I worked diligently through the day and failed to notice as the sun crept down to the horizon. After a day of mining I had plenty of stone and my bag, which looked equally improved as my other tools, felt lighter than ever, even with all the stone in it. I kept promising myself to stop, but couldn't help seeking more. As I mined well below the lip of the quarry I fell out of view of the sun and stayed in shadow most of the day. Just before the sun dipped below the horizon, I looked up at the sky and realized my horrifying mistake. In the distance I heard the groans of the undead.
I collected my things quickly and ran up the staircase I mined into the wall. I hadn't the time to return to my tower. I heard the groans of the undead draw closer and sprinted the rest of the way to the longhouse. Just as I reached the door, a sound halted me and I unsheathed my sword. It was the sound of wailing undead as they beat their numb hands against a cracking door. As the last of the sun's rays retreated from the night, I made for the origin of the sounds.
It was a small house built right up against the east side of the longhouse. Terror's shredding claws to at my heart as I approached. A small face peered out from the window. It was my friend from the night before. The villager who aided me was now facing his doom. I would have none of it.
I threw my bag down and, roaring loudly, charged toward the crowd of zombies, my blade singing vengeance as I closed on my prey. A few of the undead on the outside of the group turned to me and staggered in my direction while two remained to finish their deadly work. I dispatched the first with a single slice, and its corpse was dust before the other two lunged forward. The first missed me by inches but the icy hands of the second scratched at my side. Realizing that I was far from invincible in my new garb, I hopped back and brought my sword down on the zombie's arm. The forearm came off with a crunch and hung by only a few centimeters of skin from the stump. I grabbed the zombie's shoulder and lunged forward, thrusting my sword up through its jaw. It turned to dust and I rolled forward as my third assailant swept its arm at me. He caught my clothing and tore something in the back of my shirt, taking some skin with it. I howled at the sudden pain and staggered a little before rounding swiftly and whipping my sword out in front of me. I watched the top of the creature's head flop up before its body turned to dust. There was no time to rejoice and I moved to the other two at the door, which was leaning inward dangerously, prepared for the final blows.
With all my strength and fury, I grabbed each of the zombies by the shoulder and pulled them away from the door. I raised my sword and brought it down on the first, its body evaporating. The second rolled onto its stomach and was up before I was ready. It charged into me, gnashing its teeth and glaring with unholy fire. I was pinned against the wall and was only saved by my sword, which I managed to slide sideways between us before I was grabbed. A profoundly grotesque odor came from the zombie's mouth as it groaned and clanked its teeth on my blade, which was between the creature's teeth. I kicked fecklessly at the zombie but it didn't feel a single blow I could deliver. The only salvation I had was pressing deeper into the joint of the creature's jaw as it pressed forward, the blade slicing into its greenish pale cheeks.
From nowhere the door of the house opened, catching the back of the zombie's head. It stared into my eyes through the white patina of scratches on its dead orbs for a moment before the top of its head slid off and it turned to dust. I heaved a sigh of relief and stumbled to the front of the door. I looked up at my friend and smiled. His face was expressionless but I knew he was glad to see me.
"Thank you for your friendship." was all I heard before the sound of a fuse lighting froze my stomach solid. I threw my friend into the house and shut the door but was thrown far away before I could hear the shut of the door.
After that, I saw a dark outline in and out, broken up by stars. My head was jerking with pain every time I inhaled. The dark outline was the side of the long house and above were the stars. I coughed and sputtered, the coppery taste of my own blood filling my mouth. I tried to move my head and find my sword but even the smallest twitch brought immense pain. Everything in me told me that I was on the last sliver of my life, and with much effort I rolled my head to at least find my bearings. Groans of the undead grew seemed to surround me.
Soon I felt my shoulders being grabbed and lifted and I could see a small crowd at the end of the road. My feet dragged in the dirt, my clothes torn away and my legs mangled badly. I kicked to try and help but realized quickly that it would be easier if I stayed limp. I blacked out again as light hit my eyes.
I awoke in the bed again, light in my eyes. I sat up and looked around. The room was empty of others. Tossing the blanket off I recognized my clothes, the red and blue garb gifted by the villagers. My legs accepted me gladly as I stood and walked around, rubbing sleep from my eyes. I went to the window and look out at village and was shocked back to reality. From where I was in the recovery house, I could see the shattered hulk of the house at the rear of the longhouse. Haste in my legs, I threw the door open and ran out into the street. I came to the house and looked on, my eyes hollow.
The front of the house was wracked by the explosion and little of it was left. The door was flung wide open. Its emptiness reflected the hole that grew in my soul. I fell forward and grabbed at the gravel in the road, stones slipping through my fingers as had my friend's life. Hot tears welled in my eyes and I screamed at the ground.
"There is no reason for sadness now. That time has passed. At least the healer was able to pull you away and save you. The Enders might have taken you with them if they were aware you had come. They were preoccupied with their own errands, though." I hadn't heard the elder come up from behind me.
"I knew this one. He saved me the other night."
"I see, other-kin. But tell me, what did you gain by charging in as you did last night?" I didn't respond but my mind rebelled at the statement. He felt my anger and sorrow. "As much as burying your face in the gravel. Are you ready to hear what I was prepared to tell you last night?"
"I am a danger here. I angered the Enders and in return they have come for recompense. Which they found."
"No, other-kin, but I cannot stop you from completing that thought-tree. Each branch sings within you." the elder read me well and I stood, wiping the gravel and tears from my face.
"I don't see coincidence having guided the creatures to that folkin's home last night."
"Nor do I, but I do not see that it was the Ender's design, either." I puzzled as I wiped my eyes. "The universe is not entirely random and it is not entirely contrived. You place too much weight on each little detail." I tried to just let that float past me.
"How can I mind-speak so well now?"
"The healer has her way of giving light. Also, each time you open your mind to us, you take more and more with you, just as we do."
"I don't understand."
"We are not supposed to interfere so much. Last night your friend killed another to save you. He did not want your life-threads to be woven together by your emotion." I hesitated as this mulled over in my mind. "I know, it is sad. And you are right, perhaps you should return to your tower for now. It is unfinished and your home unsafe."
"Yes. I will return to you. There is much that I do not know..."
"But more importantly, much you must hear. We are only truly useful when we realize just how vast our lack of knowledge is. Presence grants benefit, absence grants utility."
"What?" the elder turned to the house and I looked with him.
"See the house?"
"Its four walls grant the benefits of a house, protection, warmth and others. But you cannot live in a house without windows or doors, can you?" I shook my head numbly. "Therefore, it is the matter of the walls that grants benefit, the holes you cut for the windows and doors that grant utility. All things are this way. Just as you, other-kin." My eyes turned to the elder when these words came into my mind. "It is your body, your form, your mind and your light-self that grant you benefit. Your presence that allows you to be and do as you are. It is only with the emptiness of ignorance, of sadness, of wanting that you truly gain utility." I nodded and looked back into the elder's eyes.
"I shall go and finish my tower. When that is through I shall return and I will call upon your knowledge. And it is then that I shall make this village safe." the elder's mouth opened and closed again. "You said that I am to make a journey, did you not?"
"To the dark place? If you wish to seek the answers of this world, yes, you shall."
"I shall not leave this village naked to the retribution of the Enders." the elder hesitated before responding.
"You truly have taken much from us, other-kin. We shall accept your gifts with our thanks." With that the Elder brought me to my gear and I shouldered my pack once more. It felt as massive as last night but strangely easier to bear with purpose solidifying inside of me.