The Stone Circle

Solvek held up a hand, halting the entire group before any member set foot between the stones. In that moment they all felt the presence. Something ancient and unfriendly, silently circling to prevent invasion of the sacred space. They stepped back from the stones, straining all senses to understand more.

Figures appeared in the spaces, pale and gnarled, stretched and starved like drought-stricken trees, they drifted forward with clear and terrible purpose, long bony limbs stretching forward, old flesh hanging down in ribbons of dark leather.

Rama, the temple divine, stepped forward, chanting. His arms stretched wide and he started to glow.

The lichs jerked toward him, unwilling, unwanting but silent as the grave. The first reached the edge of the glowing orb surrounding him, brushing it with a mere graze of a fingertip.

The living corpse collapsed in a pile of dry, disconnected boned and a faint, sickly orb of light, a miniature copy of the divine’s, pulled free and flew to hover by Rama’s shoulder.

One after another, after another they came, until Rama’s voice was hoarse, his arms were shaking and the ground around him littered high with bone. The last one drew near, brushed the glow and disintegrated.

He slowed and stopped, carefully lowered his arms and dropped to his knees, shaking, surrounded by a halo of tiny light orbs, stronger now his glow had faded. Isadore offered water, needing to bring the bag directly to his lips, his arms could hold nothing.

Solvek approached, pulling a strangely carved box from no one knew where. Nodding to the priest, he knelt beside him, opened the box and drew the orbs into it, this time they went unresisting. When the moon was the only light left, he closed the box and returned it to no one knew where.

Gwealin prowled. Slowly, carefully examining the bone pile, the tracks made by the lichs on their approach, the lack of tracks beyond the outer border of the stones. She glanced to Solvek for permission before tossing a pebble between. The pebble arced through the air between the stones and disappeared. Seconds later it shot back out of the gap, missing the ranger by a hair and embedding itself in a tree at the edge of the clearing.

The whole group turned wide eyes to Solvek. He rolled his shoulders, strode forward and leaned a hand on the nearest stone surface. Standing silent, sword loosely held, he seemed to be listening for something. His sword flashed into the gap, blade disappearing, then returning, wet and dark.

Hela and Zyron took up positions at adjacent stones and focused on sounds, trying to understand what he was listening for. A breath of air murmured inside the circle and Hela stabbed, hitting something, and hearing a faint echo of an angry cry. The three of them stood in a strange parody of spear fishing and, finally, Zyron landed a catch. He had opted for a spear instead of his sword and hooked up fast enough to anchor his quarry and bring it back through the stones.

The goblin was struggling, hissing in fury as the barrier released it to the outside world.

The spear had caught on the leather and brass straps criss-crossing the creature’s body and every move it made created a new gash in its chest. Solvek clubbed it from behind, dazing it enough to untangle the spear and bind it. Dawn was coming and there was no time to do more tonight, perhaps a prisoner would be useful.

The group retired to a grove on the other side of the hill. A quiet, peaceful place with a bright little stream and a gently fresh breeze that seemed to live only among the trees.

Rama, drained from the night’s battle, relaxed and slept, the others splitting watch between them. The goblin spent the daylight hours under a hastily-rigged shelter. The sun sent it into a frenzy of gibbering terror and the group had neither the interest nor the energy to exploit it.

There would be time to deal with their malodorous catch, the next few nights would send the world into moon-dark, and the group would be staying close to camp. This place was better left unexplored when shadow overpowered light.

Instead they would watch the goblin and learn from what it thought it was hiding and finally learn the story behind Solvek’s chase.

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