The shriek echoes through the mountains, shattering the silence of the night.
Sariel gets up from her desk, jolted fully awake by the alarms sounding. Stretching, she makes towards the door, and with a wave of her hand, pieces of her sleek, ornate armor fly from the rack in her room and attach themselves to her leather suit. Buckles clasp and tighten, linkages clink as they were fitted together by invisible hands. Small lines and glyphs in her armor flicker to life as Sariel’s armor finishes connecting to her, and a green magic circle draws itself into existence behind her back.
Walking towards the village entrance, she look around to see her people already getting into their positions. Warriors with Zanjians stood in formation by the village fountain, ready for combat that they had not seen in a thousand years. For a second, Sarile wondered if they were ready for the coming battle, a thousand years being a long time since their last war.
Her doubts cleared when she saw Fenrel at the head of the column, expaining their battle plan through arcane holograms, as curt and straight to the point as he was all those years ago. Sariel takes a place behind him as he finishes. With a final command, the squad of warriors ease up in their formation. He turns to face her, and bows deeply before adressing her.
“Good to see you trooping again, Colonel.”
“Aye, although I thought the time for fighting was past our kind a long time ago.”
“I wish it were so, but the arrival of the mortal, Heimler, and his daughter changes things. Their memories are a sign.”
“Even the elders seem to agree with you. I for one hope that it is but a false alarm.”
“Nay, fickle mortal minds may be, but I assure you their recollections were accurate enough. Our familiars did find a wreckage at the origin point of their teleportation, followed by a trail of destruction through the mountains, no doubt headed our way.”
“My humble apologies, Lady Sariel. I do not intend to question you, but merely to see the facts for myself.”
Fenrel does not speak as Sariel waves her left hand in a crescent motion twice. A brief flicker emerges from her fingertips, and her memories of recent events appear in Fenrel’s mindscape.
“Avya-Evran, my lady.”
“We cannot allow our mistakes to further destroy this planet, Fenrel. I intend this to be our last battle if possible.”
Fenrel closes his eyes and quickly sifts through his memories, like speed-reading a book.
“Who do you think is behind this? Who in question is making a mockery of our race?”
“The method which the sentinels subjugated the souls in that vessel… my suspicions point towards Lyvran. It seems like his handiwork.”
“Is he not imprisoned in Xalav?”
“If memory serves, I see no reason how he could have broken out. I’ve sent Ulriel to Theon to inform Reyna of recent developments.”
“If I may ask, who is she?”
“The one who took Lyvran down.”
“Forgive my ignorance, I was not aware of it. That does seem like a wise move indeed.”
“That fact was never made public in the first place due to her wishes. However, I intend to visit Xalav after this. You will join me.”
The ground rumbles as Fenrel’s words were cut off by another shriek, this time loud enough to be earsplitting. The men gathered covered their ears, but it did not dampen the sonic scream from hurting their heads. Against the mountain face, a colossal serpentine silhoutte slithers towards their village, an infernal aura preceding its warpath.
Fenrel and his men get up on their feet as Sariel begins casting a spell.
“Be steadfast, Colonel. The Ascended fight once more.”
Well, mother claims that my father died when I was young, but I seriously doubt it. I’ve never seen him, nor does she ever talk about him.
You think he’s still out there?
The look on Ana’s face was one of mild intrigue. Perhaps she was comparing the similarities between her teenage self and the man before her.
Is that why you left to study under Sariel?
Sariel is one of the most powerful mages among our people. I’m still a novice at magic, and if I were to have a chance of finding my father, I need all the help I can get.
Does your mother or Sariel know about this?
No, but don’t tell them either.
But aren’t you headed to Theon to see your mother?
I only intend to deliver Sariel’s letter to her, nothing more. Maybe gather supplies, but after that I’ll be heading back to Sariel’s for a month or more, then I’ll set off on my own.
Do you know where you want to go after all that?
There was a pause as the flickering flames illuminated Ulriel’s face, highlighting his features; a strong jaw combined with deep-set eyes and a slim nose. Ulriel’s maroon eyes glared at the flames, his gaze full of intent, as if he wanted incinerate the campfire by staring at it.
Heimler knew the look. It was one of utter determination bordering stupidity, and damned be anyone getting in his way. It was not desperation to escape an (unavoidable) fate, but rather a fiery desire to seek a truth which he had been denied. Heimler saw himself in the kid, the first half of his life ending with the former.
The former driven by desperation, the latter driven by determination.
Were the Navori even real? He had no doubt of what had happened to his colleagues, but after his escape to Lanthara from west Surtnar there were no more attempts on his life. Years passed and he felt like a fool for running away from home, but broke as he was, he could only continue researching, which paid nothing. He had to still be careful, living under his means, just barely getting by. Even if Heimler wanted to go home, financial and security reasons meant that he couldn’t.
With the mysterious crystal in his travel cloak, he was certain that any attempt made on his life would not work. Evidenced by his improved strength, constitution and reduced migraines, Heimler was certain in the possibility that learning a little bit of magic could make him near invulnerable. Going to Theon also doubled as part of his map to freedom, he was sure of it. Find out what makes the crystal tick, learn magic, replicate the phenomena himself and patent the idea, then all his problems would be out the window. He’d then live somewhere nice and safe, and from there he’d try and rebuild his life, then live long enough to meet Ana’s future family, play with his grandchildren. Besides, he’d always wanted to learn how to play the flavern after all…
He saw a reflection of himself in Ulriel. Two people seeking answers in their lives.
I’m with you, Ulriel. I’ll try and help you out whenever I can.