Iglanced over my shoulder at my guardian. Delah was still enthralled in her books, unaware that I had left her side. There were only a few monks around on the upper floors and they were busy sorting through their texts. Quickly, I pressed the latch and pulled the heavy metal door open wide enough to step inside.
The small room was round with a single rounded window at the top of the adjacent wall. The walls were lined with shelves, but they were all empty and covered in dust. It smelled old, like the room had been sealed for many years with out being disturbed. A small round table sat in the middle with a wooden box on top. The box was the only thing that wasn’t round in the room.
My magic seemed drawn to it, like a beacon of knowledge sat before me and all I had to do was reach out and touch it. It seemed odd though. Why was it here in this place? What did this monastery have to do with my people?
“If the monks catch you in here there will be trouble.”
My heart jumped in my chest. I spun on my heals stumbling backwards into the table. It nearly toppled over with the force.
A young man stood in the door way with his hands in his pockets. His hair was short and dark, but curly around his forehead. What was most striking about him was the color of his eyes. Ice blue, like the winter beyond these walls. He could have only been a few years older than me at most.
“What do you want?” I blurted out trying to right myself and the table.
“Nothing really.” He spoke as he glanced around. “I’ve always wondered what was inside this room though.”
“Well, Now that you have seen it you can go.” I tried to push the door shut on him, but he held it open with one arm.
“But now I want to know what’s inside that box.” The young man pushed passed me and shut the door quietly behind him.
I sighed. “Curious, aren’t we?”
“Very,” He smiled. “My name is Arsan.”
“Aren’t you going to see what’s inside the box?” Arsan leaned down onto the table.
I wanted to see what was inside, but a part of me was scared at what I might find.
We both leaned a little bit closer to the object. I could feel the magic calling to me, telling me to trust it. My fingers brushed the old wood. It was rough and brittle. A pulse went through the box, but it wasn’t from me. What ever was inside wanted out and it knew I was here. The box disintegrated in front of me sending a pulse through the air around us. My hand shot back from the shock of it, unsure what had just happened.
“What did you do?” Arsan moved back from the table not wanting to have anything to do with me and my destruction.
“It wasn’t me.”
When the dust settled around the room, a ring of shattered wood surrounded a piece of leather in the middle. It was dark and well worked. It tied to the wrist like a cuff and on the other side was a broach made of gold. There was something carved into the metal, but I couldn’t make out what it was.
With a deep breath I picked up the cuff. Something jolted through my body, a strange magic. The power of it threw me to the ground where I landed on my back. Above my head was a vision. It floated between the ceiling and the table.
The sight of many people walking through the snow made me gasp, their white hair blowing in the wind. One turned to look down at me, a young girl, her eyes blue like ice. The room seemed to turn cold like the frozen tundra that floated before me. These were the Articans, my people disappearing across a frozen land.
Jut as quick as the vision had come, it dissipated, leaving the room frozen, my warm breath exhaling in a mist.
“What was that?” Arsan was plastered to the wall across the room. His eyes wide open, a look of terror on his face. “Who were those people?”
It took me a moment to climb to my feet. He didn’t need to know. “They were just people.”
Many times in the past I had been forced to hide the details of my life. This was no different. If the wrong person found out who I was, my life would be in danger. It was time to run again and get as far away from this place as I could.
The metal doors were cold to the touch. I pushed them open and left the small room behind. I had found what my magic was calling me here for. There was no reason to stick around now.
“Those were no ordinary people.” Arsan had followed me from the room. He wouldn’t leave me alone.
“I don’t have time for this. Please, leave me be.”
Delah was still at the table with her nose in a book. She looked up sharply as I approached and slammed the book on the table. “You better leave her be, boy.”
Arsan backed off a few feet. “I just want to know who those people were?”
Before I could open my mouth to give him a peace of my mind, a loud ringing sounded overhead and echoed down through the library. The monks above dropped books and parchment on the floor where they stood and began to run down the stairs to the bottom floor.
The monk that met us at the gate burst from the dark hallway and shuffled up to us. “You must leave. You must leave now. They are here.”
He grabbed my arm and pushed Arsan in front of him into the darkness that lead to the outside courtyard. Delah drew her sword and followed at our heals. “How close are they?”
“They are at the gates,” Said the monk frantically pushing us on.
We burst out into the courtyard where the sun was beginning to set over the valley. The gate was being attacked from the outside. Every few seconds another boom that rattled the wood and shook the ground. They were trying to come through the gates.
“You must go out the hidden door.” The monk led us around the side of the library building and along the high wall that surrounded the monastery. The snow was thicker and colder here. No one had touched it in a long time. “The pass is treacherous in the winter, but it is the only way to get you beyond the walls now.”
A loud blast shook the ground. Wooden splinters fell from the sky and bounced off the stony ground. Smoke filled the air and billowed up into the sky. The gates had been destroyed, not by the hands of man, but by the force of magic. Dark magic.
“The hidden gate is at the end of the wall, near the cliffs of the mountain. It is tucked back into the shadows. Go, as soon as you are gone we shall cloak the monastery.” The monk pushed us on before running back toward the courtyard to help his brothers.
“Go quickly.” Delah lead the way. With the sun setting, the shadow of the monastery on the wall turned everything dark and grey. Shadows jumped in the blackness around us and startled me. My magic was going wild. It warned me of the dangers behind us, but it was only behind us.
When we reached the gate nestled into the crook of the mountain, it was no more than a heavy wooden door with a bolt to keep out unwanted intruders. It looked old and brittle and I hoped it wouldn’t fall apart at my touch like the box had. My hand slipped over the cold metal and clicked the lock open, making the hinges groaned as I pulled the door open.
Shouting broke out behind us. The men that had come through the gates were pushing their way down the narrow corridor between the building and the wall. They were coming for us. Their jackets were the color of blood and so were the swords they held in their hands, they dripped with crimson from those they had slain.
Delah pushed me through the door, Arsan right behind me. “Run child. There will be others along the way to help you, but now you must leave me and run.”
“What?” I shouted, unsure of what she was talking about.
The door slammed and locked, leaving Delah alone on the other side. The faint sound of swords colliding and skin being pierced drifted through the cracks in the wood. My guardian was fighting by herself, fighting to save me.
“Delah.” I shouted, my fists pounding on the wood, unable to let her go. “No, Delah.”
Arsan grabbed my shoulders and pulled me toward him. “Come on. We have to run.”
I didn’t want to, but there was no other choice. Delah had done everything in her power to save me and now I was left to save myself. There was nothing to do but flee.
Arsan grabbed my hand to lead me away from the monastery. His touch sent a warm tingle down my spine, a feeling I wasn’t familiar with. There was a faint sense of magic in his blood, it wasn’t much but it was there. Could he be Artican too? Or maybe of another master race?
It was hard to see where we were going in the twilight, but I could feel the wind wiping up all around us. The darkness was taking over and the ground was becoming narrower all around us. The path that led away from the monastery skirted a ledge that dropped off into a deep black crevasse. It was so dark that I could hardly see the edge, but I knew it was there, taunting me to step a little closer. I kept one hand on the stone wall so I wouldn’t wander away from it and the other hand Arsan held tightly. He kept me close, his grip on my hand firm but not uncomfortable.
Snow was beginning to fall, piling up on the path around our feet. It made our journey slow and treacherous. I pulled my hood up snug around my face to keep the wind out, but the cold still nipped at my nose, biting at my exposed skin. The dark magic had brought this storm and blotted out what was left of the sun. I felt its power in the wind.
A bright light lit up the sky behind us, making me spin on my heals to watch. It shot out from the center of the monastery and reached toward the heavens. When it finally stopped, the top cascaded out in every direction covering the ground like an umbrella. It didn’t stop again until it touched the stone below, creating a dome of brilliant white light around the monastery walls.
The bright white of the dome was so intense I was forced to shield my eyes to keep from being blinded. It was the cloak that the monk had spoke of, the one that would shield the monastery in darkness and save it from its enemies. A silent prayer escaped me for Delah’s safety. My heart ached for her already. If she was still alive, she would not be able to leave now, not for a long time.
“Come on, we need to get away from this place.” Arsan beckoned me on with his smile. It was a small comfort that I took to heart, but even in the darkness I could make out the sincerity behind it.
With the light from the dome we were able to make our way a little faster along the ledge. I didn’t realize just how narrow the path was till now. There was maybe four feet from the cliff wall to the drop off at the edge. The snow accumulated near the wall making the space for our boots even smaller. It was terrifying. I almost wished I couldn’t see it so clearly. The darkness hid the vastness of the drop, giving me a false sense of security. Now all I could see was the deadly path around me. I had to force me legs to keep moving, fearing they would stop all together.
The snow was coming down in sheets all around us. It was making our journey difficult and slow. At least we had a source of light to travel by, although I wasn’t sure how long the light from the monastery would last. My eyes already noticed a difference in the intensity. It was fading and quickly. Half way there, only a few more minutes and we would be in the mountains and off this cliff.
Pounding on wood and shouting made its way to my ears. The door that we had come through was being forced open. Panic struck me. I swung around quickly to see if we were being followed, forgetting how close I was to the edge. My footing slipped. It felt like slow motion as my leg fell into the abyss followed by the other. I grasped at anything I could find, but there was nothing, only snow. “Arsan!”
I was falling.