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The Garden of Last Light

by Robert J. Nuttman, Jr.

Location: Approx. 35E, 80N, Skothar

At its borders, the fused black-glass plain looks like any of the other glossy scars left on the land by the starfire-strike from a Throne of Stars, a blistered and rippled stretch of land, some fifty miles in diameter, completely devoid of life.

This particular site is unique, in that near it’s center, offset by perhaps a mile, is a perfectly round patch of normal ground, from which sprout thousands of delicate crystal-petaled flowers that glow with an alternating golden and silver light, depending on the time of “day.” (“Day” being an arbitrary term, since the site sits over the Polar curve, and is shrouded in darkness and storms for much of the year.)

While the radiance of the flowers’ golden light is fixed and constant, the silvery light shed by the flowers at “night” dims and brightens in accordance with the phases of Matera.

The air within the confines of the crystalline garden is not touched by the harsh, acrid taste of the rest of the blast site, and the skin-prickling sensation left by the lingering Radiance is also absent.

Rather, the air is crisp, almost sweet, and despite the bitter cold over the arctic curve, the temperature is such that at most a heavy cloak is needed to stay warm.

Winds that gust through the patch of crystal flowers set the plants humming, bringing forth a clear note, as one might hear when running a finger around the rim of a crystal goblet. The phenomenon can also be heard if a steady breath is blown across one of the blooms.

Tales from those who have been to the strange site all agree, welcome though it is amidst the scarred and pitted landscape, staying overlong at the place is ill advised. Sleep is often haunted by terrible dreams, filled with screaming, and fire and bloodshed. One tale told by a group caught in the crystalline garden during a terrible lightning storm, tells that the flowers seemed to attract the storm, blazing with green and blue light in answer to the lightning flashing above. Shapes could be seen, darting and flitting amidst the shining flowers, small, perhaps the height of a child, pale and wild-eyed in the wash of blueish light; gone in a blink, only to reappear in the wake of the next lightning bolt.

Attempts at detecting magic in the place have the same glaring, dizzying results as elsewhere amidst the Radiant wastes. A true seeing spell cast when Matera is full reveals a ghostly chain of small, pale girls, all identically garbed in ankle-length white gowns, linked hand in hand, at the border of the garden, facing outward. Divinations as to the meaning, or purpose of the strange vision go unanswered. An ESP spell will occasionally be rewarded with a chorus of voices singing what sounds like a lullaby in an ancient, long-dead tongue.