Corinne felt someone shaking her awake and rolled over, squinting at the bright light filtering in through the open blinds. Eileen was sitting up in bed and looked over at her.
"Ready to grow up?" she asked, giving a nervous laugh.
Corinne sighed, not enjoying being greeted by problems as soon as she awoke. "Not really. I want to know every single detail, no matter how minor before they do this to us."
"You will be informed of everything, Corinne. There is nothing to be apprehensive about," said Aurora from across the room.
Corinne jumped, not having noticed the elf-mage looking in a mirror braiding her bright red hair. She tossed aside the covers of the bed and stood, studying her reflection in the mirror behind Aurora.
"Will we be returned to our age without any changes in appearance or personality?"
"Of course. You will look and feel the same as you do now when you are returned to your normal age, without any side effects. That is the advantage of using powers in alternative to any scientific method."
Eileen joined them in front of the mirror, scooping her own red hair into a ponytail while saying, "You have to admit, though, isn't it going to be a little exciting to see what we'll look like when we're twenty-something?"
"More of a shock, maybe," replied, Corinne, taking Aurora's spot in front of the mirror as the elf-mage stepped back from it. She adjusted her clothes and smoothed out the wrinkles and then turned to Aurora. "Are the boys awake?"
"They should be. Why don't you see if they are and if they still haven't rolled out of bed, wake them up and then gather in my room."
"Okay." Corinne walked through the adjoining doors into the boys' room to find them sleepily lounging on their respective beds in complete silence.
"Aurora wants us to all meet in her room," Corinne announced.
The boys turned to regard her. Luke spoke first, saying, "I don't know about you, Corinne, but we've been discussing this, and we don't want to mess with all that power stuff. She's going to mess with our minds and bodies and age, you know. How can you trust her? And how do you know she isn't a Dark Mage herself? She may just be trying to steal our souls again."
"I can't completely trust her and I don't know quite what she is, but I would like any of you to give me an alternative out of this. We are in a completely different place, surrounded by different people, different customs, and most of all, a different way of life in general. How would we even begin to attempt to find our way back? As long as we're in this position, we should just as well go through with it, because if we don't, we can't get home anyway. And something just tells me that she isn't lying and maybe that we are some special group of people. The only way to find that out is by letting her do her thing, because I don't see any alternative. And I think maybe instead of attempting to rebel against her, you should just see where this takes us," Corinne replied, folding her arms across her chest. "Now all of you, come on. Let's get this over with so we don't have to worry about it."
Luke, Brendan, and Kian exchanged worried glances before standing up and filing into the next room with Corinne following them.
Eileen and Aurora were already seated comfortably on the bed, waiting for the others to join them, which they quickly did.
Aurora folded her legs under her and began by saying, "I know this is causing much apprehension and fear on your part, and that is to be expected. After hearing that little conversation in the other room, however, it seems some of you need a little reassuring on this entire excursion you're heading on," she said with a slight smile. "I'm not going to be the one to give you that reassurance, but there are others here who seem quite capable of it," she said, looking directly at Corinne.
"As for what the mages will be doing in a short while, I will explain that to you. There is a mage temple down the road from here and that is where we will be headed shortly. When we arrive, I believe there will be four more mages to assist me with this task. The five of you will be escorted to a large room where the Arches of Time are located. When we actually begin the process, it will occur for all of you at the same time. The actual interval between your present age and the age you are being made is different for each person, so I can't give you any forewarning on that. That's really all the basic things that are going to happen, the rest are just things that you have to accept and go along with. Now, let's get there while it's still daylight," Aurora said, standing up and donning her dark blue cloak.
The five teenagers followed her as she walked out the door of the room and locked all three. As she walked down the stairs, Eileen walked up next to Corinne and said, "I just realized something. Have you noticed how these people dress? I feel completely out of place."
Corinne looked down at her sweater and jeans and replied with a laugh, "You're right. Most of the women here wear traveling skirts or pants, and here we are waltzing around in jeans."
"That will change, girls," Aurora said over her shoulder as they walked through the main room of the inn on their way out.
Luke, after overhearing the exchange, whispered to Brendan and Kian, "She just seems to know all and see all, doesn't she?"
Brendan nodded. "I don't know what we're getting ourselves into, you guys," he said, changing the subject.
"Well, whatever it is, we're already in it, and it doesn't look like we're going to be able to go backwards," pointed out Kian.
There was relative silence the rest of the trip to the temple, which was in a slightly secluded spot near the outskirts of town. Aurora pushed open the heavy wooden door, allowing the teenagers inside before letting it swing shut behind her. It closed with a heavy thud that echoed throughout the entry room.
The teenagers stood in the entrance staring up at the levels above their heads, ending with a dome shaped roof with cryptic paintings adorning it. Everything was polished an immaculate white, with rare spots of colors brightening the stoic surroundings. A maze of arches and doorways surrounded the entrance, one from which four beings emerged.
"Welcome, Aurora," said a man clothed in a white robe, identical to the other male and two females behind him. "It is good to see you again. I see you have brought the children."
"Yes, I have. I'm assuming introductions are in order." Aurora motioned for them to step forward for the introductions. She began by introducing the mages. Pointing to the blond-haired, blue-eyed male that had greeted them, she said, "This is Ronan, and behind him is Marina," she said, motioning toward a raven-haired woman behind Ronan. "And behind Marina is Teris, and next to him is Ariette," she said, pointing to a dark haired man and woman standing side by side.
Then, turning to the teenagers, she said, "This is Kian, next to him is Brendan, and next to him is Luke. Eileen is the girl with the red hair and Corinne is the brunette," she said, pointing to the girls who were standing in back of the boys.
"We welcome you," Ronan said, warmly. He turned around and began walking through a large archway that led into a large, empty room. Aurora followed him, so, one-by-one; the teenagers did as well.
As soon as everyone was gathered, Aurora moved inconspicuously out of the way, allowing her fellow mages to take charge of things.
Ariette spoke first, announcing how things would proceed. "Corinne and Eileen, you will come with me for your garments and Kian, Brendan, and Luke, you will go with Teris." Turning to the rest of the mages, she said, "If it's alright, the rest of you could begin the weaving process with the powers so things will move more quickly."
The remaining mages agreed and filed out of the room, Aurora included. Teris and Ariette were left with the teenagers, who had gathered close together in the center of the room.
Ariette smiled and said, "We were expecting younger children than you. How old are each of you?"
Corinne spoke for all of them, replying, "We're all fifteen."
Ariette nodded and turned to Teris. "Then it should only be around seven or eight years, correct?"
"Yes. It makes it slightly easier."
"Well, anyway, Corinne and Eileen, come with me. Kian, Brendan, and Luke, you go with Teris," said Ariette, already leading the two girls to a wide corridor.
As they walked down the hall, Corinne noticed the paintings hanging on the walls. Some were portraits of people and others were scenes of battles and divinations. Unsure how to address the mage, she first asked, "Ariette? How should we address you?"
The mage laughed and replied, "Just by my first name. The same is with all other mages."
"Okay. I have another question, actually. What are all the pictures hanging here?"
Ariette looked along the walls and replied, "Some are portraits of important mages or mages who have accomplished heroic deeds. Others are of famous battle scenes in history and others are of mages practicing with the powers." She pointed to a painting and said, "This one is of five mages who are using the Pathways of Powers."
"Aurora mentioned that," said Eileen. "How do you use it?"
"It's hard to explain using words, but a mage or a person sensitive to the powers has to be able to manipulate the powers in certain ways. It'll be easier to have someone to show you how than to explain it. Anyway, we're here," Ariette said, pushing open a heavy wooden door near the end of the hall.
The three entered the small room and Ariette motioned for Corinne and Eileen to sit down on a bench by the wall. They did so as she walked over to a rack of white robes and pulled out two.
"Corinne, try this on," she said, handing her the robe and a silver sash to tie around the waist. "There's a fitting room in that corner," she said, pointing to a door in the corner of the room.
She handed Eileen a second robe with a similar sash and after Corinne emerged from the dressing room Eileen went to change.
"What should I do with my other clothes?" Corinne asked, sitting back down on the bench.
"Leave them here. You will be supplied with other clothes for your time in this realm," explained Ariette.
After Eileen was ready, Ariette led them back into the long corridor and continued their walk down it. They reached another door at the very end and walked into the room on the other side. It had a musty, aged feel to it, and when Eileen asked where they were, Ariette responded, "We are in one of the rooms leading to the room where the Arches of Time are located. As soon as Teris brings the boys, we will allow you in there. The reason it is so musty is because we are in the basement of the temple and because the Arches of Time are rarely used anymore."
Silence prevailed for a few minutes; each lost in her own thoughts. The door to the room opened, interrupting their thoughts as Teris and the boys entered.
"We're here," he announced, pushing Luke, Brendan, and Kian ahead of him. They were wearing similar robes to the ones Corinne and Eileen were wearing and looked slightly uncomfortable in them.
Luke walked over to Corinne and whispered, "I feel like I'm wearing a dress."
Corinne smiled, obviously amused by his comment, but she was too nervous at the moment to think of any humorous comeback.
It didn't help her nerves any when Ariette began to speak. "Now that you're all here, I can give you instructions on what to do. You must follow them, because after we position you, we will be in a trance with the other mages. It is important you are as quiet as possible so as not to disturb the other mages out of their trance. I recommend you take off your shoes so you can accomplish this. In any case, once we position you, don't move. That's the most important thing you can remember. Otherwise, that's it. Your task is very simple, but you must not move, especially once we begin to work the powers."
Teris put his hand on the door handle and said, "If you're ready, we can go."
The teenagers nodded and Teris opened the door and escorted them up a flight of stairs, Ariette following the group and shutting the door silently behind her.
When they reached the room above, Corinne stared in awe at the sight before her. Glittering silver arches, ceiling to floor, surrounded the circular room. Everything was white except the domed ceiling, which was a dark blue with constellations of stars, an exact replica of the night sky. Windows at the base of the dome let light stream in to the room. In the center, Aurora, Ronan, and Marina sat on dark blue, cushioned mats on a raised pedestal. They were all in a meditative trance, seemingly oblivious to everything.
Teris and Ariette let them look around for a few minutes until they led each of them to a pedestal beneath an arch. Corinne was motioned to climb up on hers, and the others followed her lead silently. Ariette took each of Corinne's arms and outstretched them, so her hands were braced against the sides of the arch. Once all of them were standing identically, Ariette and Teris climbed to the platform in the center and began to enter into the same meditative trance in which the three other mages were partaking.
Corinne looked around at her friends, scattered across the room, two arches separating each of them. Their faces held expressions of nervousness and fear, excitement and wonder. Corinne realized she must look the same. She was becoming anxious with waiting, not knowing what the transition would feel like or if it would feel like anything at all.
A few minutes later, all at once, she felt as if she was being wrapped in ribbons of swirling tendrils. They blocked her vision and she could no longer see her friends and knew they could no longer see her. It was if she was floating in her own little room, a spinning conjuration of the powers the mages were wielding. The ribbons began to wrap tighter around her, tightening their hold on her. She felt suddenly panicked, but remembered Ariette's instruction not to move and didn't, trying to suppress her fear. The ribbons wrapped tighter still, until she could feel them circling her body. She felt faint now, yet tried to remain conscious. Her efforts were thwarted, as she grew tired and drifted in and out of awareness. Finally, when she was conscious for a moment, everything grew unbearably bright and pressured. Light exploded in front of her eyes and the ribbons hugged her so tight she dared not breathe. And then there was nothing.