As if being back on the grounds was not unsettling enough, I found myself stuffed inside the dream incubation chamber while still cold and dripping with snow.
"Wonderful," I muttered.
I cast about me, trying to get my bearings. There was light, but no real sun that I could see. It was just...light.
But not a bright and shining light. This was a vague and murky light, like the sun past noon on a foggy day after a raging brushfire. The light even shifted as if through smoke.
These were no ordinary ruins. If giants had built themselves a grand capitol and lived a thousand years in peace and prosperity, and then blown themselves to bits with smart bombs and avarice to find ten thousand years later, that would be this place.
The walls were too thick, the partial archways too high. The broken pillars staggered where they fell like so many of the remains at the Petrified Forest in Arizona. The same air of ancient completion hung heavy in the air, as if some great calamity had befallen this place so long ago and was now so completely over nothing would ever happen here again.
Everything had upon it a layer of grey dust. How massive was the destruction upon this ancient city that in some places no two stones sat one upon the other? In some places, only the fragmented side of a building still stood, or maybe part of a two-story building.
There was partial shelter, at least.
The silence was complete. I hated to take a step, my wet, bare feet making a soft crunching noise on the fine gravel and dust. It felt as if by making noise I would disturb the silence, and it would rise up and consume me.
A rock clattering against other rocks sounded off to my right, just behind me. In the silence, it was an avalanche.
I spun around. Only the rising dust told me anything had happened.
And then I felt eyes.
Though I was a returning supplicant to the Temple, I was still an acolyte. My skills and sensitivities were heightened, and I reached out with my senses.
The subtle pulsating energies of a living body, the subtlest change of temperature in the air around me. Tiny eddies in the air as breath swirled in little currents. The smallest ripple in my surroundings.
"I know you're there." It was a whisper. Even now, I hesitated to wake the silence.
Just what monsters had I brought with me into the chamber? Of all my inner demons, I had faced and slain the most prominent in the Inner Demon Tea Party and Imminent Fatal Gorge-Fest, where I had fed and fed and fed them until they ate themselves to death.
...But which had I missed?