"What do we have here?" Korvo held up the stone to the light of Zin's magic circle. Within the cave's depths it glimmered like a light source of its own. "Never seen a gem quite like this one."
Zin was halfway through a step when he hopped back on one foot to have a looksee. He crossed his arms and leaned playfully against his friend, peering with feigned interest over his shoulder at the rock in his hand. The stone was strange indeed, like if alexandrite had the odd innards of black opal. Streaks of silver mana blazed across its mid-section the more it was twirled.
Being a dark-elf, born from the deepest layers of Aeodian night rock, he expected to know of the gem in his friend's hand on instant. But he did not, and the fact that he knew it not, interested him more than the rock itself.
"Not sure how you keep finding the weird ones, Koko. I worry for the visages of your future children if you ever find a wife."
Korvo scoffed and nudged Zin hard. "If anything, you're, by far, the weirdest thing I've ever discovered. What kind of elf doesn't have pointy ears?"
"The cool kind." Zin answered absently. He was watching the jewel closely now. How was it that he'd never come across a rock such as this? He should know of them all; if not by sight then by aura, by elemental property, by instinct even, but this stone gave him nothing to go off of. It looked rarer than obsidian-diamond, yet possessed the presence of a pebble.
Perhaps his friend's—very human—hand was masking its power. Korvo was strong for his race but, well, human still, and they tended to have a weird tendency to absorb light and reject mana, whereas Zin could do the opposite.
"Lemme see it for a sec?" Zin said.
Korvo tossed it in the air where Zin snatched it.
An exhale was knocked out of him. Acid hellfire spread from his palm to his entire arm. Crackles of static rippled off of him, as though his mana were being peeled away. The magic circle lighting their path flickered and died until blackness encompassed them.
Searing white veins made rivers up his grey skin from where the gem touched it. Shivers crawled up his spine. His knees buckled from under him, yielding to the pain that felled him before the stone could even fall from his grasp.
He could not hear but felt his friend kneeling by his side. Concern in his every nudge.
Zin wanted to reassure him, wanted to shake whatever this feeling was right off, but a foul vision slathered across his eyes.
Suddenly he was not within The Cursive Caverns, but within a sky. Blinding light struck him, and instinctively he recoiled, but it wasn't long before a sandcloud blotted out the sun, red as human blood, pulsing, warping. Lightning teared across its depths, reshaping its foul silhouette. A city lurking beneath. Warriors armed upon griffon-back—dragon-back even. They all faced the cloud. Familiars of phoenixes and fire foxes blasted their arts towards its ominous haze.
Then a person strutted out from its depths. An elven-like form. A flash of yellow eyes that hurt to look at. A hand on his back. His name being shouted over and over. Cold sweat. Pained breaths.
"Zin! Zin! What happened, what's wrong? What can I do?" Korvo was shouting, a lit torch now in his grasp.
It took Zin all his willpower to re-ground himself. Shaking hands dug jagged grooves in the stone under him. A choked cry left his throat. 'What happened? ' he wondered that too. What on earth was that? Why did it summon itself from a random rock? Why didn't it affect his friend...
Zin couldn't speak. He was too shaken to form the words and hated himself for it. Weakness wasn't his style. Though he wasn't sure this was that. Weakness didn't act this way. He was blindsided; attacked from within.
Zin found his arm suddenly around Korvo's shoulder. He was lifted to his feet, surprised anew to find his legs with no strength in them, even now. And more surprised to find that they'd left the cursed cave by the time he blinked. Was he loosing time? Had he passed out?
"Put me down. You smell," Zin croaked.
"Zin? What the hell, man!?" Korvo eased him down against a wall. "Don't freak me out like that! What even happened back there? Are you...good?"
Zin winced. "No, I'm great."
They were outside, Zin noted, though it was dusklight and a pinkish sky that met his gaze rather than the morning sun which he despised. Albeit, at that moment he might not have minded the heat of a sun.
He felt cold...which was disconcerting. It took more than a blizzard's wrath to make him cold, much less the capabilities of some stupid rock. Zin glared at his shaking hand. For a brief spell, the white veins were still engraved on his forearm, but soon they vanished. The echoes of its acidic pain still present. Zin groaned and held his aching temple. A small healing art (he knew wouldn't work) budded at his fingertips.
"What happened!?" Korvo pressed. "Should I go find a healer? Do you need water? Ice? "
Zin glanced up at him. Korvo knelt there with that puppy dog-eyed look of his.
"See, its times like this when your maternal qualities shine brightest."
"Knock it off!" Korvo punched him—"Ah— Sorry!"—and regretted it. "For real though! One second you were fine and cracking your usual dumb jokes, the next you were on the ground, yelling! Were you hexed? Was someone else in the cave with us?"
Hexed... there's a thought Zin hadn't considered. Could a rock perform a hex on its own? Without incantation? Or a creepy old mage to manifest it?
"I don't know." he said, honestly. "It was something in that gem. I don't know why it didn't affect you. My only guess is that it was constructed to target a magic system upon contact."
Korvo gave him a confused look. "I... I don't follow."
"Do I really need to dumb it down more than that? You: no magic. Me: magic. You: it no hurt. Me: it did." He flexed his hand, surveilling the muscles at work.
Zin twitched. Something red fluttered in his peripheral. Something that made him freeze.
At that moment the dusklight from the sky lost its light and night took over. Around Korvo's neck was a necklace Zin had never seen before. It shifted. Zin hesitated.
Gradually, he fixed his gaze to the necklace only to find it wasn't a necklace at all. Red sand lay there, drizzling off an impossible ring like an ethereal shackle.
His gaze crept upward further. Into Korvo's eyes.
That hurt to look at.