Matka Niebo studied the crystal spire jutting several feet out from the cavern floor. With a flash one face of it radiated an eerie blue light from top to bottom and then was still and pale once more. Matka's chest rose and fell with a heavy sigh.

Nearly two months ago he had been pursuing a group of Freedom Force rebels into the caverns of Rut Nasaal's western rim. While the rebels weren't found, his squad did come across this alcove with its curious crystalline occupant. Though his soldiers were ignorant of the discovery, Matka instantly realized the prismatic object was extraordinary for it emitted a unique signal very few would have been able to detect. Right now though, he wished he had never found it.

Matka dedicated his life to protecting two things. First among those were his masters, the Dryn. Presently, the Freedom Force rebels were a threat to them and recently were more active than they had ever been. Matka was displeased with having been removed from the front lines, but his sire and master, the Giga Ross, had commanded him to investigate the crystal spire and so Matka had obeyed. Matka always obeyed.

The second thing Matka protected was his status with those masters. It was a status he found to be very rewarding and he owed it to a unique set of psychic abilities his peers called his Gifts. Among them was being able to detect when others with Gifts were using them. It wasn't always easy, as threats had to be actively using their Gift for him to detect the psychic signal it emitted. Matka was good at his job though, and few Gifted escaped his attention. As a rule, whenever he detected someone else with Gifts, he eliminated them without mercy or hesitation. Nothing would threaten the privileges of his masters.

Matka was unsure if the crystal monolith was a threat, which frustrated and puzzled him. The Gift signal it emitted was constant, which to him could only mean one thing: the stone was somehow using a Gift, and using it without end. Matka could not accept that, however; it was illogical and flew in the face of everything he knew. Yet, he had no better solution. He had tried everything he could think of to get to the bottom of what this crystal object was to no avail.

Within the first week of his investigation he had grown suspicious of it and attempted to destroy it. He quickly discovered that nothing he could do affected the crystalline spire in any way. No scratches resulted from his spear tip or claws, no scorch marks from his fiery Drycana and no signs of impact from thrown stones. Following that he had resigned to exploring its psychic side, despite the absurdity of the notion. Matka could think of some peers whom had stones for brains, but he had never encountered brains in stones.

In his life Matka had developed a vast array of Gifts, many of which could not be duplicated by even the magic of the Dryn. In fact, he believed that was the reason for his status, and why he remained one of the most feared Dryn'Mar. He could quite literally do things no one else could, or at least no one alive.

One such Gift was being able to read "impressions" left on objects. Matka had long suspected that most minds possessed the same potential for power his did, it was simply dormant. However, he believed that in times of great emotional intensity the dormant side awakened and left psychic impressions upon the worldly things nearby. With focus, Matka could read those impressions like a picture book, gaining some insight into the events that occurred. Sometimes the impressions were weak, and Matka could sense them but not access them. People were impossible to read; they had layer upon layer of intense psychic impressions making them the equivalent of a canvas upon which many pictures had been painted one on top of another. Trying to pull just one image out from among the many was futile.

Curiously, the crystalline monolith was devoid of psychic impressions. At first it completely baffled him, and he suspected the Gift signal it was emitting was perhaps interfering with his ability to read them. Eventually a more disturbing idea had occurred to him: perhaps the Gift was not interfering on accident.

Again, Matka's chest rose and fell with a heavy sigh and he growled in frustration. For two months he had been way from his home, away from battling the Freedom Force, and away from his masters. Two months, and he was no closer to an answer now than at the start. In fact, he felt even more confused now than he had then.

He could not accept that it was so powerful it was beyond him, but he ran out of ideas days ago. He even attempted to open empathic links with it, despite feeling foolish for even considering the idea. Every time it acted in the same manner as one would expect a crystal to react: without any response, as if it had no intelligence. Yet here it was, giving off very strong waves of psychic energy.

Suddenly the crystalline monolith flared with light from top to bottom, illuminating the entire cavern in brilliant blue-white light. Unlike before, when a single face had flashed briefly, this light was blinding, and it radiated from the entire structure. Matka threw up his arms to shield his eyes, but the light had vanished as quickly as it had come.

He could barely see from the motes of white that filled his vision, but he could feel the psychic energy around him welling up. The sensation was intoxicating, and he could bring himself to do nothing but stand there gaping at the prism. The psychic energy reached a crescendo and a high pitched tone filled his ears, though not uncomfortably so. Then the pain hit.

It was instant, and incredible. Matka roared as he grabbed his head and fell first to his knees and then to his side, curled up and unable to block out the onslaught of psychic agony. Suddenly there was another brilliant flash, and the pain ceased along with the Git signal of the stone. Matka tried to open his eyes, but they felt so heavy, and he was overcome with exhaustion. As he was swallowed by darkness, he could swear the cavern floor felt soft and spongy and had filled with blue-grey fog.

V 1.2 updated 11/2/17 - made some minor adjustments to the prose, and edited a couple small details for continuity.