Winter was the only place safe anymore. The cold wind that brought white powder down upon the ground and the eerie quiet that muffled any sound around me. It left my senses dull and lacking.
“Tabri, are you sure your magic intends to lead us deep into these mountains?” Delah, my guardian was a Fury. Never changing. Never growing older, but bound to protect me with her life. She was always second guessing my feelings, and I suppose she had every right to do so. I was still young and hadn’t fully developed my powers yet. “It seems a strange place to find the origins of your birth.”
“You found me in these mountains when I was a baby, now my magic is drawing me back here. This is the perfect place to search for answers, Delah.” I pressed on through the thick snow hoping that I was right. The feeling in my chest, the burn that my magic produced was becoming hotter the farther we pushed north. We had to be going the right way.
The peak of Mount Erined loomed over head. Its jagged rocks and barren slopes seemed dead to me. The wind whipped around me, howling through the cliffs like screams of agony. It took all that I had to ignore the thoughts of my mother’s dying breath that kept me away from this forsaken place for so long. He magic was here, in these mountains. I could feel it.
“Alright,” Delah sighed in defeat.
Snow was building up on the fur around my hood, shielding my face from the wind. As we crested a small rise the burning in my chest grew stronger almost immediately. My hand reached for my heart to calm its rapid beating as I saw what lay before us.
Below, tucked back into the side of the tall mountain cliffs stood a stone building. Its towers soared to the clouds and its warm fiery braziers stood welcoming at its gates. The gray walls were bar, not a soul in sight, but I could feel them near. I could feel each and every heart beat beyond the walls. There was a monastery in these mountains and my magic had led me to its doors.
“See, Delah. My magic is not completely useless.” I smiled.
The fury seemed stunned. She stood at the top of the crest with her mouth open unable to form any words, but how could she doubt the sight before her eyes. We were sure to find something down there that would tell me where I came from.
The winds seemed to subside as we made our way down the slope to the stone bridge that spanned the cavern near the monastery. It wasn’t ornate or gaudy like so many bridges in the southern cities, but it was strong and had held for many centuries in these harsh conditions.
It was quiet on the bridge, but it wasn’t the same emptiness that was in the mountains. It was more calming and warm. The only sound heard was the quiet echo of my leather boots on the stone.
The warmth of the braziers melted the snow on my hood. It dripped down my cheeks and onto the ground. I pushed the hood back and shook the remainder of the snow from my long dark locks so I could get a better look at the simple wooden gates before me.
My magic was going wild inside my chest. I had never felt it so intensely before. It surged from vein to vein, taking over my muscles and thoughts. The burning that had accompanied me all these years of searching, all these years of being on the run from those who would do me harm was present. If only I could understand what it was trying to tell me?
“You might as well knock, but I doubt there will be anyone there to hear you in this kind of weather.” Delah watched the stone walls that circled the monastery and kept it safe from what haunted these mountains. She searched for any sign of life beyond, ever vigilant to any danger.
I raised my hand to knock, but found myself touching the wood instead. It was warm to the touch. A sense of something familiar beyond that I couldn’t explain. It pulsed almost like a beating heart in the palm of my hand. “There is magic in these walls.”
“What?” Delah came close and whispered in my ear. “Are you sure this is safe? You haven’t sensed magic before. Why now?”
My cheek pressed to the wood as I tried to make out what was pulsing through its cords. It was old, but not ancient. Warm but at the same time not. The only way to find out what was surging through these walls was to connect with it. Weave my magic with it and hope it gave me answers.
The warmth in my chest flowed down my arm. It filled every inch of my fingers and left my body through my finger tips. The magic on the other side was weak and old but it spoke to me. There was no danger beyond these walls, at least not to me. “We shall be fine.”
I rapped on the wood several times with my knuckles. It echoed through the mountain tops above and cascaded into the valley below. Someone must have surly heard me beyond the walls.
With a creak, the gates slowly opened. A sweet smell of flowers filled my nostrils and welcomed me inside the monastery walls. It was an odd smell for winter that didn’t go unnoticed.
The courtyard had been cleared of snow for the most part and flowers had been planted in long boxes spread through out the space. They bloomed in all colors and shapes. Most I had never seen before. It was much warmer here. I could feel the sun on my skin, something I hadn’t felt in a long time.
It was simple and small, but the edges of the wall were lined with braziers all lit and inviting. A man stood at the entrance. He wore robes of dark red and his head was clean shaven and tanned from many days in the sun. A monk. “Welcome to the monastery in the mountains. We have been waiting for you, young Artican.”
My heart stopped in my chest. The quiet around me seemed defining, enveloping. It was as if the mountains were listening in as the forbidden words had been spoken. This stranger knew what I was. He must have also known the dangers that came along with my birth right, or he would not have known me from any other traveler who might happen to wander here.
“How do you know what I am?” I demanded calmly, unaware that Delah had drawn her sword, ready to fight her way back outside the gates if it came to that.
“There is no need for violence.” The monk held his hand out in a calming gesture and smiled. “We are the guardians of the histories, entrusted with the ancient texts and the keepers of the Earth Stones. Your magic has drawn you here to learn of your ancestry, has it not?”
I gestured for Delah to put her sword away and took a deep breath to calm myself. “I’ve come to find out what’s happened to my people. Why have they abandoned me?”
The monk smiled again and crossed his hands inside his robes. “Very good young one, I shall show you the ancient texts, but there is not much time.”
The monk turned and headed toward the monastery. Delah scrambled up behind him. “What do you mean there is not much time?”
I had seen here like this before. She was frantic, afraid of what might be hunting us, what might be hunting me for my magic. We had been on the run for years and Delah had kept me safe from many dangers, but the journey was becoming weary and I longed for peace and quiet.
The monk shuffled across the court yard toward a small wooden door in the tallest building. “There are many men headed this way. We have seen it with the Earth Stones. They are not far behind you.”
I had to jog to keep up with the monk’s shuffling. He moved quickly for having such a short stout stature. “How do you know they are dangerous? They could just be looking for the same thing as I?”
The monk stopped with his hands on the handle of the door. “But they are, that is why they are dangerous.”
A warm gust blew on my face as the wooden door swung open. The monk led us down a long stone corridor that seemed to twist and wind deep down into the mountain. The passage was only lit by torches that created a golden glow on the stone. It seemed dark to me compared to the many days we spent out in the white.
“So what you’re saying, good monk is that the men that are coming intend to find Tabri’s people as well?” Delah sounded frightened, more so than I had ever heard from her.
“Yes,” said the monk. “But what is dangerous is that they intend to take any magic they come across. They will kill you and your people. This is why we shall hide the monastery under a cloak of darkness as soon as you have gone.”
At the end of the winding corridor the ceiling opened up into a tower that spiraled to the sky with a roof of glass that let light pour in. There were ten, maybe fifteen floors, each filled with parchment and books. The texts the monk had talked about. It was almost dizzying watching the room climb so high, I had to stop and catch my breath.
“We have collected the texts that have the information you seek. They are here on this table.” The monk motioned to a long wooden platform with a few books laid out for us.
“There are so few.” Delah noted.
“There is not much mentioned about the Articans in the old texts or where they disappeared to. This is all we have that pertains to them.” The monk lit a candle in the middle of the table for us. “Now, if you will excuse me. There are others that I must attend to.”
The monk bowed and left us to our work.
“There is not much time,” Said Delah picking up the first book and sifting through the pages. “We must work quickly.”
The books on the table were old and covered in dust. Their leather bindings were frayed and falling apart. My hand rested on the cover of one that looked in the worst condition hoping to feel my magic jump from my skin with recognition, but nothing happened. I touched each book in turn, but still nothing happened.
With a deep breath I let my body relax, trying to feel out the source of magic that lead me here. At first there was only the soft pour that always ran through my veins, but the more I concentrated the more the fire burned inside of me. It gave me a direction, a purpose.
It was not the books I had come here for, but something else that surged with old magic.
Letting my feelings guide my steps I walked away from the table. Delah didn’t seem to notice. She stood there with her face stuffed in the pages of an old book.
Magic coursed through my veins lighting a path on the stone floor for me to follow.
Off of the library was a room. It was shut off from the rest of the monastery by a thick intricate metal door. It was unlike any of the plane decor I had seen so far. It was infused with old magic.
Something called to me from the other side. It was the something that led me here.
I let my fingers brush the door for a second so I could feel the magic in it. My fingers burned with pain. Not the burn that I felt when I let my magic free, but a pain that felt like my hand was on fire.
As I pulled them back a strange red vein ran up my fingers and across the palm of my hand. There was something beyond the door calling to me and I needed it.
With one movement I pressed my palm onto the metal and sent a pulse of my strongest magic into the door. The metal burned my skin. The red vein was climbing my arm at a rapid pace. I clenched my teeth from the searing pain, trying my hardest to not cry out and call attention to myself.
With one more pulse the magic was gone and the pain subsided. Just like that the seal was broken and the lock opened. There was nothing stopping me from what was on the other side.