The bag containing Ana’s equipment was slightly heavier than Heimler expected, but having only a few possessions himself, he was able to manage. Being booted out of Sariel’s adobe was not just a decision made by her, but also the Heijan village elders. Even though no mention of the threat from sea was to be heard, the general atmosphere of the village the morning after was tense, like the villagers were preparing for a fight. Life went on as normal, with the exception of barricades and strange devices being carried and placed around the village. Several warriors patrolled around in suits of armor that Heimler had never seen before, carrying oddly shaped weapons and chanting mantras that he did not understand. Despite all his travels before he ended up in Lanthara, all of that was new to him, and so he commits their armaments and phrases to memory, scrawling notes in his journal. A pat on the back rouses him from his observation.
Turning around, Sariel stands before him, decked out in heavily ornamented runic armor. Green arcane glyphs orbited behind her in a strange, harmonic pattern, accentuating her eyes, which seemed greener than before. There was something different about the way she carried herself, as if her very presence exuded authority and radiated power. The woman that stood before him certainly did not look like the kind middle-aged healer that took them in the night before, but more akin to an arch-mage of some sort. She extends her left hand towards him, a small rucksack in it.
Provisions for your journey, doctor.
Ulriel appears behind Sariel, with a travel cloak, backpack and a walking stick. Ana floats beside him, settled in the center of a set of green glyphs that orbited her while she slept, suspended in thin air.
You will not journey alone, my apprentice, Ulriel shall accompany you to Theon.
I don’t know you well, but for what hospitality and help you offered us, I can only offer my gratitude. How can we ever repay you?
There is no need, doctor, we do what we can. However, before you leave, a word of advice, if I may?
One is defined by the choices made. They come with responsibility and consequences, and the greater the power you have, the harder the choices become. That which you carry is the embodiment of choice itself, so be accountable for all that you do.
I’ll pay heed to that.
She knew about the crystal!
Tell me, what more do you know of the crystal?
I cannot say any more. My oath forbids me.
It was worth a shot. A moment of silence passed between them, with Ulriel making final preparations for the trek ahead.
What about you guys here? Will you be able to hold off those abominations?
We will hold the sentinels off while you make your journey. Forget all that you saw, no mortal deserves to live with that burden.
She reaches out with her right hand. Heimler takes it, reciprocating the firm grip as they shook hands.
Farewell, Dr. Heimler. Aishthela-Ivranah, and may our paths never have to cross again.
Sariel leaves towards a group of soldiers standing by the village center. Heimler sighs and slings the pack over his back, then looks at Ulriel.
If I may ask, is your master always that cryptic?
Yes, quite often.
Over the course of the first hour, Heimler tries to pry more out of Ulriel, but he refuses to continue the topic. And so the first half of the day passed by uneventfully. Their trek from Heija took them uphill, towards the hills that dotted the end of the mountain range.
The shadow of the valley blocks out the afternoon sun, leaving the party in shadow. Light at this time of the year does not last long, and winter nights in this part of Vanar were colder than that of Anaya. A gentle breeze gushes through the valley, already freezing cold in the presence of winter, though oddly enough there was no snowfall. Heimler shrugs off the cold, anything was better than being out in the ice-cold ocean when the abominations attacked. Ahead of him, Ulriel deftly leaps ahead, scouting for a possible campsite.
A grunt from the left catches Heimler’s attention. He turns to see Ana looking around, confused.
Thank Rathia, are you feeling better?
Oh, hey dad.
A moment passes between father and daughter. She doesn’t move much.
Yeah, I’m better, just a little…dazed right now.
That’s great, though you had me worried for a second. Need help getting on your feet?
Ana realizes her floating situation, and pirouettes till her feet float above the ground. As if Sariel’s strange healing spell understood her condition, the glyphs orbiting Ana slowly dissipate into energy, green flakes that float upwards as they fade from existence. Ana’s feet slowly lower down, landing on solid ground.
Neat. Hey dad, where are we?
Over here! I found us a spot!
Who’s that guy?
Dinner consisted of bread, cheese, cured meats, and greens, according to Ulriel, all were preserved with magic. Sitting around the fire, the three bask in the warmth. Settled behind a large outcropping, it provided cover from the wind, which helped in keeping the fire going. Introductions were brief and warm.
Thank you, Ulriel, and your master, too. That was the best healing spell I’d ever had.
You’re welcome, Ana. We gotta look out for each other, amirite?
I think we should be out of earshot from the village.
What do you mean?
Well, the hills and forests around Heija are warded. If anyone so as much enters, or casts a spell, we’d know.
Wait so you came to us as soon my teleportation spell landed us here?
Nah, that was pure coincidence that we’re out hunting when you guys showed up.
That’s some luck you got there, sweetie.
Ulriel and Heimler chuckle as Ana shakes her head, a smile on her face.
Ah, kids grow up so quickly these days. What about your parents, Ulriel?
Oh, my father died years ago. Mother’s in Theon, and that’s where I’m headed.
So why do you live in Heija?
Well, we don’t get along that much, and besides, I wanted to study magic under Sariel anyway.
I see. I can’t say the same for you, but sometimes I guess we take family for granted.
Maybe. What about your mother?
She passed away 8 years ago. Mom’s all I got left.
No other relatives?
None that I know of. Can’t be helped that dad disappeared 8 years ago.
I mean, that sucked, and I didn’t understand it all for a while. But after mom passed away, and you never showed up, I just really hated you for a long time. But after that, my anger got replaced by numbness, and to be honest you were dead to me.
That must’ve been hard.
Yeah. But running into dad on my current assignment, I was initially suspicious at first so I played along.
Ana turns to face her father.
I was in shock and really mad when you explained why you did what you did. I mean, you could have asked us for help on the Navori, we’d stand a better chance together.
A tense silence came over the campfire.
It hurts to say this, but looking back, we just didn’t know any better.
After what we’ve been through, it’s just not worth losing my only family. For all that’s worth, I still love you. Thanks for saving me back there.
I love you too, sweetie.
They embraced, a warm hug trying to make up for the lost 8 years.
You should try talking to your mother sometime.
What happened between you both?
The expression on Ulriel’s face was a distant, forlorn one.