For untold eons, we were one. Floating in the Great Sea, guarding this world from the Things Outside. We were The Astral Shield, The Crystal Wall, The Living Gate. And we endured.
By the folly of the gods, we were shattered. We, I, came hurtling to this world. We crashed, we slept, we dreamed and I listened. Buried under tons of rock, trapped with the other Shards of the Gate, I harnessed my telepathic abilities, searching for those that could free us. But I was weak and my brethren indifferent to our plight. I lost hope and returned to slumber.
Then something changed. I saw powerful men vanquish a hideous, shapechanging demon. Was this but another dream? No. It was too real. Too linear. I sensed their thoughts, read their minds. This band of warriors was fleeing a greater enemy, a vast horde of armored soldiers, and desperate to find a new home for their people. For the moment, they were victorious, but they were still in danger. As they approached our place of rest, my prison, a guardian stood in their way. A golem, a mindless thing, carved from ancient stone in the image of a great and dangerous dragon. It shook the ground with every step and blocked the small mountain path that lead to our Crater. I wished to warn them, but my slumber had been too deep. I screamed at them with my mind, begging them to beware, but I was too weak. The mighty construct had them and began to rend their flesh with its massive stone claws.
I thought them doomed, yet the warriors fought valiantly. In the end, they hurled the golem off the mountain with a crack of thunder, sending it crashing to earth below. The warriors continued. I rejoiced. And somehow, for the first time ever, I moved.
I was still trapped in the Crater, but the thunderous battle with the golem had shifted the earth enough that I could forge myself a form. I pictured the warriors and made myself a crystal body. I tried to mimic their shapes, but was largely unsuccessful. Still I found a crude body better than none at all and began to explore my home.
I could sense the warriors above, exploring a ruined settlement left abandoned by those who had built the guardian. I tried to reach them, but unfortunately, I was not alone. A monster prowled the Crater, an aberrant Shard. A massive, terrifying parasite. She was Taraza the Corrupted. For her, I was easy prey.
I alone would not satisfy her hunger for stolen thought. She soon ensnared Rangrim while he slept, thirsty for his psionic power. Tormented by the shades of those long dead, the dwarf could not summon the strength to break free. But this was an injustice I could not stand. Taraza’s evil could not be allowed to spread to this wondrous new world outside the Crater.
I woke Rangrim’s companions and they rushed to his aid. They hewed and hacked their way deeper into the Crater, destroying Taraza’s spider-like minions with fist, sword , prayer and spell. At last, they burst into her lair. She failed to bait them onto her massive web. They struck from a distance. I did my best to aid the warriors and soon the Corrupted was shattered, her stolen energies bathing the room in psionic power.
Rangrim and I were quickly freed. I introduced myself to my saviors and future friends. Although some did not trust me, we soon reached an agreement. Their people could live in my home, if my people could remain. We would defend each other from the evils that sought to destroy this world’s light. We would free more of my brothers from their rocky tombs in the Crater. It was good.
And so, my children, this is how you find yourselves here. You must thank the Warriors, the Giantslayers, who freed me and built you this home. Wish them well. Aid them when you can. Do so, and perhaps I shall tell you the strange tale of what they found when they ventured back down the mountain…
from a story dreamed to the children of the Stone Crows by Amehez the Shardmind