Kiera pursed her lips as she gazed down at Marvis; there was no possible way she would allow Aunt or the brat to ruin Drelen's homecoming. After all, she'd been gone almost two moon phases. "Drelen will arrive soon, Marvis. After she has told us about her…trip, unpacked, and calmed down, then maybe she can tutor you today. Maybe."
As soon as Marvis ran into the other room, Kiera rolled her cornflower blue eyes. Hmph. And maybe I'll marry the moon. Kiera's stomach fluttered with nerves for her twin; what had occurred in all this time? And what did it mean? Just when Kiera thought she might scream, two figures appeared, silhouetted by the sun. Drelen, and the Cloudsmagi, landed gracefully on the porch. Close to bursting with anxiety, questions, and excitement, Kiera waited until the man had clasped Drelen's hand, inclined his head, and then flown off again.
"Well!" About to continue her questioning, Kiera's voice stuck in her throat as she caught sight of the expression in her sister's eyes. In a dramatically different tone, she said, "Drel…what happened?"
But, just as Drelen opened her mouth, their Aunt and Marvis swung through the door, and began to bombard Drelen with queries. She looks like she's drowning. Kiera took matters into her own hands.
"I'm sorry, but Drelen just said she felt ill. I'm taking her upstairs for a moment." And without waiting for a reply, Kiera bustled her twin upstairs. Then, again in a gentle tone, she inquired, "Well?"
For a moment, Drelen did not answer, and she pressed her lips in a tight line. Kiera thought perhaps she'd not passed the Trial, and so said, "If you failed, don't worry, I mean, you normally don't Trial until…"
"I didn't fail," Drelen said quietly. "I passed."
Kiera stared at her sister, uncomprehending. For all the times I could finish her sentences, there are twice as many when we could be from different galaxies!
"Well, then, what's the matter?"
Kiera still looked blankly at her sister.
"I passed. I passed all of the Trials."
"You took more than one!"
"That's the problem. I passed all of them, Kee, and they all hate me. Their eyes, their mouths, cruel, cruel. I just can't face people who hate me!" Drelen blanched all of a sudden, as if someone had put a straw to her face and begun sucking away all the color.
"No one could hate you." Kiera rubbed her sister's shoulder, and took her hand. It was icy cold. Kiera knew that Drelen doubted herself, but it seemed that this had not helped her confidence at all. She had passed all the Trials, and proved herself worthy of the title of Skysoar. And it seemed that the other magi were not happy that they would not gain that title.
"Drel, maybe you're just overreacting. I'm sure that you will do a fine job of-"
"When I came out, the magi there- they just stood there, watching me, with cold, cold eyes, filled up with hate. I thought I was strong, but really, how could I do anything? I can't lead people, especially not ones who hate me."
Kiera didn't know what to say. She couldn't imagine Drelen's feelings; sometimes her sister was so familiar to her, and at other times, utterly foreign. They went to sleep, and each lay silent until slumber claimed them.
The next morning, Drelen opened her eyes with a peculiar, and unnerving, awareness. She raised her head to glance around the room, but everything seemed in order. Kiera was still asleep, of course. Drelen quickly gathered a few books she would need, and instead of walking to the Library as usual, she went off the balcony and flew. She wanted to spend no more time outdoors than required, for the air was odd to her. There was a strange tension that gave Drelen a sense of urgency, and made her want to look over her shoulder for shadows. The sky was darker than normal too, and the streets emptier as well. Shaking her head, Drelen stopped at the library steps and told herself to stop dreaming up nonsense. However, she couldn't shake off the feeling of impending doom as she opened the heavy door to enter the Library.
At the same instant Drelen opened the door, Kiera awoke with a start. She'd been having a most awful dream, and as she tried to shake off the lingering remnants, Kiera shivered. She would know what to do, she always did. Without pause or thought, Kiera took off from the balcony and rapidly flew towards the Library. She knew she would find Drelen there; she seldom went anywhere else. Then she heard it, the Battle Horn, to call the soldiers to battle. What? Looking around, she saw others, confused as she was, taking off towards the sound of the horn. Forgetting her original mission, she swerved around, and went in the same direction as the others, to the battle.
Drelen, upon entering the library, had found it empty, and the hallways dark. Then she heard the battle horn and rushed to the doors only to find them locked. No amount of incantations, or tugging and kicking, would open any of the doors at all. Drelen remembered the Cloudsmagi's cryptic words the previous day, and wondered if this was what he had foretold. She went back into the inner chambers of the library trying not to panic. If none of the regular doors would let her out, maybe one of the others would.
At least I won't get bored, she thought wryly, looking around at all the books she wanted to read but had never found the time. She walked deeper into the maze of bookshelves and corridors than she had ever journeyed into before. Finally, she came upon a door she had never seen before. It was quite odd too, made entirely from bronze and inlaid with strange markings. Drelen assumed it too would be locked, and so she gave a slight gasp when it swung open with ease when she pushed it in. However, it didn't lead outside as she had hoped. The other side of the doorway was dark, and cold drafts of air blew out and fanned Drelen's hair out around her elbows. She could smell old parchment upon the drafts, and whispered for a light.
"Aeieee ouiiui yoia." A brilliant white orb flowered in Drelen's palm, and gave her a wide radius of milky light as she stepped cautiously into the unknown. The walls of the corridor were rock, but still filled with books, their shelves had been carved into the very stone. And the manuscripts were especially ancient ones by the look of them. Drelen stepped farther into the tunnel, and let out a gasp when she heard the creak behind her, and whirled around to find the door swung shut of its own accord. She tried to push it open, and then make it move with magik, but she didn't spend very much time on it, for she didn't really think it would budge. Not after the doors on the outside of the library had acted the very same way.
She sank down by the door, imagining all of the haunts and creatures that might lurk inside the tunnel, and felt her heart beating extremely fast. But eventually, her curiosity got the better of her fears, and she stood up to pursue the shelves down the ancient tunnel.
She had never heard of any of the titles of the volumes, and the further down she walked in the passageway, the more archaic the language became, until eventually it no longer resembled their own anymore. She could barely understand it, but she had studied the ancient languages in her courses at the library in magiks, and so could make out of the words.
Flipping one open, she looked for anything that would tell what the books were, but couldn't find anything. Then, finally, she opened one that seemed as if it contained spells. Drelen was curious, but knew better than to repeat any spell she couldn't understand. Who knew what it could do? She sat down with the book, and began to try to puzzle out the strange incantations. She was so involved in the manuscripts she didn't notice the sound of claws scratching on stone drawing nearer and nearer.
"Rithard!" Derek snapped, "How much longer until the spell is done?"
Derek was normally a patient man, but he could not risk angering the HighLord Mage, and that meant that they need to find the Kyriai, and quickly.
"It will only take a few more moments. But I fear that we shall not be able to reach all the way to the mountains. I will be able to get us as far as Archaie, and it shall take just two more days to travel to the mountains after that." Rithard broke off to concentrate on his casting, and left his master to his own troubled thoughts.
A Kyriai hadn't been heard of for centuries. Mages drew on the power left over from Aeld Wars and had split into three factions, they could use that spark for immensely powered aspirations. If a mage now existed who could draw upon raw, unfiltered power from one of the elements…
Derek shook his head, wondering at the fate of any who opposed such power. He was greatly relieved that the Kyrĭai had not had any training. Also, that she was young. There was a chance that the power might not have manifested itself, for the greater the power was, the longer it took to emerge. It may be that they could bind it, or bring her to their side before she even took control of her magic.
"All right Master Derek, it is ready."
"About time, my boy. We have to be off."
He stepped into the diagram his apprentice has drawn into the stone floor, and was gone. Rithard went after him, leaving the room from which they had gone empty, or so they believed.
Stepping out of the shadows, the seer gazed at the space the mages had recently stood and shrugged. Only time would tell if they would be enough to capture the Kyrĭai. She has tried many times to convince her master Rithard should not be allowed to go, to send another in his place. But he was stubborn. He refused. But the seer hoped for the fate of them all that only one of the futures she had seen unfold would occur, and the others would remain unwalked, and so the world would remain within her true master's command.
Derek and Rithard stepped out of their spell into the bright sunny weather of Archaie. Rithard commented on it, and Derek replied, "You shouldn't get used to it. Further north we go, the colder it gets. And we are going as far north as to the coast of the Shazzine Sea." What he refrained from saying was that as soon as they left the city the weather would turn warmer, for it was mainly the shielding around Archaie that kept it warm, and safe. Otherwise-or other where- it would have been too dangerous to step out of a spell. If you didn't land exactly right, you could end up robbed, as slave, or dead. The continent was still recovering from Aeld Wars and though it was improving well, the roads were still traversed by bandits and mercenaries brought in from Aishara, and even some from the Peninsula.
"Where are we going to get a carriage?" asked Rithard, and his master looked at him with amused surprise.
"Carriage? You think we shall be able to drive a carriage up the Karrs? We shall be taking horses, boy." Derek was shaking his head at his apprentice, who seemed amazed, and dismayed at the prospect of horses.
In Bylardian, they had mage scrulled roadways, so they had no need for horses. A four-day passage could take just a day, and was much less tiring because of the magic they used. And with the people grateful to the mages for these little conveniences, they were less inclined to pay attention to any mistakes that occurred, and that kept the King from realizing how much power the mages had gotten back from the days of the Wars.
"Well, where are going to find the horses then?"
Derek led his apprentice along the narrow, walled streets of Archaie.
The boy has no common sense, Derek thought. Rithard had been raised as a second son in the family of a Lord, so he had gone through basic learning, and he had been trained at the Mage's Tower in Bylardian before becoming Derek's apprentice. But left alone on the city streets, Derek had no doubt that before he had a chance to be robbed or murdered, his pupil would be just as likely to kill himself somehow. Derek shook his head again, no; he had no common sense at all.
When they reached their destination, Derek and Rithard, about to enter a large tawny stone building, were faced by a tall gangly youth with skin hued dark by the sun, and narrow, watchful eyes.
At first, he seemed reluctant to let them in, but finally relented when Derek gave him a silver crown. Rithard was surprised until he saw it was an Iilar crown, which had the highest value in any province of Graislann.
Once inside, the air was cooler, and instead of hot stone that reflected the light, they walked on cool packed earth.
"You are here for the horses, nain?"
A woman's soft voice spoke behind Derek and Rithard, and held the faint accent of the Baradian peninsula. Though dressed in the clothing of the Marthkaiayans, in soft brown and yellow robes, she had all the features of the peninsula. High forehead, deep-set slanted eyes that were faintly green, and a pointed chin so that her face was like an upside down triangle. She stepped through a door without waiting for them to answer and with a slight motion of her long willowy hand, bid them follow. She led them through a chain of long, dim hallways, and Derek knew they should be descending into the earth. But to his surprise, he found that they began to rise again. After what seemed to him a very long while, they reached a small stable.
"Is this where real horses are kept?" asked Rithard while Derek wondered where the horses ate. There didn't seem to be a food supply here, and there were certainly no fields in this city. However, when the woman opened one the doors to a pen, he found the answer. The horses contained here were no ordinary animals. In this inconspicuous, albeit mysterious, stable were true Awaynisee steeds. All were pure gray with white manes and steely eyes, they were rumored to be the fastest horses in existence.
"How did you know we wanted horses?" asked Rithard, his question directed at the woman, and Derek though he gave no credit to his pupil for his bluntness, was curious too. This woman was no mage, and she was certainly no mind reader. She simply laughed, and said,
"Two strange men, wandering through the streets to end up at my door? Why else would you have come?"
Derek liked the woman, for though she laughed, he did not feel slighted, or as if she was laughing at him. Rather, she laughed at, or with, the world.
"How much are these horses?" and Derek paused for he knew not what to call this strange woman. He knew the HighLord Mage would pay for the beasts if he didn't carry enough, but Denyl wouldn't be happy about it.
"You may call me Miyra, my lord mage," she said with a smile, and her faintly green eyes twinkled beneath sandy brows. "You will not pay for the horses. At least not in coin. I know of whom you seek, and these steeds shall be a gift. Bring the Kyrĭai here before you give her over to your master, and our bargain will be sealed."
Miyra paused, and stood barefoot, with her hands folded beneath the long wide sleeves of her robe for a reply.
Derek stood flabbergasted, and horrified. How could the woman know of the Kyrĭai? It was impossible. And yet, she did. If word leaked out…
"How did you know?" he whispered.
"My lord mage, milady knows things that you can't imagine, and she certainly knows of this."
Derek suddenly understood. This woman came from the peninsula, and her lady, he knew for certain, was the Lady of the Seas, Allmaengiall. But it brought misfortune to speak her name aloud, now that she was the only true god left to hear their prayers. But now Derek of Menkeish had a problem. If he broached the subject of returning the Kyrĭai here first, Rithard would certainly disagree and perhaps bring down the HighLord Mage's wrath upon him. The Bylardians scoffed at any kind of superstition, and it was all very well for they were far inland. But Derek was from Iilar, and they too were by the sea, and did not take their Lady lightly.
"Miyra, memoiselle, perhaps we can bring the –Chaie" he used the Baradian word for an elemental so Rithard did not know what they discussed, "but only if you can be certain that your Lady will shield us."
Miyra looked contrite as she spoke, but it did not change the fact that she meant every word she uttered.
"Milday shall not guarantee your safety from the master that you have chosen. But it is up to you whose wrath you fear more, and whose benefits you would rather reap as well."
Derek shot a glance at his apprentice to see if he knew of what they discussed, but his young companion was totally absorbed by the horses, neighing and moving restlessly in their stalls.
"All right," Derek finally acquiesced, "all right. We'll bring her."
Miyra smiled coolly, she'd never doubted that there would be any other outcome.