The time is some point in the middle of the night. It should be pitch black, but the moon looms unusually close this evening. Its full body provides ample illumination in the small valley ahead. If it were to fall any closer, it is quite possible the moon would nestle perfectly in this bowl-shaped parcel of land.
An unusual silence permeates the valley. There are no birds, no bugs, no rustling of leaves. Everything is still, and not a single current of air moves through the grass or trees. Everything seems… poised, as though waiting for something to happen.
You look down at your hands, not quite sure why you feel compelled to do so. Strange… they don’t look familiar. Nothing around you looks familiar. Why are you standing here? How did you arrive? What is that strange noise?
A low hum fills your ears. As it increases in volume, a slight vibration emanates from the ground. In a small patch of dirt nearby, you see tiny pebbles start to surface and move around. From your best judgment, the noise/vibration is coming from the somewhere in the valley. It increases with intensity yet again, the humming transitioning into a low rumble as the trees begin to shake and sway.
There, in the center!
A hole appears at the bottom of the valley, shortly followed by another. And another. The ground slowly but with building speed gives away; dirt, rocks, grass, and then trees fall inward and disappear into the darkness. Eventually there is a single gaping maw that expands ever outward, swallowing everything in its path.
Overcome with fear, or perhaps morbid fascination, you find yourself unable to run. You can only stare as the valley opens up into nothing. Just you expect the ground to give way beneath your feet, the rumbling subsides, and the collapsing earth ceases. Only a few feet from your current position at the top of the valley, you can look over what is now a cliff and peer into a crater that has no bottom.
Your ears itch. Are they still ringing from the earthquake? No, that’s not it… the ringing sound is increasing. Great, another noise... This noise becomes more of a high pitched whine, increasing in pitch, opposite of quake. As you scan the crater, you see a small point of light appear in the center. You feel the air around you become charged with energy. With a slow, cautious movement, you back away from the precipice of the valley. The light grows brighter to match the whining noise.
The energy in the air becomes thick, and you feel very light. All around you, dirt begins to rise up, followed by small stones, creating a brown fog of earth. Every hair on your body rises, and a cold shiver runs down your spine. This can’t be good. Not good at all.
With a sudden *crack*, the beacon of light explodes. A huge pillar of energy shoots into the sky, and the ground begins to rumble once again. Cracks appear in the ground in a web-like pattern, and small beams of light begin to emanate from beneath. The valley once again begins to collapse, but this time it collapses upward.
You are thrown back as the section of earth you are standing on suddenly lifts into the air. You are surrounded by light, or fire, or whatever this energy happens to be. Chunks of the ground begin to break off, and as they rise, they disintegrate into nothingness. Eventually a beam whips through the dirt and strikes your body, severing your arm at the shoulder.
You feel no pain, and as the sliver of existence on which you reside disappears, the energy surrounds your body, and it too begins to break apart. You can only watch as your very being is slowly disassembled. Before you cease to exist, a voice echoes in your mind. “This is the fate of the world, should you fail in your quest.”
Everything goes dark.
You open your eyes and look around wildly in confusion. Twisting to one side, you tumble to the floor and graze your head on something hard. Can’t… breathe! You reach out in attempt to stand and knock over the nightstand. Crawling toward the door you grasp the handle and pull yourself to your feet. Breathe, damnit!
Throwing open the door, you rush forward – into a wall. Need… air. Stumbling down the hall, you turn a corner – and fall. It is over in an instant, but you feel each step as they lash out to batter your tired body. The final impact knocks the wind out of your lungs. At last, you are able to take in that long, sweet breath that re-energizes your soul.
A familiar figure looms over you. She seems to be trying to talk to you. What is she saying? You can almost make out the words…
“LEWIS!” She shouts again. “Are - you - O-KAY?”
“… … What Quest?”
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