Chapter 9: The Shimmering Forest

Arriving at the base camp, the three noticed a shadow that dominated the area. It was cast by the Asteroid, which stood impaled in the center of the once-great city. The surrounding ruins had become encased in crystals. Evn the trees that grew alongside the roads had been taken over by the crystals. Light hitting the crystals would bounce from one crystal to the next. Aaron squinted in the bright sunlight. It had been weeks since the Asteroid had hit, and the ominous cloud cover had all but cleared up. Jared, the new fourth member of their party, charged ahead into the decimated landscape.

"Prepare yerself, nature! I gotta pickaxe with yer name on it!" The boy had a battle cry for everything, even when he was not actually fighting. Within moments, sounds of metal striking rock could be heard echoing from the next area. Aaron sighed, hefted his pickaxe, and followed suit.

The map laid out by the Guildcorp scouts led them up into an old building. It would have been far to unstable to support them, if it were not for the crystals penetrating the floor below and acting as supports. As Aaron, Garth, and Jared mined, Tamara looked out over the city. The town she once called home was now a smoldering ruin, infected with crystals. A sad sight, even for her. The boys signaled that they were done mining, and they moved on across a large crystal connecting them to another building.

The next area was once an elevated highway, which freed up transit in the city. Now, it served as a passageway to the final area. Clouds floated lazily alongside the road. When they said elevated, they meant it. Their supports were built out of diamond-infused cement, which would never break. Even now, they had not broken. They had, however, undergone a startling change. As they reached the off ramp, they looked back at the struts. They had turned into what looked like cement trees, branches reaching up to support the highway. Garth dashed over, on a whim, and started to mine. His father was a miner in Guildcorp's caverns, and Garth boasted that he could sniff out rare ore from a mile away. He returned with chunks from the concrete trees, which he pocketed. Before they could go any further, they were confronted by a small squadron of jaggi, which Tamara took out easily. They were no longer a challenge to the group. They walked into the final area, which appeared to be a cavern made of crystals growing from the base of the Asteroid.

The inside of the cavern was an otherworldly place. Light beams shot around the room, reflecting merrily off the walls. A sound, similar to a church organ, could be heard inside the cave. The floor was littered with chunks of ore. Aaron walked up to the walls of the cave, and touched one. Suddenly, he felt a burning sensation all over his body. He saw a somewhat reptilian shadow dash through the walls, and into the ground. Nobody else had seen it, so he decided not to ask.

The return trip was quite merry for the other three of the group. Garth had gotten the best minerals, and was showing them off to Jared, who was shocked that someone could outdo him in anything. Suddenly, a piercing sound, like a note on an organ, issued forth from the mouth of the cave. Even though they were well outside the area designated by the scouting party, they could hear it. It was an ominous noise, tearing at Aaron's mind like some sort of psychic claw, ripping at his sanity. However, it only lasted for a second. When it stopped, Aaron felt... Wiser. As they returned to Biome-H, the sun began to set. Tamara agreed to turn in their findings to the Guildmaster while the rest of them went to bed. As Aaron climbed into his bed, he saw, once again, the strange lights flowing into the crystal.

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