poison, and as we see here, it can be a death poison too. Therefore I swear before Gaal’s face, never will I take of that noxious weed nor pay heed to any one taking of it.—

Aflatan said nothing to this, but he quietly turned his back and left, walking alone deeper into the woods…

Continue to Jonderen's account of the Long South - Part 7

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