The Crystal Mountains

Geralt looked around in awe at the towering maze of purple crystals around him. Their sharp angular forms reflected and distorted the world around them, creating something like a hall of mirrors. Each and every one of them hummed with powerful magics. They were so powerful, in fact,  that he could feel them despite the magical protection that the caravan had. It was indeed a wondrous place, full of many mysteries. Being heavily involved in magical research, Geralt was truly grateful that he was getting a chance to see it.

“First time going through the crystal pass?” The old man driving the lead wagon smiled at him wryly.

Geralt tore his gaze away from the scenery to look at the man, sheepishly, “Yeah. Is it that obvious?”

“Very. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about though,” The man turned his gaze back to the road ahead, “Everyone has the same reaction the first time they see it. It has a strange beauty about it. Just make sure that this place doesn’t draw you in too deeply, or you’ll never escape.” 

“Draw me in?” He looked over the man curiously. Certainly, the maze of crystals was beautiful, but it wasn’t to the level of being enchanting.

“The maze calls some people. Shows them something they want to see to lure them in,” The man’s gaze grew distant as if he was recalling something. However, he shook his head a moment later as if dispelling some sort of illusion, “Either way, just make sure you don’t enter the maze. Stay on the main path. No matter what.”

“R-right. I’ll be sure to do that,” Geralt looked back towards the crystal jungle to his right, a new sense of apprehension and fear that he hadn’t felt before stirring in his chest. However, that feeling disappeared almost as quickly as it had begun to form, along with the old man’s warnings.

***

Later that day, the caravan stopped for lunch in a wide clearing. There were several stops like this along the path where the crystals had been cleared out, and travelers could rest easy. Geralt sat a short distance away from the other groups, watching the crystal maze and jotting down notes on his research pad. 

His interest in the crystals which had only been passing at first had quickly grown into something more akin to obsession as he had watched them for hours on end. Each and every time he looked, he noticed something different about them. The way they reflected their surroundings, the way the magical energies ebbed and flowed through them, there was so much that could be learned simply by observing them. 

Geralt looked back up after jotting down another quick note and froze, “Was that a crystal drake?”

There weren’t many creatures that made the crystal mountains there home due to the overwhelming amount of magic. The crystal drakes were a rare exception. They made their nests amongst the maze of crystals and hunted the smaller magical creatures that called this place their home. It was exceptionally rare to see one outside of breeding season when they would flock to the plains below to find partners. 

Geralt looked into the forest of crystal, looking for signs of the reflection that he had seen. Just as he was about to give up, he saw it again. The figure of a limping crystal drake flashed briefly on the crystals in front of him.

“Is it injured?” Geralt asked no one in particular.

Setting the pad down, he stood up and slowly walked toward the maze of crystals, watching for more signs of the drake. For some reason, his focus felt heightened. He was able to see the reflections more clearly now. Where they had been distorted before, they were crystal clear now, allowing him to see the drake slowly limping amongst the maze. 

Then, their eyes met. The gaze appeared to be calling him, asking him for help. He hesitated for a moment, the faint echo something in the back of his mind telling him not to go, but the drake’s pleading gaze quickly washed the feeling from his mind. His mind made up, he prepared to take the next step into the crystal maze beyond the clearing.

Just then, a heavy hand clapped down on his shoulder, pulling him back, forcefully, “Blast it all, I warned you about this.”

Wheeling around in anger, Geralt came face to face with the old driver he had spoken to early in the day, “Why are you stopping me? That drake is hurt. It’s asking for my help. I have to go to it.”

Geralt started to try and shake the old man off, but before he could, the old man smacked him hard, right across the face. The blow was strong enough that he almost lost consciousness. For a minute, he stood there, stunned. Then, as his brain slowly recovered from the shock of the blow, his anger bubbled up.

“What in the world did you do that for?” he shouted angrily at the old driver.

However, the old driver didn’t look at him, but at the crystal maze beyond, “That should have done the trick. Look at it again.”

Confused and still a little dazed after the slap, Geralt turned and followed the man’s gaze. The crystal drake he had seen before was gone along with the strange clarity of the crystals. Everything was once again distorted.

“Wait, but how?” Geralt stared out at the crystals for a moment, trying to understand what had happened, 

The old man put his arm around his shoulder and turned him away, “Come on, it’s best if you don’t look at them for a while. Come sit with us.”

Geralt obediently followed after the old driver, still trying to process what was going on. In the end, he couldn’t resist taking one last look back over his shoulder. When he did, he once again saw the flicker of those pleading eyes calling out to him. For some reason, though, they sent a shiver down his spine this time. 

The Crystal Mountains

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