A cold wind blows up the autumn leaves on the forest floor.
Only the smallest sliver of a moon can be seen through the barren clawing branches of the canopy.
Seven shadows surround me, but none of them speak.
Ill intentions have brought them here, and I know that they are stronger and faster than I am.
I also know that I am smarter.
I open my mouth to the dry air, and it is my voice that breaks the silence.
"I can tell you where you might find the thing you seek."
A shudder ripples through the circle of shadows, but no response.
I continue "Travel the path of golem henge into the sharktooth mountains. At dusk on the twelfth day of Suracil, in the deepest cave at path's end you shall find it."
Now there is sound. Whisperings, mutterings, confusion and dissent hiss between the shadows, until one steps forward and raises an accusing finger at me.
"Lies!" It spits. "You think us fools?" Then, gesturing to its colleagues the shadow proclaimed "He means to trick us. The location and time are when the world eater awakens from his tomb. This is treachery!"
Were I not displeased with the shadow's depth of knowledge, I would be smirking. They had almost bought it. However, I choose to give the measured reply "No, I am not lying."
"Then most surely you think us blind." hissed the shadow "Give us the key, we know you have it on you."
My heart is beating loudly in my ears. They already know. I can feel the weight of the large golden key pressing against my leg through my pocket, and I decide that it is time to call on a bit of its power.
"I speak the truth, for if you come to me, on tonight of all nights……" I use the key to make my voice deepen and grow to earth shattering power "Then The Only Thing You Seek Is DEATH!" A Ring of fire engulfs the area around me, and my body begins to grow. My skin cracks as I reach twelve feet in height, and glowing magma can be seen pulsing within me. I keep on growing, and the flames intensify, along with my wrath.
Or so it appears……
In reality, it is all just an illusion, a trick on the minds of the shadows, and it is working. Terror is driving them back, fear of the giant flaming beast before them. All of them except one, the same shadow that knew of the world eater's awakening.
This shadow stands perfectly still despite the onslaught of illusionary heat that I know it is feeling. It remains rooted, staring straight at me, not the illusion, but me. It knows…… It knows this is a falsehood, just as it recognized my first trick.
Dangerous, oh this one is dangerous. It knows far too much of me, of the key, of this world. Yet it has made a potentially fatal mistake. With the key, I could smite it down, and rend it asunder forevermore. But, I would be completely vulnerable immediately afterward. The other shadows continue to flee, I'll have enough time to escape after my attack, I should do it. I should strike now!
Yet, I hesitate, for something in the shadow's stare that unnerves me, and I realize….. it's a trap.
It is baiting me, trying to force me to lower my defenses, because it wants the key.
I could still do it, I am stronger than it, but doubt is creeping into my mind. How does it know so many secrets? Who is this shadow? And I realize I know nothing about this opponent. It knows me, it knows me far too well, but I know nothing of it. Dangerous it is, but I was entrusted to protect and deliver the key, and I can't risk it falling into shadow hands.
I rip the key out of my pocket, clutch it to my chest, and bam! I am in an orchard two hundred miles away. It is early afternoon.
A wave of exhaustion threatens to knock me down, but I regain my balance and return to my walk north. I still have a very long way to go. I hope I don't have to face those shadows again.