Chronicled by Dro'gan NiteFlier
Disclaimer: Some characters copyrighted by Naoko Takeuchi, Toei Animation, and Kodansha. I'm still not idiot enough to claim them. Some elements were taken from the game Lords of Magic, copyright Sierra Games and Impressions Studios.
I heave a great yawn as I place the tome back on the shelf.
My eyelids blinking closed in sleep, I stumble into the next room and onto my bed. The mattress creaks familiarly, and I do not bother to even take off my clothes or pull the covers over me.
My master is a hard taskmaster, true, but I like to think that I am even harder on myself. Like all novices here at the Tower of Air, I must help my master in his tasks, and Sandoval is the Chief Recorder and sits on the Council himself. All the notes and transcripts he makes must be copied down from his shorthand script, and made into more legible writing.
Tedious, tiring, and most especially, time-consuming work.
Even after being his apprentice for three months, Sandoval remains a mystery to me. I know that he is somewhat sympathetic to the cause of Cirrus and Mochal, but other than that, I know nothing of the giant's disposition.
Well, other than that he can make quite a lot of words seem like little with his shorthand.
Sleep, sleep for tonight. Soon it will be dawn.
I pull my cloak tighter around me as I continue swiftly walking across the dunes of snow. I can see other giants and fairies going in the same direction as we, and for likely the same purpose.
In the distance, through the clear air, I can see it, jutting up from the highest peak on Urak.
The Great Temple of Air.
Its twin spirals helix up into the air, the tops of which holds several great spheres. The sun glimmers through wires that I can barely see, but are each probably wider than I am tall. No one knows who created each of the eight Great Temples, but to each Faith, they are a beacon.
Master Sandoval's great strides eat the distance between us and the Temple, and had it not been for Wind Walk, I would have been left behind long ago. The spell is draining to use, but it is good practice for me.
"Master!" I call. "Will we make it by the noontide?"
Sandoval looks down to me, not ceasing his steps. "Yes, apprentice. There is still much time, for the Calling does not start until the Alignment is in place. Most of those you see around us are not speeding in their stride; it merely seems so because of the distance." He pointed to a band of fairies, "They, for instance. They are moving not a quarter as fast as we, although they could match us if they chose. Do not worry, apprentice. We shall be there in time to help set up the crystal formations, much less the Calling itself."
I shiver as he falls silent. The prior week, I had been studying the Calling, and all that it entails.
Once every five years, save only in times of war, all those of the Faith came to the Great Temple to worship, and to see if the great Frost Drake will awaken from its thousand year sleep. A multitude of crystals are procured using tithes to the Temple, and are set into specific patterns, sometimes to keep the Drake peacefully sleeping, and in others as an attempt to wake the legendary creature.
It was that purpose that made me vastly uncomfortable, for I remember another place of crystal formations, and the summoning of a different creature.
Sandoval leaves me to my thoughts, and I let him be. Our relationship is an odd one among the Tower, for we do not communicate with words. An odd thing for the Chief Recorder, but true: he does not speak unless necessary. I am truly surprised by his loquaciousness in answering my question. But then, for the teaching of spells, there is not much to say, only to be shown. Too, we are comfortable with each other, the great giant and I, the seemingly human girl.
That is something that still surprises me. Not one of the sorcerers at the Tower has even inquired about the illusion that keeps my appearance as a human. Perhaps they find the slight stirrings of Life magics beneath their notice, or perhaps they think it is some spell that Sandoval has placed on me.
I don't really care. It keeps them from asking questions, and that is all that matters.
Sandoval has seen me without it, I believe. I have taken to dropping it on occasion, trying to tweak the spell to be less noticeable, and to add certain triggers to it. In the early days, as well, I could not hold it up while I was sleeping, and if he checked my bedroom during those weeks, he would have seen golden hair instead of brown.
I look up at the Great Temple. It seems that we are almost there, for I can only see the top if I crane my head back. As I look at the base, however, I can see that it is still a few miles off, for I can just barely see the small moving dots on the ground that are giants. I sigh, and continue walking steadily beside my master.
The dots of giants slowly grow larger, and I see that other dots up in the air have appeared. Fairies, either arriving or making ready some of the crystals that must be placed in special holders some ways up the towering Temple. Perhaps still a mile off, I can see the grouping of sorcerers that direct them, as well as their apprentices who work on those holders nearer the ground.
It takes a bit of work and coordination, for there are a multitude of holders for all kinds of rituals, only a few still remembered, and even fewer that the diagrams are available for.
Sandoval and I finally reach the gathering of sorcerers that are handing out crystals and directing their helpers. I see Mochal helping with the wagon that brought the load of crystal. He waves back and strides over.
"Lord Sandoval, please accept my greetings." Mochal bows to my master, and Sandoval nods in return. Sandoval eyes me for a moment, and I nod, accepting his decree. Mochal watches confusedly as Sandoval turns and walks to the main grouping of sorcerers.
"I have the strangest feeling that something went on and it passed me by."
I laugh at Mochal for his interpretation. "No, Mochal," I tell him. "That's just the way that Master Sandoval is. He hears enough words spoken. He doesn't need to add to the babble." I smile and turn to him. "And how are you, Lord Mochal?"
Mochal gives a short laugh. "None of that now, Krystal. I am pleased that you have taken a liking to your teacher. I am wondering though, how much has he taught you?"
I grimace. "In every letter from Talapin, he asks the same thing. I am progressing well enough, according to my Master, and at a breakneck speed if you would listen to Lord Erath and his party." I shake my head and shrug. "There is no pleasing that idiotic fool! At every turn, he is either complaining to the Council, or tying up the spellgrounds so that I may not practice!"
The giant shrugged as well. "How has your master been taking such?"
I grin. "Let me put it this way: Master Sandoval's duties keep him in the Tower nigh constantly, but he has an amazing hunger for some sweet or other that the people down in Ka'Otica make." I wink at Mochal. "Since he does not believe that he should tie up Tower resources for a personal desire, he sends his apprentice to town to fetch it."
Mochal snorted, trying to conceal his mirth. "And I suppose that since the road from the Tower to the Capitol is already saturated with magic, no one notices a bit more?"
I roll my eyes, and place my hands behind my head. "Well, the only spell I don't get much practice in is Wind Walk, and I had to use that all the way here!"
Mochal did laugh now. "Ah, but a sorcerer or sorceress must be well accomplished in all the spells of the Way!"
I nod in acceptance. "I know. But the spring games are only a few weeks away!"
Mochal nodded. "Yes, and I am sure that you shall take the Wind Scepter this year."
My eyes widen, and I turn to Mochal. "Are you insane? I've barely been four months in the Tower, and to take the Scepter, I would have to beat those who are almost ready to pass through the Storm Ritual!"
Mochal nodded. "Yet you shall win it. I am sure!"
I sigh and shake my head. There is no convincing him. "Is there anything new that I have not heard from Talapin?" I ask.
Mochal pauses for a moment. "Yes. I received a scroll containing a spell that the Tower claims to have just unearthed."
I groan. The giant looks to me. "Are you sad because they did not put it in your name? You did create this spell."
I nod. "It's not that. I had hoped to be able to keep it for myself, but it seems that it was not to be."
Mochal shook his head. "You should know better. If it is a spell of the Way, then it belongs to the Tower. You could not keep it to yourself."
I nod. "Are you able to perform it?"
Suddenly the giant has a sickly grin on his face. "Er, Oh, Talapin sends his… Um…."
I look up at him, my arms crossed and my foot tapping the ground. "Um?" I ask.
Mochal deflates. "No." He shakes a finger at me. "But you should not be surprised! I am well past my learning days, and you, child… What now?"
I am grinning like a maniac.
"Not one! Not a single giant that I have asked has been able to complete the Breeze Blade!" I am ready to jump for joy, for if Mochal, who was the first sorcerer to know me, could not do it, then perhaps I will be able to keep it for myself!
Mochal shakes his head. "Krystal! Do not be that glad, for what if a sorcerer were fighting our enemies and could not use that spell to cut them down? Would you take up his death merely because you would not have another able to complete it?"
I stop grinning. I had not thought of it like that. "I…"
We both look up as the wind whispers. "It is time." Mochal intones. I nod, and rush off to my master.
At precisely midday, light from the sun strikes through the helix formed by the Great Temple. Reflecting off mirrors and crystal, it is shed in a rainbow down to the ground and the device waiting there. The device again reflects the light upwards to still more crystal, and finally it comes to rest on one of the giant spheres at the tip of the Temple.
For a full minute and a half, the light remains, until the sun moves out of position and it winks out.
The assembled, a vast multitude of those who worship the Air, give a great sigh of awe, and slowly begin to break away from the Temple, moving to the grounds nearby that have been set up for the Festival.
I am told that when the Calling and the Spring Games occur on the same day, it is truly a sight to behold. But for now, the two events are separated by half a moon. Half a moon for me to prepare to take the Wind Scepter, the highest trophy any novice of the Way can attain.
But for now, the festival!
I am happily stuffed as I lay back upon the thick roof of the pavilion. Sandoval rented it out for us two for the night, for tomorrow we will be going back to the Tower, where I am determined to look up the charts for the crystal placement in the Great Temple. An idea has pricked the back of my mind, but will not yet show its totality to my consciousness.
Something soft and cold touches my face. I open my eyes to see snow falling from a low-lying cloud. A very low-lying cloud. I concentrate for a moment, and see that both the cloud and the snow have been conjured up. I sit up, and look around.
There, about fifteen feet away, is a young Storm Giant. I can tell by the aura of magic he gives off that he is the cause of the cloud and snow. He doesn't bear a staff, so he must be a novice like myself. I really, really don't like the smirk on his face.
"Is there something you wished?" I call out to him.
His smirk grows bigger. "Oh, just that you would catch hypothermia and die, but it will probably take more than a little cloud to do that."
I finally recognize the overgrown moron. He is Mugsil, the apprentice of Ugreth, who himself was once the student of Erath. It seems that the giant that had so opposed my entrance to the Tower was now moving the game onto different footing.
"I'm afraid that you are correct, snow like this will not do me in." I pause, looking up at the cloud. "In fact, it reminds me of a real blizzard."
Mugsil's smirk has died a painful death. He obviously wanted to scare me, but my nonchalant reply diffused that weapon. He growls out a few words, then turns and stalks away as the cloud dissipates, leaving the last few flakes of snow to fall on my head.
This would bear careful watching.
For the first time I can remember, Master Sandoval is mad.
"What do you mean, it was canceled?" he roars at the sorcerer before him. "I made those reservations before the Calling! Now you tell me, a week later, that someone else canceled them?!"
"B-b-but sir!" the younger giant quakes, "I was told that you don't make reservations to the spellgrounds, for you had no need!"
Sandoval leaned over, getting right into the unfortunate keeper's face. "I have not made reservations before, because whenever I have had an apprentice before, there was no need!" He withdrew himself to a reasonable range. "Now you will proceed to tell whoever else has taken my reservation that you had a previous holder!"
The keeper started stuttering, "B-b-b-but th-th-th-that w-w-w-w—"
"That will make you look incompetent!" Sandoval bellows. "As it should! No sorcerer has the right to cancel another's reservation for the spellgrounds, not even if it were a novice against the Chairman of the Council!" He thrust the head of his staff into the keeper's face. "Are you telling me that I am less than even a novice?"
The keeper scrambled back, then turned and disappeared away into the grounds.
"Master?" I ask.
Sandoval takes a deep breath, and slowly stops shaking in rage. "Apologies," he says.
I nod. "Thank you, master."
Soon the keeper returns, and we are escorted into the grounds. We pass by several others on our way to the one Sandoval reserved for us, and I notice that each has wildly different terrain than the next. One is even covered in water!
The keeper finally stops at the gate to one of the grounds. He hastily unlocks it and waves us inward. Sandoval proceeds in without a single glance to the other sorcerer, and I follow quietly.
I gasp. The terrain in this part of the grounds is…
Swamp. Not like the seaside tidal swamps, or like the one I crossed while climbing the mountains; ones that are filled with living, growing things. This one has nothing, merely dark, polluted waters, with no grasses or fish.
I shiver. Although I do not worship the Faith of Life, my natural affinity for it is crying out at this sight.
Sandoval proceeds to the edge of the water, then turns and gestures me forward. I hesitantly pick my way to him, but as I near, my legs lock up, and I cannot go farther.
Sandoval nods. "Drop the illusion, Krystal."
I swallow loudly, then release the complicated spellwork that cloaks my form. Brown hair lightens to gold with a silvery sheen, features shift from hardy to delicate. I am still as I am, for I have released the magic of Life that I used.
The instant I end the spell, I feel less threatened, and within a minute, I feel there is nothing wrong. I look at my slight hands, then up at Sandoval. "Master?"
He nods. "This part of the grounds has been cultivated to appear as that most favorable to the worshipers of Death. Your illusion uses the magic of Life, so you were naturally adverse to it." He waves to the west. "Over there are the grounds that resemble Earth, and it is that which we giants have the most trouble with. I shall simply train you here as I will there." He looks down to me. "You have the unfortunate position of having two weaknesses, even though you only employ one type of magic. I only hope that you will be able to overcome them."
I take a breath, then let it out. "Master, what do you wish?"
Sandoval nods, then gestures for me to emulate him.
In Sandoval's study, he had set up a smaller desk and chair, like he had for my bedroom. I sit there now, the lights that I formed not flickering in the draft from the window. On the desk are a multitude of charts and diagrams, each depicting the Great Temple, and the various placements of crystal that can be formed there. Off to the side are my personal notebooks, written in shorthand, and so small a giant would need a magnifying glass to see.
It is nice to know that they won't be stealing my ideas.
But for now I am memorizing all the diagrams, even though not all of them have labels. That is why there are only four or five different placements that are in use today, for the others were lost to time and poor bookkeeping. I have nearly twoscore diagrams, but I know what only a half-dozen do. The rest are a mystery to me, but I still commit them, for I never know when I shall find a use for them.
I hear a soft scuffing sound, and look up from the diagrams.
Master Sandoval is standing in the doorway, watching me. I quickly stand. "Master?"
"It is late, Krystal," he intones. He strides to my desk, and looks at the diagrams and my notebooks. "An idea, apprentice?"
I nod. "Yes, master. Only not so well-formed yet. It lacks something."
He looks carefully at me. "Sometimes inspiration comes through hard thought and patience, and sometimes through desperation. We leave for the Great Temple and the Spring Games tomorrow, Krystal. Sleep now. You will have a chance to ponder while we trek there." He turns and leaves the study.
I sigh, then begin putting up the scrolls that I have taken out. Maybe Sandoval is right. I yawn. "Time enough later."
We reach the Great Temple much faster than before, or mayhap the time passes quicker when I am not paying attention to it, preferring to think on the problems and spells that my mind toy with.
When we reach there, Sandoval escorts me to be registered for the Games. I am surprised when I see a human waiting in the line. "Master, the Games are open to those not of the Way?"
He nods. "Yes. As long as they enter the competition that they are qualified for, any Faith may come. There was, nigh a hundred years ago, even a Gnome wizard that came."
I blinked. For one of the Earth Faith to come to a competition hosted by those of Air was brave indeed.
I look over the battlegrounds, noting the three areas. There are six competitions, two for each guild: Warrior, Thief, and Mage. Each guild has master and novice competitions.
The human in front of us moves to the side, and I see the staff in his hands. "A Wizard of Order," I wonder.
Then Sandoval and I are before the registrar. The fairy looks up. "You will be competing in the sorcerer's matches?" she asked Sandoval.
Sandoval shakes his head. "No, she—" He gestures to me. "—will be competing in the Magic novice's competition."
The fairy looks shocked, and I am as well when a loud bray of laughter erupts from beside us.
The three of us turned to see the Wizard of Order chuckling. "I know not what your Faith is, but I doubt that a Storm Giant would lead around a dwarf. That makes you human, child, and how old? Twelve years? Thirteen?" He snorts. "Against well-trained giants, and others? HA!" The wizard resumes laughing.
Sandoval turned to the registrar. "Well?"
The fairy blinks and quickly writes out a ticket, signing it and handing it to me. "Here. This afternoon, third line." With that, she returns to business and waves us away.
Sandoval and I walk away from the registrar and the still laughing wizard.
Not too much later, we come across Mochal and Talapin, the Warrior's face breaking out in a grin upon seeing me. He had not been able to come to the Calling, for he had been on border patrol at the time. I was glad to see him, and was happy to embrace him.
When Talapin and I are finished greeting each other, I turn to see that both Sandoval and Mochal have grins on their faces. "Apprentice, take your time." With that, Sandoval disappears into the ever-growing crowd.
"Well!" exclaims Mochal. "About time for a bit of refreshment, yeah?" He leads us over to a food stocker setting up his shop. After purchasing drinks for the three of us, we sit down on the hill overlooking the grounds and the battle areas still going through final setup. "So you are competing, Krystal?"
"Of course she is, Mochal!" Talapin says. "And she shall be sure to make top rank, if not the Scepter itself!"
I shook my head at them. "Not you, too!"
Both giants smile at me. "But of course, my daughter. We believe in you, and you shall be as none other here!"
"I'm already like none other here," I claim. "I'm the only one to have crossed Faith!"
The two of them chuckle. "That being as it is, you have an edge against your opponents. You will do well, Krystal," Mochal says.
We spend some time there, watching the activity below us. Sometime after noon, we hear the call, "All lines, one through five, please return to the registrar's tables!"
I smile, and get up to go. The two of them wish me luck, and I am off.
"No artifacts, no potions, no deathblows. Loser is the first to step out of the ring or to surrender." It is the fourth time today I hear those words, but I am ready. Unlike my previous bouts against those who practice the Way, this one is against a novice of Chaos, so I must be on my toes.
The shaman-in-training shifts her stance and gestures. I feel a strange sensation, but recognize it as a foreign influence and quickly work a counterspell, shielding myself. I can almost see the chaotic forces rebounding from it and returning to their master. The older girl squawks as the spell settles on her.
Before I can release the bolt I have prepared, she falls over, paralyzed.
I can see the judge blinking as he walks over to her and checks her. I also see her master in the crowd, hand to face and shaking her head. The judge proclaims me the victor, and hands me another chit.
I wander out of the ring as it is set up for the next pair of contestants. Sandoval is standing there, as well as Mochal and Talapin. "What happened?" I ask him.
He shrugs. "Chaos magic is very hard to control because it is variable. She might have been intending to do anything from locking your magic to putting you to sleep. When you repulsed her magic, it just settled on one form and went back to its originator." Sandoval sighs. "A truly hard art to master."
Mochal looks at the two Chaos Shamans. "It is quite good that she did not decide to summon something. That could have been disastrous."
I blink. "Summon? Like at the Tower?"
Sandoval shakes his head. "No, apprentice. Not quite. The summonings that we do there are stabilized through the use of crystal, but it is possible to summon, say, an Air Elemental temporarily." He looks at me. "I believe a demonstration is in order. Come, your next fight is not for a time."
The four of us wander away from the battlegrounds, toward an unpopulated area.
After Sandoval and Mochal impress Talapin and myself with summoning different magical beings, I ask my master about the summoning rituals that take place at the Great Temple. He tells me that Ice Dragons can be summoned with the use of crystal, but not without, and not anywhere but at the Great Temple.
I ponder this during my fifth and final match of the night, but do not let it distract me. I am given a chit for the semi-finals on the morn, and go with the others for a bit of fun before sleep. I need to pick something up from one of the shopkeepers as well.
I am glad that Sandoval and Mochal gave me mana potions, for even if I cannot use them during the fight, there is no rule that says I cannot use them between fights. Right now, that is the only reason I am still on my feet.
I had to pull out every spell, trick, and theorem I know to win the semi-final match, and it drained me. But I am now quite popular, and quite disliked, for there is only one fight left in my competition.
Mugsil and I, for the Wind Scepter.
I hear the call for us, and I look at my three supporters. They each smile in encouragement, and Mochal says, "I told you. Now go and bring back the Scepter!"
I stride with confidence to the ring.
Spell and counter, block, dodge, avert. Mugsil has a deeper reserve than I, and he uses it mercilessly. For every spell I throw at him, he gives back three. I am nearing my last, but I know that he is as well.
It is perhaps worth it, to see the look on not only his face, but Erath's, who is standing behind him.
My breath comes in short gasps, my legs burn to hold me up. My head feels as if it will explode if I cast again.
Mugsil's face is twisted in rage, and he screams at me. "You filthy human! You defile the Way with your spells! FALL, DAMN YOU!" He draws in a breath, and throws his hand across his body as he yells, "BREEZE BLADE!!"
My eyes widen as I see the blade of compressed air racing towards me. There is no spell that I can cast fast enough to deflect it, but…
My legs bend, screaming pain at me. Then I leap, somersaulting over the deadly spell. I barely hear it crash into the hillside behind me as I struggle to stay standing after I land.
I steady myself, then scream at my opponent. "You say something like that; you claim that I am unworthy of the Way, yet you use MY OWN SPELL AGAINST ME!"
I scarcely hear the crowd of sorcerers at this, for they did not know where the spell came from. I can see the judge waving his hands trying to get us to stop.
I care not for that, as I hear Mugsil yell again, "BREEZE BLADE!" This one comes at me vertically, and I dodge to the side. The judge and others and yelling at us now, for it is obvious that he is not dulling the blades. I lift my head to see Mugsil, but instead, look behind him.
The Great Temple stands there, helixing up to the sun, which stands almost at zenith. I see the reflection of light off of one of the great spheres hanging at its tip.
I take a breath. That's it.
All this thought takes me less than a second, but I can see Mugsil preparing another Blade. I turn away from him suddenly, and pace two steps.
I feel the magic from him stop. He is confused, and perhaps he holds enough decency to not kill me from behind.
I concentrate. Spells and diagrams from my notebooks come to my mind, and I pick out four: Lightning, a crystal formation, Elemental Summon, and from my secret scrolls of Life: Gift.
Concentrating the last of my reserve, I begin working, blending, taming, forging a spell. My arms cross as I raise them, coming to rest above me, and with a crack not heard but felt, a ball of lightning forms between my palms.
I can hear nothing now, and do not pay attention to anything but the spell. To lose sight of it now would most likely kill me.
The ball grows, until my palms are forced away, yet the still contain it above my head. The spellweave is almost complete. All that is needed now are the words.
My voice is ragged as I cry out, "Thunder—!"
I snap my hands down to my sides, releasing the egg straight up, and I shout with all my strength, "—DRAGON!!"
The egg of lightning bursts from the inside, and as the shell is thrown away it reveals…
Lightning formed into scales, claws as sharp as a light itself, the great maw filled with shining teeth. It is huge, three times as high as Talapin, its great wings beating the air as it floats.
I halfway turn to Mugsil, and can see the blank look of shock on his face, and on those behind him. I point to the ground in from of him, and am beset by a curious double sense, as I suddenly feel.
Wings beating, claws outstretched. Crackling coming from my scales. The crowd around the two looking up in awe. One of the two with a look of panic on his face, the other, smaller, pointing near him. I open my mouth, and a roar of thunder escapes as I blast the innocent land before him.
He staggers back, falling, crawling to get away, several in that part of the crowd not only letting him out of the ring, but running with him. It is good.
I gasp as I see Mugsil running from two viewpoints, then fall to my knees, feeling/hearing the dragon land above me/over my mistress. I stare at the ground, on my hands and knees/I look around, as I protect her. I hear the roar of thunder/I cry out my challenge to those who would harm the one that I protect.
I see that the crowd is cowed, either rooted in place by fear, or wonder. But wait! There are three who are approaching! I hiss at them, crackling my warning, but strangely, I feel kinship to each of them. The largest spreads his hands, showing that he means no harm, despite the great sword on his back. The other two copy him, and one holds out a flask.
A part of me desires what is in the flask, trusting implicitly in the one holding it, and his companions. I rear back my head and nod them nearer.
The one with the flask has an aura of old magic, and I feel great respect for him. He starts to walk around my leg, but I growl, and he takes a step back. He gestures with the flask, motioning that he wishes to give it to my mistress.
That same part of me that trusts/respects this being wants what is in that flask, and I realize that that part of me is my mistress.
I move my leg, letting him pass, and but watch him as he gently picks up my mistress and cradles her, putting the flask to her lips. A feeling of strength now flows from the part of me that is her, and I acknowledge that the being is friendly. I am suddenly touched by…
I feel Sandoval's arms around me as I look up into the eyes of the creature I had created. I am still seeing/hearing/feeling/smelling what the dragon senses, but it is dimmer now, and I realize that while I had asserted a barrier between us, the bond we now shared was unbreakable.
"Sandoval," I whisper. He leans over to hear me, but does not block my sight of the dragon. "It is me. I took a part of myself and made it into it… No. Her."
"Can you take it back?" He asks. I shake my head. "Well, what shall we do then?"
I blink, and my mind drags up the completed spell I had forged, then cast. I smile, and Sandoval looks at me curiously. I get out of Sandoval's lap, and wobbly stand. Sandoval moves near, in case I fall again, but I will not need it. I hope.
I stretch my hands out to the dragon, and she brings her great head down. I cradle what I can of her head, and place my eyes near hers. "Come back to me now, come back."
There is a crackle of ozone, and an inrush of air as the dragon disappears.
I blink, and realize that Sandoval was right to stay near, as I fall into darkness.
Who am I?
A creation, but one created by me, and one holding a part of me.
Will you care for me?
Of course. To be otherwise would forsake those I promised before.
If you want, my great one.
I wake slowly, my body feeling too small for me, especially after the double sense of being her as well. I open my eyes to four faces I know well.
Talapin, my father. Mochal, my first teacher. Sandoval, my master. Cederic, my old wizard friend.
I groan and try to rise, but feel the Wizard of Order's hands press me down. "There, there, Chrys, you've used up quite a bit of your magical and mental strength. It is better that you rest for now."
"Cederic! It is you. But how?" My mind is a-jumble. The last time I saw Cederic, he was wandering through Winged Haven, years ago.
He chuckles. "That is a story indeed! I'm surprised that I did not recognize you when we met earlier, but I see now that you did not realize that it was me, either."
I remember now. Cederic had been the wizard that laughed at me when Sandoval had entered me in the competition. "But why are you here?" I ask, curious.
"Ah!" he begins with a twinkle in his eye. "Every few years I come to the Games to see if I can make a few coins, either betting on gamers or competing myself. When I first saw you, it took me almost an hour to realize where I had recognized you from, and believe you me! That took me for quite a spin when I matched you to the precocious little girl in the Elven lands!"
Talapin leaned over. "He claimed that he knew you, but until he told us the name 'Chrys', we would not let him near you."
"And well you shouldn't have!" exclaimed the wizard. "For all you might have known, I could have been sent from the poor loser's sponsor, to make sure that this girl wouldn't be up for the awards ceremony!"
Talapin grinned. "So you say we should throw you out? Come here, then."
As the wizard scrambled back from the giant's grasp, the other two burst into laughter at their antics. I tried to keep myself from laughing, for it hurt too much now.
Eventually the wizard and the warrior settle down, giving each other mock glares. If I didn't know better, I could swear that the pair are old friends. I note this, and am a bit surprised by Cederic's answer.
"Not quite old friends, but acquaintances certainly. We were part of a joint effort to drive away a band of raiders some years ago." He sighs. "Not all of our comrades came back from that, unfortunately…" He suddenly straightens, and the glint returns to his eye. "Enough of old times, though. High time to celebrate our champion!"
I blink. "What do you mean?"
Sandoval laughs. "Mugsil broke the rules by attempting a killing blow. Thus he forfeited the Championship to you, and your actions after that were considered self defense." He grins and nods out of the tent. "You took nearly every sorcerer there for a spin when you claimed ownership of the Breeze Blade, but when you summoned that dragon, they had no choice but to believe you." His face darkens. "Erath and his cronies are making a fuss as usual. But you should not worry about that now. The Game Masters have declared you the winner of the Wind Scepter. And if I am not mistaken, it is almost time for the award ceremony." He and the others stand. "Can you make it?"
I lever myself out of the bed. "To see the look on their faces? Of course!"
Erath was perhaps even more pissed to see me able to not only accept the Scepter, but able to hold the massive artifact up.
When I return to my friends, they give a cheer and many others near echo it. I feel happier than I ever have before.
We return to our tent, but then Cederic asks a curious question. "Chrys, you look a bit different than when I saw you yesterday. A bit more delicate, more elfin, if you will."
This causes the giants to look at me closely, and they too make the connection.
I smile, twirling a finger around a lock of my brown hair. "I knew that I would likely need all of my magic, so I went to a shopkeeper last night and bought a bit of hair dye." I look up at them. "The illusion spell hasn't been in effect since dawn."
The giants look at each other, noting that from their perspective, they were not like to notice something so small as the individual features of my face if there was naught different. Cederic smiles himself. "That was quite clever, my dear." He hesitates. "May I ask… will you ever again take up the name Chrysanthemum?"
The giants are not the only ones to be shocked. "How? How did you know that I was—?"
The wizard smiles. "One hears things, my lady. Odd things, like the daughter of one of the Great Houses preferring the company of travelers of other Faiths to her own kind. Like curious news of bands of priestesses searching for a girl who escaped from their Faith's Tower. Like hearing that the girl was but a ruse, when even more had fled in the priestess's inattention. Like a complete investigation of the priestesshood by the Elven King, to find out why such measures were necessary for a single girl." His smile turns sad. "Why were they, Chrys? I can feel something different about you now, something that was there when I first met you all those years ago, something that I noted missing when I first saw you again with Sandoval here. What is it, Chrys?"
My heart closed, and I turn away. "How do you summon a unicorn?" I ask softly.
I could almost see them looking at each other, wondering what I was talking of. "How?" came from one of them.
"Do not… Do not… Don't make me remember!" I shout. I collapse to the ground, curling into a ball, tears running down my face.
I feel giant hands lift me up, and soothing words spoken to my closed ears. I care not to hear what platitudes they can offer, for what is it compared to what was stolen?
I can take it back! I can take it back for you, for it is also me!
But what would that matter, when the unicorn itself is not at fault?
I will make it return what it has taken, then search for those who did it!
One is already gone.
Yes! By your/my hands/claws!
Others? Could perhaps the priestesses cleanse themselves?
I will make sure of it!
We will make sure of it.
I open my eyes to see Talapin's face near mine. He says nothing now, merely looks at me with unshed tears, for he knows that no sympathy he offers will be enough.
I nod, and take a breath. "I have a mission now, and I still must avenge at least one of my sisters."
He frowns slightly, then nods. "In time, daughter, in time."
I slowly get up, and pick up the Scepter. "You know, if you change the balance on this thing, it might make a pretty good warhammer."
Talapin snorts as the three magic-users look on blankly. "I see that since you have crossed Faiths of Magic, you think it would be no trouble to cross guilds as well!"
"Well…" I grin. "Shouldn't be that hard."
To be continued.
|Layout, design, & site revisions © 2005||
Webmaster: Larry F