How could that face be there after I had burned it away? Was that carved to mock me? To punish me? To drive me to madness?

Then the talk of a “new body” made sense. “You have another body.”

The figure smiled. “I should expect a wizard to be observant.”

From behind me, I heard stirring. I turned to see Mhorik struggling to sit upright. I crawled over to him to support his frail body.

“Korodan,” Mhorik whispered. “I had never seen them.”

The stone figure moved closer to us. The rumbling voice taking on a softer edge. “Yes, we have been called Korodan in your tongue. I spent much time with others of your kind in my life, and I learned the language.”

Mhorik reached his hand, brushing his fingertips along the arm made of stone. He smiled, and sank back down to the floor. With a gentleness and grace I would never expect of stone, the figure slid gentle hands under Mhorik and lifted him up. The stone person turned toward the door and walked forward with a simple, “Follow me.”

I scrambled to my feet and followed. We went through corridors, many lit with the glowing crystals we saw in the first chamber. After a few minutes, we went into another small room which had been set up with a pile of furs in the corner. The stone person gently set Mhork on the pile with the care a mother might give a newborn.

“I remember the wizards slept on furs, so I had some gathered.”

“My pack,” I started to say, and the figure pointed to the corner.

I ran over dug through the supplies, and got out some herbs from inside. I crushed them between my hands, and took them over to Mhorik. Some I put in his mouth, others I sprinkled over his form. I shifted some of the furs to cover him, and heard a soft snore soon after.

“Come,” the figure said to me, his voice soft and low. “We have much to discuss.”

He walked out of the room, making hardly a sound. I followed him out to the hallway, and to a nearby room. A simple table and crude chair were set up, and the figure waved me toward the seat.

I collapsed into the chair. “I am sorry…,” I started

The figure waved his hand. “I should have known better than to startle a wizard. The chamber is beautiful, and I let my thoughts wander there. I did not expect a visitor.”

My face burned with shame. “I should have controlled myself.”

“I do not lay blame on you. I am sorry that I was not able to recover faster and help you and the other wizard sooner. But, I am getting ahead of myself. Let us make a proper introduction. My name in your language would be Carves-the-Foundation.”

I wiped my eyes. “I am Dorua, and in the other room is my master, Mhorik. We are wizards.”

“I am no expert in flesh bodies, but your master does not seem to be faring well.”

I swallowed hard. “A spell was cast on him. I saved him, but it has had some ill effects. It is consuming him.”

Carves-the-Foundation frowned. “I am sorry. We Korodan do not understand magic the same way wizards or the way the tree folk do. As much as it pains me, we have no way to help you.”

I nodded, and the tears I had been trying to fight back flowed. Heavy sobs shook my body as it all came crashing down on me. The world receded as my dark despair clouded my vision.

The world came back to me later and I found myself curled upon the floor. My head was cradled into the lap of Carves-the-Fondation.

“Seeing you like this hurts me inside in ways your fire could not.” The voice was barely more than a vibration to be felt instead of heard.

I sat up, and looked at the figure. I saw genuine concern in the face that looked back. “Thank you.”

I sat up, and rubbed my face, taking a slow breath. Carves-the-Foundation sat nearby. watching. To take my mind off the situation, I started telling him about the trip so far. We ended up talking for what seemed like an entire day, sharing stories.

I learned that the Korodan here were a small group. Most of them were old, some with memories going back before they learned how to form bodies made of stone. There were five of them originally, who met by chance. I learned that the other figure in the room was Carves-the-Foundation’s child, Shakes-the-Walls. I didn’t understand how stone could have children, but I did not ask.

They were intensely curious, and had followed people around many times int he past. They had fought with an ancient enemy with green skin, protecting some speaking creatures who were not able to defend themselves. They learned that people of flesh did not share their long lives, and the constant cycle of death and rebirth meant that their friends were all too short lived in their perspective. The Korodan mostly lived on their own now, learning the extent of who they were.

“We are strong, nearly invulnerable,” Carves-the-Foundation explained. “When the green ones attacked our friends, we were able to defeat them easily.”

“And, you have other bodies if you are defeated in battle,” I said.

Carves-the-Foundation nodded his head. “Would you like to see them?”

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