By Alicia Steen
Year After Shadow Two Thousand Ninety-Eight.
I am Vytria Alice, a wind wizard, and I live on the Fifth Resource World of the Nilonian Empire. That just about sums up my life, for the Nilonian Empire hates wizards. I have lived this long by keeping my abilities secret from the Nirad, Nilonia’s dark assassins. Today, however, everything has changed. I race through the air, spinning away from explosions that try to catch me. Once I reach the mountain, I can leave my pursuers far behind. They have to climb it on foot.
I must get there. One last time.
Year After Shadow Two Thousand Ninety-Four.
To get there, you lean to the left of the mountain foot path until you find yourself lost. Then keep going in and upwards direction ‘til the trees abandon the mottled grey stone that becomes the peak of the mountain. Run your hand along the stone, and you’ll find a crack that leads to a small path which bends around two sharp, short curves. You’ll find it right in front of you. The half barren tree in the nearly green glen almost enclosed by pale patchwork stone.
I come here every day as soon as I can, as I have for a year now. It’s actually a historical site that everyone in the town either has forgotten or does not care to remember. Over a thousand years ago our Guardian died battling a Nirad, whose fifth successor still rules us. The tree is our Guardian’s gravestone. Strangely enough, this is the only place that feels truly alive. Only here does magic still linger in the air.
A different presence is here. It’s not a Nirad, but it feels no less deadly. The dark presence stays in my peripheral vision; the one place they tell you never to look. Cyran, where are you?
I’m fine. I’ll find a way to survive this.
I sense a strike. Training with Cyran has taught me that what I lack on the ground I make up for in the air. My wind allows me to perform a backflip, easily avoiding the strike. Wait, is that black fur?
All I see is a blur of black as the creature retreats to my peripheral again. No matter. I want to see it about as badly as it desires to be seen. I dodge again, and once more. Cyran was right; my magical reflexes are significantly faster than my physical ones.
As much as I’m enjoying flying inches from death, I need to find a way to end this. If Cyran hasn’t showed up yet, I can’t count on him to kill it.
The dead branch almost ready to fall comes to mind. It’s large enough to do the job, but just light enough for my wind to move it. The only problem then is hitting the creature when I don’t know where it is.
Ah, but I do know where it is. The moment before it strikes me.
This is insane.
I maneuver so the branch is roughly in a straight line with me and the creature. As soon as it strikes I jump as before, but this time I also blast the branch toward the creature. A yelp confirms a hit. I fully see the creature for the first time. It’s a dark wolf. The kind with glowing yellow eyes, gleaming white teeth, and a howl that steals your soul.
We don’t have any in this area.
I only know of them through whispered tales. Worse still, they are known for getting the last bite. The dark wolf somehow lunges for me. My muscles lock up, but my magic keeps working. I summon – something, and force it toward the glowing eyes. The creature falls on me and doesn’t move. I try to shove aside the mass of black fur, but it’s too heavy.
Cyran, get over here!
Year After Shadow Two Thousand Ninety-Eight.
I stare fondly at my black dagger. When Cyran finally arrived, he lifted the wolf off me, but only after asking how long I intended to lay there. The jerk. We found this dagger stuck in the head of the wolf. I still have no idea where it came from. I run a hand over the words inscribed on the blade. Never Alone.
My dagger saved me that day and many times after. Whether or not I used it, it became my inspiration to wield my winds with confidence no matter the opponent.
Year After Shadow Two Thousand Ninety-Seven.
This is bad. Okay, I’ve said that before, but this time it’s true. In front of me is the enemy I hoped to never face.
A dim light that hides more than it reveals isn’t a problem; I have learned to follow movement through the air. A full moon says the sunrise will not be soon. I’m not afraid of the night. The four walls of this empty storage building has my wind enclosed. That’s only an issue if I let it be. Probably. Cyran is fighting elsewhere, but that’s more of an asset. That jerk messes me up more than he helps.
The factor that makes all of these a really bad situation is the Nirad in front of me. They excel in the dim of night, and an enclosed space gives them plenty of area to maneuver. They may have been beaten once or twice, but never in their element. I reflexively put a hand on my dagger.
Never Alone. He Who Whispers, please show up strongly in my wind.
I move my hand from my dagger. Its black blade was coveted by this Nirad the moment he saw it, but he cannot have it. It is my treasure, my promise. He will not have it. Let this mark the end of the Nirad’s winning streak.
Year After Shadow Two Thousand Ninety-Eight.
The rest of that memory is a bit of a blur. Literally. In that enclosed space I managed to summon a gale that blew the Nirad, the building, and much of the ground surrounding sky high. Cyran obscured the signs so other Nirad wouldn’t find us. After that stories of dark creatures challenging Nirad in the night started drifting in. We ourselves saw no change, but there was a definite shift in the attitude of the Nirad. They were less confident than before.
I’ve never had trouble wielding wind inside buildings since.
Cyran is coming. The shouts of the townspeople are further behind him. Though Cyran and I trained in magic only in this glen, they all knew we were wizards. Though magic was outlawed under Nilonian rule, as long as it didn’t affect them they wouldn’t go through the bother of turning us in. That balance changed the day Nilonia’s power vanished.
Year After Shadow Two Thousand Ninety-Eight. Sunrise.
“Cyran!” After years of searching for him, I knew exactly where he’d be. Under the house, sleeping. “Cyran!” I wait in front of the house. There’s no way I’m crawling after him again. I’d rather lift up the house.
As soon as his blond head appears I fill him in. “A landslide crushed Cain’s leg.” He knows better than to ask what I want him to do about it. Cyran’s actually a brilliant healer; he’s just not interested in scrapes and sprains. Neither are the villagers keen to have him use magic on them.
Cyran crawls out the rest of the way. “Couldn’t you stop it?”
“I didn’t get there soon enough. I managed to divert most of it away from his land.” I’d decided a year ago there was no point in having magic if I didn’t use it when I could. Out of respect for the townspeople’s wishes, I just make sure to wield wind when they aren’t looking. “He’s passed out at the moment, so you have time if I take you.”
Cyran stands up. He probably wouldn’t help out at all if I didn’t ask, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t willing. “Let’s go.” At his nod, I fly us to Cain as quickly as I can without taxing myself. Cain’s land is more vertical than horizontal, with two clearings in the trees for his house and his mine. When we set down near Cain’s body, Cyran touches the ground to make sure it’s there. “I’ll never get used to that.” He moves to begin examining Cain.
I smile. I’ll never get tired of his reaction either. When Cyran moves his hands to the leg still under the boulder, I fill the silence. “You told me not to move anything when a limb is trapped.”
Cyran nods. “You can move it now.”
I close my eyes and take a deep breath. When I’m not angry or upset, it takes concentration to move a boulder that big. I imagine a fist pounding the rock; then open my eyes. My wind responds.
And the rock shatters. Oops.
Cyran, long since used to this by now, continues working on Cain. “Did you use that dagger again?” I feel the sheath, and sure enough, the dagger is missing. My dagger has become so in tune with my wind that it tends to jump out when it’s not needed.
Cyran grabs the dagger from the air, cuts off what I think is a boot, then says, “Return.” My dagger obeys, flying into its sheath.
Voices down the mountain. “The rescue team is coming.”
“Almost done.” Cyran grips the leg just above the crushed part. Deep red magic saturates Cain’s leg, and it begins reconstructing itself all the way down to the foot. Cyran cleans his hands on the grass and sits back. After a moment he leans forward until his mouth is right next to Cain’s greying head. “Tell your heart to beat again,” he whispers.
Cain takes in a deep breath. Only then does Cyran stand up. “Let’s go.” Nearing voices cause him to sigh. “By air.”
Year After Shadow Two Thousand Ninety-Eight. Sunset.
That rockslide was the first in a series of disasters. A few hours later the town messenger ran through the town shouting, “The Nirad are gone!” This elicited grim and frightened reactions from the townspeople, for the Nirad protected them from the dark beasts. By noon a storm rolled in, with clouds so dark they blocked the sunlight. In the black and wet the dark creatures attacked. With the Nirad gone, Cyran and I did our best openly, but when the clouds broke just an hour ago, and the townspeople saw the sunset, they blamed me for it all.
I can’t control the weather.
Cyran walks in beside me. He doesn’t say anything. I know the townspeople will be here soon. I know we need to leave. I just want a moment longer here in the glen.
This half barren tree in the nearly green glen almost enclosed by pale patchwork stone has been my sanctuary, my place to relax, to think, and to be myself. The town was never a real home, but this place I wish I didn’t have to leave.
I touch the familiar cool of my dagger. The promise is still in effect, and though it was made in my past, it belongs to my future.
I’m ready to leave almost behind. Fare Well, my yesterday.
Read the next story! Song of the Blue Soul