The Last Artican

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Chapter 28

Chapter 28

I was mesmerized by what I had seen. My father, as a young man, holding me, his love for me apparent by his soft movement. I was grief stricken, knowing that my father’s love was torn from in an instant. I was so little, and I would never experience that feeling again. There were no words to express the chaos that surged through my mind.

“Uncle Tull, why did my father leave this place?” My words came out between sobs.

There was pain in Tull’s eyes. He had lived those memories over and over. Something I couldn’t bear to see again. “Your father wished to make peace with the Dominion. We had been at war with them for far too long and your father believed he could change the tides with a treaty of peace. He was twenty years old, but wise beyond his years, a respected leader of our people. He took you and your mother with him to show his trust in the Dominion, but they betrayed him. They ambushed his caravan in a narrow mountain pass, killing everyone. Well, everyone except you.”

“Why didn’t you come for me?” I felt the bitter sting of the words I spoke as they rolled off my lips. If he knew I was alive…

“We didn’t know you had survived until a few years ago. By then, all we could do was help prepare you for your journey north when the time came.”

Tull shook his head, still scratching his chin. He looked tired. I knew he had been up all night waiting for us. He was the one in my dream. He had reached out to me, to warn me of the undead army advancing toward us. He needed rest, we all did. “You look tired Uncle. Maybe you should get some rest.”

“Yes, that sounds like a good idea.” He turned to the others in the room, who had been standing by patiently, listening to the news of the outside world. “Councilors, we will resume our planning as soon as we have all had some much needed rest. I will summon you when I am ready.”

The three men and one woman took their leave, walking swiftly to the heavy wooden doors. The woman was the last to pass through the doorway. She lingered there for a few seconds, but then gave me a small smile before she disappeared.

“Come, Tabri. You and your friends will come to my home to rest. There is still much to talk about and you will need to have a fresh mind.”

~*~

I woke to a touch on my shoulder. My magic surged through me, telling me not to panic. My drowsy eyes opened to find Tull standing over me. “Come, Tabri. We are needed in the tower.”

I shook my head as I pulled my tired body from the mat in front of the fire. Arsan was snoring next to me, sound asleep. I pulled his blanket up under his chin. There was no need to wake him.

Ruan was curled up in a large chair surrounded by pillows close by. She looked so little lying there, warm and quiet, even though she had more experience in the world then most the people here in this mountain. I was glad she would have a home where she would be able to grow into a young woman, without the fear of being taken again. That was if we could stop the undead army from destroying this place.

“Your friend, Nell has been standing guard outside the door since the moment you closed your eyes. Does she ever sleep?” Tull seemed amused but slightly apprehensive.

I smiled. Leave it to Nell to be overly protective. “She’s not human, she doesn’t need to rest.”

“Well, I didn’t figure she was, but all living things need to rest, don’t they?” Tull opened the wooden door to his home. Nell stood on the steps below, calmly watching the cavern below.

“Yes, but you will never catch a Fury off guard.” I stepped through the doorway and smiled at Nell. She was at ease outside the home. Watching everyone pass below in the market place or scaring the children that ventured to close with her glare. Pella was the instigator, but I could tell Nell was enjoying herself.

“A Fury?” Tull whispered. “Fascinating.”

Tull’s home was near the upper layer of the cavern. The view from the narrow walkway outside spread the entire cave before us. It really was an impressive piece of work. It must have taken the ancient ones many years to carve a small portion of this rock away. Maybe one day I would be able to learn the histories of my people.

“Come, I will take you to the tower.” Tull lead the way down the walkway toward the stares that lead to the cavern floor.

Nell was by my side, her hawk eyes scanning the cave. She seemed more relaxed, at ease almost since we had come here. It was a different feeling emanating from her. She seemed happy, at home in her own skin. It was a nice change, but I could tell she was still the same old Nell on the inside, ready for a fight, or to give a snarky remark. I was glad she had kept those traits.

We crossed the cavern floor, where people still stared as we passed, their white hair and blue eyes glinting with hope in the light from the braziers. Tull took us to a small building behind the hall of meetings that we had been in that morning. There was a single room inside that was empty except for a table and chairs in the far corner. Where was Tull taking us? This didn’t look anything like a tower. Tull proceeded straight through the chamber to a small stair well at the back of the room. It twisted and wound its way up behind the building. Its dark shadow spilled out onto the floor before us.

We wound up and up, seemingly forever, till a cool breeze brushed my face. We emerged out into the light of day, shaded by a low overhanging rock. We were in a long corridor that spanned the top of the mountain. Flaming braziers were placed every ten feet or so, to keep the corridor warm from the cold winter that loomed near the opening in the rock face.

We were hidden from prying eyes behind stone, high up in the mountains. The view from this hiding place was amazing. I was in awe of the beauty that was laid before me. The ice blue tundra below, the top of the briar patch that was seemingly wonderful with its weaving of colors. Beyond that, was the forest of Winter Land, towering and green. It was a beautiful land I wished I had more time to get to know. Now I knew why they called this the tower. It towered high over everything below.

“Magistrate.” Margo came jogging up to us, his warm jacket pulled snug around his thin build. “The undead army still advances. Every time the Wind Tamers push them back, they surge forward twice as far. We’re slowing them down, but I fear they will be at the foot of the mountain by night fall.”

Tull scratched his chin in thought. “We don’t have much time to formulate a plan then. Gather the council. I will meet with them shortly.”

Margo shook his head before disappearing into the stare well. I scanned the vast tundra before me. The undead army was all around us, crossing the great nothingness. The wind whipped up, howling down the corridor. A woman standing near moved her arms in a circular motion, as if she was spinning the wind around her, gathering it, making it stronger. Then she let it lose, howling toward the masses gathering below. It whipped through their lines, knocking thousands of half dead bodies to the ground, pushing them back a few hundred yards. They slid across the ice, a feeling that I knew well. Without hesitation, they climbed to their feet and began to limp forward like nothing had interrupted them.

The woman who had thrown the wind, a Wind Tamer is what Margo had called them. She slumped over the rocks in front of her, panting, exhausted from her efforts. Her breathing was heavy and she wiped the sweat from her brow.

The wind howled down the corridor again, blowing my lose dark locks in my face. This gust was stronger than the last. The next person in line, a man, circled his arms, gathering the wind to him. I could almost see its swirls flowing around him before he threw it to the tundra bellow.

It was the same affect. A few thousand undead were slowed down for the time being, but they always got back up and moved forward. The man was exhausted and the wind moved on to the next candidate.

How long would they be able to keep this up? Margo had said the undead would make the mountain base by night fall, but from the looks of it, the Wind Tamers wouldn’t last that long. “Uncle Tull, show me how to tame the wind.”

“It takes many years to master and then only some are able to feel the magic in the wind.” Tull stopped scratching his chin to address me. “There’s no time.”

“I don’t care what some can do. I want to know now.” I could feel the rage of my magic forming in my veins. It begged to be set free. It wanted to fly on the wind, to taste the freedom of the nothingness of the sky. I felt for it, the magic in the wind. It was there, faint, but there. The more I called to it, the stronger the feeling became.

Tull still didn’t move to show me. He doubted my abilities, but then I’ve never shown him what I was capable of. I really didn’t even know what I was capable of. I stepped up to the rock face and called to my magic, begging for it to be strong, don’t fail me now.

Tull lifted his hand and opened his mouth to protest. Nell stepped between us, glairing like only she could.

“I wouldn’t if I were you.” Nell’s words were harsh but quiet. He wouldn’t interfere, not with her nearby.

The burning in my chest raged, filling my veins with magic. Every inch of my body felt like it was engulfed in flames, a flame that didn’t burn me. The howling wind whipped down the corridor, I reached out to it, pulling it to me with my magic. The wind grew, pulsing in a circle around me. The other Wind Tamers backed away. The powerful breeze was too much for them, they couldn’t stay on their feet. They slouched down by the back wall and watched in amazement.

I could feel the wind clearly around me. The magic present, was ancient, powerful. I felt every inch of it as it circled. I whispered to it. “Fly strong wind and give us some time.”

With a throwing movement of my arm, the wind was flying. It quickly descended the mountain side moving across the tundra to its target. With one big blast, every undead out on the ice fell to the ground. The wind didn’t stop. It pushed on, forcing the undead back towards the brambles. It didn’t stop till the magic in my body dissipated. I extinguished the flame in my chest, allowing my mind to calm itself.

All was quiet in the corridor. The others struggle to their feet and peeked over the edge of the rock shelf, in awe of what they had just witnessed.

Mass confusion lay before us. The wind had pushed the undead army almost back to the bramble patch. Maybe a third of their lines had been destroyed, bodies ripped apart by the wind. It would have been a horrific sight if the army had been human, but they weren’t and I was pleased with myself.

Something caught my eye. A red coat, tattered and torn. It hung from the arms of an undead body. It seamed familiar, but it couldn’t be. He looked like a soldier from Farenan’s army. No. I must be seeing things. I turned away and shook the thought from my mind.

“Fascinating,” Tull muttered next to me. “You are so young. Your magic is strong.”

I watched the undead trying to form themselves into lines again. They limped and scooted on broken limbs forward. “We will have at least another day to prepare.”

I turned and started down the dark stare well. There was no need to watch the undead advancing. I had bought us some time, now we needed to figure out what to do to defeat our enemies and put whatever this was back in the Underworld for good.

Tull laughed. “Your father was right about how special you are.”

The mention of my father’s words brought back the memory Tull had shared with me. He had known then that I was different, special even. I missed him even more now that I knew what he looked like and how much he loved me.

“Come. We must speak with the council.” Tull lead the way out of the building and into the market

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