The Last Artican

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Chapter 27

Chapter 27

“Tull is our magistrate silly. He said you would come, the four travelers through the ancient gate. You’ve come through the gate, haven’t you?” She pointed toward the dark hall behind us.

“Yes, we have.”

“Good. I will take you to Tull.” The girl clasped her hand in mine, pulling me along as she headed toward the crowds of people.

It was uncomfortable walking through the market place. People stopped and stared at us, wonder on their faces. Some even joined us on our way, creating a long precession toward a large building on the other side of the lava well. We stood out like a black bear in winter, as we waded our way through this sea of white haired people.

Word had spread quickly that we had come. People whispered about the four travelers and the dark haired ones. My heart beat from the unknown that lay before us, but I pulled on my magic for strength. It was wild in this place with so much ancient magic lingering in the stone. I could feel the souls of my people as they gathered around us. It was strangely comforting, but still so overwhelming.

The little girl pulled me up the steps of the large building, its windows full of golden light, wonting, inviting. When the two guards that stood on either side of the doorway, noticed the massive precession flooding toward them they quickly moved forward to halt the people, letting us pass without a word. I didn’t understand fully what was going on. Somehow they knew we were coming, and they welcomed us, strangers to their hiding place.

“Come, come.” The little girl released my hand to push on the large wooden doors to the building. “Tull will be waiting for you in the hall of meetings.”

We entered the building, glad to be out of sight of the marketplace and all the people who had gathered. Before us lay a long hallway with another set of wooden doors at the other end, larger doors than the ones we entered through. Two guards stood watch on either side. They wore plane tan colored tunics and tall leather boots, good for walking in the snow. They held no weapons, none that I could see at least, only the magic that flowed through their veins. That was their weapon, the magic of my people. I’m sure they knew how to use it better than I did.

The girl ran ahead of us, her soft footsteps echoed lightly down the hall. One of the guards held out his hand to stop her from opening the door. “Pella, your father asked not to be disturbed.”

“But Margo, I’ve brought the travelers from the ancient gate.”

The man snapped his head up at us, a look of surprise on his face. His gaze studied us for only seconds before he stood up straight with a grin on his face. “So you have, Pella.”

Margo turned, throwing the doors open, he entered the room before us. Pella beckoned for us to follow. I was apprehensive, but what else was I to do. With a deep breath I glanced at Arsan. He was unsure as well, but he smiled, calming my mind and letting me know it would all be ok.

When I entered the room, Margo was already speaking with a white haired man that I imagined was Tull on the other side of a large wooden table. Pella ran to him and jumped into his arms, he gave her a kiss on the forehead and a warm smile.

There were three other men and a woman in the room as well. They glanced up at us when we entered. Why did everyone like to stare so much? It was uncomfortable. I wished they would stop. It felt like they had never seen travelers before, but then, maybe they hadn’t. How long had they been cooped up here in this mountain for. Was it before my birth? I had so many questions I wanted to ask. I didn’t know where to start.

“Come.” Pella Called to us from her father’s arms. She was smiling, a huge grin that was infectious to all in the room. My lip twitched on the side, curving up in to a shy lopsided smile. She made me feel warm. I wondered if it was the magic that I felt around me, surging through the people here, running through the walls of the room.

The white haired man that held Pella in his arms came swiftly around the table to stand in front of me. He looked familiar, the man from my dream. His young face was creased with sullen lines from hard decisions but his eyes were as bright as the sky. The same eyes Pella had. His warm jacket was left unbuttoned and he had on the same leather boots as the guards. He looked just like what I had seen in my dream.

“Tabri, I was beginning to worry you wouldn’t make it. The undead army down on the tundra was unexpected. We almost didn’t notice them until it would have been too late to warn you. I’m sorry, where are my manors. My name is Tull, and you have met my daughter, Pella.” Tull put the beaming girl on the ground. “Run along to your mother little star. Tell her we will have guests for meal time.”

Pella shook her head. Before she left the room, her small arms wrapped around my waist in a warm embrace. It was nice, full of magic and love. “I’m glad you have come.”

I was glad too, although words could not explain how I felt. It would take time to sort out all that was running through my mind, but I feared time was short with the impending undead army closing in. I smiled down at the bright eyes that looked so longing up at me. “I’m glad I’m here too.”

Pella disappeared through the wooden doors followed by Margo. He quickly shut us in with a thump from the wood. I would have felt trapped in a normal situation, but the magic within my veins calmed me, their soothing words telling me this was right, all was well here.

“I apologize, my daughter is very enthusiastic. She will make a good hunter someday.” Tull smiled and beckoned for us to follow him to the hearth close by. The warmth from the fire was nice. I hadn’t realized how the weather had chilled me to the bone till now. It had been many days since I had been in a room with a fire, and many days since I had been able to warm my fingers. They stung as I held them closer to the flame.

“I realize you must have many questions.” Tull stood next to me with his arms crossed. “But time is short. We only have a few days before the undead army breaks through our defenses. We will need to be ready, but first I would like to hear about you and your journey north.”

He was watching me, gauging my expressions. Why would he want to know about me? That familiar feeling from my dream haunted my thoughts again. He meant something to me, in my past, but what? “Before I reveille my whole lives story to you, will you answer one question?”

“Of course, anything.” The lines on Tull’s face softened. He knew what I was going to ask him before I even said the words.

“Why is there a familiar feeling about you? I’ve seen you before, but I can’t remember where.” My words slipped out with ease. My emotions welled inside of me, but the magic subdued them, allowing me to hold on to my sanity.

“I knew you would ask this question. It was only a matter of time. Please, have a seat.” He pulled a chair out from the table for me before sitting himself. “I supposed it would be easier if I just showed you. Words have seemed to fail me. Do you mind?”

I shook my head. “I need to know.”

Tull placed his warm hand gently on the side of my head. He looked into my eyes, gazing through my soul. The room began to darken and fade around us, sending us into nothingness, until it was just me and Tull. “These are my memories.”

The room lit up with a blast of colors and smells. It took me a moment to orient myself to this new sensation, but I soon found myself in a new place. A smaller room with a warm fire burning brightly in the hearth, the walls made out of stone. There was a man sitting in a chair near the fire, he had his back to us. All I could see of him was the white golden hair that covered his head.

The man peeked his head around the side of his chair, a smile lighting his tired face. He was young, no older than I was. Something about him was more familiar than even Tull was to me. Who was he? “Tull, brother. Come see your new niece.”

The vision moved forward, like a person walking through the room. It was an odd sensation to see things of the past unfold through someone else’s eyes, but it was intriguing. I paid close attention to what was going on around me.

The point of view looked over the man’s shoulder. There was a tiny newborn baby, wrapped in a blanket, asleep on his lap. The baby slowly opened an eye, looking up into Tull’s face. Her eyes were green as emeralds, dark but beautiful. She stared in wonder at the new person before her.

“She does not have the right coloring in her eyes.” The voice was Tull’s, but smaller, more boyish. He must have been young, before he grew into a man.

The brother smiled that weary smile again. “It’s because she is special, Tull. She will bring our people into the light where we belong.”

I stared down into the face of the infant. I knew that face and I knew the man who was holding her. It was my father. The vision seemed so clear to me now. Tull had shown me the first time he had seen me. My uncle Tull, as a boy, trying hard to understand what his brother was saying. None of it made sense till now.

Grief and longing overcame me. All I wanted to do was climb into those strong arms again and be held by my father. Feel the love that I saw before me for that little baby, but I couldn’t. Life had been cruel to me and taken him from me before I could remember him clearly. But at least I had this, a face to hold onto. Tull had given me that and I would be forever grateful. The vision began to fade leaving us in darkness again.

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