The walker stopped walking for the first time in about as long as he could remember. He shook his scraggly mane of dirty grey hair, bone-beads rattling, letting out a howl of triumph. In front of him, the Godstone stood at last. His quest was nearly at an end. The grueling pilgrimage had taken its toll on his body and spirit both. His erstwhile flab and pronounced gut -the mark of high living in the pampered priesthood in the Gilded City- were but distant memories. In their stead, knots of wiry muscles moved under the streaks of grime and filth caking his wrinkled skin. What once were silken robes now ratty, blood-stained tatters around his waist. His feet, once coddled in fine stockings and soft slippers, now long since naked to the ground, hardened by every last step, jagged toenails jutting out from blackened toes.
How long had it been since he first had unfurled the scroll he happened upon down in the dusty archives? When he heard the Whisper speak to his very soul for the first time? The Whisper that had given him purpose and kindled the Luminous Path before his inner vision? Oh, how the other clergymen all had laughed at him when he told them! How they had mocked his vision and jeered at his prophecies! Your scroll is gibberish, they said. Try to trick us into going on a fool’s quest with you? To what end? You’re lazy and useless. You couldn’t even find rocks in the mountains. You won’t last a week out there. Go alone. You go to your doom.
He had spurned them all, as he left his old life. He knew the path! He would show them!
At first, the long walk was an arduous burden and he was all alone in the wilderness. Still, he kept walking the Path. It shone brightly to his inner eye. Pangs of hunger would gnaw at his insides, his parching thirst would demand tribute. His legs would scream the agony of the relentless march. At these times, the Path would dim and he would feel his resolve faltering, feel himself be on the cusp of giving up, of failure. And the Whisper would return to him; an insistent, comforting sussurate, pouring will into his mind and strength into his limbs. Rekindling the Luminous Path before his inner eye. Presenting him with nourishment along the way. These windfalls are yours to drink, the Whisper would murmur. At first it was some worms, a slow turtle, a friendly dog. Easy to catch. Easy to drink. Their life’s blood quenching his maddening thirst for a while. But the thirst would return in due time, would grow stronger, more demanding. As the thirst would grow, the Whisper would provide ever more to match it; travelers, bandits. The Whisper in its infinite wisdom made his sustenance come to him. Good men, bad men, no matter. He drank them all as he walked. Their sudden terror as the truth of what they were to him dawned on them slaking the Whisper’s thirst as surely as their life’s blood slaked his own.
Through it all, the Whisper would murmur to him, would push him forward. So he walked, ever moving. Walking through day and through night, through summer and through winter, year after year. Leaving behind a trail of empty husks drained of life and blood, cast aside without a thought. Like a force of nature; he would not, could not stop. Unresting. Unrelenting.
But now, he walked no more. He stood before the Godstone in awe. For the first time, he saw it with his own two eyes, even though his vison blurred, eyes watering at the sight. Real! The Godstone was real! Just as the Whisper had told him. Just as the Luminous Path had promised. Just as he had believed so fervently all these years. Everything was true! In the depths of his soul he knew he had reached his destination at last.
Yet, he hesitated. A shadow of doubt. What was his purpose here? Why had he come all this way? What did the Godstone need him to do? Why was he chosen for this?
Then the Whisper returned in force; stronger than before. No longer a murmur, but a full voice, sibilant and sonorous. It praised him, adulated him, egged him on. Told him of all the greatness he soon would achieve, the power he would wield, the power to rule men, to have any woman for his own. More riches than he could imagine. Had the Whisper not kept all his promises? All he needed to do was have faith and reach out.
Trembling, he reached out a wizend hand to touch the Godstone. A distinct scintillation; a pleasant flash at the touch, as if sparks where bouncing up and down all over his skin. He moved his hand over the surface and revelled in the sensation, though it was difficult to follow the strange curves and angles that seemed to fold in on themselves. He closed his eyes and felt the stone. It was curiously warm. He pressed himself to the stone as much as he could, letting himself bathe in the sensation. The aches and pains of the long walk leaving his limbs, replaced by warm, fuzzy bliss.
The triumphant cry of the Whisper-Voice echoed like thunder as he felt his limbs suddenly go heavy, sharp pains all along his body where stone was touching him. Panicking, he opened his eyes to see himself slowly sinking into the stone, his flesh melding with it. He could barely move his eyes, and not move his limbs at all as he slowly was sucked in. He could feel the Awakening now, a whispering rising within the stone. He felt himself sink all the way into the stone, but yet he lived. The pain was gone, and all around he could hear the buzzing of whispers and faint voices. Voices waxing stronger, louder, too many, too fast. A choir approaching, too many to listen, too loud to hear. Like drops becoming a stream, many streams becoming a mighty river, melding together to become something far greater then each alone. The choir came rushing, breaking upon him like a sudden wave, and he fell in the ocean of voices. They surrounded him, filled him, welcomed him, absorbing him as he in turn absorbed them, becoming one with the river, adding his voice to the choir of the Godstone.