When Ga’briyel left Basanta three days later, it was with a smile on his lips and joy in his heart. Adama had spoken to him in his dreams the first night, and his son had told him that Sophyra and Adama would be allowed to accompany Ga’briyel south to Mahasa. On the morning he left, just before first light, Hayar Kara had presented the Anmah with a beautiful saddle and bridle. It had eagles tooled into the jockey, skirt, and fenders, and Klyar’s bridle had them as well. He’d also crafted a new set of saddlebags with decorations of eagles in flight. Hayar’s wife had sewn a saddle blanket embroidered with eagles as well, and when Ga’briyel asked the saddle maker about it, the man had grinned.
“I noticed your sword, Sainika. Anyone who incorporates such a token into the hilt must hold it in high regard. Hence the eagles.”
“Well, I thank you, Hayar, but you must let me pay for it all.”
The man frowned and then scowled. “I must do nothing of the sort, Sainika. You saved this city from the worst evil any of us could have imagined, and this tack is a small price to pay in return for that.”
Ga’briyel just nodded and smiled before turning Kylar toward the gates. What Hayar didn’t know was that there were two golds sitting on his counter as payment for the tack. Ga’briyel had put them there that morning before he came to the stables. He understood that the people of Basanta wanted to reward him, but the tack was too beautiful not to give coin for it. He chuckled when he thought of Hayar’s reaction to the coins when he entered his shop.
He nodded to Jana and Jorja as he passed them, and Jana stepped up to the horse, laying his hand on the bridle.
“Captain?” Ga’briyel asked.
“I just wanted to thank you one last time for everything you did for us, Ga’briyel.” He held out his hand, and Ga’briyel reached down to clasp his forearm. “We owe you our lives and quite possibly, our very souls.”
Ga’briyel released the man, smiled, and rode out of the gates. As soon as he was back on the main road to Torkeln, he pulled a map that Debhida had given him out of his saddlebag. It was of the entire land of Mahadesa, and he sighed when he saw the distance between Basanta and Torkeln. Two hundred leagues, which would take him the greater part of a moon to travel if he did not want to kill his horse. To make matters worse, there were only five villages in between the two cities. That meant only sleeping in an inn every other night unless he stayed up, rode the entire distance between villages, and then took a day to rest. If he did that, it would take half the time to reach his family. Perhaps no more than a sennight and a half.
Folding up the map, Ga’briyel stuffed it back in the saddlebag, settled into the saddle, and prepared to travel the fifty leagues to the first village, which was named Sarat on the map. He hoped he had been right about Klyar and his ability to travel long distances. He was a fine horse, and Ga’briyel did not want to ride him to death. The Anmah vowed to stay tuned to the animal’s behavior, especially during this first leg of the journey. If it seemed Klyar was flagging, he would have to stop and camp in the forest that bordered both sides of the road. According to the map, there was a river not far to the east that ran parallel to the road almost the entire way to Torkeln, so that is where he would head if the beast did not seem to be able to make the distance.
The day was cold, but the brisk wind that blew Ga’briyel’s cloak about him did not seem to indicate rain or snow. After five minutes of attempting to corral the cloak, Ga’briyel grabbed a thong out of the saddlebag and tied the fabric behind him, much as he had on the way to Mirstone. Then he checked his weapons and relaxed as much as he could considering how anxious he was to get to Torkeln.
He had ridden close to twenty leagues when Klyar snorted and stiffened slightly. “What is it, boy?” Ga’briyel whispered, leaning down to pat the stallion’s neck, even as his eyes roamed the forest on either side of the road. The Crown’s builders kept the forest trimmed to the point that no branches hung over the road, but the trees grew right up to the edge of the road, and any number of things could be hidden in those trees. Ga’briyel felt nothing, however, not evil and no emotions that might come from someone in need. He rode another stade or so, and then Klyar stopped in the middle of the road. The stallion tossed his head as if he wanted to turn around, but Ga’briyel grabbed the reins and held him steady as he tried to see what had spooked the bay. He drew the horse in a tight circle, scanning every inch of the forest and the road, but he saw nothing.
“Come on, Klyar, there’s nothing here, and I want to sleep in an inn. I’m sure you would prefer a stable to a clearing, too, so get moving.” No matter what Ga’briyel did--snapping the reins, digging his heels into the bay’s flanks, even dismounting and attempting to pull the horse down the road--Klyar refused to take another step, his eyes showing the whites, his ears pinned back, and his breath coming from his nostrils in sharp snorts. The horse was terrified, and Ga’briyel once again searched the area around them for any indication of what he was reacting to. Eventually, he saw something.
In the middle of the road about twenty paces ahead, three figures appeared. They did not come from the forest, and they did not come from the direction of Torkeln--they just appeared, much as Telantes had the first time Ga’briyel saw him. These three were not Debaduta, however. The man was dressed in clothing that Ga’briyel had only seen in history books. He had on bright red trousers that clung to his hips but then flared out to drape down to his shoes, which were narrow with pointed toes. His yellow shirt had more ruffles on it than Ga’briyel had ever seen, down the front, around the collar, and around the cuffs. Over it all was a green cloak with a hood that was pulled up around the man’s head. The other two, a woman in a yellow dress that had a skirt that looked as if it would not fit through any door, and a young boy, perhaps ten years old, dressed identically to the man, flanked him. They all stood and stared at Ga’briyel, not speaking a word or moving from the middle of the road.
Ga’briyel sighed heavily, dropped the reins, and walked toward the three, hoping that Klyar did not bolt back to Basanta. As he got closer, he realized that he could see the road and the trees through the people. “Great,” he muttered, “now I can see ghosts as well.” He had no idea how to deal with ghosts, so he kept his hands open at his sides as he stopped in front of the three. “Who are you?” he asked the man.
“My name is Carlas Byrks, and this is my wife, Sasna, and my son, Terkas. And you are Ga’briyel Mistri el’Adama el’Altyara el’Illyama el’Jonsa, the Sainika of this time.”
His eyes narrowing, Ga’briyel’s brow furrowed. “How do you know who I am, spirit?”
“Spirit? Yes, I suppose I am a spirit. I know because Yisu has graciously given me that information. He tells me that you are the first Sainika to be worthy of my knowledge. He tells me that you must know what I know, what I have saved for this very moment. I have been waiting almost thirty thousand years for you, Ga'briyel Mistri. Will you come with me?"
The Anmah glanced back at Klyar, who seemed to have calmed down a bit. "I cannot leave my horse in the middle of the road, Carlas. Someone will steal him and all my belongings, but he is terrified of you."
"And you are not, Sainika?"
"No. You are the least scary thing I have faced in the past few moons."
"I know what you have faced, Sainika. I have followed the lives of every Sainika since I died, five of them including you, and now my family can finally be at peace with Yisu." The man smiled. "Thank you for being worthy at last, Ga'briyel Mistri. And do not worry about your horse. I will make him unafraid to accompany you." The spirit walked down the road to the bay, waved his hand in front of his eyes, and Klyar incredibly tried to nuzzle the man's hand, although his nose passed right through it. "Come now, Sainika. I will lead you to the knowledge."
As they walked, Ga'briyel leading Klyar, who seemed completely at ease, the Anmah thought about what kind of knowledge this ghost could possibly have to impart. They traveled east from the road for several leagues through the dense forest, Carlas and his family drifting effortlessly between the trees, and Ga'briyel struggling in several places to get Klyar between those same trees, they were so close together. Finally, after more than two hours of walking, having crossed the river from the map on a stone bridge, they came upon a small, stone structure with no windows and no door that Ga'briyel could see. Dropping Klyar's reins and letting him graze, the Anmah walked around the building, which was about twenty paces square and more than forty high, looking for a way inside.
"What is this place, Carlas?"
"My repository, Sainika. For thirty thousand years, I have been collecting information and placing it inside. You are the first living human to see this place in all that time."
"How has no one stumbled upon it?"
"Ah, well, I know a bit of magic, Sainika. I have placed a spell upon this structure so that anyone who passes this way sees only trees where it stands. I have suspended that spell for you, Ga'briyel Mistri."
"And how do I get inside?"
"Go to the south side, count fourteen stones from the bottom and four from the southeast corner, and press it. You will be allowed inside."
Ga'briyel looked at the ghost skeptically, but did as he said. He pressed the stone, and to his shock, a narrow door swung outward from the stone. "How is this possible?" he asked. "There was no door here a moment ago."
"The door has always been there, Sainika. You simply need to know the trick to opening it, which you now do." The spirit gestured. "Go inside, Sainika. See what there is to see."
With a glance at Carlas, Ga'briyel did so, and as soon as he stepped into the structure, a warm, glowing light surrounded him and filled the space. He gasped as he turned circles and gaped at the contents of the room. Every wall of the room was filled with books from floor to ceiling. Each book was bound in white or black leather, although there were far more of the black than the white. There was a small table and a padded chair in the center of the room, and on the table was an open book bound in black, the left hand page of which was filled approximately halfway with small, neat writing. A ladder sat against one wall, and it reached almost to the ceiling.
"What is in all these books?"
"Some are the history of Duniya, others are spellbooks."
"Magic? You think I can understand magical spellbooks?"
"Of course you can," Carlas said. "As I said, you have been found worthy by Yisu." The ghost pointed at the shelves. "The history books are bound in black, and the spellbooks are in white. There are only defensive spells in most of them, although there are a few offensive ones as well."
Ga'briyel pulled down a black one from the lowest shelf and sat down in the chair. He opened the book and started reading. His eyes went wide when he read about his first death in Desa. He read about his journey over the Parbatas, about the nine deaths that happened during that journey, and about Jarda Mistri finding him on the side of the Torkeln road. He looked up at the ghost.
"How did you know I was Sainika then? Nobody knew."
"Yisu did," Carlas said with a shrug. "He tells me when a Sainika is born into the world, and I watch his entire life from the moment he is born. If you read the book before that one, you will know what happened when you were born."
Ga'briyel stared silently at the spirit for a moment. "May I show Ma'ikel these history books? He would be fascinated by them."
"The history books, yes, but not the spellbooks. Those are only for you and your son."
"My son? But he is just a baby."
"But he is a very special baby, Ga'briyel Mistri. Surely you realize this by now. He is Anmah--the only known Anmah to be born as such. He has abilities that you are only barely beginning to understand, and you will teach him the magic."
Ga'briyel shut the black book and replaced it with a white one. He opened it onto the table and stared at the first page. There were strange markings covering the paper in bold black ink, and he could not read it. He continued to stare at the designs, however, and just like when his mind translated the words of evil and of Nikale, he began to understand what he was seeing.
"They are runes, Sainika. Can you read them?"
"Yes." Ga'briyel pointed to the top of the page. "It says 'Shield of Protection.'" He read the page out loud, and as he did so, the words burned themselves into his brain. "I do not know anything about magic, Carlas. How exactly does it work?"
The ghost pointed to three white books at the very top of the building. "Those three books will tell you everything you need to know. They are instructions for lack of a better term. Take them with you to Torkeln if you wish, but be sure to tell no one of them, not even your wife or king or parents. When Adama gets old enough, you will show them to him and only him."
"How old is old enough?"
"You will know, Sainika." The ghost turned toward the open door. "I must go now, Ga'briyel Mistri el'Adama. Thank you again for being worthy of this knowledge. Know that when you leave, the illusion spell will be laid on this place again, but the knowledge of this exact location will be forever in your memory. You need only to come back here, and the spell will be suspended for you alone." The ghost drifted back to his wife and son who were waiting by the door, and the three of them disappeared.
Ga'briyel walked to the ladder, expecting to have to wrestle it next to the instruction books, but to his surprise, it glided smoothly across the floor on small wheels, somehow attached to the shelving high above him. He stopped it near the books, climbed to the top, and gathered the three books to himself and carefully climbed back down the ladder. He grabbed the spellbook he had been looking at as well and left the building. The door slowly shut behind him, and when he looked at the stone, he could not see any sign that there was a door there at all. He supposed that was a good thing in case someone blundered through the illusion spell and ran into the stone. He moved to Klyar, put the books in the saddlebags, swung into the saddle, and turned the stallion back toward the road to Torkeln.