The Last Artican

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Chapter 24

Chapter 24

The sun was creeping towards the horizon, casting shadows of the mountains across the land. It was colder here in the shade, especially with the wind wiping up all around us. It blew at our backs, toward the looming peaks in the distance. Ice from the ground swirled in the gusts, biting at our faces and making it hard to see. This was not where I had expected to find my people, but then again, I hadn’t expected to find them at all.

There was a familiarity about this place though. I had been here before. Yes, I recognized it from my dream, but there had to have been another time too. Sometime long ago, maybe when I was a child? Those memories came and went, and were usually just fragments of a time long gone, nothing ever concrete or stable.

The wind gusted again, howling around my ears. It was so loud I couldn’t even hear my own thoughts. This open land had to end. It seemed like the mountains slid further and further away with every push of the wind. It felt like we were going nowhere.

I leaned back into the wind, trying to keep my footing. My boot slipped on the icy ground and I lost my balance. My hands shot out to my side to steady myself, but another gust of wind knocked me on the back, sending me sprawling forward onto my face. I slipped a few feet before I could regain my footing.

Ruan seemed to be doing fine, even for her small stature and diminished weight. She was almost sailing with the wind letting it push here, carry here across the ice. She had a smile on her face. Why would she not, it looked like she was having fun.

When the wind gusted again, I tried to sit back into it, copying Ruan’s stance. My feet began to slide and my balance wavered. I pumped my arms through the air, trying my hardest to stay on my feet. For a few seconds I was gliding across the ice. It was exhilarating, but the feeling didn’t last long. The wind blew again and I ended up on my chest, sliding across the frozen tundra again.

Ruan was laughing at me, I could see here doubled over a few feet away. I couldn’t help but laugh too. I’m sure I looked ridiculous, sprawled out on the icy ground, being blown about by the angry wind. A huge grin crossed Ruan’s face again as her eyes met mine. She sat back into the wind and off she flew.

“Show off,” I mumbled. Arsan skated over to me, offering me his hand. He pulled me into his warm embrace, holding me steady against the howling wind.

“You’re trying too hard,” He laughed in my ear.

“What? How else am I supposed to try?” Nell floated around us in her mist form. I knew she was laughing at me too, even through the transparency of her fog I could tell. Was I really that funny to watch? I guess I was. The thought of what I looked like through their eyes as the wind blew me over made me giggle just picturing it.

Arsan tightened his grip around my waist as another gust hit his back. He leaned back into it, holding me close, holding me steady. Our boots slid a few feet across the ice. When the wind stopped, he stood me up again. “See, just go with the wind.”

He turned me around so I was facing away from him, pulling me close to his warm chest. His hand was still around my waist keeping me steady. I could feel his warm breath on my ear. “Do you trust me?”

His words punctured my heart. The wind began to pick up and whirl around us again. I took a deep breath. I shook my head. “Yes, I trust you.”

I could feel his smile on my neck. “Good.”

With a strong gust of wind we were flying across the icy ground, smiling, laughing. It was amazing. The wind was all around us, like a bubble carrying us toward the mountains. Arsan slowly let go of my waist, letting me fly on my own. I panicked and reached for him. “Don’t let go.”

Arsan’s intense blue eyes gazed at me, a grin crossing his face. He gripped my hand tightly, pulling me beside him. “Never. I’ll never let go.”

The sun was nearly gone behind the mountain, when we reached its base. The orange sky cast a dim light across the ice, giving us enough light to find shelter behind a small outcropping of boulders before it was too dark. It was out of the wind, which never seemed to sees, and would provide us some protection for the night.

Nell had disappeared to find wood for a fire like usual, but this time I didn’t worry about what she was up to. Ever since her realization that fear had no control over her anymore, she was pleasant to be around, a smile plastered across her face at all times. It was a nice change.

“What are you thinking about?” Arsan wrapped his arms around my waist, snuggling his face into my neck. We had grown closer in the last few days. His touch made my magic flare, a good burning in my chest. I smiled, resting my hands on his.

“I was thinking about Nell. She has changed so much, it’s amazing to see.” I’m sure the tone of my voice was a little homesick, but the thought of Nell’s transformation made me think of Delah and home.

Arsan exhaled. “She has changed. I like the new Nell. She’s a lot easier to get along with.”

On cue, Nell trudged back into camp with a handful of wood for a fire. She seemed pleased with herself and when she dropped the wood, I saw why. She held out a large fury animal, about the size of a beaver, but without the flat tail. It was headless and I knew it had met its demise at the end of her invisible fire blade. I guess if I had to go, that would be the way I would want it to end too, but it just seemed so wrong to kill a small animal like that. It was Nell though. Her violent tendencies were still there, even if she was good natured about it. “Tonight we feast.”

Darkness had consumed the land when we had finally filled our bellies with as much meat as we could eat. The animal, which we had decided to call an ice beaver, still had enough meat leftover for breakfast in the morning. I hadn’t been this full in a long time, the feeling made me sleepy. With the fire burning brightly before me, and Nell at her ever vigil watch, I lay down on the smooth stone ground and closed my eyes.

Sleep came quickly. I drifted into the world of slumber, ready to be taken over by the night. But the dreams, they came again, more vivid and alive than before. A sense of urgency followed them.

I was drifting across the open tundra with the stars shining brightly over my head. They pointed the way towards the mountains, calling me, beckoning for me to hurry. What was so important? What made this journey different from the last one? Nothing had changed around me. It was only a feeling I had deep inside my chest, one that burned with magic.

The rocky ground of the mountains lay before me. I quickly began to climb, using my hands to pull myself over the jagged ground. The moon shown down on my path, lighting my way towards the top. I had to get there quickly. I had to know what the urgency was about.

In no time at all I had reached the cave. Its darkness lingered at the mouth, ominous and frightening. I hesitated to enter, not wanting the eyes to find me again, but the feeling to hurry pushed me on. I took a step forward, into the cave, waiting for the eyes to appear. I glanced around into the darkness, trying to see what was there, waiting, listening. Nothing happened. I took another step, ready this time for the eyes to show themselves. Still nothing.

With a sigh of relief I pushed on, one foot in front of the other, keeping a steady pace. The darkness of the cave consumed me, sucking up all the light surrounding me. I pulled on my magic till it burned hot in my chest and lit a flame in my hand to light my path. The fire illuminated the empty cave, giving me enough light to see a few feet in front of me. It was enough to keep me moving.

Someone was near. Artican blood lingered in their veins. I could feel their presence close by, it wasn’t threatening, but I felt the need to hurry overwhelm my senses. My feet moved as quickly as they could in the dim light of my fire. The rocky ground had smoothed out making a path that was easy to follow. My boots echoed down the cave as I went, the sound giving me comfort in a strange way.

I rounded a corner, emerging into a large cavern. I let my fire burn, trying to see what was on the other side. Directly across from me was the soul I had been following. He stood facing me, a warm comforting smile on his face. He seemed familiar. Someone I had seen in my dreams maybe? No, not my dreams, but still familiar.

His hair was white, cut short around his ears, but he looked young, maybe his thirties. His eyes gazed at me with a dark emerald green, a lot like mine, but different. I couldn’t place it. He beckoned to me to come closer.

The cavern was round with smooth stone floors. It looked man made with drawings painted in a crimson red all around the room. I moved towards the man, unafraid and curious, but I couldn’t shake the familiarity this man held for me. I must have seen him somewhere before. There was no other explanation.

I stood in front of the man, holding my flame out to illuminate his face. His hand passed over the fire in my palm, lighting his own flame in his hand. I should know this man, but I didn’t. The man’s fire lit the whole cavern with a flame that made mine look puny. I felt ashamed of my magic and quickly drop my hand.

The man lifted my chin with his free hand, so I am looking into his face. It is strong, but soft, smiling down at. “It is time, Tabri.”

“Time for what?” There was a hope inside me, something telling me that I knew what he meant. But I needed to hear it. I needed him to say the words. Just to make sure.

“It is time to come home.” The word home echoed softly through the cavern. Repeating over and over till it was no more. The man smiled at me again, brushing my cheek with his thumb.

My chest burned with joy and anticipation. They were allowing me to find them, telling me that the time had come to finally go home.

The wall behind the man cracked from the ceiling to the floor. The whole cavern shuttered as the wall swung open like a door, revealing a hall way beyond. It was dark but inviting. The man turned and walked through the door way and started down the hall.

I couldn’t move from where I stood. My feet felt like bricks plastered to the ground. No, no he won’t let me go with him now. “Please, don’t leave me. I don’t know how to find you again.”

The man kept walking, never looking back at me, taking the light with him. The doors began to close quickly, shutting off my only path to my people, leaving me in the darkness, alone. He was gone. Why did he leave me?

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